Priesthood…not the first item on a twenty-three-year-old’s to do list. A life of devotion, careful instruction, a confining list of do’s and don’ts–what twenty-three-year-old would choose that over all the more exciting options available? Restriction over freedom? Sacrifice, over having your spam musubi and eating it too? Didn’t think so. To Damien at twenty-three, restriction and sacrifice were minor. “Silence, Contemplation, God’s Presence,” were what he thrived on.
In 1863, Jozef De Veuster from Tremelo, Belgium not yet an ordained priest, volunteered to go to Hawaii. The devastation caused by leprosy posed no threat to Damien’s fearless character. Disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage, and progressive debilitation! Who would want to devote their life to willingly waste away? Looking both outward beauty and disfigurement in the eyes, he shouted, “Bring it on!”
Okay, perhaps that’s not exactly how Damien’s fight to help the Hawaiian people battle against this unsightly enemy went down. However, the handwritten letters to and from friends and family, his personal diary entries describing daily activities such as poi at every meal and obstacles like building his own shelter and churches, details that open the door to readers’ seeing Damien as an invincible superhero of his time.
Mutual Publishing shines a brighter light on what we’ve known as Damien’s rather depressing fate. The team of editors and researchers have compiled a skin-deep read that visually reflects a collage of scenic photographs of Kalaupapa on Molokai with Damien’s living quarters and portraits of Hansen’s Disease patients, images of his actual diary entries and letters, and first-person accounts from his closest friends and the Hawaiians he worked with.
Compared with your standard, boring, overwhelming black-and-white biography, Damien: The Making of a Saint provides the reader with enough energy and willpower to breeze through this creative take on Damien’s road to glory. Readers can educate themselves about what would have been Damien’s reality series: from Priesthood to Sainthood–minus the dry eyes and uncontrollable yawning. If that’s not enough reason to celebrate, consider this: it’s the second anniversary of Damien’s canonization (October 9, 2009). Still not satisfied? Consider the possibility of Father Damien as scandalous…the editors have something for everyone.