A Holy Kaleidoscope—The Diversity Of The Saints In Light Of Christ

Have you ever received gifts or trinkets growing up that you continue to keep for sentimental or nostalgic value? Something a family member or a friend gave you on a birthday or for a special event that remains on prominent display in your home?

Prism

I received a prism on my 8th birthday. A simple but an intriguing item. I kept it on my bookshelf for many years. Unfortunately, I lost the prism.  I still reflect (no pun intended) on the awesome light tricks: bending rays of light and creating miniature rainbows.  The splendid spectrum-forming crystal helped in forming simple and joyful memories with my siblings. Since lacking a physical prism, I still use a metaphorical prism as a perfect analogy for explaining how diversity (of light) can be reconciled into a focus of unity.

The word diversity tends to invoke sudden reactions from people. Perhaps it is due to a hostile political environment or maybe it is because various entertainment sources poke fun at striving for differences of thought (refer to The Office Season 1 Episode 3: “Diversity Day”). Even within my own workplace I hear co-workers scoff or grumble at the idea of recognizing differences in opinion, culture, thought, or belief. Oftentimes, failure to identify the good that people’s differences can bring for the greater good lead to hostile environments, bullying, fractured relationships, and promote self-centered tendencies.

Communion of saints

Rainbow of Holiness

Focusing on the ugliness of the differences in the trees leads to us missing out on the beauty of the forest when viewed all together—in unity. As a person who struggles mightily with change and a fervent desire to maintain consistency throughout the day, week, and year, I oftentimes fail to see how differences can promote unity.

Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, urges his followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Prisms separate light into various hues. Analogously, the Holy Spirit bestows individuals various gifts (hues) of charisms. These gifts help spread the light of the Gospel. Only unified through the light of Christ may the saints provide various ways to communicate the Gospel. Saint John Paul the Great said, “Unity not only embraces diversity, but is verified in diversity.”

The Catholic Church teaches various paths to holiness exist. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,

“All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian Life and the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society” (no. 40).

God calls everyone to holiness.

Ordained Saints

Holy Orders

I will not spend too much time on saints who received the sacrament of Holy Orders as the more famous saints that come to mind were priests, deacons, or bishops. According the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

“Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church” (1593).

Saints that immediately come to mind who received the sacrament of Holy Orders include the following (not even close to an exhaustive list):

  • Peter
  • Augustine
  • Athanasius
  • Gregory the Great
  • Stephen
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Francis of Assisi
  • Francis de Sales

Married Saints

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

The vast majority of the Catholic faithful consists of married couples and their families. However, when I was researching for this article I could not think of any married saint immediately off the top of my head. Perhaps it is because marriage is more commonplace than Holy Order. I think the diversity between a man and woman in the Mystery of the sacrament of Matrimony has been lost in our culture.

Not everything in marriage needed to be reduced to sameness between the spouses. If that happens a little bit of the Mystery may disappear. Marriage involves learning about your spouse. Love desires sacrifice. It’s not about conformity or coercion. I can’t expect my wife to be exactly the same as me. The sacramental grace received from the Holy Spirit helps us grow in holiness.

Diversity leads to unity.

Here’s a list of some married saints:

  • Louis and Zelie Martin (more famously known as the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux)
  • Monica (mother of St. Augustine)
  • Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Joachim and Anne (parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Religious Saints

Saint Teresa of Avila

Individuals not called to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders or Matrimony, often go on to live out the vocation of the religious life. The Catechism states the following about this vocation,

“Religious life derives from the mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord, a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful called by God to profess the counsels. Thus, the Church can both show forth Christ and acknowledge herself to be the Savior’s bride. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time” (926).

Saints who lived out this lifestyle provides an impetus to the Church in times of slow growth or decline. Among the saints who lived out their religious vocations include:

  • Benedict of Nursia
  • Teresa of Avila
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Maria Faustina
  • Therese of Lisieux

Consecrated Life

Catherine of Siena

The fourth and final vocational path to holiness is the consecrated life. Such individuals do not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Matrimony, nor life in a religious community. This vocation often gets misinterpreted as miscellaneous catch-all category for individuals either indecisive or uncommitted to the other ways to holiness.  But the consecrated life is a valid and essential vocation needed in the Church. The Catechism  reads highly of this vocation,

“The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness” (914).

This vocation in particular affords individuals a certain freedom, not enjoyed by the other vocational paths. People living out the chaste and consecrated life share their unique gifts with the world.

Saints who lived out this fourth path to holiness include:

  • Agatha
  • Lucy
  • Agnes
  • Catherine of Siena
  • Joan of Arc

Diversity (and Unity) of Love

Light of the world

According to Lumen Gentium,

“For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another” (32).

While the ever relatable analogy of the Body and its individual parts testify to the truth of the unity of the Catholic Church in spite of its diverse members, I find that the analogy of the light and the color-spectrum also provides an interesting view on this seeming tension between unity and diversity. Along with my gift of a prism, I enjoyed looking at kaleidoscopes. The beauty would be lost without having light to shed brilliance on the kaleidoscope. In a similar way, the uniqueness, diversity, and individual excellence of the saints would all be in vain unless viewed through the prism of Jesus Christ. The brilliance of truth is seen as a beautiful rainbow of holiness as well!

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Saint Josephine Bakhita pray for us!

Saint Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery
as a child
and endured untold hardship and suffering.
Once liberated from your physical enslavement,
you found true redemption in your encounter with
Christ and his Church.
O St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a
state of slavery;
Intercede with God on their behalf
so that they will be released from their chains
of captivity.
Those whom man enslaves, let God set free.
Provide comfort to survivors of slavery
and let them look to you as an example of hope
and faith.
Help all survivors find healing from their wounds.
We ask for your prayers and intercessions for
those enslaved among us.

Amen.

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An Unexpected Journey? The Case For The Canonization Of J.R.R. Tolkien

In high school, I checked out Tolkien’s The Hobbit from the municipal library for the first time. I was a chapter or two into the book before I abandoned the work. “This is incredibly long-winded and includes boring descriptions. How could anyone consider this a classic of literature?!” I thought.

Five years and a master’s degree in theology later, I purchased a gold-leafed leather copy of The Hobbit at a local used book store. Perhaps I matured in my taste and knowledge of good writing. Or maybe God provided me the ability to make it through the verbose explanations of hobbits and their dietary preferences.  Since my unexpected return back to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, I developed a hunger for Middle Earth and his other literary works.

Tolkien

Being a cradle Catholic myself, I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not realize until recently that Tolkien was a devout Catholic. He even called his masterpiece  “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” Whenever I read his writings, whether it be tales about hobbits or Middle Earth in general, Farmer Giles, or my personal favorite Leaf by Niggle, nostalgia for a deeper reality and a sense of wonder invades my heart, mind, and soul.

Tolkien’s Impact on Faith

Aside from the writings of spiritual greats like Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, and John Paul II, to name a few, no other writer has impacted my life as much as J.R.R. Tolkien.  He inspires me to yearn for joy and realize that this life is a journey for the next. I would like to argue the case of the canonization of the great 20th century English writer using examples from both his writings and my personal life to demonstrate his impact on our pilgrim journey towards Heaven.

The canonization process is quite lengthy. After five years have passed since a person died, the Bishop of the Diocese upon which the individual passed away would need to petition the Holy See of Rome to start a Cause for Beatification and Canonization. This examination of the individual’s life is rigorous. Any miracles that are attributed to them are further scrutinized. Further information about this process may be found at the link at the end of this article.

Tolkien’s Strong Marian Devotion

Besides the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the communion of saints provide me the most consolation during times of despair. They testify to the truth safeguarded in the Catholic Church. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The term ‘communion of saints’ refers also to the communion of “holy persons” (sancti) in Christ who “died for all,” so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all” (961).  J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings helped further my understanding of the Catholic faith and promoted teaching truth for all!

Cure for Despair—Love of the Eucharist

Tolkien and Eucharist

As imaginative and impressionistic, Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth is what stood out first for me is his thoughts about the Most Holy Sacrament. He said the following about the Eucharist:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires (Letters of Tolkien, no. 43 pp. 53-54).

