Father Damien, A Priest Adorer

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I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist. . . .

It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content. . . . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.

Blessed Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

A Priest–Icon of the Suffering Christ

The saints, all of them, are living illustrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. The saints are the masterpieces of the Divine Iconographer who, in every age, writes in souls the whole mystery of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Finger of God’s Right Hand tracing on hearts of flesh the likeness of the Heart of Jesus. In Blessed Damian of Molokai the Church sets before us a priest fashioned by the Holy Spirit in a special way into the image of the suffering Christ, “despised and rejected by man, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

The Entire Plan of God

Father Damien could have said to his beloved people of Molokai what Saint Paul said to the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus : “You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I first came . . . I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me . . .. I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore witness . . . to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus . . .. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace . . .. I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God” (cf. Ac 20:17-27).

Eucharistic Adoration

The words are Saint Paul’s but the sentiments — all of them — are those of Blessed Father Damien of Molokai. Where did Father Damien discover “the entire plan of God” (Ac 20:27) or, as another translation has it, “the whole counsel of God”? In the contemplation of the Heart of Jesus. And where did he contemplate the Heart of Jesus? In the adoration of the Eucharist.

Knowledge of the Pierced Side of Christ

The full title of Father Damien’s religious family is a very long one but it expresses completely the charism given them: “The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.” Father Damien’s compassionate devotion to those suffering from leprosy was the fruit of his intimate knowledge of the riches hidden in the pierced Side of Christ. That knowledge came to him in long hours of adoration before the tabernacle.

Lepers Adoring the Hidden Face of Christ

It is a little known fact that Father Damien laboured to establish perpetual adoration of the Eucharist among his dear lepers. In this there is something astonishingly beautiful; the sight of lepers adoring day and night the Suffering Servant who, disfigured in his Passion, became, “as one from whom men screen their faces” (Is 53:3), the “Lord of Glory” (1 Cor 2:8) whose face is "all the beauty of holy souls” (Litany of the Holy Face).

The Prayer of the Sacred Heart to the Father

It was in Eucharistic adoration that Blessed Father Damien found himself drawn into the priestly prayer of Christ given us in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John. That prayer did not end with the Last Supper in the Cenacle. It is the prayer of the risen and ascended Christ who stands all-glorious in the sanctuary of heaven, showing the Father the wound in His side, the opening made by love, never to be closed. It is the prayer of the priestly Heart of Jesus in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist. It is the prayer that, from the tabernacle, rises ceaselessly like incense before the Father. Only those who linger there know this prayer; it becomes their prayer, inhabits them, changes them, and impels them to imitate the self-giving love of the Sacred Heart.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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