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00lunedì 8 giugno 2009 23.17

JPI Miracle Goes to Rome

National Catholic Register
Monday, June 08, 2009 12:50 PM

Pope John Paul I, born Albino Luciani, has moved closer to being beatified after the Diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti in Puglia, southeastern Italy, concluded that a banker, Giuseppe Denora, was cured of stomach cancer in 1992 after praying for the late Pope’s intercession.

Giuseppe Denora, now 60, prayed in front of a newspaper clipping depicting Pope Luciani. He was at the time already receiving chemotherapy treatment, but he wasn’t expected to be cured.

Now, details of the miracle have been sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, where further examinations will be carried out. This signifies the start of the “Roman” phase of the process, when a medical board and a team of theological consulters will be called to give their final opinion and judge whether a miracle really did occur.

Verifying the miracle will run parallel to the drafting of the “Positio super virtutibus” of the Servant of God John Paul I — a detailed document on the cause. Last year, which marked the 30th anniversary of John Paul I’s death, the postulator of his cause spoke of a miracle, but his announcement was premature.

John Paul I was the Church’s 263rd pope. He succeeded Pope Paul VI on Aug. 26, 1978, but served only 33 days as the Successor of Peter.

00martedì 9 giugno 2009 01.52
For the full story of Papa Luciani's 'beatification' miracle, and some background info on the beatification process, you may refer back to the articles translated from the August 2008 issue of 30 GIORNI, posted in the POPES BEFORE JOHN PAUL II thread (Post #13,348):

Left photo: Banker Denora, photographed last year.

00martedì 16 giugno 2009 17.49

New papal physician explains doctors' role in sainthood process

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
June 16, 2009

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The path to sainthood passes through a team of physicians, who pore over medical texts, patient charts and test results to make sure a healing is medically inexplicable.

That does not mean the medical experts declare a miracle, because "the recognition of a miracle is not a matter for medical science," said Dr. Patrizio Polisca, president of the group of physicians who serve as consultants to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes.

The doctor wrote about the physicians' role in the sainthood process in the June 13-14 edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. The Vatican announced June 15 that Polisca, a cardiologist, was named Pope Benedict XVI's personal physician.

Writing about sainthood causes, Polisca said that while medical science and knowledge have changed enormously in the past few decades, the criteria for miraculous healings still follow those laid out 275 years ago by Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, the future Pope Benedict XIV.

The cardinal had insisted that the illness or defect be serious, incurable or extremely difficult to treat; that spontaneous cures were not known to occur in similar illnesses; that no medical intervention used in the case could explain the cure; that the cure was unexpected and instantaneous; and that it was complete and lasting.

Polisca said the role of the physicians is not to declare a miracle, but rather to determine whether an alleged healing could have a natural or a medical explanation. If the absolute majority of the members of physicians' commission vote that a healing has no natural or scientific explanation, the case is passed on to a commission of theologians who determine whether the healing could have been the response to a prayer request for the intercession of the sainthood candidate.

In the case of Catholic martyrs, only one miracle is needed for canonization. For sainthood candidates who were not killed out of hatred for the faith, one miracle is needed before beatification and a second is needed before canonization.

Polisca said the Vatican's medical consultants represent a wide variety of specialties because it is essential that they are able to understand the patients' medical records, the medical tests performed, the diagnosis and original prognosis, the normal course of the illness in question and any therapies attempted.

The fact that a person is healthy in the end does not guarantee a judgment in favor of a miracle if the medical consultants believe the diagnosis was wrong or that the cure was a result of a medical intervention, he said.

In addition, he said, the testimony of medical personnel and family members who assisted the person before the healing also may be examined to confirm the original diagnosis and the unexplainable nature of the cure.

"All of this is done in order to examine the compatibility of the healing with what is known of the natural course of the illness being studied" or of the therapeutic measures taken before the healing was reported, Polisca said.

His piece was part of a collection of articles in the Vatican newspaper marking the 40th anniversary of the current structure of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.
00venerdì 19 giugno 2009 18.49

St. Solanus Casey?
Pat McNamara's Blog
Wed., June 17, 2009

David Nantais has a nice article in America about Venerable Solanus Casey, the American Capuchin whose canonization cause is currently under consideration:

The Solanus Casey Center is an urban oasis on Detroit’s east side, situated among signs of death and decay. Much of the surrounding neighborhood is a distressing collection of crumbling homes and vacant lots, stark reminders of the 1967 summer riots when Detroit burned. To the west is Mt. Elliot Cemetery, one of the largest Christian burial grounds in the city. As desolate as it is, this setting is an ideal location for a memorial to Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin Franciscan who devoted his life to serving the city’s poor, sick, outcast and suffering people. Father Solanus had an ability to see potential and beauty in people and situations where others saw only human refuse and devastation. The city of Detroit itself is much in need of realizing the potential it holds beneath its grimy exterior, and Father Solanus would make an especially appropriate patron saint.

Bernard Francis Casey, known as Barney, was born in Prescott, Wis., on Nov. 25, 1870, to an Irish immigrant family. As a young man, he had a momentary experience of the brutality of the world that radically shifted his concept of life. While at work as a trolley conductor in Superior, Wis., he once saw a drunken sailor standing over a woman lying on the tracks; the sailor held a knife in his hand and yelled at the woman, threatening her life. Casey realized that this incident was not an isolated one—that the world was full of such violence. He also realized he wanted to make things better. He prayed for the sailor and his victim, and a few days later told his pastor that he wanted to become a priest.

At St. Francis De Sales diocesan seminary in Milwaukee, Casey floundered academically in courses taught in Latin and in German. After four years there he was advised to enter a religious order instead. He entered the Capuchins at St. Bonaventure’s Monastery in Detroit on Christmas Eve 1896. He received the habit and took the name Francis Solanus, by which he would be known for the rest of his life.

Solanus’s superiors believed that his struggles with academic work during formation would prove an impediment to full priestly status, so they ordained him a “simplex” priest, one who could neither preach nor hear confessions officially. He performed rudimentary duties like serving as porter at the monastery. Yet Solanus fully embraced his mission and greeted each person with such joy and respect that it evolved into a ministry of hospitality and spiritual counsel. Because of his gentle nature, which put people at ease and encouraged even the despairing to hope, Solanus earned the nickname “the holy priest.”

Father Solanus’s caring presence and reputation for listening intently to each person also drew thousands to the monastery. “Do we appreciate the little faith we have?” Solanus once asked a friend. “Do we ever beg God for more?” Solanus counseled his visitors to do both. He welcomed alcoholics and the homeless in the same way he welcomed local dignitaries like Mayor Frank Murphy. By looking beyond the superficial—a person’s drunkenness, addiction, poverty, grief or uncouth behavior—Solanus showed people their reflection as “beloved” in God’s eyes.

One person who made the short pilgrimage across town to St. Bonaventure’s was my grandmother’s sister, Mary Louise. She brought my aunt Debby as an infant to Father Solanus because the child suffered from a painful skin condition, and home remedies had proved inadequate. Soon after the visit to Father Solanus, Debby’s skin cleared up. When I recently heard my Great-aunt Mary Louise recount this story, I was amazed not only by the outcome, but by her faith in the humble Solanus, whom she still reveres.

During the Great Depression, unemployed men lined up outside St. Bonaventure’s asking for food; Solanus helped to provide soup and sandwiches. Soon the few dozen men the Capuchins fed each day grew to hundreds. Father Solanus worked at the soup kitchen, recruited volunteers and elsewhere begged for food and funds to keep the kitchen open. One day food supplies ran short and the staff became concerned that a riot might break out. Solanus assured them that God would provide and invited the men in the line to join in praying the Our Father. Within minutes a bakery truck pulled up, full of donations for the soup kitchen. “Nobody will starve as long as you put your confidence in God,” said Solanus.

Today the spirit of Solanus Casey is alive at the Capuchin soup kitchen, which has found new ways—like the Earthworks project—to peel back the surface of blight and expose the richness and potential within. One of the first of its kind, the Earthworks project grows hundreds of pounds of food each season on 1.5 acres of urban garden, some of it to feed the homeless and some to sell for revenue. Earthworks is not only an agricultural endeavor but also a community development project like dozens of others sprouting up around the city. Neighbors cooperate to clear vacant land (some formerly occupied by a crack house) and recruit local kids to lend a hand and make connections with the earth. To gaze upon soil permeated with pollution (the E.P.A. calls them brownfields) and see possibility—that is the spirit of Father Solanus.

Solanus long practiced his ministry of presence, listening and praying. He never turned people away; in fact, he wanted to see them as soon as they arrived, even at the expense of his own plans. But the ministry exhausted him. Sometimes he would fall asleep while praying in the monastery chapel and startle his fellow Capuchins when he awoke and sat upright in the pew.

When Father Solanus passed away on July 31, 1957, people lined up for two straight days to view his body before burial. Detroit had lost a saint.

It was inevitable that the cause for Solanus’s canonization would be introduced, considering how much he was loved and the thousands of people he had helped. A petition to begin the process was filed under Cardinal John Dearden in 1981. Six years later, Solanus’s body was exhumed and found to be intact. It was transferred to a new coffin and reinterred in a tomb beneath the floor of St. Bonaventure’s, in what is now part of the Father Solanus Casey Center. Each year hundreds of people visit, leaving their requests for prayers and favors on folded pieces of paper above Solanus’s tomb. In 1995 Pope John Paul II declared Father Solanus “venerable.”

His cause for beatification, according to Richard Merling, O.F.M.Cap, director of the Father Solanus Guild, requires one medically verified healing miracle. A number of documented miracles have been sent to Rome, and the guild is awaiting approval. If Solanus is canonized soon, he could become the first U.S.-born male saint.

Detroit has suffered for a long time, and recent financial problems, a crumbling urban infrastructure and a corrupt former mayor have deflated the spirits of many residents. If Father Solanus were alive, he would be saddened, I think, but he would not stand idle. No, he would encourage people to search for the budding grace of God, present among them like a lone flower in bloom among the weeds and trash of an abandoned city lot.

00martedì 23 giugno 2009 02.12

Elizabeth Ann Seton: A Profoundly Human Saint

By Elizabeth Bookser Barkley
St. Anthony Messenger
July, 2009

Daughter, wife, mother, widow, friend—all of these describe this first American-born saint.

Barbara McCormick, 76, admired Elizabeth Seton long before she was canonized. Barbara heard about Elizabeth at a Sisters of Charity high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she still lives. When McCormick decided to return to college at age 39, she “used Elizabeth as my model and guide, balancing my family, education and faith life, as I envisioned her doing it those many years before. During my 20 years of teaching, she was my model and support for all things.”

Now that the word “saint” has been attached to Elizabeth Seton, some Catholics might be conjuring up a gauzy image of an ethereal woman. But this country’s first native-born saint shatters that stereotype. Elizabeth was nothing if not intensely human, her holiness rooted in her wholeness.

In the details of her life as daughter, wife, mother, widow and friend, we discover a well-rounded woman who knew how to love deeply and was always a person for others, even in the midst of trying situations.

A Selfless Spirit

Elizabeth was born in New York City on August 28, 1774, to Richard Bayley and Catherine Charlton Bayley, who died when Elizabeth was three.

One of three daughters, Elizabeth, or “your Betty” as she refers to herself in letters to her father, admired the work of her physician father. Dr. Bayley attended to immigrants as they disembarked from ships onto Staten Island, and cared for New Yorkers when yellow fever swept through the city, killing 700 in four months in 1795.

Dr. Bayley’s selflessness was inherited by his daughter. As a young mother and wife, Elizabeth was among the orginal members of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, founded in 1797 by Isabella Marshall Graham in New York. Elizabeth and her friends Catherine Dupleix and Eliza Sadler paid $3 a year in dues to help support the work.

As treasurer, it fell to Elizabeth to visit homes to assess the families’ situations. In a letter to Julia Scott, she tells of her own two boys “who were taken sick this morning with symptoms of the measles which are very prevalent in our city.” She thanks Julia for the money to aid the widows.

Even as Elizabeth deals with her own sons’ illnesses, she comments that “indeed I have many times this winter called at a dozen homes in one morning for a less sum than that you sent, for you may be sure these measles cause wants and sorrows which the society cannot even half supply and in many families the small pox and measles have immediately succeeded each other.”

A Well-rounded Life

Serving others—that’s what saints do. But during the same years that she was attending to widows and children, Elizabeth was also living the life of a socialite, as a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, the church for New York’s upper class, and a devotee of the theater, popular novels and music.

In a letter to Julia, Elizabeth teases that angels must exist because when coming out of the theater with her sister “we came out in a violent thunder gust and got in our hack with carriages before and behind and aside—the coachmen quarrelling. First one wheel would crack, then another...but my Guardian Angel landed me safe in Wall Street [where she and her young family lived] without one single hysteric.”

