St. Damian of Molokai, apostle of the exiled w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson

Dr Matthew Bunson co-wrote, with Margaret Bunson, a compelling biography of St. Damien.  
Dr. Bunson took time to share many more aspects of the life of this incredible saint.


St Jozef Damien De Veuster (1840-1889) – from

St Jozef Damien De Veuster,, was born at Tremelo, Belgium, on 3 January 1840 (see also p. 8). Jozef (“Jef”) began his novitiate with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (“Picpus Fathers”) at the beginning of 1859 and took the name Damien. He would pray every day before a picture of St Francis

Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission. In 1863 his brother, who was to leave for a mission in the Hawaiian Islands, fell ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother’s place. He landed in Honolulu on 19 March 1864. He was ordained to the priesthood on the following 21 May.

At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on the harsh measure of quarantine aimed at preventing the spread of leprosy: the deportation to the neighbouring Island of Molokai of all those infected by what was then thought to be an incurable disease. The entire mission was concerned about the abandoned lepers and Bishop Louis Maigret, a Picpus father, felt sure they needed priests. He did not want to send anyone “in the name of obedience” because he was aware such an assignment was a potential death sentence. Of the four brothers who volunteered, Damien was the first to leave on 10 May 1873 for Kalaupapa.

At his own request and that of the lepers, he remained on Molokai. Having contracted leprosy himself, he died on 15 April 1889, at the age of 49, after serving 16 years among the lepers. He was buried in the local cemetery under the same Pandanus tree where he had first slept upon his arrival in Molokai. His remains were exhumed in 1936 at the request of the Belgian Government and translated to a crypt of the Church of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts at Louvain. Damien is universally known for having freely shared the life of the lepers in quarantine on the Kalaupapa Peninsula of Molokai. His departure for the “cursed isle”, the announcement of his illness (leprosy) in 1884 and his subsequent death deeply impressed his contemporaries of all denominations.

Damien was above all a Catholic missionary. Fr Damien is known today as a hero of charity because he identified so closely with thevictims of leprosy.

He respected the religious convictions of others; he accepted them as people and received with joy their collaboration and their help. With a heart wide open to the most abject and wretched, he showed no difference in his approach and in his care of the lepers. In his parish ministry or in his works of charity he found a place for everyone.

He continues to inspire thousands of believers and non-believers who wish to imitate him and to discover the source of his heroism. People of all creeds and all philosophical systems recognized in him the Servant of God which he always revealed himself to be, and respect his passion for the salvation of souls.

Pope John Paul II beatified Damien de Veuster in Brussels on 4 June 1995.

IP#208 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Francis on Inside the Pages

Yet another very special conversation with good friend and Discerning Hearts contributor, Dr. Matthew Bunson about his new book “Pope Francis”.  He once againMatthew-Bunson demonstrates why he is one of our leading Church historians! No one articulates a moment with more grace and vision, than Dr. Bunson. More than just a “biography” of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina (which is offered beautifully in this volume), he places, in context, the extraordinary events and emotions leading to the election of the 265th successor of St. Peter…Pope Francis. The who, what, where, why and how are offered in vivid compelling detail. From the moment of Pope Benedict XVI’s earth shaking resignation and its implications, to the Holy Spirit led deliberations of the Cardinals, Dr. Bunson masterfully sets the stage for the first presentation to the world of Pope Francis on the loggia of St. Peter’s. We get the first in-depth look at the life and times of this “son of St. Ignatius”, the challenges, controversies, triumphs of his life thus far, and what we might expect given Bergoglio’s response to his election as the “bishop of Rome”. Matthew Bunson is a joy to read…don’t miss this definitive account of this truly remarkable story.

Pope-Francis-bookYou can find the book here

From the book description:

Get inside access to the entire history-making event, from the startling resignation of Pope Benedict through the gathering of Cardinals for the Conclave and the installation of this Pope of the people.

Examine Pope Francis the man – his background, his ideas, his mission, and his challenges and opportunities as our new pope – including 16 pages of full color photos from Pope Francis’ past and present.

“I want to ask you to walk together, and take care of one another …We need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.” Pope Francis

IP#174 Dr. Matthew Bunson – St. Hildegard and St. John of Avila on Inside the Pages

On October 7, at the beginning of the Synod on the New Evangelization, St. Hildegard and St. John of AvilaPope Benedict XVI will declare St. Hildegard von Bingen and St. John of Avila  Doctors of the Church.  On this special edition of Inside the Pages I talk with Dr. Matthew Bunson about the significance of this declaration.  We talk about the lives and work of both saints and how their teachings can touch our lives today.

St. Hildegard and St. John of Avila
St. Hildegard
St. Hildegard and St. John of Avila
St. John of Avila

The Chair of St. Peter – the gift of the Papacy – Discerning Hearts

The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is not so much a feast celebrating a “chair”, but more a feast celebrating what the chair symbolizes…the gift of the Papacy. I remember seeing it for the first time…not only the stunning piece used to preserve it  by Bernini…but the whole altar piece setting at St. Peter’s…breathtaking.  Almost every time I now see the presider’s chair at my local parish or the chair at our cathedral, I think of this chair, but also of the great unity it gives us with the entire Catholic Church under the leadership of the successor of St. Peter…our Holy Father.  God bless the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.  Praise be to God for the gift of the Papacy!

