Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Los Angeles Cathedral mural

The Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make or create saints. Rather, it recognizes them. A SAINT  is one who has been recognized for having an exceptional degree of holiness and virtue.  In Orthodox and Catholic teachings, all Christians in heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered to be worthy of higher honor, emulation, or veneration, with official church recognition given to some saints through canonization.

One Roman Catholic website states that there are over 10,000 named saints and beatified people from history, the Roman Martyrology and Orthodox sources, but no really definitive head count.

Elise Ritter

There are many people believed to be in Heaven who have not been formally declared as saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints. All in Heaven are, in the technical sense, saints, since they are believed to be completely perfect in holiness.
Medieval Tapestry

In his book, Saint of the Day, editor Leonard Foley, OFM, says this of saints: "Saint's surrender to God's love was so generous an approach to the total surrender of Jesus that the Church recognizes them as heroes and heroines worthy to be held up for our inspiration. They remind us that the Church is holy, can never stop being holy and is called to show the holiness of God by living the life of Christ."

In his book, on Making Saints, author Kenneth L. Woodward notes the following:
       A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like-and of what we are called to be. Only God "makes" saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation. The church then tells the story. But the author is the Source of the grace by which saints live. And there we have it: A saint is someone whose story God tells.

The veneration of saints describes a particular popular devotion to a particular saint or saints. Although the term "worship" is sometimes used, it is intended in the old-sense meaning to honor or give respect . According to the Catholic Church, Divine Worship is properly reserved only for God  and never to the saints. They can be asked to intercede for us or  pray for those still on earth, just as one can ask someone on earth to pray for them.

A saint may be designated as a patron saint of a particular cause or profession, or invoked against specific illnesses or disasters, sometimes by popular custom and sometimes by official statements of the Magisterium. Saints are not thought to have power of their own, but only that granted by God. Relics of saints are respected in a similar manner to holy images and icons. The practices of past centuries in venerating relics of saints for healing is taken from the early Church.


Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints' Day (also called All Hallows or Hallowmas- thus we get Halloween or the eve of All Hallows)). This day commemorates ALL those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Christians who celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in purgatory (the 'Church Suffering'), those in heaven (the 'Church Triumphant'), and the living (the 'Church Militant').
Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS

Solemnly  celebrated on the first of November this feast  is instituted to honor all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Pope Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts during the year.

In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast. At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honored by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established. Pope Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November.

All Saints- Wassily Kandinsky- 1911

Why does the Church celebrate this Feast of the Saints?
  To honor God in His saints, through whom He has shown Himself so wonderfully,
  To thank God, as the author of all holiness, for the benefits He has bestowed upon these saints.
  To inspire us in remembrance of the communion of saints' holiness, encouraging us on our journey
  To encourage us to strive for the like sanctity with them, and to teach us that it is by no means impossible;
  To honor  those saints to whom no particular day in the year is dedicated.
  To allow us a share in their merits, and grant us the grace of one day sharing in their joy in the hope that we too may one day be called "SAINT".

2nd vol.
my favorite for modern saints

Monday, October 29, 2012


No native born American priest has ever been formally declared a saint but VENERABLE MICHAEL J. McGIVNEY is on his way. The eldest of 12 children, he was born in 1852 in Waterbury, Connecticut  (which is a half hour from our Mother Abbey). His parents were among the waves of Irish immigrants coming to America from post-famine Ireland. His father, Peter, worked in the brass factories of Waterbury.

By the time he was 13 Michael knew that God was calling him to the priesthood. Money being tight, he spent three years with the many men like his father working in the brass factories of Connecticut to help his family and save for the seminary. 

Interesting to note, the man who donated our Abbey land (CT) and later gave our Foundress the building in Bethlehem with a $90,000 loan, owned brass factories in Waterbury. The property in Bethlehem was the farm and “recreation” area for his city workers.

During this time, Ven. McGivney witnessed  first hand the misery and suffering brought about by poverty, alcoholism, poor education and the early death of the head of the family. These events left him with an even deeper sense of compassion for the working man.
In 1873, his father passed away. Ven.Michael left the seminary to return home to help his mother and siblings. He was able to later return to the seminary and was ordained on December 22, 1877 by Archbishop James Gibbons of Baltimore. By the time he received his second assignment, he was well known for his kindness and compassion, especially to families who had suffered the loss of their father and primary source of income.