And while we know she immersed herself in religious books, like A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, which she received from her beloved Episcopalian minister, Rev. John Henry Hobart, she also notes in a letter to Eliza Sadler during the same years that she loved The Children of the Abbey, a gothic novel that was a hit in America at the time. “Indeed,” she wrote, “I could not name more than half a dozen I would rather read.”

Elizabeth was an accomplished pianist, while her husband, William Seton, who brought the first Stradivarius violin to America, relaxed in the evening by playing for and with his young wife.

If music linked them while they were together, Elizabeth’s letters kept them in touch while her husband traveled on business for his father’s merchant import firm, the prestigious Seton, Maitland and Company. Less than six months after their marriage in 1794—when she was 19 and he 25—she sent him this message in a letter: “Ah, my dearest husband, how useless was your charge that I should ‘think of you.’ That I never cease to do for one moment, and my watery eyes bear witness to the effect those thoughts have, for every time you are mentioned they prove that I am a poor little weak woman.”

If caring deeply for William made her “weak” in her own eyes, that label fell away quickly as she was challenged in her early years of marriage to draw upon an inner strength to see her through crises that might have driven truly “weak” women to despair.

A Rapidly Expanding Family

Childbirth was always risky in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and Elizabeth narrowly escaped death delivering her third child, Richard, in 1798. “My illness was so severe that both mother and child were some hours in a very doubtful situation,” she writes to Julia. Elizabeth had just enough energy to look down from her bed to watch as her father, on his knees, “blew the breath of life” into Richard’s lungs and “by his skill and care” restored the baby.

No sooner had she recovered from childbirth than she and William took over the care of his six younger siblings, since he was now responsible for them after the elder Seton’s death. (William’s father had been widowed twice.) Imagine the adjustment for Elizabeth, “who so dearly loves the quiet and a small family” in taking on these duties for several years with the help of William’s sister, Rebecca.

In addition to caring for her own three children, one a newborn, Elizabeth Seton became a mother to the six newly orphaned Setons, ages seven to 17, caring for their physical needs and teaching them to read, write and sew. At times the house emptied out while the older Seton children were away at school, but activity picked up when they came home for holidays.

Even though she had help from Rebecca and a housekeeper, Elizabeth must have felt she had plunged into the middle of a whirlwind of activity and neediness. Having moved into a larger home to accommodate the Seton clan, she writes to Julia, “I cannot help longing again for the rest I have never known but in Wall Street.”

That coveted rest would elude her as she helped William with the family business. “My William has kept me constantly employed in copying his letters and assisting him to arrange his papers, for he has not friend or confidante on earth but his little wife.”

Profound Losses

The business took its toll on her husband’s health, already weakened by a youthful bout with tuberculosis. With the family business slipping, along with William’s health, the couple arranged a sea voyage to Italy in 1803.

Turning over the care of their four youngest, including baby Rebecca, to relatives, Elizabeth and William took with them eight-year-old Anna Maria (nicknamed “Annina”), and headed off to Leghorn, where they would be welcomed by Antonio Filicchi and family, at whose counting house William had interned.

As their ship entered the port at Leghorn, the Setons were met by Italian officials who denied them entry, since their ship had departed from the port of New York, where yellow fever was raging. Despite the protests of the Filicchis, the Setons were sent to a lazaretto for quarantine, “an immense prison bolted and barred.” There William lay “on the old bricks without fire, shivering and groaning, lifting his dim and sorrowful eyes, with a fixed gaze in my face while his tears ran on his pillow without a word.”

Although they were eventually able to leave the quarantine and visit Pisa for a few days, it was to no avail. As Elizabeth’s husband sobbed, “My dear wife and little ones,” he died in her arms, with their Annina nearby. By Italian law, he was buried within 24 hours.

Elizabeth describes the ordeal in a journal she kept for William’s sister and her “soul sister,” Rebecca: “Oh, oh, oh what a day. Close his eyes, lay him out, ride a journey, be obliged to see a dozen people in my room till night—and at night crowded with the whole sense of my situation—O my Father, and my God!”

William was not the first or the last of several loved ones she would hold as they journeyed into the next life. Two years before William’s death, her father had suddenly taken ill. The previous day, he had called Elizabeth out “to observe the different shades of the sun on the clover field before the door and repeatedly exclaimed, ‘In my life I never saw anything so beautiful.’”

The next day, as he came in from the wharf, his legs weakened and he turned delirious. The night he died he continually cried out to her phrases like “all the horrors are coming, my child, I feel them all,” before “he became apparently perfectly easy, put his hand in mine, turned on his side and sobbed out the last of life without the smallest struggle, groan or appearance of pain.”

Losing her father, then her husband, was devastating—but even more wrenching, she would bury two daughters. Both of them died after she moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, to open a school and found the Sisters of Charity. When her children were toddlers, Elizabeth had described how “my precious children stick to me like little burrs”; in their later years she would have given anything to keep them that close.

More Heartache

Already bonded to Elizabeth after William’s death in Italy, Annina, as oldest, was her mother’s support during widowhood and her move from New York to her new life as religious “mother.” After a failed romance, which Elizabeth nurtured her through, Annina helped with the young boarders in the school. What a shock for Elizabeth to one day notice Annina’s reddened cheeks, the telltale sign that, just as her beloved William had, she was being dragged down by tuberculosis.

Annina’s death at age 17 was a role reversal, the daughter comforting her mother: “When in death’s agony her quivering lips could with difficulty utter one word, feeling a tear fall on her face, she smiled and said with great effort laugh, Mother, Jesus at intervals as she could not put two words together.”

Annina’s death almost undid Elizabeth. Her family, friends and spiritual mentors feared for Elizabeth’s physical and spiritual health. But she bounced back, giving herself over to God, and feeling Annina’s presence in her life to help her go on.

When a few years later daughter Rebecca developed a tumor in her hip, which no doctors could cure, Elizabeth sat with her “nine weeks, night and day,” holding Beck to ease her pain before she died at age 14.

A Mother's Worry

Even as she was attending to her sick daughters, Elizabeth worried about her sons, William and Richard. Neither seemed suited for business, though she arranged for both to work in Italy with Antonio Filicchi, who remained her friend over the years after William’s death.

The life young Will aspired to caused her great worry: He wanted to join the United States Navy at a time when wars were raging off the shores of the States, and France and Italy were constantly in an uproar.

But before her death, Will had settled down, well established in the Navy, “more and more pleased with the choice of his profession which seems to us so extraordinary.” Had she lived, Elizabeth would have been grandmother to his eight children.

Richard, Will’s younger brother, also spent some time with Antonio Filicchi. Filicchi’s letters assured Elizabeth that Richard was “very satisfactory,” in response to Elizabeth’s concerns in her final years of life: “if my Richard does but do well is my greatest anxiety.” Though neither son was much of a letter-writer, William had a better excuse since he was away at sea.

To Richard she writes: “You can have no idea of our anxiety to hear from you—six, seven, eight months without one line.” He did make it home to see his mother before her death in 1821, then followed his brother into the Navy the next year as a captain’s clerk. A year later he died on ship while nursing the American consul to Liberia and was buried at sea.

Even as Elizabeth fretted over her sons, she found comfort in the companionship of her only remaining daughter, Catherine—variously nicknamed Kitty, Kate, Kit or Jos (her middle name was Josephine). In a note to her daughter on her birthday in 1819, Elizabeth wrote, “Whose birthday is this, my dear Savior? It is my darling one’s, my child’s, my friend’s, my only dear companion left of all you once gave with bounteous hand—the little relic of all my worldly bliss.”

As Elizabeth was nearing death, a huge concern was to prepare Catherine to face life without her mother. The Little Red Book of advice and spirituality she wrote for Catherine was her daughter’s keepsake for many years after Elizabeth’s death.

Keeping a promise they made to Elizabeth near her death, longtime friends Robert Goodloe Harper and Catherine Carroll Harper took Catherine into their home after Elizabeth died. Like her brother Richard, Catherine never married. She became a Sister of Mercy in 1846, devoting more than 40 years to working with prisoners in New York as Mother Mary Catherine.

Lifelong Friends

Although Catherine moved in with the Harpers, several offers to take in the soon-to-be-orphaned child came from relatives and friends, including Julia Scott. It was in letters to friends like Julia, Catherine Dupleix, Eliza Sadler and Antonio Filicchi that Elizabeth would share the ups and downs of her life, from early marriage until near death.

Julia and Elizabeth had much in common. Probably a family friend of the Bayleys in New York, Julia was about 10 years older than Elizabeth. After Julia’s husband died in 1798, a foreshadowing of Elizabeth’s own widowhood, she moved to Philadelphia, remaining a lifelong friend through her letters, sharing details of the joys and sorrows of daily life.

To Julia in 1801, Elizabeth writes about her father’s death: “The night before my father’s death Kit lay all night in a fever at my breast and Richard on his mattress at my feet vomiting violently.”

Once settled in Emmitsburg, she kept in touch with Catherine, writing, “Kitty is only less than an angel in looks and every qualification. Oh, Dué, if you knew her and your little Beck as they are and could see them every day, you would say there is nothing like them.”

Still playful even as a religious sister, she writes Eliza Sadler that when the “echo” of news that Eliza had decided to go to France reached Emmitsburg, “Kit and I answered it with so many Ah’s and Oh’s—you would have been amused to hear us.”

Near the end of her life, Elizabeth continued to write Antonio, whom she sometimes called “my dearest Tonierlinno.” To him, she owed much. He and his wife, Amabilia, had helped bury William, and had provided a temporary home for her and Anna Maria.

It was Amabilia who had invited Elizabeth inside a Catholic church, where she was amazed by worshipers’ belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, a belief foreign to her experience as an Episcopalian. It was Antonio who taught her the Sign of the Cross.

During the young widow’s voyage back to the States, Antonio was with Elizabeth and Anna Maria. And it was he who encouraged Elizabeth to pursue the call to become Catholic, despite pressures back home from the Rev. Hobart and her Protestant friends. Throughout her life, she would turn to him for financial support, but more importantly as an anchor for her Catholic faith.

Years later, now as a leader of a religious community, Elizabeth would remind him of the essential role he played in her spiritual life: “The first word I believe you ever said to me after the first salute was to trust all to him who fed the fowls of the air and made the lilies grow.”

As her health was failing in 1818, she penned this line to him: “Dearest Antonio, I may well say with my whole heart, ‘Thy will be done’—love and bless your little Sister and devoted EASeton.”

On January 4, 1821, at 46, Elizabeth died of the tuberculosis that had plagued her much of her life, especially in her last few years. Although she would have to wait to fulfill her desire to be with Antonio in eternity, she herself was finally one with her God, as she had wanted.

When Elizabeth died, she left more than a legacy of Catholic education and religious leadership; she left an imprint on the many family and friends to whom she had endeared herself. As Barbara McCormick and others have testified so often, that imprint has not dimmed over the nearly two centuries since her death.

In Elizabeth Seton, McCormick sees “a saint for the 21st century and all of the centuries to come”—for her strength, her courage, her faith and her humanity.

Elizabeth Bookser Barkley is a professor of English at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio. She says, “Like Elizabeth Ann Seton, I was/am daughter, wife, mother, widow, teacher, sister, religious sister, friend.”
00domenica 28 giugno 2009 22.14

'Oldest' image of St Paul discovered

Archaeologists have uncovered a 1,600 year old image of St Paul, the oldest one known of, in a Roman catacomb.

By Nick Pisa in Rome
Published: 5:46PM BST 28 Jun 2009

The fresco, which dates back to the 4th Century AD, was discovered during restoration work at the Catacomb of Saint Thekla but was kept secret for ten days.

During that time experts carefully removed centuries of grime from the fresco with a laser, before the news was officially announced through the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

There are more than 40 known Catacombs or underground Christian burial places across Rome and because of their religious significance the Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archeology has jurisdiction over them.

A photograph of the icon shows the thin face of a bearded man with large eyes, sunken nose and face on a red background surrounded with a yellow circle – the classic image of St Paul.

The image was found in the Catacomb of St Thekla, close to the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, which is said to be built on the site where he was buried.

St Thekla was a follower of St Paul who lived in Rome and who was put to death under the Emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the 4th Century and who was subsequently made a saint but little else is known of her.

Barbara Mazzei, the director of the work at the Catacomb, said: "We had been working in the Catacomb for some time and it is full of frescoes.

"However the pictures are all covered with limestone which was covering up much of the artwork and so to remove it and clean it up we had to use fine lasers.

"The result was exceptional because from underneath all the dirt and grime we saw for the first time in 1600 years the face of Saint Paul in a very good condition.

"It was easy to see that it was Saint Paul because the style matched the iconography that we know existed at around the 4th Century – that is the thin face and the dark beard.

"It is a sensational discovery and is of tremendous significance. This is then first time that a single image of Saint Paul in such good condition has been found and it is the oldest one known of.

"Traditionally in Christian images of St Paul he is always alongside St Peter but in this icon he was on his own and what is also significant is the fact that St Paul's Basilica is just a few minutes walk away.