Take a listen to Dr. Matthew Bunson talk to us about the importance of this feast in the podcast above.

Also here is the text from the Holy Father’s reflections on this feast from 2006  from

“On this rock I will build my Church’

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the Latin-rite liturgy celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. This is a very ancient tradition, proven to have existed in Rome since the fourth century. On it we give thanks to God for the mission he entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his Successors.

“Cathedra” literally means the established seat of the Bishop, placed in the mother church of a diocese which for this reason is known as a “cathedral”; it is the symbol of the Bishop’s authority and in particular, of his “magisterium”, that is, the evangelical teaching which, as a successor of the Apostles, he is called to safeguard and to transmit to the Christian Community.

When a Bishop takes possession of the particular Church that has been entrusted to him, wearing his mitre and holding the pastoral staff, he sits on the cathedra. From this seat, as teacher and pastor, he will guide the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.

So what was the “Chair” of St Peter? Chosen by Christ as the “rock” on which to build the Church (cf. Mt 16: 18), he began his ministry in Jerusalem, after the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost. The Church’s first “seat” was the Upper Room, and it is likely that a special place was reserved for Simon Peter in that room where Mary, Mother of Jesus, also prayed with the disciples. Therefore, we have the journey from Jerusalem, the newly born Church, to Antioch, the first centre of the Church formed from pagans and also still united with the Church that came from the Jews. Then Peter went to Rome, the centre of the Empire, the symbol of the “Orbis” – the “Urbs”, which expresses “Orbis”, the earth, where he ended his race at the service of the Gospel with martyrdom.

…This is testified by the most ancient Fathers of the Church, such as, for example, St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, but who came from Asia Minor, who in his treatise Adversus Haereses, describes the Church of Rome as the “greatest and most ancient, known by all… founded and established in Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul”; and he added:  “The universal Church, that is, the faithful everywhere, must be in agreement with this Church because of her outstanding superiority” (III, 3, 2-3)….

Tertullian, a little later, said for his part:  “How blessed is the Church of Rome, on which the Apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood!” (De Praescriptione Hereticorum, 36).
Consequently, the Chair of the Bishop of Rome represents not only his service to the Roman community but also his mission as guide of the entire People of God.

Celebrating the “Chair” of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.

Among the numerous testimonies of the Fathers, I would like to quote St Jerome’s. It is an extract from one of his letters, addressed to the Bishop of Rome. It is especially interesting precisely because it makes an explicit reference to the “Chair” of Peter, presenting it as a safe harbour of truth and peace.

This is what Jerome wrote:  “I decided to consult the Chair of Peter, where that faith is found exalted by the lips of an Apostle; I now come to ask for nourishment for my soul there, where once I received the garment of Christ. I follow no leader save Christ, so I enter into communion with your beatitude, that is, with the Chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built” (cf. Le lettere I, 15, 1-2).

Dear brothers and sisters, in the apse of St Peter’s Basilica, as you know, is the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, a mature work of Bernini. It is in the form of a great bronze throne supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church: two from the West, St Augustine and St Ambrose, and two from the East:  St John Chrysostom and St Athanasius.

I invite you to pause before this evocative work which today can be admired, decorated with myriads of candles, and to say a special prayer for the ministry that God has entrusted to me. Raise your eyes to the alabaster glass window located directly above the Chair and call upon the Holy Spirit, so that with his enlightenment and power, he will always sustain my daily service to the entire Church. For this, as for your devoted attention, I thank you from my heart. –

IP#52 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Benedict’s Verbum Domini part 2 on Inside the Pages

Part 2 – A very special edition of “Inside the Pages” as we explore Pope BenMatthew Bunson IP#49 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Benedicts Verbum Domini part 1 on Inside the Pagesedict’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Verbum Domini” (The Word of the Lord), with Dr. Matthew Bunson. A magnificent gift for the Church, Dr. Bunson breaks open in part 2 of our discussion the liturgy, homelitics and the significance of the document.  We encourage you to check out the document yourself by clicking on the links below.

We encourage you to visit the Vatican website so you can read, ponder, and download “Verbum Domini”

IP#49 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Benedict’s Verbum Domini part 1 on Inside the Pages

A very special edition of “Inside the Pages” as we explore Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Verbum Domini” (The Word of the Lord), with Dr. Matthew Bunson. A magnificent gift for the Church, Dr. Bunson breaks open in part 1 of our discussion the significance of the document and how it was comprised.  We encourage you to check out the document yourself by clicking on the links below.

