Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I know that I have paid scant attention to the four other new saints of the Universal Church in this column and for that I apologize. But for those who regularly follow this column you know that my knowledge of and love for St. Damien grew following my trip 15 months ago to Hawaii, specifically to the magnificent day I spent on the island of Molokai where Damien cared for - and suffered with - the victims of leprosy who had been exiled here by royal edict in the 19th century.

That trip, and the people I met, including the miracle woman, Audrey Toguchi, and Bishop Larry Silva, became a special part of my life. Shortly I will bring you some photos of the celebratory dinner on the night of the canonization, but before that Id like to bring you some of Pope Benedicts homily where he focuses individually on each of the five new saints, five people whose love for God, love for their fellow man and their heroic unselfishness led to their becoming models for all of us in the Church.


The new saints are: Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, Polish former archbishop of Warsaw and founder of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary; Francisco Coll y Guitart, Spanish professed priest of the Order of Friars Preachers and founder of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Jozef Damian de Veuster, Belgian professed priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar (PICPUS); Rafael Arnaiz Baron, Spanish oblate friar of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, and Mary of the Cross Jugan (nee Jeanne), French virgin and foundress of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Popes homily appears in French and Italian on the Vatican web site so I offer his words taken from the English-language Vatican Information Service report of October 12.

Pope Benedict began: "'Come, follow me!' This is the Christian vocation that flows from a proposal of love by the Lord, and that can be fulfilled only if we reply in love. The saints welcome this demanding invitation. ... Their perfection, in the logic of a faith that is at times humanly incomprehensible, consists in no longer placing themselves at the center, but choosing to go against the tide and live according to the Gospel. This is what was done by the five saints who today, with great joy, are being put forward for veneration by the Universal Church: Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, Francesc Coll y Guitart, Jozef Damiaan de Veuster, Rafael Arnaiz Baron and Mary of the Cross Jugan (nee Jeanne), foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, archbishop of Warsaw, said the Pope, "was a great witness of faith and pastoral charity in very difficult times for the nation and for the Church in Poland. Prior to the insurrection of January 1863 against the Russian annexation, he warned the people against futile bloodshed. However, when the uprising occurred and was put down, he courageously defended the oppressed. Under the rule of the Russian Czar he spent twenty years in exile in Jaroslaw in Siberia, and was never able to return to his diocese. In all situations he maintained his unshakeable trust in Divine Providence."

Francisco Coll y Guitart's "passion was preaching, noted Benedict, mostly itinerant preaching following the form of 'popular missions', with the goal of proclaiming and reviving the Word of God in the villages and towns of Catalonia, thus leading people to the profound encounter with the Lord. ... His evangelizing activity included great devotion to the Sacrament of Penance, an outstanding emphasis on the Eucharist and a constant insistence on prayer."

The Holy Father stated that the missionary activity of Jozef de Veuster, who took the name Damien, "reached its apex in charity. Not without fear and repugnance, he chose to go to the Island of Molokai to serve the lepers abandoned there, thus exposing himself to the disease. ... This servant of the Word thus became a suffering servant, a leper among lepers during the last four years of his life. ... St. Damien leads us to choose the good fight, not the fights that lead to division, but those that bring people together. He invites us to open our eyes to the forms of leprosy that disfigure the humanity of our fellows and calls, more than for our generosity, for the charity of our serving presence."

Rafael Arnaiz Baron, said the Pope, "said 'yes' to the proposal to follow Jesus, in an immediate and decisive way, without limits or conditions. ... Brother Rafael remains close to us and, through his example and his works, continues to offer an enticing proposal, especially for young people who are not easily satisfied, but who aspire to the fullness of truth."

Referring to the French-born saint, Jeanne Jugan, the Pope said, "Through her admirable work in the service of poor elderly people, Mary of the Cross is like a beacon guiding our societies, which must always rediscover the place and unique contribution of this period of life. ... Her charism remains relevant as so many elderly people suffer different forms of poverty and solitude, sometimes even abandoned by their families. ... For the elderly, may St. Jeanne Jugan be a living source of hope and, for the people generously placing committed to serving them, a powerful stimulus to pursue and develop her work".

Benedict XVI concluded his homily by calling on everyone "to let yourselves be drawn by the shining example of these saints, allow yourselves to be guided by their teachings, so that our whole lives may become a hymn of praise to the love of God".


Sunday night 550 pilgrims from the official diocesan pilgrimage of Honolulu feted their own St. Damien in one of he few Roman restaurants that could accommodate such a crowd, Rinaldo allAquedotto. I was overjoyed to be invited to the evenings celebrations where I would finally see my new friends from Hawaii, including Bishop Larry Silva and Audrey and Yukio Toguchi. Bishop Silva and Audrey will be guests on my weekend radio show, Vatican Insider, in the next two weeks.

I also renewed my friendship with Randy, Glenn, Bobbie and Fr. Lane, four people from the diocese of Honolulu who had been working with Seawind Travels to make this trip happen. We met when they were in Rome last January to scout out hotels, restaurants and transportation. They really had to scramble to get everything ready once the canonization date was announced.

Here are some of the photos I took during the evening.

Audrey Toguchi, 81, wearing pink, with her husband Yukio, to her right.

I regret not writing down the names of this couple from Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai. They were among the 11 former patients of leprosy who have been cured and who came to Rome for Sundays canonization. There are only 25 former patients on the island so, as you can see, just under half of them traveled the 12,000 miles to Rome. An estimated 8,000 patients died over the years that lepers were considered outcasts and were exiled on Kalaupapa.

Here I am between Audrey and Yukio Toguchi.

This is Leighton Tseu: his mother was Hawaiian and his father was Chinese, and he is a member of the King Kamehameha Royal Society (if I correctly remember the name) whose scope is to preserve native Hawaiian culture.

Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu.

Here is the amazing cake prepared for 550 pilgrims the photos do not really do justice to its size!

Several of the many lovely women wearing Hawaiian dress, with flowers in their hair.

I took the next three photos on Monday when I went to the hotel to interview Audrey.

Audrey and Yukio Toguchi with Sacred Hearts Father Emilio Vega Garcia, postulator of St. Damiens cause, on the left.

Audreys doctor, Walter Chang, and his wife. It was Dr. Chang who told Audrey to bring her case to the attention of the Church. She had not thought of this, she said, she simply wanted to pray to the Lord in thanksgiving for her healing but the good doctor persisted and even documented the case which Audrey had told me about in Hawaii last year - in the October 2000 issue of the Hawaii Medical Journal, calling it a complete spontaneous regression of cancer. He reiterated to me on Monday what he wrote at the time, namely that, over a period of months following prayers to Blessed Damien and pilgrimages to Kalaupapa by Audrey and her husband, the lung metastases disappeared with no therapy at all.

Two of the men in native Hawaiian dress as they depart for a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Mary Major Basilica, a liturgy incorporating many Hawaiian cultural elements.

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