Perspectives Daily – Wed. April 16, 2014

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience, four people get closer to sainthood, an upcoming concert in Toronto and a look ahead at what is coming up on Salt + Light.

The Suffering and Death of a Shepherd

JP Good Friday cropped

Good Friday – Friday, April 18, 2014

For our Good Friday Reflection this year, and in preparation for the Canonization of Blessed Pope John Paul II next Sunday, April 27, 2014, I have chosen to share with you the this reflection on what Pope John Paul II taught us at the end of his life. I cannot celebrate Good Friday without remembering Pope John Paul II, especially his final Good Friday on earth in 2005. This reflection is part of a major address I gave at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Connecticut, for the opening of the special exhibit, “Blessed,” that commemorates the life of this great man. 

On Human Suffering

One of the beautiful and not frequently cited writings of John Paul II was his 1984 apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris, “On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering.” The late Pope, following the Apostle Paul and the entire Catholic Tradition, maintained throughout his life that it is precisely in suffering that Christ displayed his solidarity with humanity, and in which we can grow in solidarity with Christ, who is our life.

In Salvifici Doloris suffering is the consequence of sin, and Christ embraces that consequence, rather than repudiating it. By embracing suffering, he shares fully in it, he takes the consequence of sin into and onto himself. He does this out of love for us, not simply because he wants to redeem us, but because he wants to be with us, to share what we share, to experience what we experience. And it is this shared love, this shared suffering in love, which completes and perfects the relationship broken in sin, and so redeems us.

Pope John Paul II taught us that the meaning of suffering is fundamentally changed by the Incarnation. Apart from the Incarnation, suffering is the consequence of sin. It offers opportunities for insight into oneself, for personal growth, and for demonstrating practical love for others, but these are incidental. Because of the Incarnation, however, we become sharers in the Body of Christ. Our suffering becomes his suffering, and becomes an expression of redeeming love.

Because he was the leader of a billion Roman Catholics; because he was the first pontiff of the satellite and Internet age, reaching out to billions more, and because he was John Paul II, who has ruled the church for more than 26 years—in that public experience of suffering was found enormous power. And that he certainly knew. In 1981, after recovering from the gunshot wound that almost took his life in St. Peter’s Square, John Paul declared that suffering, as such, is one of the most powerful messages in Christianity.

During the final years of his pontificate, John Paul II brought suffering back into the realm of the expected in human life. Everyone could see that his spirituality gave him an inner strength – a spirituality with which one can also overcome fear, even the fear of death. What an incredible lesson for the world! His struggle with the physical effects of aging was also a valuable lesson to a society that finds it hard to accept growing older, and a culture that sees no redemption in suffering. 

In 1994, as age and infirmity began to incapacitate John Paul publicly, he told his followers he had heard God and was about to change the way he led the church. “I must lead her with suffering,” he said. “The pope must suffer so that every family and the world should see that there is, I would say, a higher gospel: the gospel of suffering, with which one must prepare the future.”

A consoling letter to his peers

In 1999, in preparation for the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II published his “Letter to the Elderly.” Following his Letters to the young in 1985, to families in 1994, to children in 1994, to women in 1995 and to artists in 1999 year – and not counting those Letters that he wrote each year to priests on Holy Thursday, since the beginning of his pontificate, he wrote deeply moving and encouraging words to his peers in the Letter to the Elderly. He had no fear in placing before the eyes of the world the limits and frailties that the years placed upon him. He did nothing to disguise them. In speaking to young people, he has no difficulty in saying of himself: ‘I am an old priest’.” John Paul II “continued to fulfill his mission as the Successor of Peter, looking far ahead with the enthusiasm of the only youth that does not deteriorate, that of the spirit, which this Pope maintains intact. The letter had a very personal, almost confidential, tone and was not an analysis of old age. Rather, it was a very intimate dialogue between people of the same generation.

“The passage of time,” wrote the Pope in that memorable letter, “helps us to see our experiences in a clearer light and softens their painful side.” Moreover, he says, the daily difficulties can be eased with God’s help. In addition, “we are consoled by the thought that, by virtue of our spiritual souls, we will survive beyond death.”

“Guardians of shared memory” was the title of the one part of the Pope’s Letter. Pointing out that “in the past, great respect was shown to the elderly,” the Pope remarks that this is still true in many cultures today, “while among others, this is much less the case, due to a mentality which gives priority to immediate human usefulness and productivity.” He wrote: “It has come to the point where euthanasia is increasingly put forward as a solution for difficult situations. Unfortunately, in recent years the idea of euthanasia has lost for many people the sense of horror which it naturally awakens in those who have a sense of respect for life.”

The Pope added: “Here it should be kept in mind that the moral law allows the rejection of ‘aggressive medical treatment’ and makes obligatory only those forms of treatment which fall within the normal requirements of medical care, which in the case of terminal illness seeks primarily to alleviate pain. But euthanasia, understood as directly causing death, is another thing entirely. Regardless of intentions and circumstances, euthanasia is always an intrinsically evil act, a violation of God’s law and an offense against the dignity of the human person.”

Pope John Paul II continued in that letter: “Man has been made for life, whereas death … was not a part of God’s original plan but came about as a consequence of sin.” “However rationally comprehensible death may be from a biological standpoint, it is not possible to experience it as something ‘natural’.” We ask ourselves, he says here, “What is on the other side of the shadowy wall of death?” The answer comes from faith “which illuminates the mystery of death and brings serenity to old age, now no longer lived passively as the expectation of a calamity, but rather as a promise-filled approach to the goal of full maturity.” 

Pope John Paul’s Letter to the Elderly closed with a section entitled “An encouragement to live life to the full.” He writes: “I feel a spontaneous desire to share fully with you my own feelings at this point of my life, after more than twenty years of ministry on the throne of Peter. … Despite the limitations brought on by age I continue to enjoy life. For this I thank the Lord. It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the Kingdom of God! “At the same time,” he concludes, “I find great peace in thinking about the time when the Lord will call me: from life to life! … ‘Bid me to come to you’: this is the deepest yearning of the human heart, even in those who are not conscious of it.” What a magnificent signature piece of Pope John Paul II! He not only wrote the letter but enacted it in his own life. We were eyewitnesses.

The public suffering

Pope John Paul II taught us that life is sacred, no matter how painful his own life became for him. Rather than hide his infirmities, as most public figures do, Pope John Paul II let the whole world see what he went through. The suffering and dying of this Pope did not take place in private, but before television cameras and the whole world. In the final act of his life, the athlete was immobilized, the distinctive, booming voice silenced, and the hand that produced voluminous encyclicals no longer able to write. John Paul II’s final homily was an icon of his Galilean Master’s final words to Simon Peter: “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” …After this he [Jesus] said to him, “Follow me” [John 21:18-19].

Many Catholics and non-Christians saw the pope’s suffering as something like the agony of Jesus himself, and neither John Paul nor those around him discourage such comparisons. When asked a few years ago if he might consider resigning, John Paul reportedly asked, in reply, “Did Christ come down from the cross?” His close aides say that debate about his ability to administer the church, as if he were the CEO of a secular corporation, essentially misses the point. This pope is not doing a job, he is carrying out a divine mission, and his pain is at its core.

That final Good Friday evening

One of my most vivid memories from the last week of our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II’s life was during the Way of the Cross on Good Friday evening in 2005, in which he participated by watching the service at the Coliseum in his chapel on television. The television camera in his chapel was behind him so that he would not be distracted from taking part in this ceremony in which he always took part personally. Then-Archbishop John Foley was doing the television commentary in English from Rome, reading the very provocative meditations prepared by a certain Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

At one point toward the end of the Way of the Cross, someone put a rather large crucifix on the knee of the Holy Father, and he was gazing lovingly at the figure of Jesus. At the words, “Jesus Dies on the Cross,” Pope John Paul drew the crucifix to himself and embraced it. I will never forget that scene. What an incredibly powerful homily without words! Like Jesus, Pope John Paul II embraced the cross; in fact, he embraced the crucifix of Jesus Christ on Good Friday night.

The death of a patriarch

Several hours before his death, Pope John Paul’s last audible words were: “Let me go to the house of the Father.” In the intimate setting of prayer, as Mass was celebrated at the foot of his bed and the throngs of faithful sang below in St. Peter’s Square, he died at 9:37 p.m. on April 2. Through his public passion, suffering and death, this holy priest, Successor of the Apostles, and Servant of God, showed us the suffering face of Jesus in a remarkable way.

The Pope of Holiness

Karol Wojtyla himself was an extraordinary witness who, through his devotion, heroic efforts, long suffering and death, communicated the powerful message of the Gospel to the men and women of our day. A great part of the success of his message is due to the fact that he has been surrounded by a tremendous cloud of witnesses who stood by him and strengthened him throughout his life. For John Paul II, the call to holiness excludes no one; it is not the privilege of a spiritual elite.

“Lumen Gentium,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council notes that the holiness of Christians flows from that of the Church and manifests it. It says that holiness “is expressed in many ways by the individuals who, each in his own state of life, tend to the perfection of love, thus sanctifying others” (LG 39). In this variety “one and the same holiness is cultivated by all, who are moved by the Spirit of God…and follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in his glory” (LG 41). 

When the throngs of people began chanting “Santo Subito” at the end of the Pope’s funeral mass on April 8, 2005, what were they really chanting? They were crying out that in Karol Wojtyla, they saw someone who lived with God and lived with us. He was a sinner who experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. He was the prophetic teacher who preached the word in season and out of season. He looked at us, loved us, touched us, healed us and gave us hope. He taught us not to be afraid. He showed us how to live, how to love, how to forgive and how to die. He taught us how to embrace the cross in the most excruciating moments of life, knowing that the cross was not God’s final answer.

That a person is declared a “Saint” is not a statement about perfection. It does not mean that the person was without imperfection, blindness, deafness or sin. Nor is it a 360-degree evaluation of the Pontificate or of the Vatican. Canonization means that a person lived his or her life with God, relying totally on God’s infinite mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving one’s enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. That person lets those around him know that there is a force or spirit animating his or her life that is not of this world, but the next. Such a person lets us catch a glimpse of the greatness and holiness to which we are all called, and shows us the face of God as we journey on our pilgrim way on earth.

In the life of Karol Wojtyla, the boy from Wadowice who would grow up to be a priest and Bishop of Krakow, the Bishop of Rome, and a hero for the ages, holiness was contagious. We have all been touched and changed by it. Pope John Paul II was not only “Holy Father” but “a Father who was and is Holy.” At his funeral mass on April 8, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the world that the Holy Father was watching us and blessing us “from the window of the Father’s House.”

As we prepare for the Canonization of this great shepherd and holy priest and bishop on Sunday April 27, 2014, may we learn from “Papa Wojtyla” how to cross thresholds, open doors, build bridges, embrace the Cross of suffering and proclaim the Gospel of Life to the people of our time. May we learn how to live, to suffer and die unto the Lord. Let us pray to have a small portion of the fidelity of Peter’s witness and the boldness of Paul’s proclamation that were so mightily present in Karol Wojtyla – Saint John Paul II. May he intercede for us and for all those who suffer in body and spirit, and give us the desire to help carry one another’s crosses, to grow in holiness and to become saints. 

[The readings for Good Friday are: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; and John 18:1-19:42.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2011 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

JP II, We Love You – Father Karol Wojtyla



Father Karol Wojtyla is pictured next to bicycles during an outing in Poland in the early 1950s. His strong interest in outdoor activities continued through his years as Pope John Paul II, until the effects of age kept him away from strenuous pursuits.  Pope John Paul together with Pope John XXIII will be declared saints on April 27, 2014. (CNS photo)

Jesuits react to canonization of Peter Faber

The following letter from the Superior General of the Society of Jesus was posted on the order’s reaction to the canonization of Peter Faber. On Tuesday December 17 Pope Francis enrolled Peter Faber, SJ in the catalog of saints, performing what is known as an Equivalent Canonization.  Peter Faber was one of the companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Dear brothers and friends in the Lord:

With profound pleasure I am writing to the whole Society on the occasion of Pope Francis’ proclamation that Peter Faber, “the silent companion” of the first generation of Jesuits, is a saint.  On day coinciding with his birthday, our Holy Father wanted to present to the universal Church a gift that is very significant and precious to him.