Ven. McGivney wanted to foster the Catholic identity of the men in his care and to counteract the negative effects of anti-Catholic secret societies that gained prominence in the late 19th century. He began gathering a group of men to form what would become the KNIGHTS of COLUMBAS. Ven. McGivney wanted this organization to be for all Catholic men; a society dedicated to God and loyal to the United States. He also sought to establish social activities to curb alcoholism, charitable outreach to those in need, and  to create affordable life insurance to help families devastated by the loss of the father and wage earner. On March 29, 1882, in New Haven, the Knights of Columbus was officially recognized.

Ven. Michael McGivney died on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, August 14, 1890 as a result of pneumonia. He was only 38 years old. His funeral Mass was one of the largest the state of Connecticut had ever seen.

Cross in OLR Chapel
During the 2008-2009  year, $150 million and 70 million man-hours were donated to charity by the Knights. Our monastery chapel cross (upon which was mounted the Christ by artist Frances Rich) was donated by a local group.  It is solid cherry wood. 

Another group of Knights comes from the Ferndale area every year to cut wood for our winter’s heat. During the year they contribute more work and time to us. Most important to us is their on-going friendship and prayers.

 In the history of the Church it is very rare for a parish priest to be canonized (St. Jean Vianney), unless he was the founder of a religious order or went on to become a bishop. Venerable Micheal McGivney could be called the working man's priest and hopefully will soon be our first born.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


(Sisters of the Holy Family)

VENERABLE HENRIETTE DELILLE's story is most interesting, even controversial. Many sources call her a “free woman of color,” an expression used during the time of Negro slavery in this country to denote a woman of African descent who was not a slave. Mother Delille’s great, great grandmother, Nanette, was brought from Africa as a slave. After the death of her owner, she became free. Some years later, she had amassed enough money to purchase her daughter, Cecile, and two of her grandchildren out of slavery. Spanish law, which ruled in Louisiana at that time, allowed slaves to purchase their freedom at a fair price from the master. A judicial process could be initiated if the owner refused. For the times, and in comparison with slavery in other areas of the American South, it was a compassionate system. Cecile herself became a businesswoman and slave owner.

Ven. Henriette and her family were light skinned enough to pass for white, as they were octoroons, seven-eighths white. Her parents and siblings listed themselves as white in the census but Ven. Henriette used the label free person of color, which applied to all bi-racial people. Her brother Jean  was strongly opposed to her activities. His sister's actions within the Creole community exposed his heritage. Estranged from Ven. Henriette, Jean moved from New Orleans to a small Creole community in Iberia Parish, Louisiana.

The unspoken fact in all of this was that many of these free ladies of mixed African and white blood became “kept women” of the wealthy white planters. Their place in the society of these times was rigid, and there was little other choice for them. Their offspring, therefore, had the national, cultural, and linguistic background of their fathers, as well as the African heritage of their mothers. Therefore, they could be of French, Spanish or other European culture. They led comfortable, even luxurious, lives. They were wealthy families in the city, while their men, the white plantation owners, had their legitimate families in the rural areas, where their plantations were located. In other words, the men openly led “double lives.” Ven. Henriette's own sister, also named Cecile, had several children by a wealthy white man.

As a devout Catholic, one who worked for the conversion to the Faith of those of the Black race in her native city, Ven. Henriette refused to accept this sinful lifestyle and devoted herself to God. In 1836, she wrote, “I wish to live and die for God.” She became a frequent sponsor for mixed-race babies at baptisms, both in St. Louis Cathedral and in St. Augustine Church in a nearby neighborhood. In addition, she was active in the St. Claude School, an establishment founded for the education of young girls of color.

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans

As a result of declaring herself non-white, Ven. Henriette was refused as a postulant by the Ursuline and Carmelite nuns, which were open only to white women. During the 1840’s Ven. Delille began assembling the group of young women who would become the Sisters of the Holy Family. Judging by the books the sisters held in their library, noted Father Cyprian Davis, Ven. Delille’s biographer, they were all literate and intelligent women.

One of their first works of charity was caring for several elderly women, probably former slaves, who lived in the house next door to their own. Thus began one of the congregation’s primary charitable works, caring for the elderly and infirm.

