ALL SAINTS – November 1, 2012 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
ALL SAINTS 2012
November 1, 2012
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Among the more important architectural sites that a tourist would visit in Rome, the Pantheon offers a marvelous example of Emperor Hadrian’s building genius. It was constructed between the years 118 and 125 AD, nearly two thousand years ago. It was a temple bearing the name of All Gods, the Pantheon. This architectural gem was given to the Pope by the Roman Emperor in 609, and it thus became a Christian Church, named St. Mary to the Martyrs, although it retains its original name, the Pantheon, for its design remains a marvel. We celebrate the Feast of All Saints with that event, for at that time we have come to recognize and honor both the early martyrs and the later confessors of our Church.
Originally the word “saint” was synonymous with the word “martyr,” for those who at the beginning of Christianity professed adherence to Jesus all too often suffered death. Certainly the edict of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century ended that series of persecutions. Eventually, Christians who led gospel-inspired lives were acclaimed after their death as saints, at least by those from the local church who would have best known the person. Celebrating such an occasion emphasizes the bond between those Christians already with God and those Christians still praying on earth.
Among the saints whom we honor on this feast day, we may consider those whom our Pope canonized on October 21, just ten days ago. We have reason to rejoice, for two of the seven people canonized were citizens of this nation. Those two came close to the Lord in their living and in their dying. They are not so different from you and me. We are bonded to them by our birth in this country, by our Catholic faith, by our praying the same Eucharist, and by our adherence to the same Lord, Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedict honored Kateri Tekakwitha. She is the first Native American saint from this land. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 at Ossernenon, a native village near modern day Auriesville, New York, about forty miles from Albany, New York. This Indian village would have remembered at least three people killed as Christians: Rene Goupil, murdered in 1642; Issac Jogues, killed on October 18, 1646, and Charles Lalande, murdered the following day. These were French Jesuits.
Small Pox killed Kateri’s mother and father and left her face scarred; she was four years old at the time. Relatives in the village raised her.
Jesuit missionaries lived in the village for a time, and Kateri grew up in the faith, although she did not received Baptism until she was twenty years old. True, she could pray by herself, and she did practice penance, but quietly, and not openly. Too many of the villagers adversely viewed Christianity. These people ostracized and persecuted Kateri, for she did not live as an Indian maiden; in her early teens she did not marry; she went off by herself to pray, and she freely helped others.
I have visited that spot some years ago. The Jesuits of New York have a cemetery there, and they have a retreat house there, and they operate a shrine at that beautiful site on a bluff overlooking the Mohawk River with its long plain. Tourist buses carrying pilgrims arrive at that spot; especially they come in summer months to pray and to honor those martyred and canonized.
Because she wanted to live in a more Christian environment, Kateri left the village and walked 200 miles into present day Ontario, Canada, to a village where Catholics openly practiced the faith. She died at age 24, having been a person who helped others, who devoted herself to attending Mass, and who prayed for a long time before the Eucharist.
When Pope Benedict canonized Kateri Tekakwitha, he also declared sainthood for six others. Among these was Mother Marianne Cope, a nineteenth century Franciscan nun. Saint Marianne Cope led a group of six Franciscan Sisters from the State of New York in 1883 to Kalaupapa, an isolated peninsula on Molokai Island where Hawaii governments forcibly exiled leprosy victims for decades. At that time, there was widespread fear of the disfiguring disease; it can cause mangled fingers and toes and skin lesions, ultimately bringing blindness.
The Belgian priest, Fr. Damian, did the same in 1873. In the nineteenth century, little could be done to halt this ravaging disease. But Sister Marianne insisted that the nuns wash their hands after contact with the lepers. They should wash hands often. None of the nuns contracted leprosy. She was most capable, for in time the government of Hawaii appointed her to head a large hospital which the government built under her direction.
In his homily, Pope Benedict said this. “Sister Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage, and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved St. Francis.”
The Catholic Church has formerly recognized these two saints during our lifetime, even as we review their lives and our own relation to them. Although Saint Kateri Tekakwitha lived in primitive circumstance over two centuries ago, we yet feel some kinship with here, for she walked on the soil that we claim as part of our country. And Saint Marianne Cope, born in Germany, came to New York at age one. Having entered the Sisters of Saint Francis in Schenectady, New York, she became head of the Order. Then she arranged to go as a missionary to the leper colony where she served until becoming a hospital administrator. She died of natural causes in 1918.
These newly canonized saints encourage you and me to draw close to our Lord. Amen.