The canonization of Peter Faber happens to coincide with another great event of our time – a Jesuit Kairos: the Bicentenary of the Restoration of the Society (1814).  Without any doubt our beloved Savoyard companion can provide us incentive and drive for a dynamic restoration of our lives as Jesuits, personally as well as corporately, lives which are never complete for we are always on pilgrimage.  That transparent, spontaneous, and childlike faith that Faber showed can help us persevere as “companions in His Company,” convinced in an Ignatian way that “it is the Lord who does all things in us, and for whom all things operate, and in whom they all exist” (Memorial, 245).

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.  Peter Faber chose this beginning verse of Psalm 102 to humbly open the door of his heart in his Memorial.  It sums up in a few profound words the essential stance of Faber before life and before God: blessing, memory, and gratitude.

Although the human and religious stature as well as the great deeds of some of his Jesuit companions (Ignatius, Xavier, Laínez, Borgia, or Canisius) may have led us to overlook or even ignore the person and accomplishments of Faber, today we recognize in his life and legacy a way of proceeding that is genuinely Ignatian and profoundly rooted in the person of our Lord; Faber was truly a companion of Jesus.

On the first day of August 1546 Faber passed away in Rome, barely forty years of age.  He was the second of the First Companions of Paris to die, following  Jean Codure who had died in August 1541. Faber had arrived in the Eternal City from Coimbra a few days before, arriving exhausted by the long and hard journey.  Although his friends Laínez, Salmerón, and Le Jay were waiting for him in Trent with hopes of seeing him, word began to spread in Europe: “Master Faber is now found at a better Council, because he passed away from this life on the first of August” (Monumenta Lainii I, 52).

What does “Master Faber” continue to teach us almost 470 years after his death in that manner so much his own, a pedagogy in a soft voice? And what can we personally learn if “we open our heart and let Christ occupy its center”? (Memorial, 68)

Providentially, at the end of September 1529 three university students came to live together on the third floor of the Collège Sainte-Barbe as students of the Arts: Peter Faber, Francis Xavier, and Ignatius of Loyola.  After five years of course work and shared experiences, at Montmartre on the 15th day of August 1534, Faber presided at a Eucharist at which the first seven “friends in the Lord” fixed their eyes and hearts on the same desire: Jerusalem.  It was the beginning of an unanticipated project, the Society of Jesus, which continues with vitality and surprises today.

When Ignatius left for Azpeitia, his birthplace, in March of 1535, “Master Faber” remained “as our elder brother” (Lainez to Polanco, FN I, 104), overseeing the welfare and growth of the group.  What type of leadership did Peter Faber exercise at that time?  Thanks to his attention and friendship, the “least Society” did not cease to grow in number and virtue.  By means of conversation and the Spiritual Exercises he first incorporated Claude le Jay, Jean Codure, and Paschase Broët in the group.  In later years Francis Borgia and Peter Canisius joined the Society.  The fire that was already burning in his heart began to light other fires.  In Faber we recognize the brother who watched over and cared for the “union of souls,” the conservation and the growth of the body, the construction of the building that would be his beloved “company of Jesus,” for which he constantly desired “a birth in good desires of holiness and justice” (Memorial, 196)

In 1577, near the end of his life, Simon Rodriguez remembered Peter Faber who had died thirty one years earlier: “he had the most charming gentleness and grace that I ever saw in my life for dealing and conversing with people…. With his modesty and charm he won for God the hearts of those he dealt with.”  Faber is for us a Master of the rhetoric of the divine, someone who “in whatever subject and without disturbing anyone found material for thinking and talking about God” (Monumenta Broetii, 453).  At the beginning of 1534, he made the Spiritual Exercises with Ignatius in the neighborhood of Saint Jacques in Paris.  From that time on, as no one else, Faber penetrated the inner understanding of this method of conversation between the Creator and the creature, which he so delicately and accurately shared with others.  Ignatius said of him that “he had the first place in giving the Exercises” (Luis G. de Câmera, Memorial, FN I, 658).  In Faber we recognize a man of the Ignatian charism, molded by the method of the Exercises, disposed to look for and find God in all things, and always creative when the opportunity arose for “providing a method and order” for prayer to quite different people in the most diverse situations.

