Monday 12 October 2009

Pope Benedict Canonizes Five New Saints

Yesterday, Sunday October 11, 2009, in his homily Pope Benedict spoke of the newly canonized saints, “Their perfection, in the logic of a faith that is humanly incomprehensible at times, consists in no longer placing themselves at the centre, but choosing to go against the flow and live according to the Gospel,”.

I have always admired Saint Damien because of his overwhelming love and work to help people that were so badly treated by society in Hawaii. A Belgian 19th century priest, who went to one of the Hawaiian Islands, Molokai, to help these people who were basically thrown there with leprosy and disregarded, treated less than human. Leprosy has the same stigma as that of the HIV/AIDS disease or reminds me of such.

This island is very primitive and almost a hidden secret from the outside world still today. The place I am speaking of is Kalaupapa which is tucked away on the nearly inaccessible, rugged corner of Molokai. Kalaupapa is a small peninsula jutting our 4.5 square miles on the island of Molokai. This is where Father Damien moved to and lived the remainder of his life helping these victims of the leprosy disease.

In 1865 this island was chosen by King Kamehameha V as an appropriate place to house or let leprosy patients live out their lives, they were literally just dropped off there and abandoned. Kalaupapa is best known for the work of Father Damien DeVeuster, known as “the Martyr of Molokai”. This serene place became a natural prison because of its high sea cliffs that surround it and near impossible accessibility in or out of it.

Father Damian who volunteered in 1873 to serve this leper settlement temporarily but once he arrived he remained. The people he encountered were desperate for help. He himself contracted leprosy in 1884 and remained in Kalaupapa. He died of leprosy at the age of 49, after spending 16 years of his life aiding the patients of Kalaupapa.

Patients who contracted leprosy, Hansen’s disease were immediately sent or taken from their homes for fear of spreading the infectious disease. In the 1800’s there was no medical treatment of it and patients were sent to the island of Molaki to live. They were treated as outcasts and ripped from their families.

Today many who visit Kalaupapa by plane, mule or boat are stunned with its beauty; there is little there, a store, a bar, a service station and a small post office, their homes and a hospital. Once all the lepers have passed away the National Park Service will take back this oasis and it will no longer belong to the State Department of Health. It is the right (law) of patients (leprosy) to remain there for their lifetime by Federal Law.

Since 1964, sulfur drug treatment has controlled leprosy also knows as Hansen’s disease and in 1969 patients were no longer confined to the settlement and were free to come and go as health permitted.

Also canonized Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, archbishop of Warsaw when Poland rebelled against annexation by imperial Russia in 1863. Exiled to Siberia for 20 years by the czar, he was “a shining example for all the church”, the pope said.

Dominican friar Francisco Coll Guitart, one of two Spaniards created a saint, preached in Catalonia in the 19th century and “reached the hearts of others because he transmitted what he himself lived with passion, which burned in his heart”, said the pontiff.

The other is Brother Rafael Arnaiz Baron who became a Trappist monk and died at the age of 27 in 1938. He “did not know how to pray” when he began monastic life but became an example “especially for young persons who are not easily satisfied”, the pope said.

France’s new saint is Jeanne Jugan, venerated as Marie de la Croix. She worked with the poor and elderly, shedding all her own material possessions to become “a poor person among the poor” until her death in 1879.

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