Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXVII, No. 4
Pope Benedict Canonizes Two American Women, Proclaims Saint Hildegard a Doctor of the Church
October was an eventful month for the Catholic Church. The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, took place October 7-28, and the opening of the Year of Faith on October 11, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
In addition, on October 7, the first day of the Synod, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed two new Doctors of the Church: Saint John of Ávila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen the fourth woman in the history of the Church to be given this title (the other three are Saints Theresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, and Thérèse of Lisieux). Two years ago, Pope Benedict devoted two of his Wednesday audiences to Saint Hildegard (see following pages.)
Then on World Mission Sunday, October 21, Pope Benedict canonized seven new saints. Two of the seven are women from America: Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha. Both lived in what is now New York state. In his homily on the occasion of the canonizations, Pope Benedict began with the words Christ spoke during His journey to Jerusalem just before His crucifixion, “The Son of Man came to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45).” He continued:
These words were the blueprint for living of the seven blessed men and women that the Church solemnly enrolls this morning in the glorious ranks of the saints. With heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren. They are sons and daughters of the Church who chose a life of service following the Lord. Holiness always rises up in the Church from the wellspring of the mystery of redemption, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading: the Servant of the Lord is the righteous one who “shall make many to be accounted as righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities” (Is 53:11); this Servant is Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and living in glory. Today’s canonization is an eloquent confirmation of this mysterious saving reality. The tenacious profession of faith of these seven generous disciples of Christ, their configuration to the Son of Man shines out brightly today in the whole Church.
Pope Benedict briefly introduced each of the seven newly proclaimed saints. Of Saint Marianne Cope, he said:
Marianne Cope [was] born in 1838 in Heppenheim, Germany. Only one year old when taken to the United States, in 1862 she entered the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis at Syracuse, New York. Later, as Superior General of her congregation, Mother Marianne willingly embraced a call to care for the lepers of Hawaii after many others had refused. She personally went, with six of her fellow sisters, to manage a hospital on Oahu, later founding Malulani Hospital on Maui and opening a home for girls whose parents were lepers. Five years after that she accepted the invitation to open a home for women and girls on the island of Molokai itself, bravely going there herself and effectively ending her contact with the outside world. There she looked after Father Damien, already famous for his heroic work among the lepers, nursed him as he died and took over his work among male lepers. At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.
Of Saint Kateri, the pope said:
Kateri Tekakwitha was born in today’s New York state in 1656 to a Mohawk father and a Christian Algonquin mother who gave to her a sense of the living God. She was baptized at twenty years of age and, to escape persecution, she took refuge in Saint Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal. There she worked, faithful to the traditions of her people, although renouncing their religious convictions until her death at the age of twenty-four. Leading a simple life, Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer and to daily Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity.
Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other! May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America! May God bless the first nations!
The feast day of Saint Marianne Cope (January 23, 1838-August 9, 1918) is January 23; and the feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656 - April 17, 1680) is celebrated July 14 in the United States; April 17 in Canada.
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