2009-10-10 13:31:03

Pope Benedict XVI Canonises Five New saints

(October 10, 2009) Pope Benedict XVI has officially raised the five holy persons to the dignity of Sainthood. In the liturgical Calendar, All Saints Day is an annual reminder for the faithful of the essential role played by saints in the life and history of the Church. Their examples of heroic sanctity have been of incalculable help over the centuries in motivating and inspiring countless men, women and children to lead holier lives in line with their Christian Baptism. During the pontificate of John Paul II, the importance of saints has been particularly emphasised, with canonisations, representing almost every corner of the globe. This is a reminder for us also that during the past few centuries the Church suffered the most extensive persecution and produced several martyrs for the Faith in her long history. The names of Father Pro, Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe come immediately to mind. The Holy Father himself had first hand experience of the persecution under the Communists and Nazis. Elsewhere, canonisations have been representative of the Church's rich expressions of spirituality. At the same time the significance of the young 20th century saint, Maria Goretti who highlighted the fact that heroic sanctity is not restricted to adults.
“Canonization” is the process by which someone becomes a saint. The “canonization process” is a long, arduous investigation into the life and virtues of someone who is thought to have lived a saintly life. It begins in the diocese where the person died and eventually winds its way to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Many people are involved in the canonization process: people who knew the candidate, theologians, doctors, bishops and cardinals, and finally the Pope himself. During the first phase of the process, a person being considered for canonization is referred to as a “Servant of God.” The first step on the path to sainthood is the determination through a study of his/her life and writings and the testimony of witnesses that the Servant of God practiced heroic virtue. At this point he or she is referred to as “Venerable.” To advance to beatification, a miracle is needed unless the person was a martyr; Martyrs do not require miracles.
Regarding the miracles Pope Benedict himself gives us the answer: “As well as reassuring us that the Servant of God lives in Heaven in communion with God, miracles constitute the divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by the ecclesial authority on his/her virtuous life.” A possible miracle is studied by a panel of theologians, doctors and clergy. If it is accepted, the Servant of God may be beatified. He or she is then given the title “Blessed.” A second proven miracle is required for canonization, the final step in the process. Once this is approved, the Pope signs the decree of canonization and assigns a date for the ceremony. Although beatifications often take place in the native country of the person to be beatified, canonizations are held in Rome in the presence of the Pope. Once canonized, the Blessed acquires the title of Saint and may be venerated by the Universal Church.
The saints have been called the Church’s most eloquent sign and her sweetest fruit. On numerous occasions our Holy Father has emphasized what a gift the saints are to us: They are our many brothers and sisters who have made themselves a total offering to God for his Kingdom. They have shown how we can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. At the same time the Saints help to make the word of the Gospel and the mission of the Church more credible and attractive. Our contact with them paves the way to true spiritual resurrection, to lasting conversions and to the blossoming of new Saints. As per the Vatican announcement, Blessed Damian of Molokai is one of five new saints canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in ceremonies held in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday October 11, 2009. Along with him the other new saints are Blessed Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822-1895), a Polish archbishop; Blessed Francesco Coll y Guitart (1812-1875), a Spanish Dominican priest; Blessed Rafael Arnaiz Baron (1911-1938), a Spanish Cistercian; and Blessed Mary of the Cross (Jeanne) Jugan (1792-1879), the French founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Father Damien, or Joseph de Veuster, was born in 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium, in a large family and his father was a farmer-merchant. When his oldest brother entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, his father planned that Joseph should take charge of the family business. Joseph however, decided to become a religious himself. In 1859 he entered the novitiate at Louvain, Belgium, in the same house as his brother and took the name of Damien. In 1863, his brother who was to leave for the mission in the Hawaiian Islands became ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General, to take his brother’s place. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864 where he was ordained to the priesthood on the following May 21. He immediately devoted himself, body and soul, to the difficult service of a “country missionary” on the Island of Hawaii, the largest in the Hawaiian group. At that time, the Hawaiian government decided on a very harsh measure aimed at stopping the spread of “leprosy”: the deportation to the neighbouring island of Molokai. The entire mission was concerned about the abandoned “lepers” and the Bishop spoke to the priests about the problem and called for volunteers. Only four Brothers volunteered and Damien was the first to leave on May 10, 1873. At his own request and that of the “lepers”, he remained definitively on Molokai. Having contracted “leprosy” himself, he died on April 15, 1889. Working without the help or company of other missionaries, the Belgian-born priest built houses, churches, hospitals and orphanages, dressed ulcers, and even built coffins and dug graves. His remains were exhumed in 1936 and placed in the crypt of the Church of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary. Pope John Paul II proclaimed Damien the “apostle of the lepers,” and called him a “shining example of how the love of God does not take us away from the world. Far from it: the love of Christ makes us love our brothers and sisters even to the point of giving up our lives for them.” Church officials celebrate Damien’s service to the sick, yet stress that his missionary work was dedicated above all to saving souls. Upon his beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome on June 4, 1995, Blessed Damien was granted a memorial feast day, which is celebrated on May 10.