His conversation bore fruit because it sprang from an inner life inhabited by the presence of God.  Getting inside Faber we discover the mystic in history and in the world, rooted in time but living from the gift that always and in all things “descends from above” (Spiritual Exercises, 237).  For Faber any circumstance, place, or moment was an occasion for an encounter with God.  Master Faber was, above all but without claiming to be so, a Master of prayer.  He understood that his friendship with Jesus was based on the mysteries of the Life of Christ, “lessons of the Spirit” for his vocation and his Christification, which he contemplated piously and from which he knew how “to reflect on so as to obtain some benefit.”  Faber prayed in constant colloquies with Jesus and Mary, with the angels and the saints, with the martyrs and his “private saints,” among whom he counted his great tutor and master of his youth, Peter Veillardo, whom he considered a saint.  He prayed about the elements of nature or the passing of seasons, about obstacles, about infirmity. He prayed for the Church, for the Pope, the Society, for heretics and persecutors. He prayed with his body and his senses. He was a believer in continual prayer, in a life infused by Mystery; he was convinced that God had made him a temple, and he remained in constant dialogue with Him.

Perhaps it is in this spirit, rooted and grounded in Christ, that his apostolic activity, so varied and fruitful, makes sense: teaching catechism to children, preaching in court, giving colloquies in Germany, founding colleges in Spain (Alcalá, Valladolid) and Germany, teaching lessons of theology in Rome.  Faber was given the experience and desire for being what another companions would later call a “contemplative in action.”

Among his other activities, Faber stood out as a Master of Reconciliation.  Ignatius knew Faber’s extraordinary gifts for conversation and did not hesitate to send him to the very center of a Europe in conflict.  His was one of the most significant examples of that ministry to which the first Jesuits gave themselves so generously: “reconciling the estranged” (Formula of the Institute, 1550, 1). Similar to the spirit of our last General Congregation, Faber worked hard to maintain unity and to establish peace in a Europe that was theologically convulsed and challenged by religious questions and political-ecclesial conflicts: Worms (1540) and Ratisbon (1541) were some of the places where Faber sought understanding and harmony, which he saw with sorrow becoming ever more distant.  And Faber united piety and erudition so naturally – a wise and discreet spiritual manner of expressing a deep theological foundation- that he was able to make the appropriate gesture or “say the right word.”  He carried deep within himself one of the guiding principles of the Exercises:  “to try hard to save the proposition of one’s neighbor” (Spiritual Exercises, 22): “whoever would like to help the heretics of this time should have much charity towards them and love them truly,” communicating “with them familiarly” (Monumenta Fabri, 399-402).  At the Society’s origin, Faber’s manner expressed our contemporary vocation of being present at the frontiers and being bridges of reconciliation.

Following the footsteps and example of his beloved companion in Paris, Faber was also a Pilgrim who embodied the mysticism of travel so proper to the first Jesuits.  “It seems that Faber was born to never remain still in any one place,” wrote the Secretary of the Society (Monumenta Ignatiana, Epistolae I, 362).  He traveled thousands of miles throughout the Europe of his time, a sign of his abnegation, availability, and obedience.  He was frequently found engaged in “so many travels and exiles” (Monumenta Fabri, 419-420) that as a “perpetual stranger… I will be a pilgrim wherever the will of God leads me as long as I live” (Monumenta Fabri, 255), a will to which Faber spontaneously bound himself with his sense of obedience, making himself an echo of those words of the Centurion to Jesus: “come and he comes, go and he goes” (Mt 8:9). “For Him alone – for Jesus – have I changed houses many times [...] not infrequently have I gone to stay in places contaminated and dangerous for my body,” there was cold, fatigue, intemperate weather, and poverty, but Faber always knew how to maintain his contemplative outlook: “may he be blessed forever who protected me and all those who were in the same situation I was” (Memorial, 286).

