Sunday, October 13, 2019

Meet the five new Saints

This week, in anticipation of tomorrow's Canonizations, there was a Press Conference held at the Holy See Press Centre to present the biographies of the five Blesseds who will be advanced to the altar.

While the final preparations are being made, here are the biographies of the five soon-to-be-proclaimed Saints.

Cardinal Henry Newman, apostle of the Truth
From an Anglican priest to a Catholic cardinal: the road to sanctity for the British Henry Newman, whose life has been characterized by a constant search for the only Truth, has been long. 

Roberta Barbi filed this report.

From the shadows and the figures to the truth: he even had it written on his grave at the time of his death, which occurred on 11 August 1890 while he was in the Birmingham hermitage, Cardinal Henry Newman: for him the search for truth had always been the only reason for living and after long interior reflection he understood that the answers to the most profound questions could only be found in the Church of Christ.

Henry was an intelligent and precocious young man who at 25 years of age had already met God, not as a notion, but as a person who calls him to himself. In two years he became an Anglican priest who preached to his people and taught the youth of Oxford, but the question slowly emerged in him: could this Church, begun by a king, be the true Church of Christ? The answer came to him during a trip to Italy where he fell ill and, while praying for his recovery, abandoned himself completely to God, allowing his light to guide him from now on.

Back in Oxford, Henry was further and further away from Anglicanism. He began to study the Fathers of the Church, figures that are common to all confessions, and gathered around himself a group of scholars who questioned themselves on important issues such as respect for the tradition of the first centuries. By 1843 he had made his decision: on September 24 he pronounced his last sermon, descended from the pulpit and stripped himself of his vestments. Two years later he asked to be admitted to the Catholic Church and after completing his theological studies in Rome, he was Ordained a priest in 1847: It was like finally entering a safe harbour after the storm, was his comment. After him other conversions would flourish between English intellectuals and theologians.

In 1850, Henry returned to England. His life would be difficult and many of the tests he has to overcome found him alone and directed on a path to failure: the foundation of the university in Dublin, the translation of the Bible into English, the direction of a magazine ... However, he did manage to found an oratory in Oxford dedicated to Saint Philip Neri in whose Congregation he was ordained a priest. But above all, he was not discouraged: now the light of the Lord illuminated him from within making him shine. In 1879, Leo XIII created him a Cardinal, recognizing his eternal search for the only Truth as a personal path to holiness.

Mother Mariam Thresa Mankidiyan, apostle of the Family
Originally from the Indian state of Kerala, Mariam Thresa succeeded not without difficulty in founding the Congregation of the Holy Family of Thissur, dedicated to the care of the poor, the marginalized and families in difficulty.

Roberta Barbi filed this report.

A nun who, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta would later do, heroically lived active charity in India by providing assistance to the poor, the sick, the elderly and in general to people in distress, Mariam Thresa Mankidiyan, was the foundress of the Congregation of the Holy Family, religious sisters who have precisely this particular charism.

Into the Mankidiyans, a family of bygone nobles from Puntechira, an Indian state of Kerala, the small Theresa was born in 1876, so named in homage to Saint Teresa d'Avila. She was educated in Christianly by her mother who would tell her episodes from the Bible and the lives of the Saints; soon, however, she stopped playing in order to devote all her time to praying the Rosary and fasting. She also made a private vow of virginity. When her mother died, she was 12 years old and decided to take the Virgin Mary as her mother.

Theresa had no doubts about what she wanted from life: she consecrated himself to the Lord and carried out works of charity. She began by engaging in parishes with some friends, but their apostolate was frowned upon in a society where it is not appropriate for women to go it alone. Meanwhile she had mystical experiences, she had visions and she received the pains of the crucifixion of Jesus on herself, attracting more and more suspicion and derision. In 1904 her bishop authorized her to add the name of Mariam to her own name, just as Our Lady had commanded her to do in a dream, and she finally tried to follow her religious vocation. First, she entered the Franciscan Poor Clares, then the discalced Carmelites of Ollur, but none of these two families - which sought to live a withdrawn life in union with God - was for her.

In the end, in 1913, she managed to find a home, and to move in with two friends in order to live in community: it was the first nucleus of the Congregation of the Holy Family which was established the following year, with Constitutions borrowed from those of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. During the 12 years in which Mother Mariam was at the helm, despite difficulties due to the outbreak of the First World War, the Congregation flourished with new convents, schools, boarding schools and orphanages. The sisters she formed had a clear idea of their charism: an apostolate towards the family. Exhausted, on 8 June 1926, Mother Mariam Theresa finally reunited with her husband in heaven, while in the garden of the house, the jasmine flowers bloomed out of season.

Giuseppina Vannini, a life for the sick
Foundress of the Daughters of Saint Camillo, the new Saint would succeed in realizing her vocation, later in life but she would do so in an extraordinary way: in fact, in only 19 years, the female family dedicated to the care of the sick would be present all over the world.

Roberta Barbi filed this report.

Relatively early in the life of Mother Giuseppina Vannini, indeed the life of Giuditta - as her parents had called her - the call of the Lord was heard, but answering yes to her husband would be more difficult than expected. In fact, she would have to suffer before realizing her dream: finally to dress in the veil as a religious.

Orphaned by both parents at the age of four and separated from her brothers, it was then that Giuditta said her first yes, accepting her life among the orphans of the Torlonia Conservatory in Rome, run by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul.  Here she soon matured her vocation, and yet she did not find an institution in which to help that vocation blossom. Back in Rome with her aunt, and then in Naples where she worked as a kindergarten teacher, Giuditta knew that this was not her destination. In 1891 she participated in a course of spiritual exercises where she met her Camillian father Luigi Tezza, who a few months earlier, as Attorney General, had received the task of restoring the Camillian Tertiaries. Father Tezza understood the divine plan and offered to take part in this project. Giuditta needed to reflect, but then accepted: Here I am at his disposal - she told him - I myself am not capable of anything. However, I trust in God.

