Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Saints of Molokai

Icon, "St. Damien the Leper", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

This is another icon that I have struggled with mightily.  I intended originally to present St. Damien as most iconographers do: at the end of his life when the leprosy has already done so much damage.  However, I kept feeling that this was too small a part of his life to make it totally representative of him.  What I really wanted to do was to show St. Damien as a young, healthy priest so that we could have a better sense of the risk he knowingly took out of love for the Hawaiian people.  Finally, I ended up trying to combine the two concepts as you can see above but I still made the primary focus the young, healthy Damien who laid down his life for his brothers and sisters.

Born Jozef De Veuster (1840), St. Damien was a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious institute. He won recognition for his ministry to people with leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease), who had been placed under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokai in the Kingdom of Hawaii.

After sixteen years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, he eventually contracted and died of the disease, and is considered a "martyr of charity". He was the tenth person recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church to have lived, worked, and/or died in what is now the United States. In both the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, Damien is venerated as a saint, one who is holy and worthy of public veneration and invocation.

Upon his beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome on June 4, 1995, Blessed Damien was granted a memorial feast day, which is celebrated on May 10. Father Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday October 11, 2009. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "the Apostle of the Lepers", and elsewhere he is known as “St. Damien the Leper”.

"Not without fear and loathing," Pope Benedict underlined, "Father Damian made the choice to go on the island of Molokai in the service of lepers who were there, abandoned by all. So he exposed himself to the disease of which they suffered. With them he felt at home. The servant of the Word became a suffering servant, leper with the lepers, during the last four years of his life."

St. Damien wrote during his years at Molokai:  “Having no doubts about the true nature of the disease, I am calm, resigned, and very happy in the midst of my people. God certainly knows what is best for my sanctification and I gladly repeat: ‘Thy will be done.’” "

Icon, "St. (Mother) Marianne Cope", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

I was so glad to see the recent canonization of Mother Marianne Cope.  She so bravely took over the running of health care on Molokai (especially the care of girls and women suffering from leprosy) after the death of St. Damien, a death caused by leprosy!  That is the reason I included the icon of St. Damien in the background of this icon in an effort to show the close connection of these two holy religious.  In the relationship of these two we can see just a bit of how the Spirit works in those hearts which are open to Him.

Mother Marianne Cope, O.S.F., also known as the Saint Marianne of Molokai, (January 23, 1838 – August 9, 1918) was a German-born American who was a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Syracuse, New York. Known for her charitable works and virtuous deeds, she spent many years caring for the lepers on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. Despite direct contact with the patients over many years, Cope was not afflicted by the disease, considered by some faithful to be miraculous. In 2005, she was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Cope was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012.

In 1883, Mother Marianne, by then herself Superior General of the congregation, received a plea for help in caring for leprosy sufferers from King Kalākaua of Hawaii. More than 50 religious institutes had already declined his request for Sisters to do this. She responded to the letter enthusiastically: "I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be, to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders... I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned ‘lepers.’"

With Mother Marianne as supervisor, the Sisters' task was to manage Kakaako Branch Hospital on Oahu, which served as a receiving station for Hansen's disease patients gathered from all over the islands. Here the more severe cases were processed and shipped to the island of Molokai for confinement in the settlement at Kalawao, and then later at Kalaupapa. In November 1888 she moved to Kalaupapa, both to care for the dying Father Damien, SS.CC. — who was already known internationally for his heroic care of the leper colony there — and to assume his burdens. She had met him shortly after her arrival in Hawaii, when, while still in good health, Father Damien had gone to Oahu to attend the dedication of the chapel in the hospital she was establishing. After his diagnosis as a leper, he was shunned by both civil and church leaders. It was only Mother Marianne who gave him welcome, even arranging for the King to meet him.

