Irish Rover: Making a Saint: Brother Joseph Dutton
With All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day this weekend, we have a fabulous occasion to reflect on our engagement with saints and consider what it means to live a holy life. From the illustrious fighters to the meek little flowers, examples abound of the myriad ways to seek holiness and communion with Christ.check out Irish Rover: Making a Saint: Brother Joseph Dutton!
Of course, the role of saints goes beyond identifying with The Story of a Soul or meditating on the Summa Theologiae. We know they are in heaven, receiving and transmitting our prayers. The relationships we form with them can be among the most profound and intimate in our spiritual lives.
My own encounters with saints took an unexpected yet providential turn this summer while researching in Hawaii for my history honors thesis. Some preliminary scholarly research on Saint Damien of Molokai led me to the University Archives, where I fell in love with Brother Joseph Dutton—a lay missionary and convert to Catholicism who served the Hansen’s disease patients of Molokai for 44 years—after reading his personal papers and taking him up as the subject of my project.
A few excerpts:
Born Ira Barnes Dutton on April 27, 1843, in Stowe, Vermont, Dutton grew up in a Episcopalian home in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Dutton entered the Catholic Church on April 27, 1883, his 40th birthday, and took the name “Joseph.” He sought atonement for his past sins—drinking, divorce, and others kept in the silence of his heart—and believed the Church would guide him towards the fullest life of penance.
Father Damien [Molokai] —then a patient himself—greeted him as “Brother” on July 29, 1886, and from that moment until Damien’s death on April 15, 1889, the two maintained an intimate friendship.Also The Wanderer: Another Molokai Saint? Diocese Of Honolulu Investigates Brother Dutton’s Life
Photo: Mary Adamski: Saint potential in blue denim