Jeanne Jugan, Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor is another person to be canonized October 11, 2009. At the time of her beatification in 1982, Jeanne Jugan, was hailed by Pope John Paul II as a woman of prophetic intuition whose spirituality and apostolic message were timelier than ever. At a morning consistory on February 21, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI announced that this humble French woman who established an international religious family dedicated to the care of the needy elderly will officially become a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on October 11, 2009. With the population of older persons growing at an exponential rate, Jeanne’s work and her message are even more relevant today than they were when John Paul II beatified her over a quarter century ago. As a patroness of the elderly, Jeanne Jugan is truly a saint for our time.
Jeanne Jugan was born in Brittany, France, on October 25, 1792, during the tumult of the French Revolution. She was the sixth child in a family of eight, in which four died as infants. Her father, who was a fisherman, was lost at sea when she was only four years of age. From then on, her mother was alone to raise her four children. From her mother and her birthplace, Jeanne inherited a lively and deep faith, a resolute character, and strength of soul that no difficulty could disturb. Because of the political climate and the prevalent economic difficulties, Jeanne was not able to go to school. She learned to read and write while she learned her catechism, thanks to some ladies of the Third Order of Saint John Eudes who were numerous in the region. Jeanne belonged to the world of the poor and lowly. On a cold winter’s night in 1839 in the Breton village of Saint Servan, Jeanne Jugan recognized the presence of Jesus Christ in the person of an elderly, blind and infirm woman who suddenly found herself alone and in need. Jeanne carried her home and placed her in her own bed. In the days and weeks that followed, more old women arrived at her doorstep. Jeanne was joined by a small group of young women who were willing to help with the care of her elderly guests. The Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor was thus born from a single, hidden act of hospitality. One hundred seventy years later, over 2,700 Little Sisters of the Poor care for more than 13,000 needy elderly persons in 202 family-like homes around the world. Much has changed since 1839, but for the Little Sisters the essential has remained the same to provide the needy elderly with a home where they may experience love and happiness as their earthly journey nears its completion.
Blessed Zygmunt Szczecin (Sigmund Felix) Felinski (1822-1895), the son of Gerard and Eve Wendorff Feliński, was born in Wojutyn in the Volinia region, then part of Poland, but is now incorporated into Ukraine. Sigmund Felix was brought up in a devout and patriotic home. Even as a very small boy he venerated the Virgin Mary. After studying mathematics at the University of Moscow from 1840 to 1844, Sigmund Felix went to Paris in 1847 to study French Literature at the Sorbonne and at the Collège de France. There he came to know many important Polish exiles. In 1851 he accepted his religious vocation and entered the diocesan seminary in Poland. He transferred to the Catholic Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, where, in 1855, he was ordained a priest. At the Academy he was known as a zealous lecturer and confessor and supporter of orphans and with the destitute. His father died when he was just eleven years old and when sixteen his mother was exiled to Siberia. In 1857 he established the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary. The sisters dedicated themselves to the care of both children and of elderly and sick persons. In 1862 Pope Pius IX appointed Sigmund Felix as Archbishop of Warsaw. After sixteen months, Tsarist authorities exiled him to Siberia. There he suffered as prisoner, but he provided a shining example of profound faith and unshakable trust in Divine Providence and was known for his sanctity. After twenty years, thanks Vatican intervention, he was allowed to leave Siberia, but was forbidden to return to his archdiocese. He was shifted to Warsaw where he died on September 17, 1895. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Blonia, Cracow on August 18, 2002, and made an example of those who suffer and are persecuted.
