Feast of the North American Martyrs
Year of Faith
My communications from Rome these past couple of weeks have often mentioned that this Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization takes place in the context of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
The synod participants have more than once recalled the famous emphasis of that providential Council on the universal call to holiness.
What’s that mean? Well, a temptation in Catholic life through the millennia has been to reduce the pursuit of sanctity and practice of heroic virtue to a hobby of monks, bishops, priests, and religious women and men. Holiness, this reduction goes, is fine for folks like St. Therese of Lisieux or Padre Pio, but, we ordinary people just don’t have the time or drive.
Baloney, responds the Council! Jesus calls all of us to holiness, the pursuit of perfection, and heroic virtue! We might reply, “But I am a sinner, just an ordinary person.” To admit that, of course, is a humble, holy statement, placing us on the road to holiness.
As Archbishop Fulton Sheen once remarked, “The duty of the Church is to make saints.”
As pilgrims to the shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love right outside Rome pray over and over again, “Our Lady of Divine Love, make us saints!”
I trust by now you have heard the good news that, this Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI will canonize seven new saints, among them, two women from New York State: Kateri Tekakwitha, and Maryanne Cope.
Kateri is particularly loved by our Native Americans of the Mohawk and Algonquin tribes, many of whom are here in Rome for the big event. She heard about Jesus and His Church through the early French Jesuit missionaries to our state (some of whom themselves are now venerated as saints, known as the North American Martyrs, whose feast is today), and became a Catholic in 1676. In her brief twenty-four years of life, she was renowned for her charity, prayer, and humility. Her example was radiant, attracting then and now many to Jesus and His Church, and her intercessory power through prayer has been renowned.
Mother Maryanne Cope was the daughter of a German immigrant family here in the state. As a Sister of St. Francis, she accepted an invitation from Hawaii to come and serve the lepers. There she joined St. Damien of Molokai to love the abandoned, scorned lepers, and did so with extraordinary fortitude, patience, and humility.
Needless to say, we in New York are proud of soon-to-be St. Kateri and St. Maryanne Cope. Their canonization is a good time to recall that we, too, are called to be saints . . . that’s the universal call to holiness.