Monday, May 10, 2010

Film Review - Hawaii Pilgrimage to the Canonization of St. Damien

Photo by Esther G.

I finally saw VV Visions, Inc.'s newest film on Father Damien.  It is a long story but I was supposed to have watched and reviewed the documentary a few months ago.

The film opens up with a cheering crowd in Rome on the day of Father Damien (Joseph) De Veuster's canonization, on October 11, 2009.  The crowd is cheering because Pope Benedict XVI has arrived.  The viewer soon realized the crowd focused on is made up of the Hawaii pilgrims who have traveled a long distance in order to be a part of history.  They wanted to honor Hawaii's beloved "Kamiano".

The film is well made.  The executive producers have taken footage of the scenes prior to the canonization itself, the canonization, the events in Belgium and other parts of Italy, leading to the canonization as well as scenes closer to home in Hawaii, where St. Damien day was celebrated on November 1, 2009.

Visibly present throughout the film is Hawaii's own beloved shepherd, Bishop Larry Silva of the Diocese of Honolulu.  You can clearly see the love and pride in his countenance when he spoke of Father Damien and Hawaii.

One quote that particularly struck a chord with me was when Bishop Larry reminded us that this is the Year of the Priest.  He said that Saint Damien is a:  "...great saint for all the priest in the world..."

A touching moment in the film is when Hawaii's own Mrs. Audrey Toguchi walks holding on to the arm of her doctor for the presentation of Saint Damien's relic.  How fitting that God would choose a resident of Hawaii, as His instrument in making Father Damien a saint!

Then there is the moment when all present hear the words by Pope Benedict, that they have longed to hear with regard to Father Damien becoming a saint, "We decree it!"

Throughout the film, there are interviews by several people who shared interesting stories regarding either Father Damien's life or the canonization process.  People such as the General Postulator, Reverend Alfred Bell, SS.CC., the Superior General of the Sacred Hearts Father, Bishop Silva, Fr. Clyde Guerrero, the residents of Kalaupapa, etc.

- Father Bell said something very profound.  He said:  "We cannot follow the same life after the canonization."

- Bishop Silva spoke about how we create our own little Kalaupapas as a way of putting certain people there whom we do not want to deal with.  Considering the growing number of homeless in Hawaii, who are treated as outcasts, Bishop Larry's statement is very poignant.

- Later, Bishop Larry spoke of St. Damien's joy of being a slave of Jesus Christ.

- It was sad to learn from one of the Kalaupapa residents was that the thing he felt the loss of more than anything, was the loss of his family... his ohana.

- Father Clyde, pastor of the churches on Moloka'i, spoke of the Kalaupapa being a place of spirituality.  As a person who has been there three times, I certainly agree with that statement.

If I had to find the weak point in the film, I would have to say it was the tribute paid by the Belgium people in the Damien Inspires program.  To their credit though, I think they were trying to please the English speaking pilgrims with their choice of entertainment. I would have like to have seen a traditional Belgium song and dance instead of listening to another rendition of "The Rose".

On the other hand, the Hawaiian tribute was incredible!  One of the halau performed the hula to the Hawaiian chant which I believe is entitled "O Kamiano".

The film ends with the celebration with Holy Mass, a tribute at Iolani Palace, and finally the enshrinement of Saint Damien's relic at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

As I mentioned above, this is a well done documentary, but it is also a lovely documentary.  The beauty of the Hawaiian people is depicted time and time again.  These pilgrims brought the aloha spirit in form of the leis they shared with the bishops and cardinals, the hula they danced in honor of Father Damien and just the way they are made this film a joy to watch.

I strongly urge those of you who are interested in Saint Damien, (and who isn't?) to obtain the DVD.  I believe Pauline Books in Media will be selling them. 

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