Today, with serene happiness and “internal joy,” we have reason to continue to see in Peter Faber our “elder brother.”  His manner of being present is a blessing for us; he is a reminder to be humble and to constantly return to our “least Society;” staying close to him, we distance ourselves from temptations to empty triumphalism or the powerful forces of arrogance.  Faber is a call to a life of “having before our eyes first of all God our Lord,” looking always to do His will in this His Institute (cf. Formula of the Institute, 1).  Faber is a call to the care and attention to the Body of the Society, a call to dialogue and unconditional openness, of obedient availability and confident surrender.  With Faber nearby, judgment is enlightened; “You have given all to me – to You, Lord, I return it.” 

On the occasion of the canonization of this humble “friend in the Lord,” we once again recognize, with “true happiness” (Spiritual Exercises, 329) and grateful wonder, the nearness of God to his Society of Jesus. Today his Infinite Goodness reaches and blesses us with the memory and presence of Peter Faber among us.

The current season of Advent is a call to make level the ways of the Lord and prepare his coming.  May the Lord Himself give us light to bring to action the best we are for the generous service of the Church.

Sincerely yours,


Adolfo Nicolás, S.I.

Superior General

Rome, 17 December 2013

(CNS photo)

The canonization of John XXIII in the context of Vatican II

VCII picIn a recent interview with ZENIT, Salt and Light’s Sebastian Gomes reflected on the significance of Pope John’s upcoming canonization in the context of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Vatican II.  What does “the Good Pope’s” canonization mean for a generation of Catholics who came of age long after the Council closed?  Read the full interview here:
John XXIII and Vatican II: Salt and Light Producer Weighs In on Canonization of Pope Who Opened Council

Perspectives Daily – Tuesday, Aug. 20

Tonight on Perspectives: The Catholic Coptic Patriarch issues a statement on the Egyptian crisis, the Pope will meet with the College of Cardinals at the end of September, and the Church celebrates Sts Stephen and Bernard.

Perspectives Daily – Wednesday, July 3

Tonight on Perspectives: John Paul II and John XXIII could be canonized as early as this fall, Pope Francis speaks about meeting Jesus in the poor and suffering, and CNS Rome Bureau on Pope Francis’ first encyclical.

Pope to pray rosary upon return to Marian basilica

The morning after his election, the first item on Pope Francis’ agenda was visiting the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he left a bouquet of flowers for Our Lady. He returns to the basilica on Saturday, once again with a Marian intention. The pontiff will pray the rosary, which will be broadcast live on S+L TV and our live web stream at 12:00pm ET/9:00 am PT.

The following day, the Pope will celebrate Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. He will be joined by 50,000 members of confraternities, who have been present in Rome for a series of events. (Confraternities are associations of the faithful that promote works of piety and devotion.) The mass airs on S+L at 10:00am ET/7:00am PT.

Pope Francis has celebrated a public Mass every Sunday since Holy Week. Next week, he presides at the first Canonization Mass of his pontificate. Antonio Primaldo and his companions from Italy, Mother Laura Montoya from Colombia, and Mother Maria Guadalupe from Mexico will all be proclaimed Saints at the outdoor liturgy in St. Peter’s Square. Visit the S+L Live page for broadcast times.
Credit: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano

Mass of Thanksgiving – Washington

Salt + Light Television will broadcast a Mass of Thanksgiving for the canonization of Sts. Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope later today! Join us LIVE at 2:00 pm ET from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia will deliver the homily. Our very own Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB will also be on hand to concelebrate.

Join us for this monumental celebration from Washington on:

Saturday, January 26

2:00 pm ET / 11:00 pm PT
Repeat: 6:00 pm ET / 3:00 pm PT,  12:00 am ET/9:00 pm PT

If you don’t get Salt + Light in your local area, don’t forget about our live stream.