It is interesting that our saint-to-be was a slave owner herself. She freed Betsy, her only slave, in her will. It was simply the way of the time. Another notable fact is the claim that she was not Negro, but Creole, owing to her varied cultural heritage, although she certainly did have African in her ancestry.
St. Louis Cathedral

Ven.  Henriette Delille’s contribution to the Church in New Orleans, and to Black New Orleanians in particular, was immense. She worked heroically to bring her people to God and to the true Faith. She died at the relatively young age of 52, probably of tuberculosis. Friends attributed her death to a life of service, poverty, and hard work.

Six weeks before President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the following obituary appeared in a New Orleans newspaper:
Last Monday died one of these women whose obscure and retired life was nothing remarkable in the eyes of the world but is full of merit before God... Without ever having heard her speak of philanthropy, this poor maid had done more good than the great philanthropists with their systems so brilliant yet so vain.
She was declared venerable in 2010.

Friday, October 26, 2012


VENERABLE PIERRE TOUSSAINT (1766-1853) was born a slave in Haiti and died a free man in New York City. He is credited by many with being the Father of Catholic Charities in New York.

He came to New York City in 1787 with the John Berard family as a slave from Saint-Dominigue. He became a hairdresser and was highly successful among New York’s upper class women. Apart from his skills he listened to and advised his clients, helping them to deepen their own spiritual lives. He used money he earned to help the Bernard widow survive after her husband had died in Saint-Domingue. At the death of Mrs. Bernard, he was freed and took the surname Toussaint after the hero of the Haitian Revolution.

He fell in love with Juliette Noel, and purchased her freedom when she was only fifteen years old. After his marriage, Ven.Pierre and his wife performed many charitable works, opening their home as a orphanage.
Juliette- Artist Anthony Meucci

They also organized a credit bureau, an employment agency, and a refuge for priests and destitute travelers. They took in Euphemia, the daughter of his sister Rosalie, who died of tuberculosis, and raised her as their own daughter.
Euphemia- A. Meucci

Ven. Pierre was instrumental in raising funds for the first Catholic orphanage and began the city’s first school for black children. He  helped to provide funds for the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a religious community of black nuns founded in Baltimore. He also played a vital role in providing resources to erect Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan. During a Yellow Fever epidemic when many of the city’s political leaders fled the city in search of healthier rural climates, Ven. Pierre cared for the sick and the dying.

He was a successful entrepreneur, who did not hesitate to share the fruits
of his labor with others and attended daily Mass.Even in old age
Ven.Pierre continued his charity.

Euphemia died before her adoptive parents, of TB like her mother. Juliette died in 1851 and Ven. Pierre died two years later on June 30, 1853, at the age of eighty-seven and was buried alongside his wife and daughter,

In recognition of  his virtuous life, the late Cardinal Cooke introduced Ven. Pierre’s cause for canonization at the Vatican in 1968. In December 1989, the late Cardinal O’Connor had the remains of Ven. Pierre Toussaint transferred from Lower Manhattan to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan where he is buried as the only lay person, alongside the former Cardinal-Archbishops of New York City. On December 17, 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Pierre Toussaint, “Venerable,” thus placing him firmly on the road to becoming North America’s first black saint. Venerable Pierre Toussaint was a man who was proud of his faith, proud of his culture and committed to serving others.

At prayer

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The Catholic Church has existed in the United States since the country's earliest history. Columbus' expedition of 1492 included Catholic priests among the crew. Catholic missionaries were some of the first explorers in British and French colonial lands in the east, and Spanish lands in the west. Maryland was founded as a Catholic colony.

The first three American saints were canonized in 1930, and since then, nine other Catholics in the U.S. have been recognized as saints. Roughly 100 Americans are being investigated for sainthood today.

SAINTS  we have written about already are: (dates are canonization year)

    St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai (2009) leper priest of Molokai ( Belgium)
    St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (1988) missionary to Native Americans ( France)   
    St. Kateri Tekakwitha (2012) first Native American
    St. Marianne Cope (2012) missionary to lepers of Molokai (Germany)


    Three of the eight North American Martyrs (1930), missionaries to the Hurons:
        all Jesuits born in France- Sts. Isaac Jogues, René Goupil, Jean de Lalande
    St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1946) missionary & foundress  (born Italy)
    St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1975) foundress (born a British subject in New York)

St. Katharine-  Br. McGrath

St. John Neumann (1977), missionary and bishop of Philadelphia (Bohemia)
St. Katharine Drexel (2000) school builder & foundress of sisters to care for    Indians and Colored People (born American citizen)    
 St. Mother Théodore Guérin (2006), missionary & foundress  (France)


   Junípero Serra, O.F.M., founder of the Spanish missions in California.
   Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, lay minister and liturgist in Puerto Rico.
   Diego Luis de San Vitores, missionary martyred in Guam (companion to new St. Peter)

Bl. F. X. Seelos

     Francis Xavier Seelos, missionary preacher.


