Great news yesterday: Pope Benedict has cleared the way for the canonisation of seven new Saints, among them Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks: she will become the first Native American Saint. No doubt the Catholics of the US and Canada are rejoicing, particularly the Native Americans among them.
I do not remember her beatification - I was too young, but heard many stories of how Native Americans saved up as much as they could to make it to Rome for the ceremony: many of them could not usually afford the trip, but they were so proud of their Kateri. The Servant of God, Cardinal Terence Cooke was present, and he spent the day of the beatification with the pilgrims. His own heroism was clear that day as he posed for photos for hours in the heat dressed in his Cardinal's robes, while the other cardinals and bishops had retreated to cooler surroundings.
Blessed Kateri was born Tekakwitha in New York in 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Algonquian woman. Her mother was a Catholic. When she was four she contracted smallpox, and this left dreadful scars on her face and led to her rejection by many within her community: her parents and brother succumbed to the disease. She was adopted by her uncle, and she soon attracted a number of suitors: they were interested in the political alliance marriage with her would bring. But she would have none of it. She was, however, becoming interested in Catholicism. Her mother had tried to pass on the faith, leaving her daughter her own rosary.
Coming into contact with French missionary priests, Tekakwitha sought baptism, and so at the age of twenty, on the 18th April 1676, Easter Sunday, she was baptised, taking the name Catherine, which, translated into her native tongue, became Kateri. She had been inspired by St Catherine of Siena, and interestingly, her life would mirror that of the great Italian mystic in her heroic endurance of many difficulties.
As a Catholic, Kateri was ostracised by many - her own people who did not embrace the faith saw her as a traitor to their gods; as a Native American, white settlers looked down on her: she was a woman who seemed to fall between the cracks. But rather than recoil, she embraced life and faith, taking every opportunity to teach the faith, first and foremost through her own example. She practice many penances, and spent a lot of time in prayer. She was the soul of charity and lost no time to help others in need.
Forced to leave her native place because of persecution, she settled in Quebec, where she lived a life of prayer and charity. In 1679 she made a vow of virginity, offering her life in service to Christ for the sake of the Church and his people, particularly the sick. However, her life was to be short. On the 17th April 1680, Kateri died: she was twenty-four. Almost immediately she was recognised as a Saint, and numerous favours and miracles were claimed through her intercession. She was beatified by Blessed John Paul II on the 22nd June 1980 in Rome, in the presence of many of her native people. It is said that immediately after her death, the scars of smallpox disappeared to reveal a stunningly beautiful face. Perhaps that is true, but from her life we can see a stunningly beautiful soul.
Americans have further reason to rejoice as Blessed Marianne Cope, St Damien of Molokai's helper, is also to be canonised: Hawaii now gets its second Saint - so quickly after Damien's own canonisation.
The other candidates for canonisation are: Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta (1841-1913), founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord; Blessed Jacques Berthieu, a French Jesuit priest who was martyred in Madagascar in 1896; Blessed Maria del Carmen Salles (1848-1911), foundress of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching; Blessed Pedro Calungsod, a Filipino teenager and catechist who was martyred in Guam in 1672: and Blessed Anna Schaffer (1882-1925) a German stigmatist and victim soul. What a wonderful group of men and women from all walks of life: a rich tapestry.
Our new saints in waiting: Blesseds Marianna Cope, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Jacques Berthieu, Maria del Carmen Salles, Pedro Calungsod and Anna Schaffer
For us Discalced Carmelites there is also great rejoicing: one of our priests, Fr Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, has been declared Venerable. Fr Marie-Eugene was the founder of the secular institute Notre Dame de Vie. He was also the author of a remarkable series of books on the spirituality and teachingr of our Mother foundress, St Teresa, I Am A Daughter Of The Church. He was also the author of what I think is the best book on St Therese, Under The Torrent Of His Love - well worth reading. So we celebrate his elevation, pass on our congratulations to his spiritual children in his secular institute, and pray for a miracle so he may be beatified soon.
The Venerable Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, OCD
What a year 2012 may turn out to be. There are indications that Hildegard von Bingen, the great polymath and mystic may herself be declared a Doctor of the Church. Her cult will have to be confirmed by the Pope - she was never formally canonised, but that can be done quiet easily. St Albert the Great was in the same position, I believe: his cult had to be confirmed before he was declared a Doctor. Hildegard will be the second Doctor Pope Benedict will have proclaimed. Personally I am waiting for two of my favourites to be raised to the ranks of the Doctors: St Veronica Giuliani, who has been so good to me and to whom I owe a debt for many graces received; and St Louis Marie de Montford whose Marian theology has influenced many including the Servant of God, Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary and, of course, Blessed John Paul II whose own Marian teachings are rooted in de Montford's spirituality.
You know, these may be bad times, but look at all the graces and miracles falling from heaven! Now, as you know, I use any excuse for a bit of music. So, the future Doctor was also a great composer, so we will now listen to one of her compositions as we face back into the work of the day. Her hymn to Our Lady: