Pope Francis made one of the most significant changes in centuries to the Roman Catholic Church's saint-making procedures on Tuesday, adding a new category for people who give their lives to save others.
Hers is a hidden and uncertain story, but it is said that the martyr St. Crescentia of Lucania was part of “the help” in a Roman senator’s household. She is one of a trio of holy martyrs that also includes St. Vitus and St. Modestus, all originally from Sicily. She might not even have been real, if we’re to trust modern, historical standards.
The poor Italians! Every March 17 across Ireland, United States, and around the globe, there are thousands of parties, parades, and festivals celebrating St. Patrick. Sadly, the feast of St. Joseph — the patron saint of Italy — celebrated just two days later on March 19 gets comparatively little attention. But Pope Francis has been trying to change this. Three years ago, he chose to have his inauguration as the Bishop of Rome on the Feast of St. Joseph. On that occasion, he hailed Joseph as a person of “unfailing presence and utter fidelity” who is “constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.”
When I talk to the Christians whom I want to emulate, I find that they talk about other people — a mentor or a pastor or a spouse or a parent or a writer or a friend or someone else who changed them. If their life had an acknowledgments page, it’d be pretty long. And if you could go talk to those people, they’d probably talk about someone else. And so would those people, and those people, and those people. And eventually, I guess you’d get all the way back to John or Martha or Mary or Peter. And they’d tell you all about this guy named Yeshua, whom they followed around for a few years in Capernaum and Jericho and Jerusalem. Which makes sense, I guess. Christianity isn’t about me following Jesus, following Yeshua.
When first married, my wife and I joined a PC(USA) church, partially out of our commitment to male-female equality. So at our new members’ class when we were asked, in a darker-timeline version of a mixer, to try and name the apostles from memory, the table my wife and I were at came up with twenty apostles (not quite what the leader had in mind). The Twelve, plus Matthias, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Apollos, Andronicus, and of course — not to leave out my wife’s favorite — Junia.
Pope Francis on Feb. 3 officially declared that Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated by a right-wing death squad in 1980 while celebrating Mass in El Salvador, was a martyr for the faith, clearing the way for his beatification.
The move ends decades of fierce debate over Romero’s legacy, but it was not a complete surprise: Francis, the first Latin American pope, has often said he thought Romero was a martyr worthy of consideration for sainthood.
But his view contrasts with the conservative papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, which viewed Romero as an icon of the theological left who was killed for political reasons because he spoke out against poverty and human rights abuses.
As a result, Romero’s cause for canonization languished in the Vatican’s bureaucratic limbo despite his great popularity elsewhere.
That is set to change. the Feb. 3 declaration by Francis stated that Romero was “killed in hatred of the faith.” On Feb. 4, the Vatican is scheduled to hold a news conference with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, a Vatican official who is promoting Romero’s cause for canonization.
When Pope Francis unexpectedly announced last month that he would canonize the Rev. Junipero Serra during his visit to the U.S. in September, he thrilled the many fans of the legendary 18th-century Spanish Franciscan who spread the Catholic faith across what is now California.
But the pontiff who has decried the “ideological colonization” of the developing world by the secular West is now facing criticism from those who say Serra — called “the Columbus of California” — abused Native Americans and pressured them to convert, aiding in the devastation of the indigenous culture on behalf of the Spanish crown.
“Serra was no saint to us,” Ron Andrade, executive director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, told the Los Angeles Times.
Some of Serra’s sharpest critics say he was part of an imperial conquest that beat and enslaved Native Americans, raped their women, and destroyed their culture by forcing them to abandon their traditional language, diet, dress and other customs and rites.
Add in the diseases introduced by these Old World invaders, and the original indigenous population of perhaps 300,000 was decimated by as much as 90 percent.
“If (Serra) is elevated to sainthood,” Nicole Lim, the executive director of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa, told The New York Times, “then (Serra) should be held responsible for the brutal and deadly treatment of native people.”
New Jersey is often dismissed as a cultural wasteland of traffic jams and suburban sprawl, mobster graveyards and lost dreams — source material for native son rockers like Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
But soon the state may also be known as home of the latest American saint, a Bayonne-born nun who is to be beatified in Newark next month.
The beatification of Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, who died in 1927 at the age of 26, puts her one step away from formal canonization.
If Demjanovich does make the final hurdle, she would become just the second person born in the U.S. ever to be named a saint, and it would give New Jersey something to brag about — albeit humbly, no doubt.
Despite fevered speculation in the media and across Latin America, the Vatican says Pope Francis has not advanced slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero toward sainthood — at least, not yet.
Pope John Paul II gave him the title “servant of God” in 1997 and the case for his canonization began. But the case stalled under the papacy of Benedict XVI over concerns that Romero was too close to the liberation theology that John Paul and Benedict spent years trying to repress.