"It is my opinion that the fresco we have discovered was based on the fact that St Paul's Basilica was close by, there was a shrine to him there at that site since the 3rd Century.

"This fresco is from the early part of the 4th Century while before the earliest were from the later part and examples have been found in the Catacombs of Domitilla."

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, said:"This is a fascinating discovery and is testimony to the early Christian Church of nearly 2000 years ago.

"It has a great theological and spiritual significance as well as being of historic and artistic importance."

The Catacomb of St Thekla is closed to the public but experts said they hoped to be able to put the newly discovered icon of St Paul on display some time later this year.

St Paul was a Roman Jew, born in Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, who started out persecuting Christians but later became one of the greatest influences in the Church.

He did not know Jesus in life but converted to Christianity after seeing a shining light on the road to Damascus and spent much of his life travelling and preaching.

St Paul wrote 14 letters to Churches which he founded or visited and tell Christians what they should believe and how they should live but do not say much about Jesus' life and teachings.

He was executed for his beliefs around AD 65 and is thought to have been beheaded, rather than crucified, because he was a Roman citizen.

According to Christian tradition, his body was buried in a vineyard by a Roman woman and a shrine grew up there before Emperor Constantine consecrated a basilica in 324 which is now St Paul Outside the Walls.

St Paul's Outside the Walls is located about two miles outside the ancient walls of Rome and is the largest church in the city after St Peter's.

His feast day is on Monday along with St Peter and it is a bank holiday in Rome where they are patron saints of the city.

Officials are considering opening the tomb below St Paul's in the Basilica's crypt which is said to hold his remains.

00venerdì 3 luglio 2009 17.09

Pope Benedict XVI clears way for Cardinal Newman to become a saint

Cardinal Newman founded the high church Oxford Movement in the Church of England before coverting in 1845

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
Times Online
July 3, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI today cleared the way for Cardinal John Henry Newman to become a saint.

The Pope issued the decree that allows the beatification of England’s most significant convert to Roman Catholicism.

Cardinal Newman, who founded the high-church Oxford Movement in the Church of England before going over to Rome in 1845, is set to become the first non-martyr saint in England since the Reformation.

The Pope opened the way for the beatification in 2001 by officially recognising the healing of Jack Sullivan, a Catholic deacon in the US, as a miracle resulting from the intercession of Newman.

In 2000 Mr Sullivan, married with three grown-up children, was warned by his doctor that he could become paralysed after suffering problems with his back. He went home and prayed for the intercession of Cardinal Newman and when he awoke the next morning Mr Sullivan was pain-free and could walk upright for the first time in months.

Another miraculous cure is understood to have been reported and will be investigated after the beatification. If accepted as valid by the Holy See, it would allow Newman to be canonised.

He would become the first British saint since St John Ogilvie, a Scottish martyr, was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1976. The last English saints, 40 martyrs of the Reformation, were canonised in 1970.

The Times has learned that the rite of beatification is likely to take place next spring, in Birmingham, Westminster or in Rome.

Serious consideration is being given in Rome to a Papal visit in September next year to follow the beatification. The Papal visit would be pegged to a Newman theme and possibly include a lecture in Oxford where Newman did so much of his own theology.

The Holy See will now prepare for a lavish ceremony to mark the beatification, after which the cleric, who died in 1890, can be known as Blessed John Henry Newman.

The Pope has been a student of the writings of Newman since a young seminarian and has personally followed the progress of the cause.

Cardinal Newman was Britain’s most high-profile convert until the reception of former prime minister Tony Blair into the Catholic Church shortly before Christmas last year.

Today’s step forward came when Pope Benedict XVI promulged the decree approving the miraculous healing from Mr Sullivan’s “serious debility of the spine” in Boston.

“The prayers of Christ's faithful all over the world have now been answered,” said Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Oratory in Birmingham, the community founded by Newman.

"The Holy Father’s decision is one of great significance for the whole Church. I pray that Newman, by the example of his life and the depth of his teaching, will be received as an authentic guide for Catholics everywhere.

“It is surely providential that the beatification of this great English theologian will occur in the pontificate of Benedict XVI, a major theologian in his own right whom Cardinal Newman has influenced profoundly.”

In 1991 Pope John Paul II recognized the heroically virtuous life of Cardinal Newman, the first of the three steps towards canonisation, and granted him the title “Venerable”. He will continue to be called “the Venerable Servant of God” until the solemn ceremony at which he is beatified or declared “Blessed”.

The Catholic Church believes that God works miracles through the prayers of people in heaven, Father Chavasse explained.

For someone to be proclaimed “Blessed”, his or her heavenly intercession must be judged responsible for a miracle on earth, which must always be a physical healing. In the case of martyrs, their deaths for the faith alone suffice for beatification.

For a miracle to be approved, a panel of doctors has to rule that the healing is scientifically inexplicable, while theologians examine whether it occurred as the result of the intercession of the person whose beatification is being considered.

If the doctors and theologians judge the case positively, it is then examined by the Cardinals and Bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The results of these discussions are communicated to the Pope who alone can declare a healing to be a true miracle. Only when all these stages have been successfully completed does the Pope authenticate the miracle.

A second miracle has to be recognised for a person to be canonised, that is declared to be a Saint.

Mr Sullivan said: "Upon hearing of the recent developments in Rome regarding Cardinal Newman's Cause for Beatification, I was left with an intense sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to Almighty God and my intercessor Cardinal John Henry Newman. I have dedicated my vocation in praise of Cardinal Newman, who even now directs all my efforts."

In the Archdiocese of Birmingham, the Diocesan Administrator Bishop William Kenney, who is leading Catholics there until a successor to the former Archbishop Vincent Nichols is chosen, said: "I am delighted to hear that the Beatification of Cardinal Newman will take place. This is an opportunity for a real renewal of spirit among Catholics and many others, not least here in the city of Birmingham."

Archbishop Nichols said in Westminster: "I am delighted to learn this news, which will be warmly welcomed by Catholics around the world. To have Cardinal Newman among the Blessed is an occasion of great thankfulness to the Lord and of great pride to those associated with him in Birmingham and in Oxford. I am sure he will help us greatly in the task of protecting the Faith amidst the difficulties he foresaw so clearly."

Father Daniel Seward, Parish Priest of the Oxford Oratory, said: “The beatification of John Henry Newman will be a great moment for the Catholic Church in England and for the English Oratory which he founded. Newman’s pursuit of truth, his defence of conscience and his kind and faithful exercise of the priesthood make him a figure for us to imitate and a friend whose prayers will help us from Heaven.”

There will be a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving and Te Deum at the Oxford Oratory at 11am on Sunday 12 July.

Yaqoob Bangash, past president of the Newman Society in Oxford, said: “I am delighted to hear the news. Newman has always been regarded as a great thinker and scholar, and now there is also true recognition of his holy virtues. Being in Oxford, where Newman studied and lectured, we now have a another reason to imitate his zealous search of truth in all fields of life— something which the Oxford University Newman Society, of which I am Past President, continues to promote through its series of lectures and other events in Oxford and beyond.”

00venerdì 3 luglio 2009 19.27

Miracle Derry mum meets Pope Benedict

Derry Journal
Published Date: 03 July 2009

A Derry woman who made a miraculous recovery from a brain haemorrhage after being blessed with the mitt of Padre Pio, has received Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI in San Giovanni.

27 years ago Ann Mulrine collapsed while she was pregnant with twins. At the time doctors told her husband Sean that his wife had suffered a brain haemorrhage and she had no more than half an hour to live.

Faced with the prospect of losing his wife and his two unborn children, Sean was advised to sign forms which would allow medics to keep his wife alive by ventilator until the boys reached 38 weeks. However the power of prayer was about to step in.

Despite doctors telling Sean his wife was clinically dead he continued to hope as he sat by her beside in the Royal Hospital saying the rosary.

"One night I looked up the corridor and I saw this figure coming around the corner and I ran towards it and said: 'Excuse me, you're looking for me.'

"I had never met the man in my life, I didn't know who the man was; don't ask me why I said that. He said: 'I'm looking for a man called Mulrine.' I said: 'That's me.' The man's name was Michael Murray and he and his wife ran the Padre Pio Centre for Northern Ireland.

"He said: 'I got a phone call about half-an-hour ago from a lady who said for me to take the glove of Padre Pio to Sean and Ann Mulrine in the Royal Hospital.'"

The brown mitt was one that Padre Pio had over the bandages on the stigmata on his hands.

The glove was placed on Ann's head. Despite all the tubes, she moved her hand and brought the glove to her face, blessing herself three times,

Doctors were astonished, and the next day Ann opened her eyes and began to talk. She was taken off the ventilator and a week later her sons were born in Derry

Sean and Ann were so transformed by what had happened they began their Padre Pio prayer group and now run the Padre Pio Centre for Northern Ireland, which is affiliated to the monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo.

However they don't make a fuss about what happened - they simply say Ann's recovery was a grace given by God through the intercession of Padre Pio.

The couple have runs numerous trips to San Giovanni in the last three decades and recently visited to view of body of St Pio, which has been exhumed.

Last week the couple were invited to a special Mass in San Giovanni celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI and Ann was invited to receive communion from His Holiness, because of her dedication to St Pio.

"Ann was very nervous, but she told me it was the experience of a lifetime," said Sean. "Later when we attended a reception we saw him leave on the Popemobile."

Ann also met Pope John Paul II at the canonisation of Padre Pio when she presented him with a gift.

The couple's Padre Pio group are planning a final trip to San Giovanni and Sorrento on August 28 for seven days. This will be the last opportunity to venerate the exhumed remains of St Pio as new arrangements are to be put in place after his feast day on September 23.
00venerdì 3 luglio 2009 19.58

I love all these miracle stories. They kind of counter-balance the articles on the Culture and Politics thread.

There are periodic special Masses for the sick here using Fr. Seelos relics.

Annapolis woman healed of cancer through intercession of Bl. Seelos

Annapolis, Md., Jul 3, 2009 / 06:53 am (CNA).- An Annapolis woman whose cancer disappeared without explanation has become the focus of canonization efforts for a priest who was once a pastor in her diocese.

Mary Ellen Heibel, 71, was miraculously cured of terminal cancer after praying to Blessed Fr. Francis Seelos, a 19th century Redemptorist priest who had once served in the Annapolis, Maryland area.

“I was first diagnosed with esophageal cancer on January 6, 2003,” Heibel told CNA, “and it was all gone on February 8, 2005.”

As the tumors spread, Heibel had undergone radiation and chemotherapy over several months, but the doctors did not expect a full recovery. “They said the only thing they could do was keep me alive for a little while,” Heibel explained.

But then, a priest from Pittsburgh told Heibel about Fr. Seelos and recommended that she pray a novena to him with her pastor. She did so and a week later, she underwent a scan, which revealed that all the cancer had disappeared.

Heibel said the doctors couldn’t explain it. “It was a miracle,” she said.

In addition to praying the novena, Heibel carries a relic of Fr. Seelos on her person.
“It’s a small chip of bone that I wear around my neck in a little brass reliquary,” she told CNA. “I got it from a friend when I was going to have my surgery.”

Fr. Byron Miller was appointed as the Vice Postulator for Seelos’ Canonization Cause in 2000. At the same time, he was assigned as Director of the National Shrine of Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos.

“Part of my responsibilities at his national shrine in the U.S. is to seek and follow-up on possible strong medical cures through the intercession of Bl. Seelos,” Miller explained to CNA.

Fr. Miller was contacted by Heibel, first in writing and then by phone. “I am interested in hearing all those who have good things to report, but the ‘unusual’ or ‘rare’ circumstances do stand out,” he told CNA.

“Also, because Mary Ellen Heibel is a parishioner at St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis, which is staffed by the Redemptorists, and where Fr. Seelos was pastor during the Civil War – it was easy for me to stay in contact with her and with those connected to her.”

Fr. Miller explained that there is a “cherished and ardent” local devotion to Fr. Seelos in New Orleans, as well as in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and other areas where Seelos was stationed. He mentioned that there is a newsletter distributed to 24,000 households per month, helping to raise and maintain awareness of Seelos’ canonization cause, along with testimonials from various parts of the country.

Father Francis Xavier Seelos was a Redemptorist priest, a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, a missionary congregation that seeks to preach the Gospel to the most poor and abandoned in society. Known as the “Cheerful Ascetic,” he developed a reputation for his happy disposition and compassion.

Seelos was born in Germany in 1819, but moved to the United States and was ordained in Baltimore. He served in parishes in Baltimore, Annapolis, Pittsburg and Cumberland.

Father Seelos lived a life that was simple and attentive to the needs of his people. As a parish priest, he became known for his availability and kindness. People would come from neighboring towns to receive his spiritual direction and go to confession with him.