Food for the Journey

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1324 refers to the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Tolkien held this belief as well. “The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion,” he wrote. The Eucharist was a fixture in his life. Tolkien created a literary equivalent to the Bread of Life in his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Elven bread known as lembas, provided nourishment for travelers. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee ate this food during their arduous journey to Mount Mordor to destroy the One Ring.

Fellowship Never Fails

Fellowship of the Ring

Along with Tolkien’s profound love for the Eucharist and his implicit references to the Holy Communion in the Lord of the Rings, his focus on the importance of camaraderie—especially in suffering—is a Catholic tradition that he teaches believers and nonbelievers through his literature.

While Frodo bears the burden of carrying the One Ring, he did not lack help. In The Fellowship of the Ring the wizard Gandalf puts together a motley crew of four hobbits, two of the race of men, a dwarf, and an elf to sojourn across Middle Earth to destroy the Ring. At the end of the first part of the trilogy all hope appears lost when the fellowship is fractured leaving Frodo alone save for his friend and fellow hobbit—Samwise.

In the third book The Return of the King, weariness weighs down on Frodo more as he ascends Mount Doom in his attempt to destroy Sauron’s Ring. Listen to the hero’s lament when the evilness of the ring tempts him:


Frodo: I can’t recall the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass. I’m naked in the dark. There’s nothing–no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I can see him with my waking eyes.

Sam: Then let us be rid of it, once and for all. I can’t carry the ring for you, but I can carry you! Come on!


Helping others shoulder their cross is the hallmark of Christianity. Cooperation in suffering pervades the history of Christianity. From Simon the Cyrene helping Jesus bear the weight of the cross up Calvary, to the modern day saints like Saints John Paul II and Maximilian Kolbe offering their suffering and death to alleviate the suffering of their fellow mankind, we are all called to a Catholic [a universal] camaraderie. J.R.R. Tolkien also reminds readers of this universal truth!

Teacher of Truth

J.R.R. Tolkien

A third reason why I believe J.R.R. Tolkien should be canonized as a saint is due to his ability to instruct without resorting to sounding preachy or judgmental. His short story Leaf by Niggle is instructive. It contains truths about the importance of our pilgrim journey on earth, purgatory, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The main reason I enjoy Leaf by Niggle is due to the clear catholicity contained within the characters, plot, and symbols. Niggle represents everyman—humanity as an individual and as a collective. When I looked up the word “niggle” in a thesaurus, I learned that the name has synonyms which included: annoy, bother, discomfort, and anxiety. According to Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church),

“On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified” (7)

Niggle also suffered various disturbances of his artwork while he was on a pilgrim journey.

Plan for the Journey (Beyond)

Tolkien quote

Tolkien’s The Hobbit also teaches us the importance of preparation. An unexpected responsibility of helping a group of dwarves upended Bilbo Baggins’ cozy life. So too living the Gospel sometimes shakes up our “perfect little world”.

While I fear the unknown, I gained a sense of peace and joy as I read the writings of Tolkien. I have also discovered during my interactions with fellow LOTR fans [friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers] that a true sense of unity occurs. I can’t quite explain it but I always leave a conversation about Middle Earth with a joyful twinkle in my eyes. Any of his works have this effect in me. In fact, I leave with a more compassionate heart towards others in general. He possessed an ability to unite divergent people through literature and the world. This quality hints at his overall holiness and love of humanity.

Patron Saint of Fantasy Stories?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s name has become a token (no pun intended) reference for everything related to fantasy and epic-storytelling. The more well-known Catholic saints include priests, bishops, martyrs, nuns, or theologians. However, the Holy Spirit does work in mysterious ways above man’s total comprehensive nature. Is it possible that God has used the fantasy world created by Tolkien  to further belief in Jesus Christ?

According to St. Catherine of Sienna, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.” Tolkien certainly followed his natural (and supernatural) gifts. As a storyteller, he brought the world an unexpected set of characters that gained universal appeal. I pray for the opportunity to see the canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien in my lifetime. His writings have deepened my Catholic faith and love for humanity and God!

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Saint Stephen Pray for Us

Saint Stephen

Stephen, Stephen, I say:
here is a place for goodness, here is a time for mercy,
here at least is an opportunity to show charity!
For I stand continually in danger
although I do not always recognise this,
and I am the more miserable and wretched
when I forget that it is so.