The new community took shape with Giuditta and two others on 2 February 1892 with the imposition of the crusader scapular in a ceremony that took place in the room - transformed into a chapel - in which San Camillo de Lellis had died. Three years later Giuditta, now Sister Giuseppina, became General Superior. However, the definitive approval of the ecclesiastical authority was necessary for the new institute: Pope Leo XIII rejected it twice, so the new family needed to move away from Rome and became a pious association. But there was another ambush: ambiguous rumours about Father Tezza's conduct were circulated; he was even forbidden to meet the sisters. In 1900 he would leave for Peru from which he would never return.

Providence, however, did not leave the new Saint alone: at the time of her death, in 1911, the Camillians already numbered 156 professed religious and sixteen religious houses between Europe and America. The main legacy that the founder would leave to her sisters was the pure and simple physical and spiritual assistance of the sick, exercised at home and in hospitals, leper hospitals and nursing homes, in European rehabilitation centres as well as in mission lands. Just like Jesus wanted.

Dulce Lopes Pontes, the Brazilian Sister who touched the Nobel prize
1988 candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, but also included among the most admirable Brazilian women of her time: and to think that Dulce Lopes Pontes had become a Religious in order to accomplish 'small acts of love', following the example of Saint Teresina of the Child Jesus.

Roberta Barbi filed this report.

Originally from Salvador de Bahia, Maria Rita - this was the secular name of Dulce Lopes Pontes de Souza Brito - was rendered an orphan early and was entrusted to her aunts. With one of them, at the age of 18, she visited one of the poorest areas of the city and was very impressed, so she decided to turn their home into a reception centre for people in need.

Maria Rita was very devoted to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and within herself began to feel the vocation to love and serve the Lord in religious life, she felt ready to perform small acts of love which Jesus transformed into great works. Entering the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God she chose the name Dulce and began to take care of the poor of the favela of Alagados. She engaged in educating workers and established the Union of workers of Saint Francis for them. There was no greater experience for her than finding the face of Christ in that of the sick and the needy who she helped.  She managed to open a medical clinic for them as well as a library, a school and a cinema.

Her reputation as a good mother accompanied her, so the sick became more and more numerous and no one knew where to host them. At first she placed them in some abandoned houses in a slum area of Bahia, nicknamed the Isle of mice, then moved them to the fish market, but the Municipality also sent them away from there. In 1949 Sister Dulce obtained from her superior, permission to be able to use the large chicken coop attached to the convent, and here she would erect ten years later, the hospital of San Antonio, which today has over 1500 beds and is at the forefront in the treatment of oncological pathologies. It is one of the greatest works created by the new Saint.

The very life of Sister Dulce, and her journey towards holiness, are clear proof that love can really overcome every obstacle. Increasingly tried in the physical realm, with 30 percent less respiratory function, in 1991 she had to be hospitalized for 16 months in the hospital where she received a visit from John Paul II, who had received her during an audience ten years earlier. On March 13, 1992, the Brazilian Mother Teresa died and around her, for the last farewell, hundreds of people gathered, poor and sick, whom she had comforted, cared for, healed, and already they venerated her as a Saint.

Margherita Bays, the everyday Saint
The new Saint is a Swiss lay person, a third-order Franciscan, who chose as a way of reaching the Lord, the daily life of a family; she continually refused to enter a religious Order.

Roberta Barbi filed this report.

Margherita Bays was born in La Pierraz, in the Swiss canton of Friborg, in 1815. The second of seven children of a modest family of farmers, around the age of 15 she began her apprenticeship as a seamstress, an activity that she would never abandon, practicing it both at home and at work.

However, the new Saint felt that she was carried away by prayer and meant for a life of meditation. Every day she would recite the Holy Rosary, participate in Mass and stop to contemplate the Blessed Sacrament, inviting those who met for work as well as in families to pray with her.  She also worked in the parish, where she spent all her free time: she taught catechism to children, visited the sick, took care of the poor, all of whom she said were God's favorites because they were defenceless. For this life of her active apostolate, she was received in the Tertiary Franciscan Order - which is today a Secular Franciscan Order - in 1860.

Given her inclinations, many people asked Margherita why she didn't enter the convent, but she knew, in her heart, that her place was at home and her way to holiness was daily service to her family. This would not always make things easy for her: when her older brother married the maid Josette, for years she would have to suffer the harassment of her sister-in-law who never understood her prayer life while she was forced to work in the fields. Margherita bore everything with silence and when Josette got sick, on the verge of death, she would only want to be near her. With the other members of the family, Margherita was patient; she welcomed everyone and took care of everyone: her sister returned home after a failed marriage, her brother ended up in jail and her nephew was born out of wedlock, yet Margherita herself would pay for his education.

In 1853 Margherita was operated on for bowel cancer. The treatments were very invasive, so she began to pray to the Virgin, begging her to heal her and to make her suffer differently.  This request was satisfied on 8 December 1854; while in Rome, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. From that day on, Margherita was forever tied to the figure of the suffering Christ on the cross: the stigmata appeared to her mysteriously on a Friday, and again during Holy Week; these were experiences of agony and ecstasy which she carefully concealed from prying eyes. The pain became more intense, until Margherita put her life back into the hands of the Father, on June 27, 1879. The parishioners and all those who knew her and loved her, said to each other: Our Saint has died.

1 comment:

Mary Mugele Gour said...

Thank you Father Tony...i like Mrs Bays