From 1863 to 1866, Seelos became an itinerant missionary. Later, he was assigned to a Redemptorist community in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he also worked as a pastor, showing special concern for the poorest and most abandoned in society. He cared for those with yellow fever, and in 1867 he died of the disease.

Miller explained to CNA that Heibel’s case is currently in the Diocesan Inquiry Phase, which began on May 19th, when the panel to be conducting the Inquiry was sworn in at a Mass with Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The panel, which consists of canon lawyers, notaries and a physician, will gather testimony and evidence of the miraculous cure, to be shipped to Rome, where Seelos’ case for sainthood is being examined.

00venerdì 10 luglio 2009 01.50

Pope Hopes Excommunicated Nun Might Become Saint

America Magazine
POSTED AT: 2009-07-09 11:00:23.0

Yes, you read that headline correctly.

Mother Mary McKillop, the foundress of the Australian-based Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, was, in 1871, officially excommunicated by her local bishop, on the grounds that she "'she had incited the sisters to disobedience and defiance." That same church leader, Bishop Sheil, had earlier invited her to work in Adelaide, where she and her sisters would eventually set up schools, a women's shelter and an orphanage, among their many works. But McKillop's independent spirit was a threat to Bishop Sheil, who had her booted out of the church. Yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke with Pope Benedict XVI about McKillop's possible canonization, in a conversation reported in the Brisbane Times here. Just last year, the pope visited McKillop's tomb in Sydney during his visit to Australia for World Youth Day. Prime Minister Rudd said that the visit "left a deep impression on the Holy Father."

In April of this year, in an extraordinary gesture, Bishop's Sheil's successor, the current archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, made a public apology to the Sisters for their foundress's excommunication. Standing before her statue, said that he was "profoundly ashamed of the Bishop's actions in driving the Sisters out onto the streets." McKillop was beatified (the next-to-last step for canonization) by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

The idea of a holy woman who had been at loggerheads with the hierarchy--and was even excommunicated--is not new in the annals of the saints. The most recently named American saint, Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, was once locked into a room in a rectory by her bishop, who was infuriated by her (similarly) independent spirit. Around the time of her canonization in 2006, I recounted her story in an op-ed piece in The New York Times here, called "Saints That Weren't." (Their title, not mine.)

It was a tough article for some Catholics to read, and I got letters by the dozens (literally). Half of them praised me for reminding Catholics that being in trouble with the church hierarchy is no barrier for holiness; and the other half expressed fury (again, literally) that I was suggesting that being in conflict with the church was a requirement for holiness. (I was arguing only the former--and from history.)

The canonization of trouble-makers shows that the Vatican typically has a clearer understanding of holiness than do some contemporary Catholics, who sometimes conflate holiness with being unthinking, uncritical or blindly obedient. But popes have often canonized saints who were held in contempt by some church leaders of their time. Here, for example, is part of the hair-raising tale of Mother Guerin's run-in with Bishop de la Hailandiere:

"At the time, the idea of an independent woman deciding where and when to open schools offended Célestine de la Hailandière, the Catholic bishop of Vincennes, Ind. In 1844, when Mother Guérin was away from her convent raising money, the bishop ordered her congregation to elect a new superior, in a bid to eject her from the very order of nuns that she had founded. The independent-minded sisters simply re-elected Mother Guérin. Infuriated, Bishop Hailandière told the future saint that she was forbidden from setting foot in her own convent, since he, the bishop, considered himself its sole proprietor. Three years later, Bishop Hailandière demanded that Mother Guérin resign. When she refused, the bishop told her congregation that she was no longer superior, that she was ordered to leave Indiana, and that she was forbidden from communicating with her sisters. Her sisters replied that they were not willing to obey a dictator. The situation worsened until, just a few weeks later, Bishop Hailandière was suddenly replaced by the Vatican. From then on, the Sisters of Providence flourished. Today its 465 members work in 10 states, the District of Columbia, China and Taiwan."

Musty stories of dead nuns? Not so fast. These stories have profound implications not simply for Catholics in general, but perhaps for those American religious women who are the current focus of the Vatican's investigation--an Apostolic Visitation that is to examine their "quality of life." Some of these sisters, and perhaps even a few congregations, may one day find themselves on the receiving end of some criticism, when the final report is released in a few months, or years. They may take heart in the story of Blessed Mary McKillop and St. Theodore Guerin.

And others. Even some of the most universally beloved saints have sometimes found themselves in conflict with the church: St. Joan of Arc, the patroness of France, was burned at the stake as a heretic by church authorities; St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, was locked in jail for a time by the Inquisition; and St. Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes, was initially rejected by her local pastor, who refused to believe in her reports of visions. On a somewhat less exalted level, think of modern-day theologians like John Courtney Murray, Yves Congar and Henri de Lubac, who were either officially silenced or restricted in their teaching and writing, and then later "rehabilitated," and in the case of Congar and de Lubac named cardinals. (Robert McClory has an eye-opening book on the topic called Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church.)

Mother McKillop was beatified in 1995. From the sounds of Prime Minister's Rudd's comments, and the implied message of the pope's visit to her tomb, she will soon become a saint--perhaps the patron saint of troublemakers.

00domenica 12 luglio 2009 17.37

Modern Miracle

When saints intervene nowadays, it tends to be in healthcare.

By Michael Paulson
Boston Globe
July 12, 2009

On a quiet Friday at the start of this month, Pope Benedict XVI made it official: the healing of a Marshfield man’s chronic back pain was a miracle, attributable to the intervention of John Henry Newman, an English cardinal who has been dead since 1890.

The Marshfield man is Jack Sullivan, a magistrate at Plymouth District Court and a deacon at a Pembroke parish, who had suffered crippling back pain that was relieved, twice, after he prayed for Newman’s help. After an exhaustive review of Sullivan’s medical history, the Vatican determined that his recovery could not be explained by medicine and appears to be permanent.

The miracle is the first to be attributed to Newman, an influential religious thinker and writer who is currently a candidate for sainthood.

The very idea of miracles may seem deeply at odds with modernity - the word, for many, conjures up images of biblical events like the parting of the Red Sea, or the raising of Lazarus; or paranormal phenomena, like weeping statues and apparitions of the Virgin Mary. But miracles remain an official part of the church bureaucracy, in large part because two official miracles are necessary before someone can be declared a saint - one for beatification, and the second for canonization.

Pope John Paul II, in fact, canonized people at a record-breaking rate, and Benedict, although acting at a slower pace than his predecessor, is still declaring saints in historically high numbers. So over the last several decades, there has been a paradoxical confluence of two phenomena: at the same time that medical science has become increasingly adept at explaining how the human body heals, the Roman Catholic Church is in need of - and finding - an increasing number of inexplicable healings. The result is an unusual process, in which the Vatican has had to develop a medical expertise to help separate remarkable but understandable recoveries from those healings for which medicine has no explanation.

“The irony is, if you want to have a miracle, you’ve got to have good science, because you’ve got to be able to rule out causes,” said Kenneth L. Woodward, author of “The Book of Miracles” and a contributing editor of Newsweek.

The parallel investigations of medical healings, by doctors seeking to understand the natural world and a church seeking signs of a supernatural realm, is a modern twist on the age-old tension between religion and science. The contrast has been particularly vivid in Catholicism, which has been more open to scientific inquiry than many faiths, but which also holds dear the idea that the divine intervenes in daily life. And the medical lab has become, somewhat improbably, the site where this grandeur of faith is discerned in the narrow specificity of science.

Saints play an important role in the devotional life of Catholics - they inspire art and prayer; their names are given to children, churches, and schools. Men and women are often proposed for sainthood as a result of having led virtuous lives, but it is their posthumous miracles that are considered evidence that the saints are now in heaven, able to intercede on behalf of those who seek their help.

In the past, miracles tended to be more fantastical, such as St. Francis of Assisi taming the fierce wolf of Gubbio. But in the modern world, as the Vatican has sought to protect the integrity of the canonization process at a time when science can explain much that previously seemed incomprehensible, official miracles are now found almost exclusively in the realm of medical healings.

“The church requires its miracles to be verifiable, and normally the ones that are easiest to verify (in the sense of “scientific” evidence) are healings from illness,” said the Rev. James Martin, an associate editor of America magazine and the author of “My Life with the Saints.” “They must be immediate, permanent (no relapsing), not attributable to any other treatments, clearly documented by medical evidence, and the result of intentional prayers for the saint’s intercession.”

The process of canonizing saints in the Catholic Church, informal during the first millennium of Christianity, has become increasingly regulated over the last eight centuries or so, and in 1983 Pope John Paul II spelled out, in a document called “Divinus Perfectionis Magister,” a simplified set of rules for declaring sainthood.

When someone attributes a miracle to a possible saint, the bishop in the local diocese is supposed to seek help from a doctor who will help question witnesses, bring in experts to examine the beneficiary of the alleged miracle, and then send a transcript of the investigation to the Vatican. In Rome, the office charged with assessing candidates for sainthood - the Congregation for the Causes of Saints - has a board of medical experts who consider whether the healing lacks any known scientific explanation. The question of whether it was truly miraculous then goes to theologians, and ultimately the pope.

The investigations are supposed to be conducted without bias for or against sainthood. The rules tell bishops to avoid giving the impression that their inquiry “carries with it the certitude that the Servant of God will be one day canonized.” In an effort at dispassionate analysis, the physicians called in by the church to assess alleged miracles are often not practicing Catholics.

These investigations are going on around the world, including a number in the US. In Baltimore, the church is investigating whether Mary Ellen Heibel’s recovery from terminal cancer is a miracle attributable to the intercession of the late Rev. Francis X. Seelos, a 19th-century Maryland priest; in Wichita, Kan., the church is investigating whether Chase Kear’s recovery from a head injury is a miracle attributable to the late Rev. Emil Kapaun, a heroic Army chaplain who died in the Korean War in 1951.

And there are local sainthood causes awaiting miracles too: in Springfield, a Passionist priest who died in 1974, the Rev. Theodore Foley, needs a miracle to advance his cause; in Easton, supporters of the canonization of the Rev. Patrick Peyton, who died in 1992, are inviting evidence via a website that instructs “anyone having substantiated, documentable information regarding the intervention of the Servant of God Patrick Peyton, CSC, in response to prayer requests, to forward such information,” and featuring a list of anecdotes from people claiming a variety of positive turns of events that they attribute to Peyton’s posthumous intercession.

It’s not easy to have a miracle declared. A miraculous healing is supposed to be permanent - meaning relapses are often ruled out as miracles - and church officials pride themselves on rigorous investigations. At Lourdes, the Catholic pilgrimage site in France that is visited annually by millions, so many people claim miraculous healings from the sacred waters that the church has set up a medical bureau on-site. Of the thousands of alleged cures there, fewer than 70 have been affirmed as miraculous.

Even doctors who are skeptical about miracles acknowledge the Vatican is onto something - that in the realm of medicine, there are still fairly deep mysteries that lurk behind what we think we understand.

“The more you know, you realize how much you don’t know,” said Patrick McNamara, director of the Evolutionary Neurobehavior Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine, and the author of a chapter on miracle healings.

“If you ask any scholar or scientist, they’ll say, on the one hand, there is real progress, but on the other hand, it seems like every day we realize we just skim the surface about so much, and we’re in the dark about so many things. Mystery is a reality.”

Some Catholic thinkers are questioning whether the church still needs to rely on miracles for canonizations, especially in cases where the figures being considered for sainthood have earthly achievements that seem to dwarf their reported posthumous accomplishments.

The two most prominent pending candidates for sainthood are Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, and in both cases the public has essentially already declared each of them saintly - at John Paul II’s funeral, voices in the crowd shouted “Santo Subito,” Italian for “Sainthood Now,” and Mother Teresa was widely revered for her saintliness even while alive. And yet, despite their enormous impact on millions of people, in each case, church officials are painstakingly collecting evidence of individual healings and weighing the evidence before moving ahead with the process.“I’ve often thought that there ought to be alternative ways to honor publicly heroic people in the church - people consider Mother Teresa a saint irrespective of whether or not the Vatican comes up with miraculous events due to her intercession,” said Lawrence S. Cunningham, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and the author, most recently, of “A Brief History of Saints.” “But in the ancient church, a saint was a saint if at that saint’s tomb or shrine, miracles occurred. So that connection would be hard to get away from.”

Martin, a firm believer in miracles, sees their existence as “a sign of God’s care for people, and a sign of the saints’ prayers.”

“The miracle is the final indication to the church that this person was holy, because we believe that the intercession shows the person is in heaven,” he said. “The people who are popularly acclaimed in their lifetime - these are the people that end up becoming saints - but the bar is pretty high, and the miracle is proof.”

Michael Paulson is the religion writer for the Globe.

00mercoledì 15 luglio 2009 19.58

English cardinal to be beatified in Birmingham May 2, source says

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service
July 15, 2009

LONDON (CNS) -- Cardinal John Henry Newman will be beatified in Birmingham, England, May 2, a Catholic Church source told Catholic News Service.

