O God, we praise thee!

October 11, 2009

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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Holiness abounds!

October 9, 2009

Canonization day is upon us.  In two days, Mother Church will offer her children a dramatic a lesson in holiness, by presenting the world with five new saints, including two with American ties. 

Damien de Veuster was a Belgian-born priest who came to Hawaii to care for the lepers at the Kalaupapa colony and died  there among them.  Be sure to visit the Diocese of Honolulu’s website, www.fatherdamien.com this weekend.  It’s an excellent resource.  And consider getting a copy of my recent booklet, Saint Damien de Veuster: Missionary of Molokai.  It includes a brief biography of Fr. Damien and a newly composed novena to him. 

Jeanne Jugan was the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, dedicated to caring for the elderly poor, an order which has several homes for the elderly in the United States today. 

We also should not overlook the three other figures who are also set for Sunday’s canonization:

Rafael Arnáiz Barón (1911– 1938), a Trappist Cistercian Oblate of the Abbey of San Isidoro de Dueñas in Spain;

Francisco Coll Guitart (1812-1875), a Dominican priest; friend of St Anthony Mary Claret; parish priest; and founder of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and

Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński (1822-1895), Archbishop of Warsaw and founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary. He spent 20 years in exile in Siberia.

We should also note that this Sunday’s canonization is just the most prominent of the rites being conducted in various parts of the Church this fall, all with the approval of the Pope, to formally acknolwedge the sanctity of some of her members.  Five other beatification ceremonies are also on the docket!  More on that here in the days ahead.

New Novena for a New Saint

September 16, 2009

The U.S. gets not one but two new saints in less than a month, when the Pope canonizes damien bookletDamien de Veuster and Jeanne Jugan on October 11.  Both are remarkable examples of heroic love and faith.

The booklet that I wrote for Pauline Books, Saint Damien de Veuster: Missionary of Molokai, is now available. It contains a biography of the priest, as well as a newly composed novena to him.

Here’s the publisher’s website blurb:

What compelled a young priest to volunteer for an assignment that held the risk of a then-incurable disease? Explore the life of Saint Damien and discover his great love for God and every person he met. Saint Damien became the priest to the island of Moloka’i, the Hawaiian island where those suffering from Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) were quarantined. Suffering through many difficulties along with the people on the island, Damien made Moloka’i his permanent home and cared for the people with an open heart and fearless compassion. With his long-awaited canonization, the whole world is shown an example of generous, self-giving love. Includes biography and novena. Saint Damien de Veuster includes an introduction by Father Lane Akiona, SS.CC. and is endorsed by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Damien’s religious community).

May I humbly suggest you consider getting a copy now, in order to use the novena as spiritual preparation/celebration during the 9 days leading up to canonization day?

Sheen cause video

September 13, 2009

This brief video on the Sheen beatification cause is from RomeReports.com.  Nothing  new, though.  (I’m not too familiar with Rome Reports, though I’ve seen the show that airs on EWTN; I’d think an outfit like Rome Reports should probably know better than to make the mistake of saying Sheen “was  archbishop of New York and Rochester.”)

Senator Kennedy, and Bishop Morlino’s Witness to Mercy

September 4, 2009

I have read a lot of  the commentary that has been published on the occasion of Senator Ted Kennedy’s death.  Some of it has been pretty good, some not very helpful at all, but I haven’t felt like much of it fas really, truly hit the mark, especially in what has seemed to be to be really authentically Catholic thinking.  As in many things, most of it seemed to have one “piece” of what needed to be said, but often at the expense of some other piece.  (Ted Kennedy was a complicated guy, I guess!)

Anyway, when I read Bishop Robert Morlino’s column today, I thought, “This is it.  This is what needed to be said, from a Catholic perspective, about the life and death of this prominent Catholic American figure.”

I hesitate to cherry-pick an excerpt or two, because my whole point is that this stuff needs to be understand as a whole.  I recommend checking it out, and perhaps making it a moment of reflection on our own lives, usually not lived as publically as Kennedy’s, with a reminder that we’re all standing in that line that Bishop Morlino refers to.

(Thanks to Whispers in the Loggia for pointing it out.)

Romero’s Cause

August 29, 2009

Some interesting commentary went up at the America blog yesterday on the cause of Archbishop Oscar Romero.  It’s based on comments made recently by Fr. Jon Sobrino, suggesting that it’s politics that has kept the Romero beatification from happening.  If so, that seems unfortunate. The post points out that the thirtieth anniversary of Romero’s death is approaching in March ’10.

