Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mary MacKillop, Saints, News, and Miracles

Australia has its first Saint: Mary MacKillop.

The BBC did a pretty good job of covering the story.
"The BBC's Duncan Kennedy says hundreds of Australians have travelled to Rome to witness the Pope canonise Mary MacKillop

Pope Benedict XVI has officially recognised Australia's first saint, Mary MacKillop, a Melbourne-born nun who worked with needy children.

"She was canonised with five others, including Brother Andre, a Canadian monk credited with miraculous healings.

"MacKillop, who died in 1909, clashed with senior clergy and was briefly excommunicated, in part for exposing a sex-abusing priest.

"Thousands of Australians are in Rome to witness the ceremony.

"Pope Benedict XVI, canonised the six saints in St Peter's Square in front of some 50,000 people.

"He declared that 'throughout the Church they be honoured devoutly among all the saints'...."
Like I said, the BBC did a pretty good job of covering the story, from the point of view of a secular news service in a country whose king set himself up as a sort of mini-pope a few centuries back. Considering the sort of clueless reporting that I've come to expect, they did a reasonably good job of reporting the miracles.

Pedophile Priests! Pedophile Priests!

Yes, I read the fourth paragraph, about the "sex-abusing priest" and St. MacKillp's run-in with part of the hierarchy.

Yes, I know about what some priests did during the last half-century. I've discussed that before.

And, BBC and the rest of old-school news notwithstanding, the 'whistle blower' aspect is - somewhat alternatively-accurate. ("Did Blessed Mary MacKillop report a priest for abuse? Postulator clarifies," (October 15, 2010))

Moving on.

Saints and Run-Ins With Authorities

Despite their 'plaster-statue' reputation in some American subcultures, quite a few saints have been in trouble with authorities, for one reason or another. Sometimes the authorities were outside the Church hierarchy, sometimes not.

Like the accusation that Athanasius murdered Arsenius. It was a bum rap: Arsenius was staying out of sight at the time.

Then there was Ambrose and Augustine of Hippo. Ambrose thought that virginity, when chosen for the sake of God, was a good thing: and said so. There was a population crisis at the time, and some folks accused Ambrose of trying to depopulating the empire. Which I think was silly: if they were all that concerned about the declining population, and were married, there was a very practical step they could take. And that's another topic.

Augustine of Hippo had his problems, too, not so much with the Church hierarchy, as with a set of bishops who'd decided that the Church was too forgiving of those sinners over there. And, of course, that they were 'holier than the Pope.' I've written about that sort of thing before. (July 31, 2010)

A person doesn't have to butt heads with a bishop to become a saint, of course. A saint is someone who is a disciple of "remarkable fidelity." (February 14, 2010)

Two verified miracles are also required.

Miracles: It's More Than Getting Better

Whoever researched that BBC article did a pretty good job: including a "Four steps to sainthood" list in the sidebar. The main body of the article was informative, too: as far as it went.
"...For anyone to become a saint, the Church has to recognize their intermediary role in two miracles.

"In MacKillop's case, both were in relation to people who were ruled to have been cured of cancer after praying for the nun's assistance.

"Veronica Hopson was the first person MacKillop is said to have healed - she recovered from leukaemia in 1961.

"On Sunday she told Australian TV: 'I feel very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to live my life, have a family, have grandchildren, so that's a miracle.'

"Kathleen Evans, the second person MacKillop the nun is credited with healing, recovered from cancer in 1993. She attended the canonisation Mass and carried relics of St Mary to the altar.

" 'I think she would be delighted to see so many people looking at their own lives and considering how they can live better and care more,' Ms Evans said in a statement...."
I think Evans made a good point - and that's yet another topic.

It's nice to pray for recovery during an illness. It's also nice when a person recovers from being ill.

But not all recoveries which follow a prayer are miracles. Or, rather, they are - just like each moment we're alive is a miracle, in a way. I've discussed that sort of thing before. (January 20, 2010)

"Miracles," in the context of canonization, are more than 'something good' happening after somebody's prayed:
"Miracles, apparitions: Generally miracle is used to refer to physical phenomena that defy natural explanation, such as medically unexplainable cures. An apparition is a supernatural manifestation of God, an angel or a saint to an individual or a group of individuals."
(Alphabetical Listing of Glossary of Church Terms, M, USCCB)
Phenomena that "defy natural explanation" happen: even if it's fashionable to say that they don't. (June 7, 2010)

The Rest of Today's Saints

I've focused on St. Mary MacKillop in this post. Partly because it's a pretty big deal when a country gets its first saint.

There were six Saints canonized today, let's member:
"...In his homily, Pope Benedict said St. MacKillop, 1842-1909, was a model of 'zeal, perseverance and prayer' as she dedicated herself to the education of the poor in the difficult territory of rural Australia, inspiring other women to join her in the country's first community of religious women.

" 'She attended to the needs of each young person entrusted to her, without regard for station or wealth, providing both intellectual and spiritual formation,' he said. Her feast day is celebrated Aug. 8.

"Canadians cheered the canonization of Blessed Andre Bessette, 1845-1937, a doorman known for his devotional practices and his healing touch. He became known as the 'Miracle Man of Montreal.'

"The pope said St. Bessette 'showed boundless charity and did everything to soothe the despair of those who confided in him.' Although he had little instruction, he 'understood what was essential to the faith' and had an intense prayer life, the pope said.

" 'For him, everything spoke of God and his presence,' the pope said. Thanks to this simplicity, St. Bessette led many people to God, he added.

"St. Bessette 'lived the beatitude of the pure of heart,' the pope said. 'May the example of Brother Andre inspire Canadian Christian life!'...

"...The others canonized were:

"-- St. Camilla Battista Varano, 1458-1524, the illegitimate daughter of an Italian nobleman, had to overcome her father's initial objections to enter the convent of the Poor Clares. Known for her mystical experiences during prayer, she died in an outbreak of the plague.

"-- St. Stanislaw Soltys, 1433-1489, who devoted his life to caring for the poor in his native Krakow, Poland. Famed as a preacher and confessor, he was known as the "Apostle of the Eucharist" for his taking Communion to the sick and lonely.

"-- St. Giulia Salzano, 1846-1929, taught catechism to schoolchildren near Naples, Italy, and later founded the Catechetical Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to continue her work, which offered religious education to children of all ages, to their mothers and to regular laborers.

"-- St. Juana Cipitria Barriola, 1845-1912, was a champion of education for girls and young women in her native Spain. Known in some countries as Mother Candida Maria de Jesus, she founded the Daughters of Jesus with five other young women. She ran a special school on Sundays for girls who were employed as domestics, because Sunday was their only day off...."
(Catholic News Service (October 17, 2010))

Saints Come - and Sometimes Go

Not very long ago - by my standards - the Church reviewed its list of Saints: and found out that some of them weren't adequately documented. I've mentioned this before. (February 15, 2010)

St. Christopher, one of my favorites, seems to be a sort of borderline case. Somebody named Christopher was a martyr, all right: but now, dozens of centuries later, we aren't able to sort out which details of the St. Christopher legends are real - and which aren't. (Catholic Online)

Does this shake my faith? Not really. I was disappointed to learn that many (most?) of the St. Christopher stories might be about as real as Star Wars - but that's about as far as it goes.

I've studied history, understand how different sorts of records have been used to piece together an account that we call "history." I also understand that scholarly tools have changed over the ages.

If anything, I was impressed that the Catholic Church occasionally did a sort of intellectual inventory to see what was known: and how we know what we know.

And that's still another topic.In the news:Background:My take on human nature, what's new and what's not, in another blog:

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.