Frank Villanueva, a student in Writing in the Humanities, a first-year college writing course at Mount Angel Seminary, offers the piece of informal writing below. Another piece of his informal writing can be seen here. Frank is a seminarian for the Diocese of Honolulu. Through his reflection, we see how our seminarians make connections with their home dioceses even when they are far from home at Mount Angel Seminary.
Last semester my diocesan brother introduced me to a book entitled Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai. I was born and raised in Hawai'i and knew a little about St. Damien. After reading this book, I have a new sense of love and respect for this great and holy saint. Reading this book reminded me a lot about what Christ went through in his ministry.
In my reading of the life of Saint Damien, there were many typologies that I saw throughout his life and ministry. One in particular struck me the most, his answer to the call to the life of a priest. According to Ronald D. Witherup's Bible Companion, the written tradition, "especially when crisis erupted that threatened to destroy the faith heritage of the chosen people" was written down by trained scribes in order to preserve them (10). Like the scribes writing traditions down to preserve them, Saint Damien's interest in the priesthood came during a time in which his country was under crises that threatened the very lives and traditions of the Catholic Church.
Servant of God
Father Damien was called to serve a leper colony in the remote and inaccessible Kalaupapa peninsula of the Sandwich Islands now known as Hawai'i. Those who were infected with the disease were cast away by the government to this remote place for fear of spreading the fatal disease. As the request of Father Damien, the bishop of Honolulu sent him to the island to minister to these people who were left to die with no dignity. Father Damien cared, prayed, ministered the word of God, and helped these castaways.
Mirror of Christ
Christ live a huge part of his life as a servant of the people, and Father Damien mirrored this life of service. In this mirror of service, I also found a similarity in the challenges that both Jesus and Father Damien shared. Christ was crucified by his own people, and Father Damien was mocked by other clergymen from his very own order.
I also find the death of both Jesus and Father Damien to be very similar. Christ died from the very hands of those he came to save, and Father Damien died not from the lepers but from the disease that was killing the people to whom he was sent to minister.
It is almost impossible to express in just a few words how the life of Saint Damien of Moloka'i has impacted my life and discernment to the priesthood. A man who gives up his entire life knowing he will die from the same disease as those he was sent to help has given me the courage to persevere in my vocation. I can't think of any other man who lived out the life of Christ better than Saint Damien of Moloka'i.
Witherup, Donald D. The Bible Companion: A Catholic Handbook for Beginners. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2009.