The date and venue have been proposed by the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes and are expected to be accepted soon by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, the source told CNS July 15 on condition of anonymity.

The source said the cardinal will be beatified in the Birmingham Oratory, which he founded following his conversion to Catholicism in 1845 at age 44.

May 2 is seen as a favorable date because it is the feast of St. Athanasius, the fourth-century "champion of orthodoxy" admired by Cardinal Newman.

Pope Benedict XVI signed the decree authorizing the beatification earlier this year after Vatican medical and theological experts approved the 2001 healing of Deacon John Sullivan of Marshfield, Mass., who was " bent double" by a severe spinal condition, as a miracle attributed to Cardinal Newman's intercession. The decree was made public by the Vatican July 3.

Beatification is a major step in the Catholic sainthood process.

00lunedì 20 luglio 2009 06.18

One of my favorite saints


Carmelites Appoint Commission for Saint's Celebration

ROME, JULY 19, 2009 ( A commission of Discalced Carmelites is already preparing for the celebration of the 5th centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus, which will be celebrated in 2015.

The celebration for the saint, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, will be directed by this commission, which was appointed after an initiative of the order's general chapter.

The Carmelite vicar general, Father Emilio Martínez, will head the commission and will be assisted by Father Alfredo Amesti, a press release on the order's Web page reported.

The executive committee will coordinate various topical sections of activities.

The section for community projects will prepare study aids for each of St. Teresa's books as well as dynamics and activities to help individual, community, and lay reading of these works.

The pastoral projects section will organize activities with a special focus on young people, including the upcoming World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011.

The task of the cultural projects section will be the organization of seminars, conferences and other academic activities in collaboration with the Teresianum College in Rome, the International Teresian-St. John Center of Avila and other Carmelite institutes.

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born March 28, 1515 in Avila and died October 4, 1582 in Alba de Tormes. She founded the Discalced Carmelites, a branch of the Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and was a mystic and writer, and a doctor of the Church.

00sabato 22 agosto 2009 17.20

Bringing a Saint’s Life to the Screen

The New York Times
August 22, 2009

The film director Roland Joffé, who has yet to regain the acclaim he won a generation ago for “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission,” is shooting a movie in Argentina focused on the founder of Opus Dei, an elite and powerful organization within the Roman Catholic Church.

The film, “There Be Dragons,” set during the Spanish Civil War, weaves fictional characters created by Mr. Joffé with the story of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, the Spaniard who founded Opus Dei and was canonized by the church.

The project was initiated by a member of Opus Dei, is partly produced and financed by the group’s members and has enlisted an Opus Dei priest to consult on the set. News of the project has set off criticism among some former Opus Dei members that the movie will be little more than propaganda for the organization. But Mr. Joffé, in the first interview he has given about the film, said that he had been given complete creative control and that Opus Dei never had any influence on the project.

He ditched the script he was originally given, he said, because he did not want to make what he called a “biopic” about Escrivá’s life. But, he added, he was intrigued by Escrivá’s ideas about the power of forgiveness and the capacity of every human being for sainthood. Opus Dei — the name is Latin for work of God — teaches that ordinary work can be a path to sanctity if the believer maintains a demanding regimen of religious practices intended to achieve holiness.

“I was very interested in the idea of embarking on a piece of work that took religion seriously on its own terms and didn’t play a game where one approached religion denying its validity,” Mr. Joffé said.

When pressed, he called himself a “wobbly agnostic” but added, “I do believe that rigid atheism is a rather intellectually short-sighted position.”

The Opus Dei members behind the project were delighted to enlist Mr. Joffé, whose reputation was that of a political leftist who made films that asked profound ethical questions.

In the 1980s Mr. Joffé was nominated for Academy Awards as best director for “The Killing Fields,” about the genocidal war in Cambodia, and “The Mission,” about Jesuit missionaries who try to defend a South American tribe from Portuguese slave traders. But his career has sputtered since, with movies like “The Scarlet Letter” and “Captivity,” a horror movie, earning him nominations for the Golden Raspberry Awards, which honor the worst of the film industry.

Mr. Joffé’s portrayal of Escrivá’s actions during the 1930s is likely to be provocative, especially in Europe. Some historians have accused Escrivá of collaborating with Franco. Mr. Joffé said he concluded after doing extensive research that Escrivá had been eager to avoid doing anything that would jeopardize the church’s position in Spain.

“Josemaría himself left Spain, and basically stayed out, and my sense is that he didn’t agree with and didn’t want to get involved in politics at the time,” he said.

Opus Dei has received tremendous publicity in recent years, most of it negative, from “The Da Vinci Code,” the 2003 novel by Dan Brown, and the 2006 movie based on the book. In both, Opus Dei, which claims more than 80,000 priest and lay members worldwide, is portrayed as a murderous cult whose members flog themselves with whips and wear barbed chains around their thighs.

Some members do practice what they call a mild form of “corporal mortification.” But what has made the group even more an object of suspicion is that some of its members do not readily identify themselves as such, and occupy influential positions in business, politics and other professions.

Heriberto Schoeffer, an independent film producer in Los Angeles and a member of Opus Dei, said he first conceived of a film dramatizing the life of Escrivá after reading a book about his escape over the Pyrenees during the Spanish Civil War. “All I wanted is for people to see a good side of him, because so many bad things are said about him and Opus Dei,” Mr. Schoeffer said.

With financing from a friend who is also an Opus Dei member, Mr. Schoeffer contracted a screenwriter, Barbara Nicolosi, a former nun and conservative Catholic who started a training program for Christians in Hollywood. She said in an interview that it took her two years, and three research trips to Spain, to write the script, an “Indiana Jones adventure story about a guy who was motivated by Jesus.”

Mr. Schoeffer said that he showed the script to Hugh Hudson, the director of “Chariots of Fire,” who thought the screenplay “smelled pro-Franco, so he didn’t want to do it,” and then brought it to Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Mexican director whose films include “Babel” and “21 Grams,” who found it too complicated.

Mr. Joffé also turned it down initially, but he said he reconsidered after he saw video of Escrivá answering a question from a Jewish girl who wanted to convert to Catholicism. Escrivá told her that she should not convert, because it would be disrespectful to her parents. “I thought this was so open-minded,” Mr. Joffé said.

In writing the new script, Mr. Joffé came up with a convoluted plot in which a young journalist discovers that his estranged father has a long-buried connection to Escrivá.

To perform research, Mr. Joffé traveled to South America, Spain and Italy. Mr. Schoeffer, who has since left the project, said they met in Rome with two prominent members of Opus Dei: Joaquín Navarro-Valls, who was the Vatican spokesman under Pope John Paul II, and the Rev. John Wauck, a priest who is a professor of literature and communication of the faith at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, in Rome. (Father Wauck is now the on-set adviser).

The British actor Charlie Cox (“Stardust”) plays Escrivá, and Wes Bentley (“American Beauty”) plays the journalist’s father. The ensemble cast also includes Derek Jacobi and Geraldine Chaplin.

The financing of about $30 million came from about 100 investors, and raising it was a struggle, said Ignacio G. Sancha, the lead producer, a Spanish financier and lawyer who is also a member of Opus Dei.

The film’s backers are not avoiding controversy, and may even be anticipating it. They have hired Paul Lauer, the publicist for Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” another religious epic with a no-name cast and a big-name director, which cashed in on all the attention it generated.

00venerdì 4 settembre 2009 17.33

Maybe this article by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus should have gone on the Culture thread but since it deals with a saint, I'm putting it here.

Yeah, But What Was in It for Mother Teresa?

First Things
Sept. 4, 2009

This article by Richard John Neuhaus, who passed away January 8, 2009, was published in the February 1999 issue of First Things, and is reprinted below in honor of the feast day of Mother Teresa.

A couple of years ago physicist Alan Sokal published an article in Social Text arguing in the most abstruse postmodernistic jargon that gravity, among other things, is a social construct. It was a hoax, of course, and when Sokol publicly revealed the fact it caused quite a sensation, heaping embarrassment upon the editors and their academic colleagues who had long since lost the capacity to discern the difference between rational discourse and their trendy gibberish. The academy was not amused.

One might expect at first that Susan Kwilecki of the religious studies department and Loretta S. Wilson of economics at Radford University, Virginia, are up to a Sokal-like prank. Their article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the lead article no less, is titled “Was Mother Teresa Maximizing Her Utility? An Idiographic Application of Rational Choice Theory.” There is, alas, not the slightest hint that the authors are anything less than serious, and solemnly so.

It is a long and tedious article, and I will not bore you with the details. It builds on the work of Laurence Iannaccone, who has been pushing the “rational choice” theory of religion for some time, also in the pages of JSSR. The idea is to “approach God as a commodity” and to understand that religious believers are “consumers” rationally calculating their “investment” in a “product” such as salvation supplied by “entrepreneurs” who establish religious “firms.” The theory is another in a long history of efforts to turn the study of religion into a “science,” as that reductionist god is defined by modernity. Since there is no Nobel Prize in religion, some in religious studies, it seems, are trying to compete in the field of economics.

A rational choice reading of Mother Teresa helps us understand that her vaunted love for the poor had another purpose: “Aiding the poor purchased direct contact with Christ. . . . Closeness to God, not the alleviation of human pain in itself, was the preferred religious product.” “Thus from a rational choice perspective, essential facets of Mother Teresa's world-famous mission to the poor reflected her preference for an expensive religious commodity—close proximity to God, or holiness.” For Mother Teresa, worship, the sacramental life, and the pursuit of holiness took priority even over helping people in need. “The rational choice reading of holiness as Mother Teresa's ranking preference explains this otherwise puzzling lapse of compassion for the sick as calculated utility maximization.”

Considering Mother Teresa “as the owner of a successful religious firm,” it becomes obvious that the Missionaries of Charity order “produces a product mix of charity linked with spiritual awareness and Christian salvation.” The “product mix” helps explain her “entrepreneurial success.” “On the one hand, fostering nearness to God, Mother Teresa sold traditional Catholic products—the sacraments, the condemnation of abortion, and reverence for Church authority. On the other hand, with charity as her chief commodity, the firm simultaneously marketed a sideline of nonsectarian humanitarian values—the obligation to help others, a recognition of the sacredness of all life—that appealed to liberal, non-Catholic consumers.”

While Mother Teresa's “professions of self-abnegating surrender to God are difficult to comprehend within the rational choice framework,” a more careful examination leads to the conclusion that she “is a calculating, profit-seeking religious entrepreneur.” Her claims to rely entirely upon God and to refuse financial support that might compromise her vision, “although irrational from a materialistic standpoint, from the point of view of the charismatic, who answers directly to God—the ultimate head of the firm”— reflect “means-to-end thinking.” The authors allow that rational choice theory is unlikely to explain a phenomenon such as Mother Teresa in “all its fullness,” but they conclude that, “While not sufficient by itself and certainly not the only interpretation the data will bear, rational choice theory provides a valuable addition to the arsenal of analytic approaches to religion.”

Perhaps the arsenal will be put to work in a forthcoming article in JSSR, “Was Jesus' Investment in the Cross Maximizing His Utility?” Actually, one does not have to imagine that, for these are precisely the kinds of questions discussed at length by rational choice religion scholars such as Iannaccone, Lawrence Young, Mark Chaves, and others. When I was a pastor in a black parish in Brooklyn many years ago, twelve-year-old Michael asked in catechism class, “If Jesus was doing what he really wanted to do, why was it a sacrifice?” It was a good question, asked in honest wonder and opening the door to reflections of great spiritual and intellectual interest. As applied to religion, rational choice theory is not even one small intellectual step beyond young Michael's perceptive question. And, of course, in presuming to scientifically “explain” the phenomenon of holiness, it closes doors. Far from being sophisticated, it is every bit as vulgar as those Christian business boosters who promote Jesus as “history's greatest salesman.” Or the psychobabble counterpart to rational choice that claims to explain religion in terms of dependency, wish projection, and other tools in the analytical arsenal of the intellectually and spiritually stunted project that is academic religious studies.

Richard John Neuhaus was the founding editor of First Things.

00martedì 15 settembre 2009 18.42

St. Mom

Saint's daughter hopes to follow her mother's example of loving life

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service
Sept. 14, 2009

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Many people might say their mothers are saints but very few have an official church declaration to back it up.

Fifty-year-old Laura Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, is one of those people.

St. Gianna, often called the "pro-life saint," was canonized in 2004 by Pope John Paul II for having put her unborn child's life before her own. In 1962, when she was pregnant with her fourth child, doctors discovered a large ovarian tumor that required surgery. Although surgical procedures at the time called for removal of her entire uterus, Gianna Molla, 39, insisted surgeons only remove what was necessary and allow her baby to live.

She pleaded with family and doctors: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate. Choose the child, I insist on it, save the baby."

When she died of an infection -- a week after giving birth to Gianna Emanuela -- the Italian saint left behind not only her newborn, but her husband, Pietro, and three other children including Laura, who was just shy of her third birthday.

