North-Central And South American Saints And Martyrs

The saints and martyrs of the Americas.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

St. John Neumann-This American saint was born in Bohemia

St. John Neumann
Feastday: January 5


b. 1811 d. 1860


This American saint was born in Bohemia in 1811. He was looking forward to being ordained in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia was overstocked with priests. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere no one wanted any more bishops. John was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face.

But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers so he wrote to the bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. In order to follow God's call to the priesthood John would have to leave his home forever and travel across the ocean to a new and rugged land.

In New York, John was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. John's parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. His church had no steeple or floor but that didn't matter because John spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying in garrets and taverns to teach, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables.

Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, John longed for community and so joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned.

John was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. A founder of Catholic education in this country, he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100.

John never lost his love and concern for the people -- something that may have bothered the elite of Philadelphia. On one visit to a rural parish, the parish priest picked him up in a manure wagon. Seated on a plank stretched over the wagon's contents, John joked, "Have you ever seen such an entourage for a bishop!"

The ability to learn languages that had brought him to America led him to learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch so he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked, "Isn't it grand that we have an Irish bishop!"

Once on a visit to Germany, he came back to the house he was staying in soaked by rain. When his host suggested he change his shoes, John remarked, "The only way I could change my shoes is by putting the left one on the right foot and the right one on the left foot. This is the only pair I own."

John died on January 5, 1860 at the age of 48.

In His Footsteps:
John was a Redemptorist priest. To learn more about the Redemptorists visit the Web site for Redemptorist Publications in England, www.redempt.org.

Prayer:
Saint John Neumann, you helped organize Catholic education in the United States. Please watch over all Catholic schools and help them be a model of Christianity in their actions as well as their words. Amen

Bl. Andre Besset - A native of Canada

Bl. Andre Bessette
Feastday: January 6


When Alfred Bessette came to the Holy Cross Brothers in 1870, he carried with him a note from his pastor saying, "I am sending you a saint." The Brothers found that difficult to believe. Chronic stomach pains had made it impossible for Alfred to hold a job very long and since he was a boy he had wandered from shop to shop, farm to farm, in his native Canada and in the United States, staying only until his employers found out how little work he could do. The Holy Cross Brothers were teachers and, at 25, Alfred still did not know how to read and write. It seemed as if Alfred approached the religious order out of desperation, not vocation.

Alfred was desperate, but he was also prayerful and deeply devoted to God and Saint Joseph. He may have had no place left to go, but he believed that was because this was the place he felt he should have been all along.

The Holy Cross Brothers took him into the novitiate but soon found out what others had learned -- as hard as Alfred, now Brother Andre, wanted to work, he simply wasn't strong enough. They asked him to leave the order, but Andre, out of desperation again, appealed to a visiting bishop who promised him that Andre would stay and take his vows.

After his vows, Brother Andre was sent to Notre Dame College in Montreal (a school for boys age seven to twelve) as a porter. There his responsibilities were to answer the door, to welcome guests, find the people they were visiting, wake up those in the school, and deliver mail. Brother Andre joked later, "At the end of my novitiate, my superiors showed me the door, and I stayed there for forty years."

In 1904, he surprised the Archbishop of Montreal if he could, by requesting permission to, build a chapel to Saint Joseph on the mountain near the college. The Archbishop refused to go into debt and would only give permission for Brother Andre to build what he had money for. What money did Brother Andre have? Nickels he had collected as donations for Saint Joseph from haircuts he gave the boys. Nickels and dimes from a small dish he had kept in a picnic shelter on top of the mountain near a statue of St. Joseph with a sign "Donations for St. Joseph." He had collected this change for years but he still had only a few hundred dollars. Who would start a chapel now with so little funding?

Andre took his few hundred dollars and built what he could ... a small wood shelter only fifteen feet by eighteen feet. He kept collecting money and went back three years later to request more building. The wary Archbishop asked him, "Are you having visions of Saint Joseph telling you to build a church for him?"

Brother Andre reassured him. "I have only my great devotion to St. Joseph to guide me."

The Archbishop granted him permission to keep building as long as he didn't go into debt. He started by adding a roof so that all the people who were coming to hear Mass at the shrine wouldn't have to stand out in the rain and the wind. Then came walls, heating, a paved road up the mountain, a shelter for pilgrims, and finally a place where Brother Andre and others could live and take care of the shrine -- and the pilgrims who came - full-time. Through kindness, caring, and devotion, Brother Andre helped many souls experience healing and renewal on the mountaintop. There were even cases of physical healing. But for everything, Brother Andre thanked St. Joseph.