St Stephen holding a Bible.
For God always sees my sins,
always his severe judgment threatens
the sinfulness of my soul,
always hell gapes and its torments are ready
to snatch my wretched soul away to that place.

Thus am I placed when I wake, thus when I sleep;
I am thus when I smile, thus when I jest;
thus when I am proud, thus when I am humiliated;
thus when angry, thus when vindicated;
thus, thus I am when I miserably love
the delights of the flesh.
Thus am I then always and everywhere.

So I pray you, Stephen, make haste
before I am condemned,
before the enemies of the human race
snatch me away to torment,
before the prison of hell swallows me up,
before the torments of eternal fire consume me.

Truly my need is great
when it impels me to ask for help
even of those by whom I deserve to be punished.
But you and all the saints are so full of such wealth
from the unending fount of all goodness,
that you delight rather to free by your goodness
those whom by justice you are able to condemn

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6 Epic Facts About The Saint Behind Santa Claus

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” I certainly think that he would have (and hopefully you will) chuckle at the following joke: What do you call Santa when he has no money? Saint ‘Nickel-less’. Get it? Nicholas?

If you enjoy wordplay, you’re welcome! However, if you find such repartee revolting, I apologize, and implore you to still read on.

Ironically, Nicholas came from a wealthy family (more about that later). Some believed his family riches provided means for him able to make generous visits through the night delivering anonymous gifts to the less unfortunate in his city.

Below are six common (or maybe not so common!) facts about the Catholic saint later popularized and associated with Santa Claus. Regardless of whether you heard of these facts before or not, they are still epic!

Santa Clout punched the heretic

saint nick arius meme

Nicholas had such a fervor for the faith that he slugged the heretic priest Arius in the face as he was leading Christians astray by denying the divinity of Christ.

Hearing things like this about saints also gives hope that Heaven is possible even those with quick and short-fused tempers.

He participated in the Council of Nicaea

Nicholas was  among the bishops who attended the 1st Ecumenical Council at the city of Nicaea in the early 4th century.

The significance of this council includes the formal declaration of the faith in the Nicene Creed—a profession uttered every Sunday Mass!

Saint Nick Arian meme

Imprisoned for his Catholic faith

Similar to his contemporary, Saint Athanasius, Nicholas also was jailed for his persistence in pursuing and evangelizing the truth of the Gospel.

This should not be of great surprise since Nicholas lived in the most tumultuous times in Catholic Church history. Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 312 A.D. But the Diocletian persecution of the turn of the century in 303 A.D. led to Nicholas being among numbers of Christians sent to prison for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ.

His tenacity for refusing to commit apostasy even in the face of persecution  is legendary. Nicholas’s faith and strength is on par with Saints Peter, Paul, Athanasius, and other bold proclaimers of the Good News!

The manna of Nicholas

manna of st. Nicholas

A legend began in Myra that every year on the feast day of Nicholas, the bones of the saint secrete a hyaline watery substance.

Known as the “Manna of Nicholas,” this substance is believed to have healing effects. If you want to find out more information about this interesting relic, check out this site.

He had philanthropic parents

The generosity of the bishop of Myra is well documented. However what you may not have known is that his parents’ generosity strongly influenced him.

According to Lumen Gentium, “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”

Nicholas’ parents both perished as a result of an epidemic. But the morals, character, and faith they instilled in him at a young age served him for the rest of his life.

A panoply of patronages

The final of the six epic facts about Nicholas relates to his ability to appeal to a variety of individuals. Along with being known as the patron saint bringing joy to child, Old Saint Nick also helps the following groups: merchants, haberdashers, longshoremen, brewers, pawnbrokers, judges, and archers.

Saint Nicholas

Nicholas exhibited true love of God and neighbor through his anonymous gift-giving, especially to impoverished children. The bishop of Myra exuded holiness in all facets of his life.

Together with his ability to give, and give generously, Nicholas withstood persecution and staunchly defended the divinity of Christ against the assault of Arianism.

Some may call him magical, but the true charm of Nicholas came from his profound love of Jesus.

Let us all model Nicholas this Advent and Christmas seasons mirroring the love of God for others to see!

Related Links

Who is St. Nicholas?

