Some years ago St Damien of Moloka’i was voted the most significant Belgian ever in a popular consultation.
Fr Robert O’Neil mhm was present at his canonisation on 11 October 2009.
“The bright yellow ticket was number 27334. It was for admission to St Peter’s Square for the canonization of five new saints. One of them was “Jozef Damiaan De Veuster;” Damien of Moloka’i. Already there were thousands of people with similar tickets in the square. There was no room for more. What a disappointment it was as I stood outside. And then there was a surprise. It had rained earlier and most of the dignitaries had moved inside St Peter’s Basilica. Finally the sun returned and security opened the area to a few of us. We took the vacant seats abandoned by some cardinals. Now we were very near to the chair that Pope Benedict would soon return to. It was Sunday October 11 2009″.
His fascination and admiration for Damien the Leper led him to write a paper entitled ‘Damien of Moloka’i and Friends. In it he pesents various persons closely connected with Damien’s story and his own experiences with lepers in Cameroon.
“It was a hot day. In the sultry, crowded interior, the congregation, all of whom were invalids in varying stages of the disease, probably welcomed the relaxation that comes with the end of the Gospel. Perhaps, even, there were a few that, with a torpor induced by the heat, might have been inclined to drowsiness as the priest, standing before the altar, divested himself of chasuble and maniple in preparation for the sermon. But after he had advanced to the sanctuary rail (he had no pulpit), and began to talk, all signs of lethargy among his listeners quickly vanished. There was a sudden shocked stir, for instead of addressing them with the usual My brethren, he had said, slowly and significantly, We lepers….
It was his way of telling them that he had contracted their disease.”
(from Damien the Leper by John Farrow)