Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 19, 2009
Five canonized as models of Christian Love
Pope Benedict said saints defied secular culture, lived by the Gospel
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict proclaimed five new saints Oct. 11, saying their commitment to the Gospel led them to go against the current of society.
The new saints include Father Damien de Veuster, the 19th-century Belgian missionary who ministered to people with leprosy in Hawaii before dying of the disease.
At the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, overflowing with pilgrims from around the world, the pope also canonized Sister Jeanne Jugan, a French nun whose Little Sisters of the Poor continue to assist the elderly in more than 30 countries.
After brief biographies of the five were read aloud, the pope pronounced a solemn decree of canonization and proclaimed them models of holiness for the whole Church.
In his homily, the pope said the newly canonized had typified the Christian vocation of radical conversion and self-sacrifice.
"Their perfection, in the logic of the faith that is sometimes humanly incomprehensible, consists in no longer placing themselves at the centre, but in choosing to go against the current by living according to the Gospel," he said.
St. Damien, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, worked on the island of Hawaii for eight years before volunteering in 1873 to work at a leprosy colony on Molokai, where he served as pastor, doctor and counsellor to some 800 patients.
In 1884 he contracted leprosy but, refusing to leave the island for treatment, continued to work until the month before his death at age 49 in 1889.
The pope said St. Damien "felt at home" as "a leper with the lepers" during the final years of his life.
"He invites us to open our eyes toward the `leprosies' that disfigure the humanity of our brothers and sisters and that today still call, more than for our generosity, for the charity of our serving presence," he said.
St. Damien has been considered an intercessor for patients with leprosy and, more recently, HIV and AIDS.
The Vatican's liturgical program for the canonization described St. Damien as a voice for "rejected people of all kinds: the incurably ill (victims of AIDS or other diseases), abandoned children, disoriented youths, exploited women, neglected elderly people and oppressed minorities."
ST. JEANNE JUGAN
In his homily, the pope said that in view of her service to the elderly, St. Jeanne Jugan was "a beacon" for modern societies, which "have still to rediscover the unique place and contribution of this period of life."
Born in northern France in 1792, St. Jeanne formed a small prayer community and, in 1839, brought home a sick and blind elderly widow, giving the woman her own bed.
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 pope noted that St. Jeanne had herself accepted "obscurity and deprivation" in her later years, a reference to the fact that she was removed as superior of her religious order and sent out to beg on behalf of the poor.
She died in 1879, and today the Little Sisters serve more than 13,000 elderly residents in 202 homes around the world.
SPANISH, POLISH SAINTS
The other new saints included a Pole and two Spaniards:
St. Zygmunt Felinski, a former archbishop of Warsaw, Poland, and founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary. Born in 1822 near Volinia, which today is in Ukraine, he worked among the poor farmers of Ukraine and Poland, founding schools for rural children. He died in 1895.
St. Francisco Coll Guitart, a Spanish Dominican priest who founded an order of Domincan sisters. He was famed for his evangelical preaching, aimed especially at Catholics who had lapsed from the practice of the faith. He died in 1875 at the age of 62.
St. Rafael Arnaiz Baron, a 20th-century Spanish Trappist brother known for his humility and life of prayer. As a student of architecture in the 1930s, he suddenly broke off his training to enter the contemplative life. Soon after he was stricken with a serious form of diabetes. He died in 1938 at age 27. His prayerful devotion and his spiritual writings led people to describe him as a great mystic.
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