Tag Archives: saint

St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955)

Feast Day: March 3
Canonization: October 1, 2000

St. Katharine Drexel was an American heiress and philanthropist who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and donated her $20 million fortune to meet the spiritual and material needs of black and Native American people.

She was born Katharine Mary Drexel in Philadelphia, second child of wealthy investment banker Francis Anthony Drexel. Their devout Catholic family opened its doors to the poor several times weekly, distributing food, clothing, and rental assistance.

When her stepmother died from cancer, Katharine’s life took a profound turn, seeing how money could not insulate from pain and death.

While on a European tour, Katharine met Pope Leo XIII, who suggested she become a missionary. She entered religious life in 1889, a decision that shocked Philadelphia high society. In 1891 she founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, dedicating her work and inheritance to establishing missions and schools across the U.S. for black and Native American people. In 1925, she founded Xavier University in New Orleans, the only historically black Catholic college in the U.S. Pope St. John Paul II canonized her in 2000.

Omobono of Cremona: A business saint for our time

Pope St. John Paul II issued an Apostolic blessing in 1997 addressed to Giulio Nicolini, bishop of Cremona, Italy. In this letter, he briefly recounts the history of St. Omobono of Cremona, emphasizing that Omobono was “the first and only layman of the faithful, not to belong either to the nobility or to a royal or princely family, to be canonized during the Middle Ages.”

Paul J. Voss, Ph.D.

Paul J. Voss, Ph.D.

John Paul’s letter — written in recognition of the “Year of St. Omobono,” celebrated in Cremona between Nov. 13, 1997 and Jan. 12, 1999 — is among the first modern Church documents to reference this important merchant saint. Here John Paul correctly recognizes the “striking parallels” between 12th century Cremona and our modern world:

“Although distant in time, Omobono does in fact figure as a saint for the Church and society of our time … because of the exemplary way this faithful layman worked and lived the Gospel perfection. The striking parallels with the demand of the present time give [this] celebration a profound sense of ‘contemporaneity.’”

Indeed, the profound and complex issues faced by Omobono 800 years ago do mirror our modern world in compelling ways.

Although largely unknown in the English-speaking world, Omobono Tucenghi’s life provides a model of heroic virtue for anyone trying to appreciate the proper role of human work in our daily lives. My colleague Donald Prudlo has recently completed the first-ever English translations of the documents on Omobono’s life, and we have nearly completed the first academic biography of the patron saint of businesspeople and entrepreneurs. This biography will add depth and context to current discussions about the relationship between the free economy and the Catholic faith.

The Bull of Canonization issued by Pope Innocent III in 1199, for example, established a “theology of sainthood.” In this document, Innocent stresses that a reputation for earthly holiness is necessary but not sufficient for sainthood. The earthly reputation must be verified by divine marks of favor in the form of miracles. The vast and sustained expressions of grief after Omobono’s death clearly demonstrated an authentic reputation for holiness, and the subsequent miracles were a sign of divine endorsement. In fact, Omobono’s piety allowed him to avoid “the company of worldly men, among whom he was distinguished like a lily among thorns.”

We see this tension between the life of holiness and the realities of business life in another document as well. In Cum Orbita Solis, issued in 1200, we learn how Omobono’s devotion saved him “from the perverse and depraved practices of the market.” The document recognizes the difficulty of finding the proper work-life balance, for business concerns tend to be all-consuming and require enormous investments of time. The text acknowledges that “it is difficult for one who practices business to divest himself of religious indifference.” For this reason, the Church needs models for those “who trade in money” or work as merchants, demonstrating that no station in life is unworthy of sanctification. Thus, one can find dignity and redemption in all types of work.

Another document, Labentibus Annis, likely issued in 1275, provides even more detail from the life of the merchant saint. Here again we see something strikingly modern in his attitude and behavior. Omobono was a successful, well-respected and established merchant. He owned a home and land, living what we might call today an “upper middle-class” life. He worked diligently and faithfully in his occupation and earned a reputation for honesty and integrity. Yet, as he aged, “his formerly calloused preoccupation with increasing his wealth began to cool, and he no longer began to follow his associates, nor do his job with his usual craftsmanship.”

The merchant from Cremona suffered what we might call a mid-life crisis, had an epiphany, and realized that making money simply for the sake of making more money no longer motivated him. He thus sought a deeper meaning and significance from his life as he directed more of his time, talent and treasure to the service of others. He began a second business, making wine from his little vineyard (and thus began his entrepreneurial activities) and used that money to alleviate poverty and suffering — causing some strife and tension within his family. His wife and children did not support Omobono is his charitable efforts, often leading to arguments and resentment. In spite of the difficulties, Omobono dedicated his life to service and charity.

This brief overview provides a foundation upon which we will build a more robust and detailed analysis. This short introduction, however, clearly demonstrates why John Paul called Omobono a “saint for our time.”

PAUL J. VOSS, PH.D., is president of Ethikos, a professional organization offering ethics training, and an associate professor of literature at Georgia State University.

Saint

Lino Rulli’s new book humorously encourages sanctity for all who follow Christ . . .

