Azure skies, lush vegetation, and sugar-white beaches: Hawaii brings such idyllic scenes to mind. But Hell invaded Paradise when the incurable disease leprosy was discovered there. An 1865 law segregated lepers by forcibly exiling individuals even children to the island of Molokai. It was onto these forlorn shores that Father Damien de Veuster stepped in the spring of 1873.
Saint Damien of Molokai is the riveting account of how a humble Congregation of the Sacred Hearts priest found his vocation in caring for these outcasts. The poorly educated son of a hardworking, religious Belgium farm family, Damien was thought to be ill suited for the priesthood. However, the desire to serve God burned so fiercely in him that he took his vows at the age of twenty.
missionary to Hawaii, Damien soon volunteered to become the permanent chaplain to Molokai. There, victims of horrible disfigurement with the promise of a lingering death, the lepers led a harsh existence. Father Damien became their caregiver, companion, and champion. In so doing, he brought hope to the hopeless, ironically losing his own life to their affliction.
In an age in which an increasing number of people suffer their own personal exile on account of illness, handicap, or emotional distress, the shining example of Father Damien shows the true power of one person and how, when anchored in God’s love, one person can impact the world even among the horrors of decay and slow death.