Sunday 26 June 2022

Father Damien And The Bells - Arthur and Elizabeth Sheehan and Leonard Everett Fisher

Father Damien And The Bells
Arthur and Elizabeth Sheehan
Leonard Everett Fisher (Illustrator)
Vision Books
ISBN  9781586170332

This book is part of the Vision Books Biographies now published by Ignatius Press. It is the fourth in the series that I have read, the first was Saint Jose, Boy Cristero Martyr. I had pickup a couple of others, this one Father Damien and the Bells and St. Katharine Drexel few years back but have not get around to reading them because I really prefer eBooks to physical because of my dyslexia. The Ignatius site lists 33 books in the series currently, but I have found at least 3 missing from that list. Which was listed in the back of the very old edition of Fighting Father Duffy book that I read. The description of this volume is:

“This 25th volume in the acclaimed Vision Books series of saints' lives for youth 9-15 years old is the story of the saintly Fr. Damien, who in 1872 went to the island of Molokai, where lepers had been exiled to live in miserable surroundings. Damien earned the trust of the lepers, and his appeals for help resonated throughout the world. He spent his life caring for all the needs of the outcast lepers, and even after Damien himself contracted leprosy he carried on working for his "fellow lepers" to the end.”

The chapters in the book are:

A Fireside in Flanders
Decision of a Champion
The Old Tower Falls
Call to the South Seas
Voyage round the Horn
Land of Volcanoes
Petero’s Problem
Shadow of the Gray Island
Night under the Pandanus Tree
The Rosary and the Hammer
The Enemy Strikes Back
Aloha Kamiano
Author’s Note

The first 6 chapters explore Damien’s youth, as Joseph (Jef) de Veuster, the next 4 explore his missionary work. And the final two and Epilogue explore his decline and the lasting impact of his life and witness. A quite that particularly stuck me was:

“Flanders is a land of bells, and Joseph de Veuster was to know and love their pealing all his life. Many bells would ring for him: monastery bells, paced into prayerful silence; ship’s bells, marking time across two oceans; tinny chapel bells, clanging madly in a tropical earthquake; the almost soundless tinkle of a tiny Communion bell in a darkened room; and, finally, Saint Rombaut’s again, flinging a mighty peal of triumph across the world, even to the bitter gray cliffs of an island once known as Godforsaken.”

I have read many books about and by Saint Damien. My first encounter with Father Damien was back on retreat in 2006, Professor Michael W. Higgins was talking about his book, Stalking the Holy and speaking about Saints whose causes were in process, and some he expected would never have a cause. He spoke about Blessed Damien (at the time) and we watched the film Molokai: The Story of Father Damien. From that weekend on I have had a fascination with this saint. And I have read the collected letters a few times now, Father Damien's Letters. In all that I have read I was unaware of Damien’s association with Bells. Both his love of the bells at home growing up, and his requests for bells for all the churches and chapels he built in Hawaii prior to his time on Molokai. Based on my readings there are a few factual errors in this volume. For example Damien was one of four priests that volunteered to go to Molokai, in rotation. Damien went first and was never replaced at his request, and because of some conflict with the Health Board and Diocese.

But even with the few errors this is an excellent read. I was reading it at a waterpark and a family was across from me with 4 son’s and a daughter. The boys kept trying to read the back of the book. When I told them wat it was about even though they were evangelical and not Catholic they were excited when I gave them my copy after finishing. This book was originally published in 1957, it was reprinted in 1985 by Ignatius Press. 

I plan on reading all the books in this series that are in print and as many of the out of print that I can track down. I returned to this series because I had finished the 38 books in the Encounter the Saints Series from Pauline Books and Media. Those books are geared for a younger audience, and these are written for older readers and go deeper into the subject matters of each volume. This is a great book in an excellent series. My only complaint is that only about a third of the books are available in digital formats, with my dual form of dyslexia and my son’s eye tracking issues eBooks are our preferred format. These books are written for a Middle Grade or Teens in mind, but this one and the others I have read are excellent volumes for readers of all ages. A great biography of an amazing Saint, I can easily recommend this book. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books in the Vision Books Saints Biographies:
Bernadette, Our Lady's Little Servant 
The Cure of Ars 
Edmund Campion 
Florence Nightingale's Nuns 
Fr. Marquette and the Great Rivers 
Francis and Clare, Saints of Assisi 
Kateri Tekakwitha 
Mother Cabrini, Missionary to the World 
Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity 
Saint Anthony and the Christ Child 
Saint Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal 
Saint Dominic and the Rosary 
Saint Elizabeth's Three Crowns 
Saint Francis of the Seven Seas 
Saint Helena and the True Cross 
Saint Ignatius and the Company of Jesus 
Saint Isaac and the Indians 
Saint John Bosco 
Saint Katherine Drexel 
Saint Louis and the Last Crusade 
Saint Philip of the Joyous Heart 
Saint Therese and the Roses 
Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Preaching Beggars 
Saint Thomas More of London 
Vincent De Paul: Saint of Charity 

Out of Print books in the Series:
Brother Andre of Montreal 
Catholic Campuses, Stories of American Catholic Colleges 
Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Children Welcome: Villages for Boys and Girls 
Christmas and the Saints 
Columbus and the New World 
Dear Philippine: Mission of Mother Duchesne 
Edel Quinn: Beneath the Southern Cross 
Frances Warde and the First Sisters of Mercy 
Good Pope John b
Governor Al Smith 
In American Vineyards, Religious Orders in the United States 
Irish Saints 
John Carroll Bishop and Patriot
John Neumann, The Children's Bishop 
Kit Carson of the Old West 
Lydia Longley, the First American Nun 
Marguerite Bourgeoys, Pioneer Teacher 
Martin de Porres, Saint of the New World 
Modern Crusaders 
More Champions in Sports and Spirit 
Mother Barat's Vineyard 
My Eskimos: A Priest in the Artic 
Peter and Paul: The Rock and the Sword 
Peter Claver, Saint Among Slaves
Pope Pius XII, the World's Shepherd 
Rose Hawthorne: The Pilgramage of Nathaniel's Daughter 
Saints of the Byzantine World 
Sarah Peter: The Dream and the Harvest 
St. Augustine and His Search for Faith 
St. Francis de Sales 
St. Gregory the Great, Consul of God 
St. Jerome and the Bible 
St. Margaret Mary, Apostle of the Sacred Heart 
The Bible Story, The Promised Lord and His Coming 
The Cross in the West 
The Ursulines, Nuns of Adventure 
When Saints Were Young 

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