Despite financial troubles, Brother Andre never lost faith or devotion. He had started to build a basilica on the mountain but the Depression had interfered. At ninety-years old he told his co-workers to place a statue of St. Joseph in the unfinished, unroofed basilica. He was so ill he had to be carried up the mountain to see the statue in its new home. Brother Andre died soon after on January 6, and didn't live to see the work on the basilica completed. But in Brother Andre's mind it never would be completed because he always saw more ways to express his devotion and to heal others. As long as he lived, the man who had trouble keeping work for himself, would never have stopped working for God.

In His Footsteps:
Brother Andre didn't mind starting small.

Think of some service you have longed to perform for God and God's people, but that you thought was too overwhelming for you. What small bit can you do in this service? If you can't afford to give a lot of money to a cause, just give a little. If you can't afford hours a week in volunteering, try an hour a month on a small task. It is amazing how those small steps can lead you up the mountain as they did for Brother Andre.

Prayer:
Blessed Brother Andre, your devotion to Saint Joseph is an inspiration to us. You gave your life selflessly to bring the message of his life to others. Pray that we may learn from Saint Joseph, and from you, what it is like to care for Jesus and do his work in the world. Amen

Monday, January 09, 2006

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
1821
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church.

Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in the "cream" of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels.

In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth's early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort; she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life.

In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. Elizabeth wrote in her diary at first autumn, "My own home at twenty-the world-that and heaven too-quite impossible."

This time of Elizabeth's life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, Will's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will's seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family's importing business. Now events began to move fast - and with devastating effect. Both Will's business and his health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy. In a final attempt to save Will's health, the Setons sailed for Italy, where Will had business friends. Will died of tuberculosis while in Italy. Elizabeth's one consolation was that Will had recently awakened to the things of God.

The many enforced separations from dear ones by death and distance, served to draw Elizabeth's heart to God and eternity. The accepting and embracing of God's will - "The Will," as she called it - would be a keynote in her spiritual life.

Elizabeth's deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and friends eventually led her into the Catholic Church.

In Italy, Elizabeth captivated everyone by her own kindness, patience, good sense, wit and courtesy. During this time Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic Faith, and over a period of months, her Italian friends guided her in Catholic instructions.

Elizabeth's desire for the Bread of Life was to be a strong force leading her to the Catholic Church.

Having lost her mother at an early age, Elizabeth felt great comfort in the idea that the Blessed Virgin was truly her mother. She asked the Blessed Virgin to guide her to the True Faith. Elizabeth finally joined the Catholic Church in 1805.

At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. She and two other young women, who helped her in her work, began plans for a Sisterhood. They established the first free Catholic school in America. When the young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth to continue raising her children.

On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, binding for one year. From that time she was called Mother Seton.

Although Mother Seton was now afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified in 1812. It was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, in addition to their first school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today six groups of sisters trace their origins to Mother Seton's initial foundation.

For the last three years of her life, Elizabeth felt that God was getting ready to call her, and this gave her joy. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was canonized on September 14, 1975.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bl. Sebastian Montanol-Our Lady of Guadalupe

Bl. Sebastian Montanol
Feastday: December 10
1616
Spanish Dominican missionary and possibly a martyr. He was sent to

Mexico from Spain and there worked among the Indians in Zacateca until

his murder. He was apparently killed by local Indians for castigating

some natives for treating the Eucharist with disrespect, although he

has never been officially declared a martyr.


Our Lady of Guadalupe
Feastday: December 12Patron of the Americas
Our Lady of Guadalupe December 12 (USA) When we reflect on the feast of

Our Lady of Guadalupe we learn two important lessons, one of faith and

one of understanding.

Missionaries who first came to Mexico with the conquistadors had little

success in the beginning. After nearly a generation, only a few hundred

Native Mexicans had converted to the Christian faith. Whether they

simply did not understand what the missionaries had to offer or whether

they resented these people who made them slaves, Christianity was not

popular among the native people.

Then in 1531 miracles began to happen. Jesus' own mother appeared to

humble Juan Diego. The signs -- of the roses, of the uncle miraculously

cured of a deadly illness, and especially of her beautiful image on

Juan's mantle -- convinced the people there was something to be

considered in Christianity. Within a short time, six million Native

Mexicans had themselves baptized as Christians.

The first lesson is that God has chosen Mary to lead us to Jesus. No

matter what critics may say of the devotion of Mexicans (and Mexican

descendants) to Our Lady of Guadalupe, they owe their Christianity to

her influence. If it were not for her, they would not know her son, and

so they are eternally grateful. The second lesson we take from Mary

herself. Mary appeared to Juan Diego not as a European madonna but as a

beautiful Aztec princess speaking to him in his own Aztec language. If

we want to help someone appreciate the gospel we bring, we must

appreciate the culture and the mentality in which they live their

lives. By understanding them, we can help them to understand and know

Christ. Our Lady of Guadalupe is patron of the Americas.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Martyrs And Saints Of The America's Hounoured In October And November

Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos
Feastday: October 11

Francis Xavier Seelos was born in Fussen, Germany, in 1819. Expressing his desire for the priesthood since an early age, he entered the diocesan seminary of Augsburg after completing his studies in philosophy. Upon learning of the charism and missionary activity of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, he decided to join and go to North America.

He arrived in the United States on April 20, 1843, entered the Redemptorist novitiate and completed his theological studies, being ordained a priest on December 22, 1844. He began his pastoral ministry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he remained nine years, working closely as assistant pastor of his confrere St. John Neumann, while at the same time serving as Master of Novices and dedicating himself to mission preaching.

In 1854, he returned to Baltimore, later being transferred to Cumberland and then Annapolis, where he served in parochial ministry and in the formation of the Redemptorist seminarians. He was considered an expert confessor, a watchful and prudent spiritual director and a pastor always joyfully available and attentive to the needs of the poor and the abandoned. In 1860, he was a candidate for the office of Bishop of Pittsburgh. Having been excused from this responsibility by Pope Pius IX, from 1863 until 1866 he became a full-time itinerant missionary preacher. He preached in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

He was named pastor of the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he died of the yellow fever epidemic caring for the sick and the poor of New Orleans on October 4, 1867, at the age of 48 years and nine months. The enduring renown for his holiness which the Servant of God enjoyed occasioned his Cause for Canonization to be introduced in 1900 with the initiation of the Processo Informativo . On January 27, Your Holiness declared him Venerable, de creeing the heroism of his virtues.



St. Rose Phillipine Duchesne
Feastday: November 18
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St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin (Feast day - November 18) Born in Grenoble, France, in 1769, Rose joined the Society of the Sacred Heart. In 1818, when she was forty-nine years old, Rose was sent to the United States. She founded a boarding school for daughters of pioneers near St. Louis and opened the first free school west of the Missouri. At the age of seventy-one, she began a school for Indians, who soon came to call her "the woman who is always praying". Her biographers have also stressed her courage in frontier conditions, her singlemindedness in pursuing her dream of serving Native Americans, and her self-acceptance. This holy servant of God was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1940 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.



Blessed Miguel Pro
A Martyr for Our Times
Feastday: November 23


Born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez was the eldest son of Miguel Pro and Josefa Juarez.

Miguelito, as his doting family called him, was, from an early age, intensely spiritual and equally intense in hi mischievousness, frequently exasperating his family with his humor and practical jokes. As a child, he had a daring precociouness that sometimes went too far, tossing him into near-death accidents and illnesses. On regaining consciousness after one of these episodes, young Miguel opened his eyes and blurted out to his frantic parents, "I want some cocol" (a colloquial term for his favorite sweet bread). "Cocol" became his nickname, which he would later adopt as a code name during this clandestine ministry.

Miguel was particularly close to his older sister and after she entered a cloistered convent, he came to recognize his own vocation to the priesthood. Although he was popular with the senoritas and had prospects of a lucrative career managing his father's thriving business concerns, Miguel renounced everything for Christ his King and entered the Jesuit novitiate in El Llano, Michoacan in 1911.

He studied in Mexico until 1914, when a tidal wave of anti-Catholicism crashed down upon Mexico, forcing the novitiate to disband and flee to the United States, where Miguel and his brother seminarians treked through Texas and New Mexico before arriving at the Jesuit house in Los Gatos, California.

In 1915, Miguel was sent to a seminary in Spain, where he remained until 1924, when he went to Belgium for his ordination to the priesthood in 1925. Miguel suffered from a severe stomach problem and after three operations, when his health did not improve, his superiors, in 1926, allowed him to return to Mexico in spite of the grave religious persecution in that country.

The churches were closed and priests went into hiding. Miguel spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to the sturdy Mexican Catholics. In addition to fulfilling their spiritual needs, he also carried out the works of mercy by assisting the poor in Mexico City with their temporal needs. He adopted many interesting disguises in carrying out his secret mininstry. He would come in the middle of the night dressed as a beggar to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to fashionable neighboorhoods to procure for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable businessmam with a fresh flower on his lapel. His many exploits could rival those of the most daring spies. In all that he did, however, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.

Falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president, Miguel became a wanted man. Betrayed to the police, he was sentenced to death without the benefit of any legal process.

On the day of his execution, Fr. Pro forgave his executtioners, prayed, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, "Viva Cristo Rey", "Long live Christ the King!"

Information courtesy of ProVision and Brother Gerald Mueller.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Feastday: July 14

Patron of the environment and ecology
1680

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin

Kateri was born near the town of Auriesville, New York, in the year 1656, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior. She was four years old when her mother died of smallpox. The disease also attacked Kateri and transfigured her face.

She was adopted by her two aunts and an uncle. Kateri became converted as a teenager. She was baptized at the age of twenty and incurred the great hostility of her tribe. Although she had to suffer greatly for her Faith, she remained firm in it. Kateri went to the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada. Here she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices, and care for the sick and aged.

Every morning, even in bitterest winter, she stood before the chapel door until it opened at four and remained there until after the last Mass. She was devoted to the Eucharist and to Jesus Crucified. She died on April 7, 1680 at the age of twenty-four. She is known as the "Lily of the Mohawks". Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic Churches all over the United States and Canada. Kateri was declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943 and she was Beatified in 1980.

Work is currently underway to have her Canonized by the Church. Hundreds of thousands have visited shrines to Kateri erected at both St. Francis Xavier and Caughnawaga and at her birth place at Auriesville, New York. Pilgrimages at these sites continue today.

Bl. Kateri Teckakwitha is the first Native American to be declared a Blessed. Her feastday is July 14. She is the patroness of the environment and ecology as is St. Francis of Assisi.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Big Brother Posted by Hello

Any American Saints?

Readers of "Saints Alive" will have noticed that the saints and blesseds treated are mostly from every country except the United States. How come? The basic reason why we don't have more canonized saints is that not enough of us Americans have tried to become saints.

Think about that.

On the other hand, don't think that we haven't had some people in this country capable of being declared "blessed" or "saints." They usually aren't people who would make the headlines. You've got to dig them out precisely because they have avoided the spotlight. But once they are brought to our attention, we can see that the Holy Spirit has not been bypassing American Catholics.

Once a deceased saintly person is known and becomes an object of devotion among the faithful, there is a series of official proceedings that have to be conducted in this country and in Rome before the pope can decide whether a beatification or canonization is justified. Sometimes that process takes years and years. Sometimes its results are negative.

Actually, we Americans are doing pretty well. In 1930 we got our first canonized martyrs, the "North American Jesuit Martyrs." Three of these French missionaries died in Canada; the other three in New York State. The three "New Yorkers" were SS. Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil and Jean Lalande. Their shrine is at Auriesville, N.Y.

In 1946, we were given our first sainted non-martyr. She was St. Frances Cabrini (1850-1917). Foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, this Italian-born nun became noted for her tireless work among the American immigrants. She was naturalized an American citizen in 1909 and died in Chicago. Her shrine is in New York City.

St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was the next to be canonized. Mother Seton (1774-1821) was the daughter of an aristocratic Episcopalian/New York family. She became a convert to Catholicism in 1805 and in 1809 was designated foundress of the American Sisters of Charity. In that role she was the inaugurator of the American Catholic elementary school system.

St. Elizabeth Ann was canonized during the Holy Year of 1975. Two years later we received our first bishop-saint. St. John Nepomucene Neumann (1811-1860) was a native of Bohemia. He first served as a pioneer diocesan priest in the Rochester and Buffalo area. Subsequently, he joined the Redemptorist Fathers and rose into quiet distinction in that order. Then, in 1852, he became fourth bishop of Philadelphia. Unobtrusive and gentle, he was a prayerful and zealous missionary.

We have, therefore, six American saints, of varied backgrounds. We also have two "blesseds".
One is Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852), beatified in 1940. She was French-born foundress of the Religious of the Sacred Heart in this country.

The other is Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), an Iroquois virgin born in New York State, converted by the early Jesuit missionaries, beatified in 1980. One stage below the rank of "blessed" is "venerable". That title is accorded by the popes to one who has been accepted by the Holy See as of proven heroic virtue. American Catholics can lay claim to two "venerables".
Damien DeVeuster (1840-1889), the "leper priest" of the Hawaiian Islands, was declared Venerable in 1977. The other is the founder of the California Spanish missions, the Franciscan Junipero Serra (1713-1784). Pope John Paul II proclaimed Serra as "venerable" on May 9, 1985. --Father Robert F. McNamara

Update: 2005 The causes of some of the above have moved forward, and more saintly Americans are being presented for sainthood. To name a few: St. Rose Philippine Duchesne was canonized in 1988; St. Katharine Drexel was canonized in 2000. Blessed Junipero Serra was beatified in 1988. Blessed Damien DeVeuster (1840-1889) was beatified in 1995, and Francis Xavier Seelos was declared Blessed in 2000.

Father Solanus Casey, OFM was declared Venerable in 1995, and Haitian slave Pierre Toussaint (1766-1807) was declared Venerable in 1996. Msgr. Nelson H. Baker, V.G. (1841-1936) of Buffalo, NY, known as "the Padre of the Poor," was named "Servant of God" in 1987.