Molla, who now works in the furniture business in Italy, said that even through she didn't know her mother, she has learned a lot about her in recent years.

What particularly stands out is how much her mother loved life. She enjoyed skiing, hiking, going to the theater and wearing the latest fashions. She juggled a career as a medical doctor with being a wife and mother. Through reading her mother's letters and notes on spirituality, Molla has also come to understand the depth of her mother's faith.

"We had to work through the shock of losing our mother to find the joy in knowing she is a mother for all," Molla told Catholic News Service Sept. 11, the day before she addressed participants at a eucharistic congress at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington sponsored by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. The theme of the Sept. 11-12 congress was "Sacrifice of Enduring Love."

Molla's mother, born in 1922 near Milan, Italy, was described by Pope John Paul at her canonization ceremony as a model of virtue, holiness, motherhood, professionalism and devotion to the faith. He said she followed Christ's example of loving one's "own in the world and loving them to the end."

She was beatified in 1994 during the International Year of the Family, and 10 years later, one week after Mother's Day, she was named a saint.

During the May 16 canonization ceremony at St. Peter's Square, the crowd of 40,000 also included Pietro Molla and three of the couple's children. One of the children, Mariolina, died in childhood. The Molla children live in Italy; Pierluigi, the oldest, is an engineer and Gianna Emanuela, the youngest, is a physician.

Molla described the canonization ceremony as beautiful and full of "a lot of happiness." But what pleased her most about it was that her father, who had been sick, was able to attend.

She has self-proclaimed her 97-year-old father as a saint, saying through an interpreter: "Faith overflows in my father."

She said her father never realized he was "living next to a saint," and her mother didn't realize it either.

Molla said her mother was convinced of her call to the vocation of marriage and "lived that until the end" -- a commitment that Molla hopes will be an example to others.

"She teaches us to truly discern" what our vocation should be, she said, and then to "live that vocation to the fullest."

Molla acknowledged she has faced her own set of vocation questions and turned, naturally, to her mother for advice.

"I asked my mother to give me light," she said and then smiled and looked at Giuseppe Pannuti, her husband of seven years.

The tall, slender woman -- who exhibits her mother's taste for fashion -- is fully aware she has big shoes to fill. She described being a saint's daughter as "a great joy and a huge privilege" and added that she often asks herself if she's "worthy of this privilege."

But in the midst of the nearly overwhelming example left by her mother, Molla also finds comfort in St. Gianna's example of simply living out one's faith on a daily basis.

As she sees it, her mother's decision nearly 50 years ago was not an isolated choice. She told participants at the eucharistic congress Sept. 12 that her mother's action was "the crowning of a whole life of virtue, a life lived constantly in the light of the Gospel as a young woman, physician, spouse and mother."

When she hears people question the choice to leave behind three children in order to give birth to a fourth, Molla insists her mother was convinced her unborn child had the same right to live as her other children.

"She did not choose death" but "at that moment she chose the life of her child."

As proof that her mother wanted to live, Molla recounts stories that her father told her of how her mother flipped through fashion magazines at the hospital finding outfits she wanted to wear when she left.

"She was a very happy woman," Molla said, adding that her mother "loved life until the end" and knew to "accept everything God gives us -- even suffering."

00sabato 19 settembre 2009 04.24
Fr Damien Canonization excitement in Hawaii

I figured that the best way I could share the Hawaii excitement and preparations with my friends on the Forum would be to give you the link to the Hawaii Catholic Herald since there are several articles in this issue and the next two isssues will be all-Damuen issues, too. Plus, you can see the beautiful photos too.

I started reading the first one and just started to cry, realzing how much I wanted to be there after all.  Enchoy and I'll keep posting on this thread unless you all think another thread would be more appropriate.

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00sabato 19 settembre 2009 21.33
I would go, but......
Dear Papabear,
Thanks for the link! I would go to Rome for the canonisation to represent you, but it's always impossible to get tickets for such events. They all go to families, friends and parishes of those blesseds to be canonised. I'll look out for Damien medals next time I'm in Rome: there are bound to be lots in the shops.
00lunedì 21 settembre 2009 17.29

Church prepares for St. Pio’s feast day

CNA STAFF, Sep 20, 2009 / 04:50 am (CNA).- Known affectionately to the many who venerate him as Padre Pio, this humble Capuchin priest became one of the most popular saints of modern time, attracting the largest crowd to ever attend a canonization ceremony in 2002. The Church will celebrate his feast day this Wednesday, on September 23.

Padre Pio was born Francisco Forgione to a poor shepherd family on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy. He entered the Capuchin Order in 1903, took his solemn vows in 1907 and was ordained a priest in 1910.

Suffering from poor health, he was sent immediately home to live with his parents where his mother could care for him. It was there that he stayed until 1916 when he was sent to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he spent the rest of his life.

He was devoted to the Sacraments and was famous for hearing confessions, often spending entire days in the confessional attending to penitants who had come from all over the country to confess to him. He was said to be able to read the souls of those who held back sins or those whose confessions were not sincere, and brought about many a heartfelt conversion in those he rebuked.

On September 20, 1918, Padre Pio became the first priest known to have received the stigmata - the wounds of Christ - and he is also thought to have lived with them for the longest amount of time, 50 years.

He was reported to be able to bilocate and levitate and he is known to have healed many by touch. In 1956 Padre Pio opened the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital for the poor in San Giovanni Rotondo which treats tens of thousands of patients every year.

All his life he was accosted by the devil and would even withstand physical beatings by him at night. He endured all by the power of the Cross of Christ, never losing his faith in the Lord despite all his tribulations.

Pio of Pietrelcina died September 23, 1968 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II, June 16, 2002.

Even though he was aware during his lifetime of his worldwide fame, Padre Pio persevered in humility realizing always that "In order to succeed in reaching our ultimate end we must follow the divine Head, who does not wish to lead the chosen soul on any way other than the one he followed; by that, I say, of abnegation and the Cross.”

Padre Pio also said, "I am a poor Franciscan who prays…prayer is the best weapon we have, a key that opens the heart of God."

00martedì 29 settembre 2009 18.00

I believe Maryjos was one of these.


LONDON, SEPT. 28, 2009 ( The bishops' of England and Wales estimate some 68,700 people visited the relics of St. Thérèse during the first 10 days of the tour of her relics.

The relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux will be visiting the United Kingdom through Oct. 16. They arrived Sept. 16. The relics have gone through some 40 countries.

During the U.K. tour, the relics have just one stop at a non-Catholic site: the York Minster, a cathedral of the Church of England.

The dean of York, Very Reverend Keith Jones, said, “I am thrilled that the relics of St Thérèse, the Little Flower, are coming to York Minster, at the request of the Catholic bishops' conference.

“She is a gift of God to us all, and this is a chance for Christians of different traditions to pray for unity and renew our faith and our love.”

00mercoledì 30 settembre 2009 05.19
Flap, flap, flap ....

   What is an Angel? Sacred Scripture and the Church's tradition enable us to discern two aspects. On the one hand, the Angel is a creature who stands before God, oriented to God with his whole being. All three names of the Archangels end with the word "El", which means "God". God is inscribed in their names, in their nature. Their true nature is existing in his sight and for him. In this very way the second aspect that characterizes Angels is also explained: they are God's messengers. They bring God to men, they open heaven and thus open earth.


Pope Benedict / Sept 29 2007 / Homily, Episcopal Ordination

Happy Feast of the Archangels!

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00sabato 3 ottobre 2009 06.00

Charity in action: Impact of new saints continues in United States

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
Oct. 2, 2009

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The long path to official sainthood is drawing to a close in October for Blessed Damien de Veuster, a missionary priest famed for his work with leprosy patients in Hawaii.

Pope Benedict XVI is canonizing him Oct. 11 along with four others, including Blessed Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Both Blessed Damien and Blessed Jeanne are important figures for U.S. Catholics, and reflect the pope's priority on the faith as charity in action, especially toward society's outcasts and forgotten.

Neither was born in the United States, but both continue to have a major impact there, and hundreds of U.S. pilgrims will be descending on Rome for the canonization liturgy in St. Peter's Square.

Blessed Damien, a Belgian-born member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, is renowned for having spent the last 16 years of his life ministering to patients with Hansen's disease, or leprosy, on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. At that time, in the mid-19th century, lepers were considered outcasts and leprosy was an incurable disease.

Blessed Jeanne grew up in revolutionary France and formed a small prayer community. In 1839, at the age of 47, she brought home a sick and blind elderly widow, giving the woman her own bed. Eventually, caring for the abandoned elderly became the primary focus of her religious order, and remains so today for the approximately 2,700 Little Sisters of the Poor.

The two new saints were models of personal holiness and self-sacrifice, and epitomize the church's long record of service in health care. But in their own day they were not necessarily known as heroes.

Blessed Damien sailed for Hawaii in 1864, was ordained a priest and served there for eight years. When a priest was needed for the leprosy settlement on the island of Molokai in 1873, he volunteered. He found himself essentially alone as pastor, doctor, adviser and guardian to the approximately 800 residents suffering from the disease.

His tough and practical methods antagonized many civil and religious authorities, who considered him headstrong and bothersome, but he undoubtedly left the patient inhabitants of the island better off. He organized the residents into a community, built a hospital, an orphanage and a church, helped the village get piped water and even started up a brass band.

After contracting the disease himself, he experimented on himself with new treatments. He was, as he wrote, "at one with the lepers." Following his death at the age of 49 five years later, centers were established in his name for patients with leprosy and, in more recent years, HIV and AIDS. Many hope he will be named the patron saint of those with HIV/AIDS and leprosy.

For Blessed Jeanne, recognition came long after her death -- even in her own religious order. At one point, she was replaced as superior of the Little Sisters and sent out to beg on behalf of the poor. She was later placed in retirement, and when she died in 1879 the younger members of her order didn't even know she was the foundress.

Today she is known as the patron of the elderly, and is seen by many as introducing a unique model of health care delivery that has particular relevance in modern times of costly end-of-life care. The Little Sisters serve more than 13,000 elderly residents in 202 homes in 32 countries.

Some of the people who continue to be touched by the lives of these 19th-century figures will be in Rome for the canonization Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict. Although the treatment of Hansen's disease is much improved and no longer calls for the segregation of patients, it still afflicts several million people around the world.

Traveling with a group of 550 pilgrims from Hawaii will be a dozen residents from Kalaupapa -- about half of the settlement's remaining former Hansen's disease patients -- along with their caregivers and companions. The residents' 12,000-mile journey was paid through a fundraising campaign.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are coming to Rome in full force, about 4,000 sisters, patrons, staff members and a group of very special guests: at least one resident from each of their homes for the elderly. The order is arranging video transmission of the canonization Mass for many of the residents who can't make the trip.

Blessed Jeanne and Blessed Damien seem to embody a favorite theme of Pope Benedict: that Christianity is not merely a "moral code" or a set of rules, but a religion that embodies love of God and neighbor. Although their causes have been under study by church authorities for decades, they are very much saints of this pontificate.

00giovedì 8 ottobre 2009 07.12

St. Damien: Find Your Own Molokai

America Magazine
POSTED AT: 2009-10-07 16:45:41.0

The church will soon have a new saint. This Sunday, Oct. 11, Pope Benedict XVI will canonize St. Damien of Molokai (or St. Damien de Veuster). He may fairly be called--with not too much of a stretch--an "American" saint, an immigrant who came to work on what came to be American territory. In this way he is something like Mother Cabrini, the Italian-born immigrant who came to work with the poor in New York. And yes, I know Hawaii wasn't a state then, indeed an entirely separate nation (as one commenter pointed out). Nonetheless, we're happy to include St. Damien in our family of saints in the States. After all, both Portugal and Italy celebrate St. Anthony of Padua.

This comment from the Maui News caught my eye today: "You read about his story and realize he is very incredible. It took a man from way far away to more or less bring the Hawaiian people together and . . . bring all the people together to understand our cause and care for the people who suffered." That's Clarence Kahilihiwa, the son of parents who suffered from Hansen's disease. Mr. Kahilihiwa has a great love for the church's newest saint.

But even those who know only the barest scraps of his story understand that the life of Father Damien was an extraordinary one. And that raises a problematic question: What can the life of Father Damien (like "Blessed Teresa" it will take some time to begin to refer to him as "Saint Damien") say to us today?

Very few of us are going to enter religious order, leave our native country and work with the very ill and very forgotten. "Lepers," a detested term for those suffering from Hansen's disease, were reviled even in Biblical times: many of Jesus's most well-known miracles are those healing people suffering from "leprosy," though scholars tell us that this could refer to any variety of skin diseases. In Damien's day those suffering from Hansen's disease were banished to the island of Molokai. It was there that the Belgian-born Joseph de Veuster (he took the religious name Damien after joining the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary) went in 1873. Just a few years before, in 1864, Damien arrived in Hawaii and was ordained a priest in the cathedral in Honolulu. As is well known, Damien spent the rest of his brief life in Molokai ministering to the sick and marginalized until he too contracted Hansen's disease. He died in 1889, at the age of 49.

