It’s a weekend for old saints and new saints–especially Jesuit saints and one with a Jesuit connection.
Today is the feast of the North American Martyrs–eight Jesuits who were martyred in the mid-17th century in Canada and upstate New York. I remember squirming in religion class when I was a kid when the nuns described their exceptionally gruesome sufferings. Later I came to admire them greatly. One of my favorite novels is Black Robe by Brian Moore, a thoughtful tale of faith and conversion based on the experiences of these heroic priests.
On Sunday, Pope Benedict will formally canonize seven new saints. They include Kateri Tekakwitha, the Native American “Lily of the Mohawks,” who was converted by Jesuits. Another new saint is Fr. Jacques Berthieu, a French Jesuit who was martyred in Africa in 1895. (More on him here.) Another is Marianne Cope, an American sister, who worked with leprosy patients in Hawaii.
An intriguing side note: seven of the twelve American saints, including Kateri and Sr. Marianne, are New Yorkers–either native-born or with a strong connection to the state. Four more New Yorkers are on the sainthood track: Dorothy Day, Cardinal Terence Cooke, Pierre Toussaint, and Bishop Fulton Sheen. Read about it in the New York Times.
There’s another person who will be canonized this weekend with a Jesuit connection. He is Blessed Pedro Calungsod, from the Philippines. In the 17th century, he accompanied a Jesuit priest, now Blessed Fr. de Sanvitores, to Guam. Pedro was a young catechist and assistant of Fr. de Sanvitores. They came from Cebu, Philippines and went to Guam to spread the faith. They were martyred by the local chieftains who refused to be converted to Catholicism.
Kateri Tekakwitha is very important here in Canada also as she lived in Quebec for a while just before her death. There will be a celebration at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland this Sunday to mark her Canonization.
This is a great and joyous time where I live. The Shrine of the North American Martyrs is right here in our diocese. Sister Marianne Cope came from nearby Syracuse, so that is an extra joy for us in upstate NY.