Today, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Mother Marianne Cope, the second canonized saint who worked at the leper settlement on the island of Molokai. Cope, who was born in Germany and grew up in New York, answered a call from the King of Hawaii to work with the sick in Hawaii and ended up succeeding the heroic Father Damien in Molokai. Shortly after Damien's death, Robert Louis Stevenson visited the island. This visit caused Stevenson to write an essay defending the recently deceased Flemish priest from aspersions cast on him by a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Dr. Hyde, whom Stevenson had met inHonolulu. (Stevenson's brilliant essay continues to impress; Pat Buchanan has described it as "among the most passionate, brilliant, brutal, and beautiful polemics I have ever read. Cicero did not do to Cataline, nor Burke to Warren Hastings, what R. L. Stevenson did to the Rev. Dr. Hyde.”) Stevenson also wrote this following short poem about Mother Marianne, touching on issues of perennial importance:
To the Reverend Sister Marianne,
Matron of the Bishop Home, Kalaupapa.
To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,
A fool were tempted to deny his God.
He sees, and shrinks; but if he look again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breasts of pain!
He marks the sisters on the painful shores,
And even a fool is silent and adores.
We would be fortunate indeed if we continue to produce women like Marianne Cope and writers like Robert Louis Stevenson, who was wise enough to be awed by true goodness.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.