A Cloud of Witnesses

Pope Benedict XVI canonizes three new saints
from the countries where the Knights of Columbus are present.
By: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB 

On World Mission Sunday, Oct. 21, during the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven new saints. Among them were two martyrs (a French Jesuit missionary to Madagascar and a young Filipino layman); two founders of religious congregations (an Italian priest and a Spanish sister); two laywomen (a Native American and a German), and a German religious sister who worked in a leper colony.

Three of the new saints spent their lives in countries where the Knights of Columbus is present today.


Mother Marianne Cope (1838–1918), formerly Barbara Koob (now officially Cope), was born Jan. 23, 1838, and baptized the following day in what is now western Germany. Her family emigrated to America shortly thereafter, where Barbara labored for a time as a factory worker before pursuing a vocation to the religious life.

The young Sister Marianne worked as a teacher and hospital administrator, and in 1870 was elected superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y. In 1883, she received an unexpected invitation from Father Leonor Fouesnel, emissary of the Hawaiian government, to come and help the “afflicted members” of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Mother Marianne responded to the invitation to assist with the care of lepers on the island of Molokai. She left with six sisters in 1883, planning to get them settled and then return to Syracuse. However, after five years of managing a hospital in Honolulu, Mother Marianne herself volunteered to go to Molokai to work with the lepers who had been exiled there.

The life of Mother Marianne complements the life of St. Damien of Molakai (1840-1889), beloved for his self-sacrifice for the lepers of Hawaii. Mother Marianne spent the last 30 years of her life working closely with Father Damien and with the outcasts of society. When she died at the age of 80 in 1918, a Honolulu newspaper wrote:

Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world. She risked her own life all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage, and was known for her gentle smile.


St. Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the “Lily of the Mohawks”, was born to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in 1656 in upstate New York. At the age of 4, smallpox attacked Kateri’s village, taking the lives of her parents and baby brother and leaving Kateri with facial scars and seriously impaired eyesight. Although terribly weakened, scarred and partially blind, she survived and was adopted by her uncle, a Mohawk chief.

Kateri’s family did not accept her choice to embrace Christianity. After her baptism, she became the village outcast and was threatened with torture or death if she did not renounce her religion. Due to the increasing hostility from her people and because she wanted to devote her life to God, Kateri left her village in July 1677 and fled more than 200 miles to the Catholic mission at Sault Saint-Louis, near Montreal.

On March 25, 1679, Kateri made a vow of perpetual virginity, choosing to remain unmarried and totally devoted to Christ for the rest of her life.

The following year, Kateri died at the age of 24. Her last words were, “Jesus, I love you,” and the scars on her face reportedly disappeared immediately after her death.

Kateri is the first native North American saint. Her earthly life was hidden in the 17th century, yet her message continues to resound today.


A third newly canonized saint who models for us passion and devotion to God is the young migrant, sacristan and missionary catechist, St. Pedro Calungsod, from the Cebu province of the Philippines.

Few details of Pedro’s early life prior to his missionary work and death are known. He was a young lay missionary who traveled abroad to proclaim Christ to others. On April 2, 1672, he suffered a martyr’s death in modern-day Guam at the age of 17 while trying to defend a Jesuit priest (Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores) from those who hated Christianity. The attacker killed Pedro with a spear and a machete, and the bodies of Father Diego Luis and Pedro were then tied together and thrown into the sea, never to be found again.

The faith that was planted in the Philippines and Guam in 1668 did not die with Father Diego Luis, Pedro Calungsod and the first missionaries there.

St. Pedro Calungsod is now the second Filipino saint after St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who was martyred in Japan in 1637. Like St. Marianne Cope and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Pedro is now honored among the “great cloud of witnesses”that continue to inspire and surround us, showing us the way to our heavenly homeland (cf. Heb 12:1).

Amid conflict, suffering and martyrdom, these saints remained present to the people around them. Through their lives, they modeled for us authentic human relationships, with their feet firmly planted on earth and their eyes fixed on heaven.

This article appeared in Columbia Magazine, November 2012 issue.  Posted here courtesy of the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council.

Photo credit:
All above Photos: CNS photo/ Paul Haring (October 21, 2012).