On May 15, 2022, Pope Francis is scheduled to canonize ten men and women. According to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints website, these ten individuals will no longer be called blesseds, but they will instead be known as saints. After all, canonical investigations of all ten women and men acknowledged inexplicable healings had occurred through their intercession.
However, one can argue that the Church does not always require miracles to declare someone a saint. Even Pope Saint John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on the causes of saints, Divinus Perfectionis Magister, includes a description of saints which says nothing about performing miracles:
In all times, God chooses from these many who, following more closely the example of Christ, give outstanding testimony to the Kingdom of heaven by shedding their blood or by the heroic practice of the virtues.
Put another way, the Catholic Church does not look first for the supernatural events that we identify as miracles in a reputedly holy person’s life. She looks first for evidence that the person was martyred for Christ or lived a heroically virtuous life. Those are the first and most important miracles and should not be underestimated.
For example, think about one of the Catholic priests you know. Now try to imagine what it would be like for that priest to become such an effective catechist of children and the poor that other men decided to leave everything behind, become priests themselves, and enter his brand-new religious order, devoting their entire lives to teaching believers about their Catholic faith. That’s what Blessed Cesar de Bus (d. 1607) did in his native France.
Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo (d. 1886), also a priest, similarly inspired men and women to become religious brothers and sisters in his new religious orders for the service of the poor. Priest and Blessed Giustino Maria Russolillo (d. 1955) founded an order of priests and religious sisters too. Members of his order helped people discern the vocation to which God was calling them, which is why they are often called Vocationists.
The four women who are scheduled to be canonized on May 15 founded orders of religious sisters, which is also not a trivial task. Could you establish a religious order of teaching sisters in France, somehow survive almost certain death during the French Revolution, and then re-establish that order afterwards? Blessed Marie Rivier (d. 1838) did.
Blessed Maria Francesca of Jesus Rubatto (d. 1904) founded an order of religious sisters to care for the poor in Italy which spread all the way to South America during her lifetime. Blessed Maria of Jesus Santocanale (d. 1923) was a Franciscan tertiary, and she cared for the poor on the streets of Italy. The women who were inspired by her example to join her in serving the poor became her first religious sisters. The sisters of the order founded by Blessed Maria Dominica Mantovani (d. 1934) also served the poor and orphans in Italy.
It is one thing to say you give your life to Christ; it is something completely different to endure four years of public torture and humiliation and still not give up your faith in Christ. That’s what happened to Blessed Lazarus (Nilakandan) Devasahayam Pillai (d. 1742) when he ordered by his king to return to the practice of his native Hindu faith. He was finally executed by his king, but not before he inspired other Catholics in India to remain steadfast in their faith, which is precisely what the king was trying to discourage.
Would you leave your Trappist monastery in France to live as a priest in Algeria among nomadic tribes, knowing that your life was constantly in danger? Blessed Charles de Foucauld (d. 1916) recognized God calling him to make that sacrifice. He spent ten years living near the Tuareg tribe, making friends with them, and studying their language and customs. His solitary presence also gently witnessed to his faith in Christ before he was killed during a kidnapping attempt.
Blessed Titus Brandsma (d. 1942) was a Dutch Carmelite priest sentenced to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany because he spoke out against Nazi anti-Jewish policies. When he was too weak to work, he was used for medical experimentation; when he was too sick even for that, a nurse was ordered to euthanize him. Years later, that nurse risked arrest and imprisonment as a war criminal to give testimony about Titus. She testified about the way that Titus encouraged other prisoners to trust in God even from his hospital bed and how he continued to treat her with kindness and even tried to teach her, a fallen away Catholic, to pray. She confessed that she was surprised by how deeply moved she was when she administered the fatal injection to the priest, and stated, “I killed a holy man.”
Since all ten of these individuals were formally named blesseds by the Church, miracles have occurred through their intercession. In Part 2 of this article, we’ll learn about those miracles and what they teach us about God.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!