A saint of not very appealing appearance

“He was remarkably tough… of short stature, thin, white haired, no teeth and stooped” Who? 

A photo of Peter Donders from the 1880s

Born in 1809 to a poor Dutch family Peter Donders (feast day January 14th) and his brother Martin had a limited education – they had to work to support their family. Peter was keen to be a priest but was continually turned down – he wasn’t thought clever enough, and he had delicate health. He persisted and eventually he was ordained for foreign missions and was sent to the Dutch colony of Surinam. He remained there for the rest of his life.

In 1856 he volunteered to go to a leper colony and he was to live and work there for thirty years. One who lived there said he was a man of great ‘kindnesses he.. bandaged feet, fetched water and things like that and helped us with his prayers and teaching…”

He worked there for many years, and also did work in reaching out to indigenous peoples in remote areas, often walking for days to meet them. His preaching among the remote areas had very little success, it was said that for his hearers ‘liquor was more appealing than liturgy.’

Memorial at the grave of Peter Donders in Batavia, Surinam

Perhaps not surprisingly he contracted leprosy himself and he died on 14th January 1887, and was buried in the leper cemetery where he worked.

Despite his failings and his shortcomings he never lost faith or trust. He did small things well and with great hope and faith. One person who knew him write, later ‘I would gladly send you an account of his great works, but his beauty was mainly within, nothing very extraordinary in his daily life!”

So we have a saint of not very appealing appearance, no miracles or unexpected happenings – simply and beautifully a person of deep prayer with great trust in God and a willingness to day the everyday jobs of caring for those on the margins.

An inspiration to everyday people!


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
This entry was posted in Anglo Catholic, Catholic, Saints and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A saint of not very appealing appearance

  1. C. Peters says:

    I do not know where from the author takes the phrase “Perhaps not surprisingly he contracted leprosy himself”. It is known that Peter Donders did not suffer at all from leprosy (also proven in 2017), but died from a kidney infection.

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