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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Saintly Among Us

According to /, there are more than 10,000 canonized Roman Catholic saints. The Roman Catholic Church teaches in The Catechism of the Catholic Church that it does not, in fact, make anyone a saint. Rather, it recognizes a saint. (Knights of Columbus website) In the Church, the title of Saint — with a capital 'S' — refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Roman Catholic Church, and is therefore believed by this church to be in Heaven.

Also, by this definition there are many Roman Catholics believed to be in Heaven who have not been formally declared as Saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints (lowercase 's' ). Anyone in Heaven is, in the technical sense, a saint, since they are believed to be completely purified and holy. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church)

In the book, Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't and Why, author Kenneth Woodward, notes the following: "A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like -- and of what we are called to be. Only God 'makes' saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation. The church then tells the story. But the author is the Source of the grace by which saints live. And there we have it: A saint is someone whose story God tells." (1996)

The Process of Sainthood

Jenna Russell in "Marshfield Man's Prayer an Answer in Sainthood Query," (The Boston Globe April 28, 2009), formal canonization, which is a process that may take years, or even centuries, involves these steps:

1. The first step in this process is an investigation of the candidate's life, undertaken by an expert. After this, the report on the candidate is given to the bishop of the area and more studying is done. It is then sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

2. If the application is approved, the person may be granted the title of "Venerable," used as the form of address for a person who has reached the first stage of canonization.

3. Further investigations may lead to the candidate's beatification (recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's accession to Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name) and given title of "Blessed," as consecrated or sacred.

4. At a minimum, two important miracles are required to be formally declared a saint. At least one of the miracles must be posthumous.

5. Finally, when all of this is done the Pope canonizes (the act of admitting a deceased person into the canon of saints) the new saint.

The Newest Canonized Saints

Fox News and the Associated Press (Vatican City, October 11 2009) reported, "Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints.

  Saint Damien de Veusteer

1. Father Damien de Veuster

Father Damien was a 19th century priest who worked with leprosy patients on an isolated Hawaiian island, praising them as models of perfection for sacrificing themselves for others. He was a Roman Catholic priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious order. He contracted leprosy and died of the disease at age 49. Widely considered a martyr of charity ( a person who dies while succoring, coming to the aid of, someone else in the name of his or her religion), Father Damien, known as the "leper priest," is considered the spiritual patron for Hansen's Disease (leprosy), HIV and AIDS patients, and outcasts.

In 2005, Damien was honored with the title of De Grootste Belg, chosen as "The Greatest Belgian" throughout that country's history in polling conducted by the Flemish public broadcasting service,

History reveals that Native Hawaiians became afflicted by diseases inadvertently introduced to their islands by foreign traders and sailors. Thousands died of influenza, syphilis and other ailments which had never before affected them. This included the plight of leprosy. Fearful of its spread, King Kamehameha V quarantined the lepers of the kingdom and moved them to a settlement colony known as Kalaupapa on the north side of the island of Moloka'i. Kalawao County, where the village is situated, is divided from the rest of the island by a steep mountain ridge, and even today the only land access is by a mule track. 

Saint Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski

2. Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski

Zygmunt Szcezesny Felinski was a 19th century Polish bishop who defended the Catholic faith during the years of the Russian annexation, which had led to the shutdown of Polish churches. He was eventually deported to Russia.
Zygmunt was the founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

A Vatican biography describes Felinski as follows: "He is venerated as Shepherd in exile, an apostle of national harmony and unity in the spirit of the Gospel, a model of priestly dedication. As Archbishop of Warsaw and founder of a religious congregation, he exercised his duties and role as 'Good Shepherd' with great strength, love and courage, always keeping careful watch over himself. 'I am convinced that by keeping my heart uncontaminated, living in faith and in fraternal love towards my neighbor, I will not go off the path. These are my only treasures and are without price,' he wrote."

3. Francisco Coll y Guiart

Francisco Coll y Guitart, from Spain, founded an order of Dominicans in the 19th century.

Saint Rafael Arniaz Baron

4. Rafael Arniaz Baron

Rafael Arniaz Baron, also from Spain, renounced an affluent lifestyle at age 22 to live a humble life in a strict monastery and dedicate himself to prayer. Brother Rafael, who died at 27 of a diabetic coma, was the model for young people "who are not satisfied easily." 

Saint Jeanne Jugan

5. Jeanne Jugan

Jeanne Jugan was a Frenchwoman described by Vatican Radio as an "authentic Mother Teresa ahead of her time." As a nun, she went by the name Marie de la Croix.
Jeanne focused her attention upon the mission of assisting abandoned elderly women, and from this beginning arose a community called the "Little Sisters of the Poor." Jeanne wrote a simple rule for this new community of women, and they daily went door-to-door requesting food, clothing and money for the women in their care. This was Jeanne's life work, and she performed this mission for the next four decades. The Little Sisters of the Poor today runs homes for the indigent elderly around the world. She died in 1879.

"If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way." ---St. Thomas Aquinas

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