VENERABLES: (written about or soon to be = dark )

     Frederic Baraga  the snowshoe priest
     Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus
     Antonio of Jesus, missionary in Texas and Louisiana
     Nelson Baker, Catholic prelate, social worker, founder
     Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap., Detroit mystic
     Cornelia Connelly,  foundress
Ven. Cornelia-  Mayfield School, Pasadena
     Henriette DeLille,  New Orleans foundress 
     Mother Maria Kaupas, foundress 
     Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli,  missionary
     Miriam Teresa  Demjanovich nun and mystic

     Pierre Toussaint, Haitian-born ex-slave,
                    benefactor in NY

SERVANTS of GOD: (we have written about)
    Walter Ciszek,  priest who spent 25 years in Siberian prisons
    Dorothy Day, Founder Catholic Worker Movement
    Edward Joseph Flanagan, Founder of Boys Town
    Fulton J. Sheen, Archbishop, TV personality
    Eusebio Kino, missionary SW

OTHERS: (does not include about 70 more)

   Emil Kapaun- priest and chaplain who died in Korean War
   Rose Hawthorne Lathrop- daughter of Nathaniel and foundress of order to care for cancer patients

Servant of God Rose Hawthorne



Monday, October 22, 2012


 The past few blogs have been about the two new AMERICAN SAINTS canonized October 21, but in other parts of the world there was rejoicing as five others were canonized on this same day.


ST. JACQUES BERTHIEU was born in Polminhac, FRANCE, and was martyred June 8, 1896, in Ambiatibe, MADAGASCAR. St. Jacques was a diocesan priest for nine years before he decided to enter the Society of Jesus at age 35. He was appointed to the Madagascar mission even before he finished the novitiate. He died while he was accompanying refugees who were trying to avoid attacks from another tribe. His attackers stripped him of his cassock and beat him with clubs before forcing him to walk in the cold rain to the village where their chief lived.

 Martrydom of  St. Jacques- Eric Armusik

St. Jacques refused to accept that man’s offer of becoming a counselor to his tribe, promising to spare his life if he would renounce his faith. He replied that he would rather die than abandon his religion. Several men attacked him with clubs and a blow to the head killed him. His attackers then dumped his body into the river from which it was never recovered.

a lay catechist born in Cebu, PHILIPPINES was martyred April 2, 1672, in GUAM. He received his education from the Spanish Jesuits, learning many skills including reading, writing, carpentry, music, art, and language. He was a gifted lay catechist and sacristan with a reputation for being both cheerful and steadfast.

In those days it was not uncommon for the Jesuits to bring young catechists with them on their missionary journeys. In 1668, at the age of 13, St. Peter began the first of several journeys with Bl. Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores, the Superior of the Mission, to bring the Gospel to the Chamorro people in the Ladrones/Marianas Islands in the western PACIFIC.  

St. Joseph's, Modesto, CA

They faced many difficulties with the island's steep terrain, dense jungles and  many tropical typhoons. Added to this, the Chamorro people were known to have a violent nature. But Fr. Diego and his missionaries wished to follow the Lord faithfully bringing the Gospel and the Sacraments. Their kindness towards the Chamorro and their teachings about Jesus won many converts.
The increasing conversions and the natives’ growing affection for the missionaries sparked a deep hatred in the heart of a Chinese medicine man named Choco. Joined by the local Macanjas (sorcerers) they tried to discredit and eventually kill the missionaries.

April 2, 1672 was the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Around 7am St. Peter and Fr. Diego arrived at the village of  Tumon on the island of Guam. A baby girl had been recently born in the village and the child’s Catholic mother requested Baptism. However, the baby’s father, Matapang, once a Christian now rejected the faith.  He grew enraged when Fr. Diego arrived for the baptism. In his anger, he decided to kill Fr. Diego and St. Peter and left his hut to find his friend Hirao to help him in the attack. Hirao, while not a Christian, remembered the kindness of the missionaries and initially refused Matapang’s demands. When Matapang called him a coward, Hirao’s temper got the better of him and together they set off for the village armed with spears and machetes. They attacked Fr. Diego and St. Peter. He was only 17 years of age.


was a Spanish nun who fought for women’s rights long before it was fashionable. She  was born April 9, 1848, in Vic, SPAIN. Raised by devout Catholic parents, the second of 10 children, she grew up with a strong devotion to Our Lady. The year of 1858 was a Marian year and proved to be a pivotal time in St. Carmen’s life. It was the same year that Mary appeared in Lourdes to Bernadette and confirmed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. That year, St. Carmen went to Montserrat on pilgrimage with her family where she received her First Communion and vowed to give her life to Jesus. It was on this visit that she knelt at Mary’s feet and consecrated her life to Jesus through Mary.

