Matthew Bunson in Rome: Seven new saints
- Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope;
- Jacques Berthieu, a French Jesuit missionary who was martyred in 1896 by rebels in Madagascar;
- Pedro Colungsod, a Filipino catechist who was martyred in the Marianas Islands in 1672;
- Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest who founded the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men and the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord for women, as well as a publishing house;
- Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, a Spanish nun who founded the Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching to educate children in 1892; and
- Anna Schäffer, a German lay woman who endured immense suffering in her life from burns on her legs that never healed and offered them up as a victim soul.
CNS reports on it here and here.The Mass and canonization were a momentous occasion for the 80,000 pilgrims who packed St. Peter’s Square. The papal Mass had all of the customary grandeur, and also the poignancy that is part of the Universal Church. As I wrote when I first arrived here last week, there were dozens of languages being spoken in the square, and that of course continued on Sunday at the Mass.The Filipino contingent was very large and delightfully vocal, in attendance to honor Pedro Colungsod. Romans in the Borgo Pio and the Prati sections that are adjacent Vatican City were clearly delighted by the happy and singing Filipino pilgrims.But the stars of the weekend were the Native Americans, who seemed to capture the attention of every reporter with a camera or a notepad in the piazza. This was a very good thing given the extraordinary story of Kateri and also of the Native American Catholics, not to mention the long and tortured history of the Native Americans in the country.The pope seemed much older than the last time I saw him a year or so ago, but his voice is still strong and steady, and I am being told that his mind is as sharp as ever. He had an interesting comment about the first Native American saint during his homily:
“Leading a simple life, Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer and to daily Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity. Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other!”
The Holy Father – it seems to me – is making an argument that Kateri is very much a figure of the New Evangelization. We can see in her life parallels to our current day when young people are discouraged from a life of faith and purity. She rejected the notions of her time but did not hide from her own culture. Rather, she became a powerful model in that culture, the very one that persecuted her for her faith choices, and strove by her simple act of living the faith to change her own society, her own time, for the better. And the legacy she left behind of miracles, conversions and personal spiritual transformations attests to the validity of her choices.No doubt many of the young pilgrims in attendance could not hear much of what the pope said, or even understand the English language that was used for that section of the homily. But I don’t think it mattered. As with World Youth Days, the significance and the value for them was in the vast context – being with their pontiff and tens of thousands of fellow believers in St. Peter’s Square, sharing in the Eucharist and honoring the saints. It was as Catholic a moment as one could possibly have. As one young woman commented as we were leaving the piazza after the Mass, “I will never forget this as long as I live.” Neither will I.