How St. Nicholas was the first “Secret Santa”

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5 Things That Make Saint Pope John Paul II, Well—Great!

Catholics enjoy the opportunity to look to holy men and women as role models and guides in fulfilling our true purpose in life. The more I read and learn about the saints, the more profoundly I experience fellowship. Saints lived through suffering experiences with patience and reliance on God’s help.

Perhaps no other 20th century figure, and this includes a legendary list, provided a better example of following the golden rule and forgiving other as St. Pope John Paul II. Being my personal hero, I was overwhelmed with joy upon his canonization a mere five years after his death! While countless reasons exist for why I love and admire John Paul II, here are five facts that make the great Polish pope, well, great.

JPII MORE THAN GOOD GREAT

A lifetime of tragedies

Born in 1920 Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II, grew up during one of the most tumultuous eras in Polish history—Nazi occupation and later during the reign of Communism. Before he turned 22, Karol lost all of his immediate family members (his mother passed away during childbirth, his sister died before Karol was born, and his brother and father stated reason/manner). As if losing a family was not enough suffering to last a few lifetimes for anyone, in the beginning of his pontificate, John Paul was shot in a failed assassination.

The leader of the Catholic Church united himself so much to the suffering of Christ on the Cross. According to Jason Evert author of Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, “When someone mentioned the impending suffering that would be required by one of his surgeries, [the pope] replied, ‘The Church needs suffering.’”

Marian devotion

John Paul II and Mary

The Polish pope’s famous motto was Totus Tuus. This Latin phrase translates as “Totally Yours”, and was a reference to Mary’s total obedience to the Father’s will.

Among the defining events of the sainted pontiff’s life, the assassination attempt on May 13th, 1981 certainly had to be a monumental turning point. Already possessing a strong piety to the Blessed Virgin, this only increased after the bullet missed hitting vital organs by mere millimeters. He quipped, “It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path.” Totally trusting in the mediation of Mary in his life, John Paul II provides a good example for other Catholics to rely on the Mother of God to be a good protector and guide towards Christ.

Jason Evert in his biography talks of the pope’s admiration to Mary in this way, “In True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis de Montfort wrote, ‘the most faithful servants of the Blessed Virgin, being her greatest favorites, receive from her the best graces and favors from heaven, which are crosses.’ If suffering is a sign of predilection, then John Paul II must have been one of our Lady’s favorites!” Of the importance of the rosary John Paul II declared, “[The rosary is] our daily meeting which neither I nor the Blessed Virgin Mary neglect.”

Recently, my family started praying a decade of the Rosary each night before putting the kids to bed. My outlook on life and graces for patience have never been higher. I am thankful for John Paul the Great’s great witness to Marian devotion!

A people’s pope

John Paul II and World Youth Day

Thousands of young people cheer Pope John Paul II during the 1992 World Youth Day in Czestochowa, Poland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Paul II instituted World Youth Day, a worldwide gathering of Catholic youth every four years. He saw the importance of youth, especially teens as being the future of the Church. The excitement that revolves around this event continues even in the years after his death. The Polish pope traveled extensively across the globe administering to all God’s people and showing the love of Christ. His long tenure afforded the opportunities for a generation to grow up under his papacy and enjoy stability of leadership for the Catholic Church.

Lover of confession

Pope John Paul II quote on confession

Although John Paul II lived a remarkable life and endured his sufferings of Parkinson’s disease to the end, the most impressive feat of his papacy (and priesthood) was his daily reception of the Sacrament of Confession. He declared,

“It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation. Those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make progress, will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives.”

I feel out of whack spiritually when I fail to go to the proverbial “Medicine Box” for over a month. His near mastery of virtue—through the aid offered by the Holy Spirit in the confessional—is evident by his encounter with all he met and his quick canonization less than half a decade after his death.

Heroic herald of truth

Along with John Paul II’s ability to forgive others, such as the man who attempted to murder him, the Polish pope safeguarded and articulated the Catholic Church’s teaching boldly and clearly. Intrepidly standing up to the evils of Communism, the sainted pope never watered down truth for the sake of diplomacy.

St. John Paul II stated, “Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives!” Truly God gifted the world with the holiness of Karol Wojtyla. St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote,  “You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” Following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II will not be an easy feat, but it is a surefire and joyful path toward closer union with God.