In a (perhaps unintentional) snub of the peoples of the island, Damien's body was exhumed and sent back to Belgium, where it is buried in a crypt in Louvain in 1936. Only recently, in 1995, did Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of Damien's beatification, send bones from his right hand back to Molokai to be reburied in his original grave. The final step to Damien's canonization came with the miraculous cure of a retired teacher in Hawaii named Audrey Toguchi.

The story of Damien, like the lives of so many saints, can seem while noble, largely irrelevant to our own. Yet by reading the saints' lives carefully one can always find profound resonances with the lives of everyday believers. What parent is not called upon to minister to a child when he or she falls ill, even at the risk of contracting an illness? Who among us is not called to stand with the outcast, with those whom polite society shuns either literally or metaphorically? Who is not called to do works of charity and love that may remain utterly hidden from the rest of the world. Think of the husband or wife caring for the spouse with Alzheimer's. Is this not a hidden act of charity? Think of the parent caring for a child with a cancer or an incurable illness. Even if the parent does not contract the illness, is this not a heroic deed? Damien is not as far from us as many would think.

When the faithful used to visit Mother Teresa and ask to work alongside her in Calcutta, she would sometimes say, "Find your own Calcutta." That is, care for the poor where you are. Perhaps the story of St. Damien says to us, "Find your own Molokai."

00martedì 13 ottobre 2009 02.37
From Catholic World Report in Ignatius Insight

The Apostle to the Lepers  

Special Report

Joseph de Veuster, canonized as St. Damien of Molokai on October 11, brought hope and spiritual healing to the leprosy-ravaged people of Hawaii.

By Sandra Miesel

Leprosy is an ancient horror. For millennia, people feared and shunned the ravaged bodies of lepers as “unclean.” A few dared to show compassion: St. Francis of Assisi famously kissed a leper for the sake of Jesus. But none ever charged headlong at the repulsive affliction with more Christian love and peasant gusto than Joseph de Veuster, who was canonized as St. Damien of Molokai, “Apostle to the Lepers,” on October 11.

Long known in Asia, leprosy had reached the Mediterranean world by the time of Christ. It became conspicuous in medieval Europe, prompting the founding of “lazar houses,” or refuges where doomed lepers could rot apart from “clean” folk. Common myths connected leprosy with lust: decaying flesh matched degenerate souls. By the 18th century, leprosy had mostly retreated to Scandinavia. Norwegian doctor G.H.A. Hansen first isolated the infectious agent, Mycobacterium leprae, in 1873. The medical term for leprosy is now “Hansen’s disease” in his honor.

As subsequent research would show, leprosy manifests itself in several categories of infection and with a range of symptoms. Slowly attacking the skin and mucous tissue, it can kill nerves, disable muscles, decalcify bones, and disfigure faces. Although a victim’s limbs and features do not actually fall off as they decay, he is left, in the words of historian Gavan Daws, “deformed, crippled, ulcerated, blinded, his senses devastated, his very ability to breathe threatened.” Contrary to age-old belief, leprosy is surprisingly hard to catch. It spreads by respiratory droplets or skin contact and only among the genetically susceptible.

Tragically, Hawaiians proved to be a susceptible population. Following their discovery by British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778, the Islands attracted sailors, traders, and settlers. Newcomers brought in foreign diseases, including smallpox, measles, syphilis, influenza, and leprosy, which devastated indigenous people. By the later 19th century, Hawaii’s native population had shrunk to about 20 percent of pre-contact levels. Within this remnant, 2 percent of people with full or part Hawaiian blood had leprosy. Extinction seemed inevitable. Natives (kanakas) blamed whites (haoles) for ruining their lives and culture.

White, mostly American, businessmen growing rich in the Islands took native mortality rates as evidence of racial inferiority. The prevalence of leprosy among locals reinforced puritanical contempt for Hawaiian morals. Old Testament strictures on lepers were used to justify strict segregation of the afflicted.

Elite attitudes reflected the Calvinism instilled by New England missionaries. The first of these had arrived in 1820 and quickly made important converts, including royalty. The French priests who came later were unwelcome. Although the king decreed religious toleration in 1839, Protestants and Catholics usually assumed the worst of each other in their competition for souls.

While the ministers’ descendants consolidated power, they tolerated native kings and queens as Westernized Christians. But in 1893 they overthrew the monarchy in favor of an American-dominated republic. Five years later the United States annexed Hawaii as a territory. Statehood would be granted in 1959.

Tangled threads of racism, imperialism, religious rivalry, and politics greatly complicated provisions for lepers, who were being forcibly isolated on the island of Molokai by a royal decree issued in 1865. Kanakas suspected the policy was part of a haole plot to kill even more of them. Some hid lepers from the authorities; some voluntarily accompanied infected loved ones into exile on Molokai as kokua (helpers), although this practice was prohibited after 1873. For Hawaiians, being removed from one’s family was worse than the disease itself.

Initially, the government Board of Health naively had expected the lepers to support themselves by farming. They were even supposed to build their own coffins. Officials begrudged every penny spent on provisions for Molokai. (Expenditures would come to consume 5 percent of the kingdom’s budget.) Lepers fought over scanty allotments of food and clothing. Those who still had some strength passed their time with sex, gambling, dancing, and home-brewed liquor. The weak lay untended in their huts until they perished. Despite the presence of superintendents and constables, Molokai was a land without law.


But as conditions deteriorated in the Islands, Providence was preparing a response. Hawaii’s first case of leprosy is said to have been confirmed in 1840. On January 3 of that year, Joseph de Veuster was born in a tiny farming village in Belgium. He was the seventh of eight children. Despite poverty, his childhood seems to have been happy. He was pulled out of school at age 13 to work on the family farm, but five years later his father sent him off for more education to prepare for a future dealing grain.

Although Flemish-speaking Joseph quickly learned French, the language of his new school, he was beginning to consider a quite different destiny. Two of his sisters had become Ursuline nuns and his older brother—now called Pamphile—had joined a French religious order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Pamphile dissuaded Joseph from pursuing a vocation with the Trappists and helped him gain admission to the Sacred Hearts Fathers at Louvain. Joseph took the habit as Brother Damien soon after his 19th birthday in 1859. Thanks to Pamphile’s tutelage in Latin, Damien convinced his superiors to allow him to study for the priesthood.

Unlike Pamphile, Damien was no scholar, but he compensated with sheer hard work. He was modest, amiable, and impulsive, yet quick to apologize. Damien grew to be stocky, of medium height, with curly black hair and dark eyes. He was near-sighted and wore glasses. What impressed everyone was his physical strength: an observer remarked on his “fine broad face glowing with health.” A deeper level shows in three spiritual keywords he carved into his desk—“Silence Recollection Prayer.”

St. Francis Xavier, Apostle of the East, had long been Damien’s model. A talk by a visiting missionary bishop focused his interest on Polynesia. He envied Pamphile’s selection for a team to serve in Hawaii, which the Sacred Hearts Fathers had first reached in 1827. But when Pamphile caught typhus ministering to victims of an epidemic in Louvain, Damien entreated the head of the Congregation to let him take his brother’s place. This was a bold move, especially since Damien was only in minor orders and not qualified for a mission post. To everyone’s astonishment, permission was granted.

Five months later, after sailing round the Horn, Damien and his Sacred Hearts brethren reached Honolulu on March 19, 1864. He was ordained to the priesthood that spring. His first assignment was a remote district on the “Big Island” of Hawaii. Although required to ride or walk hundreds of miles over rough terrain visiting his flock, Damien still found time to grow vegetables and build chapels. The stalwart young priest thrived on hard physical labor. His greatest burden was isolation. He rarely saw another priest and had to go without confession for long periods.

Damien liked the natives, though he regarded them as “children” and “savages.” He deplored their promiscuous habits and reliance on pagan healers. He learned their language and its Pidgin counterpart. In turn, the kanakas warmed to a haole who would join their feasts and share their food from a common pot.


Then at Eastertime in 1873, Damien volunteered to serve the leper colony at Molokai. He sailed for his new post two hours later. He was just 33 years old, the traditional age of the Crucified Savior.

Nature could scarcely have designed a better spot to confine lepers than Kalaupapa promontory on the north coast of the island of Molokai. Sheer volcanic cliffs 2,000-4,000 feet high barricade four square miles of land that juts out like an arrow into crashing seas. Hawaiians called this site “the Given Grave.” Lepers were initially settled at Kalawao, on the east side of the peninsula. Because ships could not land at its stony beach, getting lepers and supplies ashore via small boats was exceedingly risky.

Damien arrived with nothing more than his breviary. For the first few weeks, he slept under a tree rather than take shelter with a leper. But soon he was embracing his “unclean” flock as easily and naturally as had his “clean” ones earlier. Touching lepers with bare hands—something white Protestant ministers refused to do on their rare visits—acknowledged victims’ humanity as nothing else could. To quote Gavan Daws again, Damien had embarked upon “a priesthood of worms, of ghastly sights and suffocating smells.”

Initially, Damien found the stench of leprous sores so vile, nausea nearly impaired his ability to say Mass. He took up smoking a pipe to cover hospital smells and the miasma of the cemetery beside his cottage. Besides visiting each sick person weekly, Damien built coffins and dug graves himself. He purchased a large cross for the cemetery and imported lumber to fence in his “fine garden of the dead.” There lepers’ corpses were spared the attentions of hungry pigs.

When Damien arrived, there were 749 persons at Kalawao, the great majority lepers. About a third was Catholic. He offered Masses for them every Sunday in tiny St. Philomena’s Church. Sometimes he climbed the barrier cliffs to serve the “topside” residents who were not lepers. Not surprisingly, his zeal rapidly won converts. An infected kanaka minister complained to fellow Protestants in Honolulu about the priest’s “diabolical” influence. Damien described his approach as simply trying “to raise the courage of my patients. I present death to them as the end of their ills, if they will make a sincere conversion.”

Besides founding separate pious associations for men, women, and children, he also instituted perpetual Eucharistic adoration. Although Damien could do little to stop what he termed “disrespect paid to the moral law,” he did at times scatter noisy revelers with his stout stick.

In addition to his spiritual duties, Damien built houses, churches, a road, and an orphanage. He bandaged sores, dispensed medicine, and raised chickens. A longtime inmate of Kalawao summed up Damien as [original spelling intact]: “a vigorous, forceful, impellant man with a generous heart in the prime of life and a jack of all trades, carpenter, mason, baker, farmer, Medico and nurse, no lazy bone in the make up of his manhood, busy from morning to nightfall.”

Even Damien bent under this burden and fell into “black thoughts,” especially because he missed the opportunity for regular confession. (At one point he had to shout his sins—in French—at a priest aboard a ship that was not permitted to land at the settlement.) He begged his superiors to send another priest but those who came were sources of conflict rather than camaraderie. Damien was so at odds with one colleague that the two seldom spoke outside the confessional.

Much as Damien’s superiors acknowledged his good works at Molokai, they found his zeal “indiscreet” and certainly not saintly. His rule-bending was frustrating, his unwitting attraction of publicity an embarrassment. He has “no common sense and is ill-bred,” his exasperated vice-provincial complained. His bishop called him “over-animated and tempestuous.” At least, his sketchy notions of hygiene and housekeeping were beneath their notice.

In 1881, the king awarded Damien the cross of a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalakaua. Another cross was already being impressed upon his flesh—leprosy. Damien had gone from “the perfection of youthful health and vigor” to faint early symptoms of the disease within three years of his arrival at Kalawao. By the early 1880s, he was limping from sciatic pain and had lost feeling in one foot. By 1885, the diagnosis was definite. That year, leprous growths had begun to invade Damien’s face. His death sentence was now posted for anyone to see. Two physicians examined Damien at this time to verify that he had no other diseases, to forestall future rumors of syphilis.

Although Damien had tried to shield his family from the truth, his condition became known worldwide early in 1886. The shock of learning this from a Belgian newspaper killed his 83-year-old mother.

Damien embraced his cross willingly. He would not have to carry it alone. As his superiors grew more irritable, helpers arrived from other quarters. The first of these was Joseph Ira Barnes Dutton, a Vermont-born veteran of the Civil War who had served with distinction as a quartermaster. Afterwards, he had worked for the Army in graves registration and personally supervised the disinterment of 6,000 Union corpses. Hitting bottom after a disastrous marriage and heavy drinking, Dutton converted to Catholicism in 1883, taking the baptismal name Joseph, which he used ever after.

