O God, we praise thee!

DamienIconSing a Te Deum (the traditional Catholic hymn of joy and thanksgiving) today, at least in spirit.  The Church has given us 5 new saints.  And even President Obama (who was born in Hawaii) has weighed in on the occasion. 

Here’s the President’s statement, as it appears at whitehouse.gov:

I wish to express my deep admiration for the life of Blessed Damien de Veuster, who will be canonized on Sunday by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I also want to convey my best wishes to the Kingdom of Belgium and its people, who are proud to count Fr. Damien among their great citizens.

Fr. Damien has also earned a special place in the hearts of Hawaiians. I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out. Following in the steps of Jesus’ ministry to the lepers, Fr. Damien challenged the stigmatizing effects of disease, giving voice to the voiceless and ultimately sacrificing his own life to bring dignity to so many.

In our own time as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Fr. Damien’s resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick.

I offer my prayers as people of all faiths join the Holy Father and millions of Catholics around the world in celebrating Fr. Damien’s extraordinary life and witness.

I’ve written a few posts on both St. Damien of Molokia and St. Jeanne Jugan on this blog before, so I’d invite you to check them out — on Damien here and Jeanne here.

Note: I’ll be talking about the new saints with Gud Lloyd on his SIRIUS satellite radio show, “Seize the Day,” tomorrow at 8 am.

Here’s coverage worth a look:

The Associated Press article includes this great quotation from the homily: “Their perfection, in the logic of a faith that is humanly incomprehensible at times, consists in no longer placing themselves at the center, but choosing to go against the flow and live according to the Gospel.”

This is cool: A newly-formed parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit (a merger of three previous parishes) is being named St. Damien of Molokai parish.

Obama’s comment on the canonization has brought more attention to it.  For example, ABC News and U.S New and World Report noticed.

The governor of Hawaii issued a formal proclamation of Damien Day.

Hawaii Magazine has much more extensive coverage, including a slideshow of some of Damien personal effects. jeanne_jugan_300

Ann Rodgers, an excellent religion reporter in Pittsburgh (I’m a western PA native), focuses on Jeanne Jugan because her Little Sisters of the Poor have a home for the elderly there.  A snipet:

The sisters who beg are better known than the James P. Wall Memorial Home itself, which many people assume is for aging nuns. It’s not, and its residents don’t even have to be Catholic.

The sole requirements are to be older than age 60 — most residents arrive in their 80s — and in financial need. Residents pay what they can afford. There are long waiting lists for the apartments, assisted living and nursing units.

In the chapel is a stained glass window of St. Jeanne cradling an elderly woman in her arms. Beneath are her words, “The poor are our Lord.” The sisters teach all staff members and volunteers to treat residents as they would Jesus himself. When in doubt, they ask “What would Jeanne Jugan do?”

 Zenit’s bio of Jeanne is good, too.  It includes some of the dramatic details of her story:

The community elected her as its first superior, a post she held for only two weeks as Father Le Pailleur decided to revoke the election. Years later the priest ordered her to live a more retired life, involved only in domestic tasks, and removed from her benefactors, a decision she accepted without protest. She lived in this way for 27 years.
 
“She put into practice the dictum that ‘your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing,’ to the point of disappearing into the group of which she was really the founder,” said the postulator.
 
Blessed Marie de la Croix, as she was called after entering religious life, died in August 1879 when the congregation had some 2,488 women religious and 177 homes for the elderly. Months earlier, Pope Leo XIII had approved the congregation’s statutes.
 
The future saint was recognized as the official founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor only at the beginning of the 20th century, when members of the order decided to write the history of the community, said Father Vito.
 
“She never rebelled against her marginalization; on the contrary, she dedicated herself more intensely to her congregation,” the priest affirmed.

 UPDATE: St. Damien and his life’s work was the topic of the lead editorial in yesterday’s New York Times.

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