Thank you Lord for the life of this wonderful saint, John Paul II!

Related Links

St. John Paul II & the Eucharist

St. Pope John Paul II

Here’s why John Paul II said “Do not be afraid”

Analysis of JPII’s The Splendor of Truth

On Polish Horseshoes, Karol Wojtyla, Accordions, and Other Possibly Polish Things

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How Saint Marianne Cope Perfectly Lived out the Corporeal Works of Mercy

Saint Marianne Cope

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2447, The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.”

All of the saints performed great works of caring for the poor. “The corporal works of mercy consist especially of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God,” the Catechism states.

I knew little about Saint Marianne Cope. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes her best. In his 2005 Beatification Address for her, he declared, “The generosity of Mother Marianne was, humanly speaking, exemplary…All that she achieved was inspired by her personal love of the Lord, which she in turn expressed through her love of those abandoned and rejected by society in a most wretched way.”

During Cope’s canonization on October 21st, 2012, Benedict XVI said, “She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.”

Learning about Marianne Cope has renewed my passion for serving others and for performing corporeal works of mercy with Jesus at the heart of my intentions.

Heart of a Healer

Born in 1838 in Germany, Cope’s family immigrated to the United States early in her childhood. Living in industrial city of Utica, New York the saint’s family held factory jobs for a living.

Even Marianne worked to help support her family. When she was in 8th grade her father, Peter, became seriously ill. As the oldest child, Marianne left school to work in a textile mill to help provide for her family. This early experience proved a foreshadowing pattern of serving others for this saint.

Corporeal works of mercy

In 1862, Peter Cope passed away. Since her younger siblings were then able to take care of themselves, it was at this point Marianne pursued her vocation to the religious life.

From Average Administrator to Extraordinary

Cope became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, New York. Here Marianne served as teacher and principal. In 1870, Marianne was selected to be a governing council of her religious order.

From 1870 to 1877,  Marianne Cope acted as hospital administrator. Critics often condemned the saint for bringing in  alcoholics and other “outcast patients.”  Her kind and loving approach to such patients earned Marianne love and admiration by the citizens of New York.

Saint Marianne Cope’s Love Amid Leprosy

Mother Cope’s contribution to the medical field would have landed her in the hospital hall of fame. But, God had other plans for her. More extraordinary plans!

In 1883, Cope received a petition from King  Kalākaua of Hawaii to minister to people suffering from leprosy. Yes, you read right. Leprosy. The same disease that plagued the world in biblical times.

Saint Marianne Cope

Over 50 religious congregations rejected Kalākaua’s plead for aid. Highly contagious, leprosy incited fear and judgment into people’s hearts. Not Saint Marianne Cope. Confidently and joyfully she wrote back to the king, “I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”

It took a special person to build and sustain healthcare facilities for the lepers. Combining her hospital administration experience with her loving demeanor, Cope cared for both the physical and spiritual side of the lepers’ experience.

In 1887 the saint moved to the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai. Initially she planned to remain in Hawaii for a few years. God had different plans. A year later Mother Marianne met and cared for the legendary future saint, Fr. Damian. Although she only knew him for a couple years before his death in 1889, it was a providential meeting.

Imagine the incredible grace it was for both Fr. Damian and Mother Marianne. The saints cared for others and let God care for them. Remember Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least  brothers of mine, you did for me.

Be Merciful Too

Let us too live out the Gospel mission like St. Marianne Cope. You may not be a called to help minister to people with contagious diseases, but we are called to love and take care of the sick, poor, the weary, and the disenfranchised. Reach out to a friend who is feeling isolated this winter. Offer to bring warm soup to a sick neighbor.

Saint Marianne Cope


“My heart bled for the children and I was anxious and hungry to help put a little more sunshine into their dreary lives.”

“We bring no gift to Your Majesty except our service in behalf of your suffering people, whose infirmity we bear in our hearts.”  

“We were not only willing but anxious to go and care for the poor outcasts.”  

Related Links

Saint Marianne Cope- Franciscan Media

Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum

St. Marianne Cope: A saint for outcasts and lepers

 

 

 

Thank you for sharing!