|Rising to the Occasion.
In the United States:
The Seventh Tuesday of Easter; or, the Memorial of Saint Damien de Veuster, Priest.
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 20: 17-27.
• Psalm 68: 10-11, 20-21.
• John 17: 1-11.
Outside the United States:
The Seventh Tuesday of Easter.
Lessons as above.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Antonius, Bishop & Confessor; and, the Commemoration of Saints Gordian & Epimachus, Martyrs.*
Lessons from the common, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus 44: 16-27; 45: 3-20.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• Matthew 25: 14-23.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the common:**
• I Peter 1: 3-7.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• John 15: 5-11.
The Postfestive Tuesday of the Ascension; and, the Feast of the Holy Apostle Simon the Zealot.
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Acts 21: 26-32.
• I Corinthians 4: 9-16.
• John 16: 2-13.
• Matthew 13: 54-58.
9:29 AM 5/10/2016 — Today, as you know, is the Memorial of Saint Damien de Veuster, the tenth person in what is now the United States to become a saint.
Born Joseph de Veuster in Belgium in 1840, he was ordained a priest for the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a relatively small religious society founded in 1817 by Father Pierre Coudrin, sometimes called the “Picpus Fathers” because their original mother house was on the Rue de Picpus in Paris. Founded during the French Revolution initially to spread devotion to the Blessed Eucharist and encourage Eucharistic adoration, Father Coudrin had to work in secret, and eventually moved the headquarters of the society to Louvain, Belgium, and from there they received a mandate from the Holy See to evangelize the Sandwich Islands, part of which was the Kingdom of Hawaii. At the time of Father Coudrin's death, the congregation had 276 priests and brothers, and 1,125 religious sisters. One of the first priests sent to the Pacific was Father Damien, who was assigned as chaplain to the Kingdom's leper colony on the Island of Moloka'i.
A lot has been written about Father Damien and his work on Moloka'i—not to mention a number of films and television specials—so there's no need to rehash any of that here; but, it is important to note that it was the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts—and Father Damien in particular—which laid the foundations for the Diocese of Honolulu and built the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace there, which remains the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the United States. And, as you know, Father Damien contracted Hansen's Disease himself, and died there in 1889.
Unfortunately, the popular accounts of Father Damien's work on Moloka'i overlook the fact that he was a brilliant administrator. The original intention in recruiting a priest for the leper colony was to have a number of priests assigned who would serve the colony on a rotating basis, so that no one priest would be there for too long a time, but Father Damien saw needs there that went far beyond just providing for the spiritual welfare of the lepers. The first thing he did when he arrived on Moloka'i was build a church and establish the parish of Saint Philomena, and most historians today attribute his work there as a turning point for the community. He successfully lobbied the government for new laws regarding the status of the colony, oversaw a building project to provide adequate housing, built and staffed a school system, and organized farms to make the community self-sufficient. He became so essential to the colony that he ended up staying there for the duration. He continued to work at a feverish pace even after being diagnosed with Hansen's Disease, enlarging the orphanage, expanding his building projects, and recruiting other priests and volunteers to come to Moloka'i to help him.
He was originally buried on Moloka'i, but his remains were returned to Belgium in 1936 at the request of King Leopold III. On the occasion of his beatification in 1995, the remains of his right hand were returned to Hawaii and interred in his original grave. He was canonized in 2009 by Pope Benedict.
In many respects, Damien's life was analogous to the religious society he had joined as a young man. Father Coudrin's original plan for the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts was never really abandoned in favor of their missionary work, and they did do a lot to foster Eucharistic devotion during the French Revolution, during which sacrileges were being constantly inflicted upon our Eucharistic Lord,—the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, where there has been perpetual adoration ever since, was built in reparation for those atrocities—and that work continued throughout Europe; but, the society is best known for it's work in the Sandwich Islands and Hawaii in particular. When Damien joined that society in 1860, he had no thought of ever leaving Belgium, and was initially judged as unsuitable for the priesthood by his superiors because of how he had struggled with his studies. His brother, Pamphile, who had preceded him into the society and who was already a priest, was initially assigned to the mission in the Pacific, but couldn't go because of illness, and Damien was chosen at the last minute to take his place. It's a tremendous example of someone thrust into a situation by God that he had not envisioned or ever wanted, but who magnificently rose to the occasion when the Will of God required it.
We question God's providence in our lives because we want to be in control. We mark out what we want to be or do, then set ourselves on that path, and find ourselves having a hard time coping whenever our Lord, in His permissive will, throws a turn in the road that we were not expecting. It is not the attitude of a saint. A saint follows the road in front of him without asking where it's going; he only knows that that's the road he's on, and leaves the rest to God. It reminds me of something our spiritual director in the seminary used to tell men whenever they would come to him with doubts about their vocation: he would ask them, “Where are you right now?” And they would reply, “Well, I'm right here.” And he would say, “Then that's where God wants you to be. Now go back to class.”
Life is full of doubts about the future, but only for those who have not yet achieved sanctity. For the saint, life is not full of doubts, not because the saint can see into the future, but because the future holds no interest for him. He lives in the present and does what the moment requires. Through the intercession of Saint Damien de Veuster may we cultivate that constant detachment from concern, and docility to Providence, that is the mark of the life of any saint.
* A friar of the Dominican Order, Antonius became Archbishop of Florence. He was famous for his austere life, charity and episcopal zeal. He died in 1459.
A Roman judge, St. Gordian was martyred in 360. St. Epimachus suffered martyrdom at Alexandria in 250.
** A Mass for the commemoration would be taken for a specific reason, such as if the saints so commemorated are the patrons of the parish; otherwise, the commemoration is made by an additional Collect, Secret and Postcommunion included in the Mass of the day, but no additional lessons.