Apostle of the Exiled
St. Damien of Molokai
Margaret Bunson & Matthew Bunson
Our Sunday Visitor
Father Damien, or Saint Damien of Molokai, was born Jozef De Veuster on January 3rd 1840. He died April 15th 1889 a long way from home on Molokai in Hawaii. He served as a priest in the leper colony for 16 years before he succumbed to the disease. Damien has been canonized in both the Eastern and Latin rites. His feast day is celebrated May 10th. The process of his canonization took from 1977 until 2009.
But you might wonder why, and for me the pursuit of Damien his taken place over the last number of years. A few years back I was on retreat and the speaker was Michael W Higgins. During the retreat we watched the film adaptation of Fr. Damien's life Molokai directed by Paul Cox. Something in the portrayal of Damien in that film captured my attention. Since then I have kept an icon of Damien on my desk (it is an older image and calls him Blessed Damien not saint Damien) and I followed his canonization process. Since that time I have read or started to read a number of stories, biographies, and books about Molokai, Damien, Dutton and Mother Marianne. I have a feeling it will be a lifelong obsession. To steal from Higgins' book's title, it is Stalking the Holy. And in this case Stalking Father Damien.
Of everything that I have read and watched about Father Damien, I must state this is the best. It is an amazing biography of a man not easily understood. We can look back upon Damien's times, and his conflicts with authorities within and outside the church and it is easy to judge or be harsh. For Damien is a saint. But as this book details, saints are not always easy people, and often their plight is a very difficult path. St. Damien is no different. This book not only chronicles Damien's time on the Hawaiian Islands, but his life leading up to that mission, and his lasting, and to some extent ever growing, impact.
This book is researched and footnoted like an academic paper, but reads like an adventure novel. The writing is fast-paced and often entertaining, considering the subject matter. With an extensive series of appendices and a great index, the book can be used for research and it gives an exhaustive suggested reading list. I dare anyone to read this book and not be challenged. They will find that their prayer life is altered. Damien is held up as an example and with great cause. So spend some time learning more about the man and dive into this incredible read.