He then spent two years testing a vocation with the Trappists of Gethsemani Abbey, but did not fit in. A newspaper story about Molokai inspired Dutton to volunteer there. Arriving in the summer of 1886, “Brother Joseph” immediately became indispensable. His calm, methodical disposition complemented Damien’s impulsiveness. He stayed at Molokai for more than 40 years as “brother to everybody” and director of the orphanage for leper boys. Near the end of his life he wrote: “I am an old, old relic, still on duty and happy. Almost ashamed to say how jolly I am.” Only when his remarkable strength collapsed did Brother Joseph leave the place he called “Molokai the Blessed.” He died in Honolulu in 1931 but was brought home to rest among his lepers.

Father Louis-Lambert Conrady, a French-speaking Belgian priest, appeared out of nowhere in 1888. Although Damien appreciated his company, others found him obnoxious. Conrady and Dutton later joined the Franciscan Third Order to mollify Damien’s suspicious superiors. Conrady went on to work at a leper hospital in China, where he died in 1914.

The year of 1888 also brought three Franciscan sisters and their chaplain to Molokai to run a new home for leper girls at Kalaupapa, about three miles west of Damien’s settlement. Their leader was Mother Marianne Cope, born Barbara Koob in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany in 1838. Brought to Utica, New York as a toddler, she had worked in a woolen factory for nine years before joining the Franciscans of Syracuse in 1862.

At first Sister Marianne taught school, but she soon became nurse-administrator of the Franciscans’ hospital in Syracuse, which had an affiliated medical school. Her hospital introduced new standards of cleanliness developed abroad and admitted patients without regard for creed or color—daring policies at the time. She was elected Provincial Superior of her order seven years before answering a call to Hawaii in 1883.

With six companions, Mother Marianne transformed the vile receiving station for lepers in Honolulu into a place of peace and order. Under royal patronage, she also established an orphanage for the healthy children of lepers in the capital before proceeding to Molokai. Beautiful, serene, diplomatic, and unfailingly cheerful, her reception in the Islands was far smoother than Damien’s.

But Mother Marianne endured her own special crosses. Two of her original companions quickly succumbed to tuberculosis and she also contracted the disease. One sister went mad from the strain of the work. Mother Marianne’s oddest challenge was politely deflecting the Board of Health Director’s infatuated attentions. Mother Marianne stayed at Kalaupapa until she died in 1918, painfully afflicted with arthritis and dropsy. She was beatified in 2005.

Thankful for new hands to carry on his work, Damien would not let go until his own deformed hands could no longer hold a chalice or a tool. Leprosy had disfigured his face, ravaged his body, and reduced his voice to a rasp, but he had finished the course and kept the faith. Damien died just before Easter on April 15, 1889 and was buried with his lepers, under the same tree he had slept beneath on arrival 16 years earlier.

Damien’s heroism awed the world—with one notable exception. Newspapers published a letter by white Hawaiian minister Dr. Henry Hyde which denounced Damien as a “coarse, dirty man, headstrong and bigoted” who had caught leprosy through fornication. Robert Louis Stevenson, himself dying of tuberculosis, defended Damien’s character in an open letter to Hyde with such white-hot fury that history remembers Hyde only as a footnote to Damien’s story.

Admirers had romanticized Damien even before he died. Afterwards the flood of donations and tributes included a granite commemorative cross funded by leading Englishmen, among them the Prince of Wales. Damien’s exploits were exaggerated. Sentimentality crept in. Biographer Gavan Daws insists that Damien addressed his Molokai parishioners as “we lepers” from the beginning and not, as legend would have it, to announce his own disease.

Damien’s superiors, however, could not picture their difficult charge as a saint. (Compare the coolness of the original Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry on Damien composed by one of them with the article on Molokai written by Joseph Dutton.) The flourishing Sacred Hearts Fathers did little to promote his canonization cause until 1938, when his generation of superiors was dead. Two years earlier, the Belgian government had removed Damien’s body for reburial with full honors at Louvain. Only his right hand remains at Kalawao.

World interest in Damien continued to grow even as the Hawaiian leprosy epidemic shrank after his death. Although leprosy has been fully curable with antibiotics since 1981, two to three million people worldwide have been disabled by the disease, which remains endemic in East Africa, Brazil, India, and Southeast Asia. The emergence of HIV as a global threat has expanded Damien’s relevance. AIDS sufferers have adopted Blessed Damien as their de facto patron.

Damien’s statue—branded with leprosy marks—stands in Honolulu and in the rotunda of the US Capitol. After his intercession healed a nun’s chronic intestinal disorder, he was beatified in 1994 and assigned May 10 as his feast day. The miracle permitting his canonization—the cure of a Hawaiian woman’s metastasized cancer—was approved in 2008. On October 11, at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Damien, saying the new saint "teaches us to choose the good fight—not those that lead to division, but those that gather us together in unity."

With canonization, the Church now recognizes what Stevenson said more than a century ago: the headstrong Apostle to the Lepers shared “all the grime and paltriness of mankind” yet was “a saint and a hero all the more for that.”

Sandra Miesel is the co-author with Peter Vere of Pied Piper of Atheism (Ignatius, 2007) and co-author with Carl Olson of The DaVinci Hoax (Ignatius, 2005).

00martedì 13 ottobre 2009 10.56
Thank you for this excellent article on Saint Damien, Papabear! On Sunday evening there was an hour-long documentary about Damien on EWTN in the Catholic Compass series. It was brilliant.Did you see it? If not, I know they will show it again - they always do.

The Mass was wonderful, wasn't it and Papa himself seemed happy and looked really stunning.

Aloha! From Mary xxxxx
00domenica 1 novembre 2009 11.07
[SM=x40801] [SM=x40801] [SM=x40801] [SM=x40801] [SM=x40801]
00lunedì 2 novembre 2009 05.11

Fr. Damien back in Hawaii

Hundreds gather today to honor relic of St. Damien

By Mary Vorsino
Honolulu Advertiser Staff Writer
Nov. 1, 2009

Hundreds of people crowded into the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace today to celebrate Mass with a relic of St. Damien.

More than 450 packed into the church and hundreds watched on television screens from outside the downtown cathedral, where Damien was ordained in 1864.

"In St. Damien, you gave a light to the people," said Honolulu Diocese Bishop Larry Silva, during the solemn Mass. "We are called all to be saints. We are called all to be holy."

The relic — St. Damien's heel bone — will be permanently placed at the cathedral tonight, after celebrations at Iolani Palace.

Following the Mass, a procession with the relic made it's way to the palace, where there will be speeches, songs and hula.

The relic was carried inside a koa box. For the Mass, it was placed in front of the altar.

Cora Espiritu, of Honolulu, said she placed her hands on the box after the Mass, as many others did.

"I'm so happy," she said, closing her eyes for a moment. "I can't tell you how happy I am."

Father Damien de Veuster was elevated to sainthood on Oct. 11 by Pope Benedict XVI in a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica.

The relic of Damien was given to Silva in celebration of Damien's canonization, and since it has been taken to different spots on the Mainland and to the Neighbor Islands so the faithful can honor St. Damien.

Rose Ferreira, of Ewa Beach, touched the relic box after the Mass and could hardly put her emotions into words. "It's a blessing," she said, smiling.

00lunedì 2 novembre 2009 21.29

This is a more detailed article than the one above. Since the celebrating in Hawaii is still going on, maybe that's why we haven't seen PapaBear in a while.

Hawaii celebrates its first saint

Huge crowd takes part in service for canonization of Saint Damien

The Associated Press
updated 1:31 p.m. CT, Mon., Nov . 2, 2009

HONOLULU - Hawaii feted the canonization of Saint Damien with a Mass and an interfaith celebration that underscored the 19th century priest's enduring popularity in the islands.

More than 1,200 people attended Sunday's Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, where Damien was ordained in 1864.

The church seats about 500, so an overflow crowd watched on television monitors outside. Hundreds more joined the festivities at Iolani Palace, where politicians and leaders from the Episcopal, Mormon and United Church of Christ denominations spoke at the interfaith celebration.

The Hawaii commemorations came several weeks after the Vatican made Damien, born in Belgium as Joseph de Veuster in 1840, a saint in a ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

The high attendance showed Damien continues to draw fans for the way he cared for leprosy patients banished to the remote peninsula of Kalaupapa when no one else would.

'Unselfish dedication'

"Damien is celebrated the world over for his love of Christ and for his unselfish dedication to those who are most abandoned," said the Rev. Larry Silva, the bishop of the Honolulu diocese.

Leprosy was particularly devastating to Native Hawaiians, who had no natural immunity to it or many of the other diseases brought to the islands after Capt. James Cook, the first European to visit Hawaii, arrived in 1778. Some 90 percent of the 8,000 people exiled to Kalaupapa over the decades were Native Hawaiian.

The hula group Kealiikaapunihonua Keena Ao Hula performed three Hawaiian chants at the beginning of Sunday's Mass. One, composed specially for the canonization, spoke of how Damien was called into service by God and how he loved the people of Kalaupapa until he died.

About a dozen women from the group, all dressed in long white muumuu and green lei, performed hula or "liturgical gestures" at the end of the Mass.

Kimi Rodrigues, a group member who also traveled to Europe for the canonization, was touched to see the outpouring of affection for Damien. "I could tell that Hawaii loves the saint," she said.

The Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick, the Episcopal Church bishop in Hawaii, said everyone — not just Catholics — could learn from the way Damien cared for others and lobbied the powerful to better care for leprosy patients.

"Saint Damien belongs to all of us," Fitzpatrick said at the interfaith celebration. "And so to his mother church — thank you for sharing."

Bone on tour

In the weeks since the canonization, the Roman Catholic Church has been taking one of Damien's heel bones on a tour of the state.

The relic, carefully protected in a koa wood box, traveled to the Big Island, where Damien worked for nine years, and to Maui, where he volunteered to go to Kalaupapa.

On Saturday, church youth carried the relic to Kalaupapa, gingerly making their way down the steep cliffs that separate the peninsula from the rest of Molokai island.

On Sunday, the relic was placed at the center of the cathedral during Mass. It was also carried into the Throne Room at Iolani Palace, where Hawaiian royalty who supported Damien's efforts once reigned over the island kingdom.

Damien built homes for Kalaupapa's leprosy patients and bandaged their wounds at a time when the disfiguring disease still carried a powerful social stigma, and almost no one else wanted to get near those who had it.

He was diagnosed with the disease 12 years after he arrived in Kalaupapa and died four years later in 1889.

Leprosy has been treatable with drugs since the 1940s and the state stopped exiling patients to Kalaupapa in 1969. Today, only about 20 former patients, all elderly, still live there. They're cured of the disease and are free to leave, but have chosen to stay because Kalaupapa has become their home.

Damien is Hawaii's first saint. But many islanders are hopeful that a nun who also cared for leprosy patients at Kalaupapa, Mother Marianne Cope, will soon be made a saint as well.

00lunedì 23 novembre 2009 07.36

Palestinian nun takes step toward sainthood

(AP) - Nov. 22, 2009

NAZARETH, Israel — A Palestinian nun who co-founded a charity dedicated to educating Arab girls on Sunday took an important step toward sainthood.

Thousands of worshippers gathered in the biblical town of Nazareth to attend the beatification of the late Sister Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas.

Ghattas helped found the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem in the 1880s. The order, highly regarded in Palestinian communities, continues to run schools for Palestinian girls in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Ghattas died in Jerusalem in 1927 at the age of 83.

During Sunday's ceremony, the church unveiled a portrait of Ghattas.

Pope Benedict XVI approved the beatification in July — the final step before sainthood.

On Sunday. the pope praised Ghattas for her work helping girls overcome illiteracy.

"The beatification of such an important figure of a woman is a particular comfort for the Catholic community in the Holy Land," Benedict said during his traditional Sunday noon blessing in St. Peter's Square.

00domenica 6 dicembre 2009 00.45
Santa Barbara ... Advent

From the New Liturgical Movement today ...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Advent Customs: St. Barbara's Branches (Barbarazweige) on December 4th

Continuing with our consideration of some Advent customs, we now turn to one which is particularly rooted within the German speaking countries of Europe -- from whence so many of Advent and Christmas traditions seem to come -- that of Barbarazweige or St. Barbara's branches.

The feast of St. Barbara is traditionally celebrated on December 4th and still is universally within the calendar of the usus antiquior; it is also still kept on this day within the modern liturgical calendar of the German speaking countries of Europe, where there is yet a great devotion to her.

Various legends surrounding St. Barbara were attached to flowering branches. One is that flowers blossomed upon her grave on Christmas day; another that, imprisoned in a tower awaiting martyrdom, St. Barbara found a dried up cherry tree branch which she watered and which bloomed, thus bringing her consolation before her martyrdom.

The custom thereby arose that, each year on her feast, people would go out and cut some branches from some flowering wood such as a cherry, hazel, forthysia or apple, prepare them, place them in a vase indoors, watering them. This done, people would wait in expectation for them to blossom on or around Christmas Day -- which accordingly ties in very nicely to Advent and the expectation of the birth of Christ.

Barbara's Branches

(Thanks to Gregor for filling in a number of details.)
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