RulliSaint
Lino Rulli
Servant, 2013
256 pages, $19.99 paperback

The Catholic Channel’s “Catholic Guy” is back. His new book, subtitled Why I Should Be Canonized Right Away, picks up where his first book Sinner left off by pointing the way to our end goal: holiness and sainthood.

Both entertaining and inspiring, Saint focuses on God’s grace in the radio personality’s own life and shows how sinners can look forward to becoming saints. “This is a book to encourage you in your own triumphs, to realize you might not be as big a sinner as you think,” Rulli said, “and that with God’s help, you might just become a saint.”

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

St. Peter Claver (1580-1654)

St. Peter Claver’s heroism in his day inspires us to act heroically for souls in need . . .

Feast Day: September 9
Canonized: January 15, 1888

St. Peter Claver

St. Peter Claver

God’s answer to every crisis in human history is to send us saints. Peter Claver’s life coincides with the rise of slave trade in the West, and God used him to send a powerful message of hope and human dignity.

Claver was a young Jesuit novice in Spain when the doorkeeper of his college — the future St. Alphonsus Rodriguez — urged him to go to the Americas to serve the poor. Claver heard God speaking through his friend, so he set sail for Cartagena, Columbia, in 1610.

The booming farming and gold mining industries had ignited the slave trade. Many missionaries and even the pope condemned the slave trade, but their voices were drowned out by profits. Despite the loss of up to half of their human “cargo” due to unsanitary conditions on slave ships, business was still enormously profitable. Slaves were sold for up to 100 times the amount they had been purchased for in Africa.

Claver sent a powerful, counter-cultural message to the people of his day by proclaiming himself “the slave of negroes forever.” As slave ships arrived, full of half-mad people ripped from their homelands who had sat in a sea of death for months, he  ran out to them with food, drink and the best gifts he could offer. Ever devoted to their service, he said: “We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips.”

Working with translators, he preached the Gospel to the slaves and defended them from injustice whenever possible. He taught and baptized approximately 300,000 slaves before his death. Like so many saints of charity, St. Peter Claver bore heroic witness to the truth that the “worth” of each human life cannot be measured by monetary sums. Our worth is revealed on the cross and in the Eucharist.

This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school age teens and college age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com

St. John Marie Vianney (1786-1859)

Earlier this year, Pope Benedict declared the Cure of Ars as the patron of all priests. . .

Feast Day: August 4
Canonized: May 31, 1925

St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney

At the age of 20, Vianney’s studies for the priesthood were interrupted when he was drafted into Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. He was threatened with arrest for desertion when his regiment left while he was praying in church. After returning to the seminary, he struggled academically and was once dismissed. With tutors’ help, however, he was readmitted. His superiors were impressed with his piety, and the vicar-general of France approved his ordination saying, “Ordain him. The grace of God will do the rest.”

Vianney was sent to serve in the rough French town of Ars. The town of 250 people had four taverns for every 40 families. Mass attendance was low and indifference to the faith was high. He founded an orphanage for girls where he taught little lessons about the faith. The lessons became so popular that he began teaching large crowds in the church. Some opposed him. For 14 years a few women had him say Masses for “a special intention” which turned out to be for his transfer to a different parish. He left Ars several times hoping to become a monk, but each time returned to labor heroically for the salvation of souls. In time, townspeople crowded in for daily Mass, farmers prayed the rosary in their fields, drunkenness, cursing and immodesty almost disappeared, and many grew to love their humble, patient, cheerful and hard-working priest.

For 40 years, his daily diet consisted of a few boiled potatoes. He slept three hours per night on a bare mattress. During the last 10 years of his life, he daily spent 16-18 hours hearing confessions. In honor of the 150th anniversary of Vianney’s death, Pope Benedict XVI declared that a special Year for Priests would be celebrated from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010.

This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school age teens and college age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com.

St. Thomas More (1478-1535)

As a young man, More exhibited a great intellect, strong work ethic and likable personality . . .

Feast Day: June 22
Canonized: May 19, 1935

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More

From a young age More exhibited three sterling qualities necessary for success: an amazing intellect, a strong work ethic and an extremely likable personality. The first two enabled him to make the most of any opportunity; the third made people want to give him those opportunities.

As a young lawyer, he quickly moved up the ranks until he was working in King Henry VIII’s court. More was knighted and not only became the king’s servant, but also his close friend and confidant. He became the first layman to be Chancellor of England.

Despite his great worldly importance, More was first a man of deep devotion to God and family. Perhaps this perspective was the source of his lightheartedness. His dear friend Erasmus wrote of him, “His countenance is in harmony with his character, being always expressive of an amiable joyousness.”

But More’s greatest qualities shone forth when he was put to the ultimate test. After disagreeing with the pope on divorce, King Henry proclaimed himself “Supreme Head” of the church. When called upon to take an oath to the king, More chose loyalty to the pope and the sacrament of marriage.

The king put him in the Tower of London for over a year under increasingly difficult circumstances hoping to cause a change of heart. More once wrote, “We cannot go to Heaven in featherbeds.” In a final letter to his daughter, scribbled onto cloth with charcoal, he wrote, “Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in Heaven.”

He was beheaded on July 6, 1535. He had the gifts it took to succeed in this life, but more, he had the heroism to enter into glory.

This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school age teens and college age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com.