On the side of the north is a small harbor carved in volcanic rock by wind and wave, and the hand of time. From the strand, the earth slopes gently forward, then stretches across a lava bed straight to the base of steep and crumbling mountains. This is the land of exile, the Leper's Home, on whose portals is written: -
"Let him who enters here,
Leave hope behind."
In days gone by, this spot was the abode of abject misery and despair. here leper victims men, women, and children sought the dark crevices, or crouched in lairs of beasts, or crawled the sandy beach and cursed fate and died in blasphemy.
This cry of desolation rent the heavens; and the voice of the Lord descending rang through the earth: "Who will go and be the leper's friend?"
The voice of God was hear in old Flanders. Damien heard it. He was a levite- ruddy, beautiful, comely to behold. Could he offer the holocaust? Could he drink a bitter chalice to its dregs? Was his strength, the courage, to live a leper's life, and die the leper's death?
Some knew Damien, and knew the great soul that burned within his youthful breast. He was a young lion of Flanders, descendant of Crusaders, offspring of martyrs. With his face lighted by heavenly inspiration, and eyes beaming joyful resolution, he answered heaven in the ringing words of the prophet of old, and said:
"Here I am, Lord; send me!"
Bright was the sky, calm the ocean, and smiling the sunlit peaks, that welcomed the beautiful footsteps of Father Damien to the shores of Molokai.
Like a giant, eager to run his course, he swiftly opened battle against suffering and ignorance, poverty and want, sin and despair. Armed with instruments of peace and aided by the waning strength of lepers, he cleared pathways, built cottages, dug gardens, planted flowers, and lighted furnaces.
He was a father and he gave wise precept, rebuked evil, and rewarded virtue.
He was like a mother and he rejoiced with the joyful, wept with the sorrowful, and made peace to reign.
He was a physician and he mixed soothing potion, anointed the hideous wound, and cooled the feverish brow.
He was a priest and he spoke the saving word, cleansed the sinful soul, and gave joy to the troubled heart.
To the living, he was all to all and to the dead, he was not wanting. Reverently he prepared the lifeless body, dug the deep grave, chanted the requiem, gave the last blessing and wept alone.
For nineteen long years, in labor and in vigil, in sunshine and in storm, in good report and in evil report, Father Damien, faithful to duty, forgotten by the world, struggled alone and waited.
One day, the lepers had a party on the beach. Father Damien was cook. When tired of play, the children sat around the boiling kettle, and Father Damien told them stories of the great Richard the Lion Hearted, and his mighty battles for the Holy Sepulcher.
As he stirred the embers, a coal of fire by chance fell upon his hand. He press it hard. and held it long, yet it caused no sense of pain. Lightly he threw it aside and smiled; for Father Damien knew that at last he, too, was a leper.
When evening came, and the stars were out, he humbly knelt and wrote these words to his Bishop: "I am a leper. My brightest hopes are realized at last. May we meet in heaven- for we can meet on earth no more. Let the brethren pray. To one and all -a last, long farewell. "Damien."
The dreadful disease quickly made inroads upon his strong and noble frame. Stretched on his bed of pain, in his cottage by the see, attended by lepers a sight to make the angels weep- Father Damien died.
Yet he is not dead. Father Damien is immortal. He lives in his successor. He lives in the memory of a grateful people. He lives in the memory of the age.
Source; The Ideal Catholic Sixth Reader; Imprimatur- 1916
A coloring picture can be found below.