Francis Coll y Guitart , founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation, was born in Gombrèn, in the diocese of Vic and the province of Gerona (Spain) on 18th May 1812. From childhood he felt himself drawn to the priesthood and, in order to prepare himself for this, in 1823 he entered the seminary in the town where the Episcopal see was, and undertook studies in the humanities and three years of philosophy. In 1830 he joined the Order of St Dominic in the priory of the Annunciation at Gerona. After the novitiate year and the subsequent religious profession made in October 1831, he involved himself in the study of theology and received holy orders up to the diaconate. In August 1835, with the brethren of his community, he was obliged to abandon the priory due to the laws persecuting religious in Spain. He was ordained in Solsona on 28th May 1836 and, on establishing that there was no authorization to reopen religious houses, with the agreement of his Superiors, he offered his ministerial services to the Bishop of Vic. From the start of his ministry he took on tasks beyond those of a strictly parochial nature and took-on preaching spiritual exercises and popular missions. He was called the Apostolic Missionary. He made great use especially of the rosary, which he spread among people in the villages and cities by means of the renewal of confraternities. Discovering ignorance concerning religion and a failure to live up to the norms of Christian life among the baptized, on 15 August 1856 he founded the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation for the sanctification of its members and the Christian education of children and young people, much affected by the abandonment and ignorance of religion. The Congregation has spread not only in Europe but also in America, Africa and Asia. He died a holy death in Vic on 2nd April 1875. He was beatified by the Servant of God John Paul II on 29th April 1979.
Raphael Arnaiz Baron was born in Burgos (Spain) April 9, 1911, into a prominent, deeply Christian family. He was baptised and confirmed in Burgos and began his schooling at the Jesuit college in the same city where, in 1919, he was admitted to first Communion. It was at this time that he had his first experience of illness: persistent fevers due to colibacillosis forced him to interrupt his studies. To mark his recovery, which he attributed to a special intervention of the Virgin Mary, his father took him to Zaragoza and consecrated him to the Virgin of Pilar. This experience, which took place in the late summer of 1921, profoundly marked Raphael. When the family moved to Oviedo, he continued his secondary schooling with the Jesuits there, obtaining a diploma in science. He then enrolled in the School of Architecture in Madrid, where he succeeded in balancing his studies with a life of fervent piety. He was a person happy and of jovial nature, athletic, had a gift for drawing and painting and a lover of music and the theatre. But as he matured, his spiritual experience of the Christian life deepened. Together with his studies he spent his time visiting Blessed Sacrament and often doing night adoration. Raphael had already been in contact with the Trappist monastery of San Isidro de Dueñas, and in December of 1933 he suddenly broke off his professional studies and on January 16, 1934 entered the monastery of San Isidro.
After the first months of the noviciate he had a sudden and painful infirmity: a serious form of diabetes mellitus which forced him to leave the monastery and return to his family in order to receive the proper care. Barely recovered, he returned to the monastery, but his illness repeatedly forced him to leave the monastery for treatment. But whenever he was absent he wanted to return, responding faithfully and generously to what he understood to be a call from God. He was sanctified by his joyful and heroic fidelity to his vocation, acceptance of the Divine will and love for the Virgin Mary. His life came to an end on April 26, 1938. He was barely 27 years old. He was buried in the monastery cemetery, and later in the Abbey church. He has been described as one of the great mystics of the twentieth century. On August 19, 1989, the Holy Father John Paul II, on World Youth Day at Santiago de Compostella, proposed him as a model for young people today, and beatified him September 27, 1992. With his canonisation, Pope Benedict XVI presents him as a friend and intercessor for all the faithful, especially for the young.

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