Pope Benedict XVI officially named seven new saints yesterday. Who are these new models of heroic virtue and godliness and what is their significance?
Most of the coverage of the new saints in the U.S. media has focused on the two American saints—including the first Native American saint—the others haven’t gotten much attention. Below is the complete list of all seven new saints and why they are important:
Pedro Calungsod: A catechist from the Philippines who was martyred as a teenager while on a Jesuit mission to Guam in the seventeenth century. Pope John Paul II described Pedro Calungsod as a model and inspiration for young people in his 2000 homily announcing he was to be a Blessed: “From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. … Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist.” Pedro Calungsod is only the second Filipino to be canonized, and, needless to say, it’s a huge event in his native country. According to a Zenit report, the Catholic Church in the Philippines is launching a “nine-year spiritual program” based on the life of this new saint.
Jacques Berthieu: A Jesuit priest and missionary who was beaten to death in Madagascar in 1896 when he refused to renounce his faith. In his homily, Benedict pointed to Berthieu as a model for priests and contemporary Christians facing persecution. He also expressed hope that this martyr’s intercession will “bring forth many fruits” for Madagascar and the African continent.
Giovanni Battista Piamarta: The patron saint of job seekers, this Italian priest spearheaded an impressive number of initiatives—including a publishing house, several institutes, and at least two religious congregations—all aimed at maintaining the “cultural and social presence” of Catholicism in the “modern world.”
Piamarta reportedly drew his strength from the hours he’d spend in prayer and contemplation each day. “The secret of his intense and busy life is found in the long hours he gave to prayer. When he was overburdened with work, he increased the length of his encounter, heart to heart, with the Lord,” Benedict said. “He preferred to pause before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, to gain spiritual fortitude and return to gaining people’s hearts, especially the young, to bring them back to the sources of life with fresh pastoral initiatives.”
Carmen Salles Barangueras: A nineteenth-century Spanish nun who ministered to women recovering from prostitution and later founded a new order, the Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching. “A valiant woman, Mother Carmen based her life and work on a Christocentric and Marian spirituality nourished by solid and sensible piety,” John Paul II said when he named her a Blessed in 1988. He continued: “Her Conceptionist charism, a sign of the Lord’s love for his people, lives on today in the witness of her daughters who, as missionaries in schools and colleges, enthusiastically evangelize through their teaching.”
Anna Schaeffer: This has to be one of the most heart-wrenching stories of the new saints. Born in 1882 in heavily Catholic Bavaria, Anna Schaffer resolved to devote her life to Christ and enter a convent after receiving her First Communion. But God had other plans for her. While she was working as a maid—to earn the dowry necessary to enter religious life—she fell into a boiling vat of cleaning chemicals, severely burning her legs and rendering her bedridden for the rest of her life. “So her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her suffering a missionary service,” Benedict said in his homily. “She struggled for a time to accept her fate, but then understood her situation as a loving call from the crucified One to follow him.”
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