Reflecting Heaven Part 11: Some of the American Saints in the Lower Section Apse

07-07-2021Reflecting HeavenFr. Don Kline, V.F.

American Saint, Frances Cabrini once said, “I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.” This seemed to be the conviction of all our American saints who founded hospitals, grade schools, churches, universities, leper colonies, orphanages, missionary outposts, soup kitchens and more. In order to remind others of the goodness of God and Christ’s redeeming, so many saints, canonized or not, functioned as building blocks of our country. Catholics, in other words, have played a huge part in American history.

We celebrate our freedom on the Fourth of July this weekend!  As Catholics, we especially pray for religious liberty on this day.  Religious freedom, after all, is one of the primary reasons that people came to America, many fleeing from persecution.

The Church’s focus on religious liberty in recent years is on a general anti-religious cultural movement, rooted in secularism and relativism, which seeks to limit the role of religion in public life.  Many politicians today have defined religious freedom only in terms of the “freedom to worship’ within the walls of a church building.  But once we leave the building, we are told to hide our faith under a bushel basket. 

This was certainly not the intent of our founding fathers.  They recognized the essential role of religion and the virtues that faith inspires.  Those virtues provide the foundation for the success of a peaceful society. The erosion of our faith and our moral compass is directly related to the erosion of our religious practice.  

It is a fact that our founding fathers believed in God.  They also believed that morality based on the natural law was an essential foundation for our success.   George Washington himself once declared that, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” 

Let us ask God for blessings upon our country this week.  I thought it would be good to call on the intercession of our beloved American Saints with this small but powerful Litany of the Saints. 

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Patron of teachers, Pray for us!
St. John Neumann, Patron of Catholic Schools, Pray for us! 
St. Marianne Cope, Patron of Healers, Pray for us!
St. Katharine Drexel, Patron of Minorities, Pray for us! 
Blessed Father Michael Joseph McGivney, Patron of the Knights of Columbus, Pray for us!
St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, Patron of Outcasts, Pray for us!
St. Junípero Serra, Patron of Missionaries, Pray for us!
St. Kateri Tekakwitha Patron of the Religiously persecuted, Pray for us!
Sts. Isaac Jogues and John DeBrebeuf, Patron of Native Americans, Pray for us!
St. Théodore Guérin, Patron of the ignorant, the sick and the dying.  Pray for us! 
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Patron of immigrants.  Pray for us!  
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Patron of Contemplatives, Pray for us! 
Blessed Sister Miriam Teresa, Patron of Christian Writers, Pray for us! 
Blessed Father Stanley Rother, Patron of Shepherds, Pray for us! 
Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Patron of Preachers, Pray for us!
Blessed Father Solanus Casey, Patron of the Desperate, Pray for us!
American Saints of God, pray for us who have recourse to thee!  Amen!

Some of the Saints present in the apse include:

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, S.C.
Founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. Considered founder of the Catholic School system in the United States.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the charming “belle of the ball” as a young woman in New York City, linked to all the first families. At the age of 19, she fell in love and married the wealthy, handsome William Magee Seton. The two had a very happy marriage, raising five children. Ten years after they were married, William’s business and health both failed, and Elizabeth was left a poor widow with five children to raise alone. Her love for the Eucharist led her to convert to Catholicism and founded the first order of religious women in America, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, a religious community based on the Rule of St. Vincent De Paul. She was able to still raise her children, as well as live the life of a sister and found several schools. She became the co-founder of the first free Catholic School in America.

St. John Neumann, C.Ss.R.
Missionary and 4th bishop of Philadelphia. Founded the first diocesan Catholic school system in U.S.

St. John Neumann learned pretty quickly what it meant to follow God’s will with your whole heart and soul. He was certain that he was called to be a priest, but when the time came for ordination, the bishop fell ill and the ordination was canceled. It was never rescheduled, because there was an over-abundance of priests in Europe. Knowing he was meant to be a priest, John traveled all the way from Bohemia to New York City to be ordained. He was one of only 36 priests, serving 200,000 Catholics: his ‘parish’ stretched from Lake Ontario throughout Pennsylvania. He became the founder of the first diocesan Catholic School system, going from only two schools to one hundred schools in his diocese.

St. Marianne Cope, O.S.F.
Missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii

 St. Marianne Cope was a born leader. Growing up as one of the older children of a large family, she went to work in a factory right after finishing the eighth grade. She joined the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis a few years later, and began a whirlwind of leadership roles: twice as the novice mistress of her congregation, and three times as the superior of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. This leadership, coupled with her sympathy for mankind in general, led her to volunteer to go to Hawaii to take care of the lepers. She was finally stationed in Molokai, where she brought education and happiness to the leper colony: even providing bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women.  

St. Katharine Drexel, S.B.S.
School builder and founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People

When she asked Pope Leo XIII to send more missionaries to Wyoming, he asked her, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” As a young, wealthy, educated girl from Philadelphia, this was hardly the expected lifestyle for young Katharine Drexel. But raised in a devout family with a deep sympathy for the poor, Katharine gave up everything to become a missionary to the Indians and African Americans. She founded schools in thirteen states for African Americans, forty mission centers and twenty-three rural schools. She also established fifty missions for Indians in sixteen different states. She died at the age of ninety-six and was canonized in the year 2000.

St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai, SS.CC.
Missionary to the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii

St. Damien of Molokai was born in Belgium in 1840 to a poor farmer and his wife. At the age of 13, he quit school to help his parents on the farm; when he was nineteen, he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.  Damien’s older brother, Pamphile, was also a priest in this congregation, and had offered his service to the care of the lepers on the Island of Molokai. When he fell ill and couldn’t go to the mission, Damien volunteered to take his place. The saint offered to stay in the leper colony permanently - he built schools, churches, hospitals and coffins. He was later joined in his work by the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by St. Marianne Cope. St. Damien contracted the disease himself, but continued to serve the mission until his death in 1889 .

Saint Junípero Serra, O.F.M.
Founder of the Spanish missions in California

As a young man in Spain, Blessed Junípero Serra joined the Franciscan order and began a short career as a professor, famous for his preaching. When he was thirty-five, he suddenly began to yearn for the life of a missionary in the New World. He left everything behind and boarded a ship bound for Vera Cruz, Mexico. On his way to Mexico City, an insect bite infected his leg so badly that walking pained him for the rest of his life. Among his many great accomplishments as a missionary are listed two particularly: It was he whose insistence and dedication brought about the “Regulation” protecting the Native Americans and the missions. He is also known for founding the great mission of San Juan Capistrano, in California. He founded 21 missions and taught the Native Americans many trades, from farming to crafting.

Wishing you all a blessed Independence Day.

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