A better approach? Ya think?

August 16, 2009

You mean Bon Dylan didn’t explode, telling the officer he didn’t know who he was messing with? Please tell me some on-the-ball commentator or writer is going to compare this to this.

St. Kateri soon?

August 13, 2009

Today Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, at the America blog, pointed out an article on a Canadian news site indicating that the canonization cause of Kateri Tekakwitha may be heading into the home stretch.  The article, “Mohawk woman could be declared saint by Vatican,” opens:

More than 320 years after her death, a Mohawk woman is on the cusp of canonization as the Vatican reviews newly collected evidence of a miracle that could place her among the saints.

Just what the recent miracle is that’s been attributed to the intercession or divine intervention of Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, remains a closely guarded secret.

Evidence of the miracle — which took two years to compile — was sent to Rome last month in a diplomatic pouch through the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., said Monsignor Paul Lenz, the church official who was charged with finding a miracle that could qualify Kateri for sainthood.

The matter now rests with the Vatican’s Secretariat for Beatification and Canonization, which will issue a recommendation to the Pope, who will make a final decision on Kateri’s beatification, said Lenz.

Fr. Martin’s comment is excellent:

Kateri is astonishing.  (A good summary of her life is at the Catholic Encyclopedia.)  What must it have meant for her to become a Christian in the midst of a culture that often considered the Christian missionaries not simply a threat, not simply “sorcerers,” but the bringers of death and disease?  And unlike her French Jesuit friends, Kateri did not grow up in a thoroughly Christian culture, and so she had no warm childhood memories of happy times in a local parish church upon which to draw in difficult times, nor did she have a deep knowledge of Scripture, tradition and the lives of the saints to support her in the midst of persecution, as did Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, Jean de Brebeuf and the others.  Her heroism was just as great as that of the Jesuit martyrs.

Amy on the Move

August 11, 2009

Amy Welborn is wrapping up things at Beliefnet and heading back to her spot at Charlotte Was Both.  I’m just glad she’s still hanging out on the blogosphere, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing the fruits of whatever book-work is keeping her busy these days.

‘One of Australia’s True Heroes’: Blessed Mary MacKillop

August 7, 2009

mary_mackillop_2Tomorrow is the feast of Blessed Mary MacKillop, and the 100th anniversary of her death.  She became better known to Catholics around the world last year, when Pope Benedict XVI made a visit to her tomb during the World Youth Day events held in Sydney and commented publicly about how impressed he is by her story.  But she was already a hero to many, many  Australians, both inside and out of the Church Church:

“In the vastness of the Australian continent, Blessed Mary MacKillop was not daunted by the great desert, the immense expanses of the outback, nor by the spiritual ‘wilderness’ which affected so many of her fellow citizens. Rather she boldly prepared the way of the Lord in the most trying situations,” the pontiff said.

“With gentleness, courage and compassion, she was a herald of the Good News among the isolated ‘battlers’ and the urban slum-dwellers. Mother Mary of the Cross knew that behind the ignorance, misery and suffering which she encountered there were people, men and women, young and old, yearning for God and his righteousness.”

Thousands are expected in North Sydney at Mary MacKillop Place, a spiritual, cultural and hospitality center at whose chapel the tomb of the holy woman is located. Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, will concelebrate a Mass at St. Mary’s Church to mark the feast day.

Sr. Brigette Sipa, Director of the Mary MacKillop Center, said it was unlikely that Pope Benedict XVI would announce Mary’s canonization on her feast day, a news report from the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn says. However, she added that the day was still significant and an opportunity “to remember and pay respects to one of Australia’s true heroes.”  (source)

More recently, there has been a bit of a dust-up over some comments that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made leading up to his visit to the Vatican last month.  He said he wanted to encourage the Pope to canonize MacKillop, which led many to gnash their teeth about mixing Church and State.  Seemed silly to me.  It seems rather obvious that, as an Australian politician, Rudd recognizes that a new Australian saint could result in a good shot in the arm for his nation’s economy — or even simpler, the guy just wanted something to talk about with the Pope. 

I’m sure Mary is comfortable with the controversy still swirling around her.  She knew a good bit of it in her own day. 

Blessed Mary MacKillop, pray for us!