“I was sick and ye visited me.” – J. Damien de Veuster (Inscription of St. Damien in the Bible of a visitor to the island)
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus Christ
Imagine an island where people are sent to die of a horrific, flesh rotting disease. They are cut off from family and friends, and they have no medical care and no hope. Now imagine volunteering to live among them, and eventually, to die as one of them.
That’s exactly what today’s gentleman saint did.
Jozef de Veuster was born in Belgium on January 3, 1840. At the age of 20, he joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary order, taking the religious name Damien.
While his great desire was to become a priest, his superiors believed he lacked the necessary education. Nevertheless, Damien was undeterred, and he would daily pray before an image of St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the East, that he might someday be a missionary too. Finally, after leaning Latin with the help of his brother, who was also studying to be a priest, Damien was allowed to pursue ordination.
Even though he was allowed to pursue ordination, Damien’s superiors refused to send him on mission, despite his constant pleading. They believed he would make a poor and ineffective missionary. Finally, his chance came when his brother, who was to be sent to the missions in the Hawaiian islands, became seriously ill and was unable to travel. Damien immediately appealed to his superiors, asking to take his brothers place. At last, they consented.
Once in Hawaii, he began the difficult work of a missionary priest, eventually serving a parish area of 180 square miles. He traveled on foot, visiting the Catholics scattered throughout his huge parish, hearing confessions

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