Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Saints, Beati, and Venerable Servants of God

I love the Saints. Right down to this very day, this very moment, they witness to the fact that God has not given up on us, that the Holy Spirit remains active in the here-and-now, bringing the redemption, forgiveness, and healing of the Divine Son to all who will receive it via the Church, His Mystical Body and Bride. Thus, the Saints of all ages remain signs of hope, and none more so than those who were our contemporaries: "God IS with us" and because of that, because God is manifested in the Saints, they too are with us, praying for us before the Throne of Grace and even, perhaps carrying out missions here on earth. Consider, for example, the various apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, or the reported interventions of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who stated, "I will spend my heaven doing good on earth". Further, their diversity, including the various traditions out of which they come, witness to the possibility of the return of the divided Churches and ecclesial communities to full communion with each other. Regardless of tradition, all Christians can embrace the sanctity manifested in people coming from traditions other than their own.

As with so much else, the Roman Church is very organized when it comes to identifying those with the potential to be recognized as Saints. For non-martyrs, the process is three-fold. The first phase investigates whether or not the potential Saint lived a life of "heroic virtue". Generally, this process cannot be initiated until five years after the person has departed this life (and never before his or her repose). A positive determination of this by the Pope results in the person being declared a "Servant of God" and being given the title "Venerable". The second and third phases, resulting in the title "Blessed" and "Saint" respectively, each require that a miracle be attributed to the person's heavenly intercession. These miracles usually take the form of a medical cure from a serious illness which cannot be explained by medical science and for which the intercession of the potential Saint was sought.

Which brings me to the following: According to Zenit, a Rome-based RC news agency, the Pope has accepted the validity of a miracle brought about by the intercession of Blessed Father Damien, a nineteenth century Belgian priest who ministered to lepers in what was then the Kingdom of Hawaii. Thus, Fr. Damien will soon be recognized as a Saint by the universal Roman Church. Another miracle has been attributed to the intercession of the Servants of God Louis Martin and Marie-Zélie Guerin Martin, St. Therese's parents, so they will become known as "Blessed". Here is the Zenit article: "Miracle attributed to St. Therese's Parents: Heroic Virtue Recognized in Italian Youth Who Died in 1990".

It is this last potential Saint that I really want to focus on. Her name is Chiara Luce Badano. She was born in 1971, the only child of a truck driver and his wife, a devout couple who had been unable to conceive during their previous eleven years of marriage. Involved with one of the "new movements" of the RCC, called Focolare, also known as "the Work of Mary," Chiara was diagnosed as a teenager with terminal cancer and died on October 7, 1990, a few weeks before her nineteenth birthday. I urge you to read the article linked to her name above, found on a Focolare website. She is indeed an example for all, young or not-so-young, who aspire to follow the forsaken Christ crucified.

"Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints."

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