St. Damien: The Lepers’ Priest

We are called as Christians to see Christ in the face of everyone we meet – even those who are not so easy to look at or be with. Today we celebrate the memorial of a man who did just that.

Saint Damien of Moloka’i was a Belgian priest who volunteered to minister to the lepers on the island of Moloka’i in Hawaii. He moved to the island and built a church for the people there and lived among them, ministering to them for over 15 years, until he died of the disease he contracted living among them.

Writing about Damien, Father Richard Veras wrote that in bringing love to those who had been separated from their loved ones by their disease, he “rebuilt the humanity of those whose suffering was much deeper than the flesh. he recognized the face of Christ in the deformed faces of his new friends. Jesus was not present despite this mess; he was present in it. He was not a future hope, but a present reality.”

If Damien could see Christ in the face of the lepers of Moloka’i, can we not do the same to those we come in contact with? To be sure, it is not always easy for us to do so. But Damien provides both a model and a good saint to pray to in our efforts to love as he did…as Christ did.