Molokia: True story of courageous Priest and Queen working in Leper’s colony

23 10 2020
Young Fr. Damien of Molokai

“I see another law in my member warring against the law of my mind, for when I wish to do go, I find that evil lies at hand.” These words of St. Paul are ever relevant in the life of all men no matter where they find themselves to be. Even in the leper’s colony of Molokia, among the lepers, the law of sin still holds sways, and men still hunger for sex amidst the flies and decaying flesh, as Fr. Damien would find out.

The movie Molokai (1999) is a true story of a young priest, Fr. Damien who volunteers to minister to the leper’s colony off the Hawaiian island of Molokai. He gets there to find not only decay and abandonment, but, worse, sex brothels! Men and women with half rotten limbs, soaking themselves in alcohol and sexually cavort with each other even though they are unsure that they would live to see another day. Fr .Damian instantly sets about rebuilding the broken Church and cleaning up to celebrate the Eucharist, and despite, his bishop’s repeated warning not to touch the lepers,  he warmly shakes the hands of a young boy who came to offer himself as his as altar boy.

As soon as he gets the chance, Fr. Damian rushes into the sex brothels and rescue the children among the inmates and starts a small clinic, and with some other healthier women volunteers, begin taken care of the sick and dying, but more important, he reawakens the love of God in the hearts of the inhabitants of the colony, most of whom have fallen into the despair, tormented with enormous doubt of the existence of God. Fr. Damien reminded them that, He, Jesus, who died on the Cross, bears their pain and isolation and suffering, reminded them that they should unite their torments with His, as atonement for the sin of the world. In short order, joy and singing could be heard in the community and people who have long given up all basic instincts of human decency begin to pick themselves up and clean up and sing. Though there was no cure for their illness, Fr. Damien’s love and compassion helped bring the light of God’ love piecing through the darkness and gloom in their hearts.

News of the revival at the camp soon reach the all Hawaii and the Governor and bishop are full of praises for Fr. Damien, yet when he began making demands for better housing, clothes and most important,  Christian nuns to come to the colony, he was met with severe opposition from the greedy Governor who was unwilling to lose his sources income he usually diverted for personal use, to the lepers colonies, and using the pretext of quarantine and  preventing infections, he bans  Fr. Damien from ever leaving the lepers island, such that he could not even come to make his confessions, and his bishop had to hear his  confession at sea.

When news of this incident reached the crown queen of Hawaii, Queen Liliʻuokalani, her heart was rent with sorrow, and in a magnificent display of love, she decides to visit the leper’s colony herself. It was the high point of the movie, a rare and almost unbelievable scene, and like, Theresa of Calcutta, this queen not only came to the leper’s colony, but picked up and hugged and kissed leper children, children with rotten limbs. Having seen for herself the good work that Fr. Damien was doing, she becomes his advocate and with her help and support he begin receiving more support from the governor and even from the ecclesiastical authorities.

Queen Liliʻuokalani of Hawaii

But the devil had more in stock for the young priest as he finds himself the object of intense sexual attention of one a young woman, Malulani who had been helping him with care for the others. One day, unable to control her passion, she bursts into his dormitory  pretending he seemed sad and dejected and she wished to comfort him cuddled up to him, but Fr. Damien, emphatically, ordered her to leave, saying to her, “You wish to destroy my life’s work?”  For a plate of beans, I would add.

How does the devil offer so little in exchange for Eternal life? For the undoing of  happiness of paradise, for which Fr. Damien  worked all his life,  the cleaning, scrubbing, smell and flies, he had endured for years, all that would have gone up in smoke in minutes for a few minutes of canal pleasure with a half dressed young woman. Yet countless men and women would take that deal. They give up the happiness of paradise, in marital fidelity for the passing pleasure of adultery, and extramarital sex. Innumerable priests and nuns abandon the prize of heaven for passion and license. Countless youth, toss unending happiness out the window at the behest of sex. Yet as Dr Peter Kreeft puts it, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot long keep for what he can never lose.” Many of the patients in that colony knew that they had but a short time before the disease consumed them, and that the time they had was a gift, a chance to get well prepared to pass the entrance exams of into life that never ends which for them was sure to come so soon. Yet even this imminence was insufficient and many still chose to hang on to whatever they could get from fleshy pleasures. Thanks to the courage and perseverance, by the time he lay dying of the leprosy he cleaned up in others, of Fr. Damien’s Molokai leper’s colony was blessed with a community of nuns to care for the sick and continue his life works. He died in 1936 and went like St. Paul to receive his rewards in paradise having fought the good fight and kept the faith.

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien

Article by Chinwuba Iyizoba 







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