Thursday, May 6, 2010

Statue ceremony, Mass to mark Hawaii saint’s first feast day

Detail from the statue of St. Damien at the Hawaii state capitol
The first feast day of Hawaii’s first saint will be celebrated modestly. May 10 will be the first observance of St. Damien’s feast since his Oct. 11 canonization. That morning at the state capitol, the outdoor bronze statue of Father Damien will be the site of the now familiar ceremony of songs, prayers and lei presentations. That evening, the bishop will celebrate a feast day Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa. The ceremony at the state capitol starts at 10 a.m. and will last about 45 minutes.

It will begin with a welcome by Sacred Hearts Father Lane Akiona, a performance of Hawaii Ponoi performed by Maryknoll School students, and an invocation by vicar general Father Marc Alexander. The program will include a Scripture reading, a reflection by Sacred Hearts Father Herman Gomes, a hula by students from Sacred Hearts Academy, the draping of the statue with leis, the singing of E Kamiano and Hawaii Aloha, and a benediction by Sacred Hearts Father Christopher Keahi. The ceremony is being organized by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts.

Bishop Larry Silva will celebrate the feast day Mass at 6 p.m. at the co-cathedral. The relic of St. Damien, now on display at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, will be brought to the Kapalama church for veneration that evening. Many of the members of the choir created for the Hawaii pilgrimage to the October canonization in Rome will reassemble for the co-cathedral Mass. Light refreshments will be served after the Mass.

Pope Benedict XVI canonized Father Damien on Oct. 11 in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Prior to his official feast day designation, “Damien Day” had long been celebrated in Hawaii on April 15, the date of his death, the traditional choice for a saint’s feast day. After his beatification in 1995 made him eligible for a spot on the liturgical calendar as an “optional memorial,” the May 10 date was picked because April 15 fell during Lent when optional and obligatory memorials are not celebrated. May 10 is the date he first stepped onto Molokai to care for the leprosy patients quarantined there. But his feast has actually switched back and forth from April 15 to May 10 a few times.

In November 1999, Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo asked the U.S. bishops to place Father Damien’s feast on the American Catholic calendar on May 10 as an “optional memorial.” The bishops voted overwhelmingly in favor of the request. However, on Dec. 20, 1999, when the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments approved the U.S. bishops’ decision, it changed the date back to April 15.

In April 2000, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote back to the Vatican congregation asking that the observance be returned to May 10 as originally requested. In a letter dated April 24, 2001, the congregation approved the request. The bishops were informed of the change in early May. Last Oct. 25, another Vatican degree elevated the feast from an “optional” memorial to an “obligatory” memorial in Hawaii. That change, made by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the request of Bishop Larry Silva, means that all Masses celebrated in Hawaii on that day — unless it falls on a Sunday — must be for St. Damien. It is not a holy day of obligation.

The Mass prayers will be specific to Father Damien. They are essentially the same ones used since Father Damien’s beatification except that the title “Saint” replaces the title “Blessed.” The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship also changed the day’s Gospel reading from the verses about the Good Shepherd in John, chapter 10, to the account of the washing of the feet in John 13. According to Sacred Hearts Sister Helene Wood of the Office of Worship, this is because the Good Shepherd narrative is also the reading for the Third Sunday of Easter which falls near to St. Damien’s feast. Everywhere else in the United States, the feast of St. Damien is an optional memorial.
By Patrick Downes | Hawaii Catholic Herald
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