That our joy may be complete [2]
From “Dei Verbum” to the Synod on the Word of God [3]
The Synod of Bishops on the Word of God [4]
The Prologue of John’s Gospel as a guide [5]


The God Who Speaks

God in dialogue [6]
The analogy of the word of God [7]
The cosmic dimension of the word [8]
The creation of man [9]
The realism of the word [10]
Christology of the word [11-13]
The eschatological dimension of the word of God [14]
The word of God and the Holy Spirit [15-16]
Tradition and Scripture [17-18]
Sacred Scripture, inspiration and truth [19]
God the Father, source and origin of the word [20-21]

Our Response To The God Who Speaks

Called to the covenant with God [22]
God hears us and responds to our questions [23]
In dialogue with God through his words [24]
The word of God and faith [25]
Sin as a refusal to hear the word of God [26]
Mary, “Mother of God’s Word” and “Mother of Faith” [27-28]

The Interpretation Of Sacred Scripture In The Church

The Church as the primary setting for biblical hermeneutics [29-30]
“The soul of sacred theology” [31]
The development of biblical studies and the Church’s magisterium [32-33]
The Council’s biblical hermeneutic: a directive to be appropriated [34]
The danger of dualism and a secularized hermeneutic [35]
Faith and reason in the approach to Scripture [36]
Literal sense and spiritual sense [37]
The need to transcend the “letter” [38]
The Bible’s intrinsic unity [39]
The relationship between the Old and the New Testaments [40-41]
The “dark” passages of the Bible [42]
Christians, Jews and the sacred Scriptures [43]
The fundamentalist interpretation of sacred Scripture [44]
Dialogue between pastors, theologians and exegetes [45]
The Bible and ecumenism [46]
Consequences for the study of theology [47]
The saints and the interpretation of Scripture [48-49]


The Word Of God And The Church

The Church receives the word [50]
Christ’s constant presence in the life of the Church [51]

The Liturgy, Privileged Setting For The Word Of God

The word of God in the sacred liturgy [52]
Sacred Scripture and the sacraments [53]
The word of God and the Eucharist [54-55]
The sacramentality of the word [56]
Sacred Scripture and the Lectionary [57]
Proclamation of the word and the ministry of Reader [58]
The importance of the homily [59]
The fittingness of a Directory on Homiletics [60]
The word of God, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick [61]
The word of God and the Liturgy of the Hours [62]
The word of God and the Book of Blessings [63]
Suggestions and practical proposals for promoting fuller participation in the liturgy [64]

a) Celebrations of the word of God [65]
b) The word and silence [66]
c) The solemn proclamation of the word of God [67]
d) The word of God in Christian Churches [68]
e) The exclusive use of biblical texts in the liturgy [69]
f) Biblically-inspired liturgical song [70]
g) Particular concern for the visually and hearing impaired [71]

The Word Of God In The Life Of The Church

Encountering the word of God in sacred Scripture [72]
Letting the Bible inspire pastoral activity [73]
The biblical dimension of catechesis [74]
The biblical formation of Christians [75]
Sacred Scripture in large ecclesial gatherings [76]
The word of God and vocations [77]

a) Ordained ministers and the word of God [78-81]
b) The word of God and candidates for Holy Orders [82]
c) The word of God and the consecrated life [83]
d) The word of God and the lay faithful [84]
e) The word of God, marriage and the family [85]

The prayerful reading of sacred Scripture and “lectio divina” [86-87]
The word of God and Marian prayer [88]
The word of God and the Holy Land [89]


The Church’s Mission: To Proclaim The Word Of God To The World

The Word from the Father and to the Father [90]
Proclaiming to the world the “Logos” of hope [91]
The word of God is the source of the Church’s mission [92]
The word and the Kingdom of God [93]
All the baptized are responsible for this proclamation [94]
The necessity of the “missio ad gentes” [95]
Proclamation and the new evangelization [96]
The word of God and Christian witness [97-98]

The Word Of God And Commitment In The World

Serving Jesus in “the least of his brethren” (Mt 25:40) [99]
The word of God and commitment to justice in society [100-101]
The proclamation of God’s word, reconciliation and peace between peoples [102]
The word of God and practical charity [103]
The proclamation of the word of God and young people [104]
The proclamation of the word of God and migrants [105]
The proclamation of the word of God and the suffering [106]
The proclamation of the word of God and the poor [107]
The proclamation of the word of God and the protection of creation [108]

The Word Of God And Culture

The value of culture for the life of humanity [109]
The Bible, a great code for cultures [110]
Knowledge of the Bible in schools and universities [111]
Sacred Scripture in the variety of artistic expressions [112]
The word of God and the means of social communication [113]
The Bible and inculturation [114]
Translating the Bible and making it more widely available [115]
God’s word transcends cultural limits [116]

The Word Of God And Interreligious Dialogue

The value of interreligious dialogue [117]
Dialogue between Christians and Muslims [118]
Dialogue with other religions [119]
Dialogue and religious freedom [120]


God’s definitive word [121]
New evangelization and a new hearing [122]
The word and joy [123]
“Mater Verbi et Mater laetitiae” [124]



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