Let us consider the early life of Joseph Damien de Veuster: “Every age, happily, has its heroes. Some die for country; others for a cause; some have sacrificed themselves for the many, others for an individual friend or stranger; but the sacrifice of Joseph Damien De Veuster was not as these. For though he died that others might live, his object was not so much to preserve the life of the body as to ensure the salvation of the soul. For that alone did he, in the flower of his manhood and the glory of his days, go down to a living death in the lazaretto, pouring out the riches of his health and strength in the service of the stricken, and wrestling singlehanded with the spirits of darkness for the souls made reckless by despair. And this superhuman labour of love was to continue in health and sickness for sixteen years, even until he, too, fell a victim to the disease, and experienced in his own person the dissolution of the grave. “Before a sacrifice so awful, so complete, so absolute, the world held its breath. It was greater than heroism, better than bravery. It was the defying of death and the challenging of hell. And for what ?-that he might save the souls of sinners.” Father Damien wrote home to his parents: “ I have plenty of cares and troubles, my dear parents, still I am very happy. Our Bishop has just made over to me a new parish, a little larger than that of Tremeloo! It takes me quite a month to get round it. Here we cannot travel by rail, or by carriage, or on foot. The islanders rejoice when they see Kamiallo and me coming. I like them immensely, and would willingly give my life for them. . .. So I do not spare myself when it is a question of going to visit the sick, or any other persons seven or eight leagues distant.” The life of Father Damien in the Sandwich Islands of Hawaii is inspiring and a must read in these days, when such self-sacrifice is rare.
Mary Quinlan, Brother Hermenegild TOSF, Paperback, ISBN 10: 148265122X, ISBN 13: 9781482651225