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Hawaii Saints Remind Us to Focus on the Vulnerable

December 18, 2023

From the Office for Social Ministry

“The Son of God was born an outcast, in order to tell us that every outcast is a child of God.” Pope Francis’s message in the 2023 Christmas Card Promoting Integral Human Development

In this joyous holiday season, Pope Francis calls us all to reflect on the deeper truth of Christmas – that all people are children of God, including all on the “outcasts” of society. By focusing on the vulnerable characters in the Christmas crèche made famous by St. Francis, we can recognize the revelation of Emmanuel, “God with us.” This theme of the divine revealed in unexpected places (such as a humble manger) mirrors the very essence of ChristĘ»s message. Indeed we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here in Hawaii, we are blessed to have two inspirational saints who dedicated their lives to serving with some of the most vulnerable outcasts of society in their time, the victims of leprosy or Hansens disease, and to treating each person as a beloved child of God. St. Damien de Veuster and St. Marianne Cope of Molokai showed compassionate care to outcasts banished to exile on Kalaupapa, Moloka’i. On a recent visit to there, we were blessed to share a weekend with some of the residents and remaining patients on the remote peninsula. We witnessed the unconditional love poured out by the missionary religious communities of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary and the Sisters of St. Francis who continue to follow in the footsteps of Saints Damien and Marianne whose service is memorialized in a beautiful Saints prayer spoken at the end of each daily mass on Kalaupapa:

“O God and Father of all, we praise you, the source of all we have and are. We thank you for our Beloved St. Damien and St. Marianne who ministered to your people in Kalawao and Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai. Faithful to the teaching and example of your son, Jesus Christ, they loved and served the most desolate outcasts on this peninsula, giving themselves generously and heroically for the victims of Hansen’s Disease.

Through their service in Kalaupapa, these saints lived out Christ’s call to share with the those marginalized by society, echoing the very essence of the Christmas message that we are all children of God.As the Sisters of St. Francis still serving on Kalaupapa reminded us, the “outcasts” in Hawaii made saints out of Damien and Marianne by bringing out the best in them, just as the outcast Christ in the manager made saints of Mary and Joseph, and millions more down through the ages. This is the true blessing, the gift, and the hope of the Christmas season. This is also why January is Kalaupapa month.

We are called to share our blessings with the vulnerable who are often marginalized in our own midst. Let us keep our Christmas focus on the image of the outcast Christ in the manager to help us recognize Emmanuel, “God with us” in the outcasts or on the margins striving to survive and thrive as were the children of God on Kalaupapa in the time of Sts. Marianne and Damien– and in our time,the house-less refugees from wars and natural disasters around the world, including so many still suffering in the aftermath of Maui wildfires. (For more detailed information on how all can help the Diocese accompanying persons impacted by the Maui fires, please visit the Hawaii Catholic Community Foundation website www.hawaiicatholiccommunityfoundation.org.)

May a clear focus on the vulnerable Christ child open our hearts and bring out the best in all, helping us become saints us by sharing our gifts and blessings with others and by being instruments of God’s loving, caring, healing presence in our families, communities, and planet,which is our common home. The simple yet profound truth that everyone is a child of God resonates deeply in the enduring legacy of these Hawaii saints. In our celebrations, let us embrace the spirit of Kalaupapa, where Aloha knew no boundaries, and outcasts became cherished members of a compassionate community.Let us approach the New Year nourished by a grateful focus on the vulnerable Christ child in the manger, Emmanuel- God with us, and with a renewed commitment to living and sharing our faith as the daily Kalaupapa Saints prayer concludes: Through their intercession, grant us the courage to follow their footsteps our love for those most in need of our love and care. Help us to love you with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as they modeled for us. For You have said, “Love one another as I have loved you!” We ask this through Christ our Lord Amen.” Mele Kalikimaka and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! Mahalo!