Francis revived the cause soon after he was elected last year, and recent reports in several languages have suggested that church officials were poised to beatify Romero, putting him one step short of sainthood.
Hundreds of pilgrims wind their way around St. Peter’s Square as tour guides shout in multiple languages. Beggars have their hands outstretched amid warnings of an invasion of pickpockets from abroad.
Italian authorities are expecting at least a million pilgrims, including heads of state, prime ministers, and diplomats from 54 countries. One group of Polish pilgrims is making the 2,000-mile trek on horseback, dressed in medieval costumes, to celebrate Poland’s most famous native son.
I probably shouldn’t admit how much I like Halloween. I’m too much of a slug to deck out my house, I rarely wear a costume, and I haven’t been to a wild party in years, but I love the excitement children bring to the whole process. Then again, there’s the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – what’s better than that? I’m pretty much a sucker for Halloween.
I was already an adult when I learned how we came upon Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve marks the night before All Hallows’ Day, or All Saints’ Day, when Christians celebrate those who have preceded us in the faith. Some churches honor great heroes of the faith, the “saints” of our past. Other churches emphasize that all believers are “saints,” not because we are especially virtuous but because we are made holy simply by God’s will. In some churches, the label “saints” joins us not only to our deceased forebears but also to our living sisters and brothers scattered around the world. (Still other churches simply don’t observe the day at all.)
Ancient stones, steep stairs, and sparkling fresh air greeted me upon arrival in Assisi, Italy, a month ago. Lush olive groves, leaves iridescent in the sun, offset the city stones. “What sort of place is this, that shaped St. Francis 800 years ago?” I asked myself. Eager to deepen my understanding of the saint, I had returned to Assisi to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis.
Profligate playboy, drama king, dejected knight, young Francis lived life large. He grew up in turbulent times, with civic unrest in Assisi and war with nearby Perugia surrounding him. Returning from a year as a prisoner of war in Perugia, sick and weak, Francis drifted. When he sold his cloth merchant father’s wares to repair a church, his father chained him in punishment. Francis stripped in public, denouncing his father. Unlikely material for a saint.
Yet God shaped Francis over time, and Francis yielded. A simple saint, Francis wanted one thing. Nothing but God, he proclaimed, shedding all else. He chose a life of simplicity, serving the poor, and calling the church to reform.
"If you tell a lie, it will be all over the country in a day or two. But if you tell the truth, it will take ten years to get there." ~ Eddie "Son" House
And the truth is what Jesus offered the people of his hometown in this tale from Mark's Gospel. Jesus offered his prophetic witness of truth-telling. He held up a mirror and showed them who they were. He held up a mirror and said to them, "The Kingdom of God is with you."
They were enraged that one of their own would do such a thing.
He was utterly astonished that the people who had raised him were incapable of facing their own truth.
He also knew that if they could not face the realities of their own complicated lives they would not be able to embrace the healing and forgiveness that God offered.
Jesus had the blues. He had the hometown blues.
So, rejected, he fled his hometown.
Then he sent his apostles out into the world proclaiming peace, healing the sick and the lame, and prepared to face the same rejection. People don't like to be reminded of the complications of real life. None of us like the feeling of being judged when the mirror is held up before us.
Italian artist Igor Scalisi Palminteri is fascinated by religion — and superheroes, apparently. In a series of statuary called "Agiographie," Palminteri reimangines traditional images of Jesus, the Holy Family, and the saints as, variously, Superman, Captain America, Batman and Robin, and The Incredibles.
See more of Palminteri's superhero-saints inside the blog ...
In City Journal, Pascal Bruckner has written an interesting essay critiquing "secular elites" and their (our?) predilection for an apocalyptic vision without redemption. He calls it the apocalyptic daze, a love for the cataclysmic and states that it's shaping our politics. Interesting stuff to read as Earth Day approaches. He writes:
My point is not to minimize the dangers that we face. Rather, it is to understand why apocalyptic fear has gripped so many of our leaders, scientists, and intellectuals, who insist on reasoning and arguing as though they were following the scripts of mediocre Hollywood disaster movies.
His is not a critique of the science of environmentalism but one of the rhetoric of the politics surrounding it.
As college basketball fans prepare for March Madness, a holier tournament already has Christians rooting and cheering this Lenten season.
For three years running, "Lent Madness" has taken to the Internet as a competition between Episcopal saints in a single-elimination bracket tournament resembling the one followed by March Madness fans.
This Lenten devotional, first created by the Rev. Tim Schenck on his blog, "Clergy Family Confidential," allows readers to learn about and vote for the saints presented daily on the website, with the winning saints moving closer to the coveted prize of the Golden Halo.
"I was looking for a fun way to embrace the Lenten season," said Schenck, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Hingham, Mass.
"Lent doesn't have to be all doom and gloom," said Schenck. His goal, he says, is to help people "connect with the risen Christ during this season" and to "have a bit of fun in the process."