When Father Damien died on April 15, the government officially gave Mother Marianne charge for the care of the boys of Kalaupapa, as well as her original commission for the female residents of the colony. At her suggestion, a community of Religious Brothers was invited to come and care for the boys. After the arrival of four Brothers of the Sacred Heart in 1895, she withdrew the Sisters to the Bishop Home for leprous women and girls. St. Marianne Cope died on August 9, 1918 due to natural causes and was buried at the Bishop Home.



Just two photos can tell a story.  The first photo shows Braden at the beginning of his adventure -- all fresh and ready to go exploring and investigating.  The second photo shows Braden at the end of the day going home in the car -- a tired and hungry young man!  He is learning the true nature of almost all expeditions:  We begin with vigor and enthusiasm, but sooner or later we always reach a point where we are tired and hungry -- mostly just hungry!

"All right troops, who is in charge of pushing my buggy?  Let's get this show on the road!"

"Are you sure we can't stop somewhere for a little snack?  These plastic rings are starting to look yummy!"



"I simply do not approve of my being photographed
in this undignified position ... and who is this man
anyway?  Has anyone called 9-1-1 yet?"
In the accompanying photograph, you see Suki posing (reluctantly) with her Uncle Eugene!  You can see from her expression how pleased she is about this.  I mean, she likes her Uncle, but does not really approve of being held like a big sack of potatoes!  Poor Suki!!

Other than not liking to have her picture taken, Suki also dislikes having to wait for her food when she is hungry, having her sandbox remain dirty for more than 10 minutes -- especially when she wants to use it again, being disturbed when she is sleeping AND most of all she dislikes letting me sleep when she wants to eat, play, or just have some company!  In spite of all this, I still have to say that she is one of the most enjoyable creatures with whom I have ever shared my life.

Now, for the latest news about me.

I continue to improve in most ways -- for which I am very grateful.  I think that in about 3 more weeks I should have a much clearer idea as to what long-term problems I am going to now have to deal with.  The reason I say this is because at this point I still have some post-surgery issues which, so far, do not show any sign of healing properly.  Let me explain.

The nerves that control my lower lip on the left side of my face have still not recovered.  The result is that I look a bit like Jean Chrétien whenever I attempt to talk!  I am sincerely hoping that in three more weeks there will be definite signs of healing in that area.  If this does not occur, I don't expect to try to do anything to correct it, but will simply accept it.  After all, this issue does not prevent me from enjoying life and eating and talking -- it is my vanity and ego that are affected and it is good for them to be seriously deflated frequently.

The other issue is my eyes.  At the point, my eyelids do not close properly which means that when I am doing something as simple as typing this page, I have to be constantly wiping away the "tears" that run down my face and stopping to manually (using my fingers to push them together) forcing my eyes to blink.  Once again, this may also correct itself over time as the last of the swelling disappears and the nerves have time to recover their natural functions.

However, I saw the ophthalmologist today about my eyes and he is arranging a consult for me with a plastic surgeon!  He said that I simply cannot allow my eyes to continue this way long term as my eyes will end up with permanent and serious damage.  I won't be seeing the plastic surgeon anytime soon as I have to get in line; however, by the time I do hear from him I imagine that it will be clear whether the nerve damage is permanent.  If it is...then, guess what, I get to have more surgery!!  That's right, I said "more surgery".

I will have to have my lower eyelids tacked up in their proper place so that I can once again blink and close my eyes normally!  Wow...  it is almost like being a movie star and going for my "little procedures"!  Seriously, I have told the Lord that I think having another surgery is just totally unnecessary and that I really think He should see to it that everything heals up nicely all on its own!  I am also in conversation with His Mother about this very matter and asking her to please speak to Him on my behalf.  I would be delighted, of course, if all of you would also consider speaking to the Lord on my behalf and asking Him to please heal my eyes so that no more surgery is needed.  Thank you.

Well, speaking of my eyes, I had better give them a rest before my tears damage my new keyboard!  So, I will ask that God's peace may surround us all and that He will keep us ever close to His Sacred Heart.

Finally, I ask St. Damien of Molokai and St. Marianne of Molokai to please pray for us and for all those dear to us who need prayers at this time, especially Danny.  Amen.

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