St. Carmen
St. Carmen was strong in her desire and convinced her parents to break her engagement to a young Spaniard and allow her to enter the Adores Sisters. These sisters were dedicated to the recovery of women who were living on the margins after a life of crime or prostitution. She dedicated the next 22 years of her life to educating these women so they could escape their life of sin and achieve a dignified place in society. She ran day schools for the children of working mothers and night schools for the mothers.

St. Carmen eventually founded a new order, the Missionary Conceptionists of Hope, and became a well-known pioneer in proclaiming equality between men and women and in defending the dignity of women in the home and in society at large.

St. Carmen died in Madrid at the age of 63 in 1911. Her final miracle was a three year old Brazilian girl who was dying of acute cerebral ischaemia which left her with paralysis and facial deformities.

The healing occurred when all treatment options were exhausted and her parents, who were both doctors, brought the little girl home to die. The family and little Maria’s classmates began a novena to St. Carmen  for a miraculous cure which occurred on the fifth day of the prayer.

Doctors remained skeptical of her cure and said she was at serious risk of epilepsy and other secondary illnesses. However, she has undergone 27 different medical examinations and no long-term effects have been reported. Maria now 15, is reportedly a brilliant student.

ST. GIOVANNI BATTISTA PIAMARTA  was born into a poor family in Brescia, ITALY in 1841. He entered the seminary in 1860 and was ordained a priest in 1865. St. Giovanni focused on young people, work and families. The surrounding social scene spurred him to create an institution for workers' children so  he founded the Istituto Artigianelli. Its aim was to give boys, especially the destitute, a Christian and professional training with which to face the new industrial society. In spite of many great difficulties, he organized workshops for the different skills and built housing for 100 children.

St. Giovanni

He was like a father to his boys and gave them a deeply religious upbringing. To alleviate the extreme poverty of the peasants who were emigrating to distant America, he founded an agricultural colony in Remedello to teach and experiment with new farming techniques, which notably increased the productivity of the soil and attracted farmers from Italy and abroad. To ensure the continuity of this work, he founded the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth in 1902. With his mother, he also paved the way for the foundation of a congregation for women. St. Giovanni relied on continuous prayer and total trust in divine Providence and always gave priority to the spiritual and material well-being of others. He died in 1913, surrounded by his brothers. He can be considered a father for the young, an example for priests and religious, a model for teachers, an intercessor for families and the defender of workers. He is Italy's "Father Flanagan".


ST. ANNA SCHAFFER  was born in 1882 in BAVARIA. A quiet, reserved child, she learned the love of God from her mother, who raised her to be a good Christian. After making her First Communion, she offered herself to the Lord. She wanted  to enter an order of missionary sisters and after she finished
school she went to work to earn her dowry.

In 1898 the stovepipe over the laundry boiler where she worked had become detached from the wall, but in trying to fix it, St. Anna unfortunately slipped into a vat of boiling lye, scalding both legs to above the knees. Despite intensive treatment, the doctors were unable to heal her injuries. After she was released from the hospital as an invalid in 1902, her condition continued to worsen, confining her completely to bed. To her painful infirmity was added extreme poverty. After futile attempts at rebellion, the saint learned to recognize God's will in her suffering and to accept it with joy. In weakness and poverty she heard the loving call of the Crucified One to become like him. She had found her mission in life. She would generously  offer her life and sufferings to God.

St. Anna

In  1910 she began to have visions, first of St Francis, then the Redeemer, who was ready to accept her sacrifice of reparation. From that time, and few people knew it, she bore the wounds of Christ. Later, in order to suffer in secret and to avoid any sensationalism, she asked the Lord to remove the visible stigmata. She was now ready to accept even greater sufferings. At the same time, St. Anna intensified her spiritual apostolate, promising her intercessory prayer and offering consolation in word or letter to all who turned to her.

In 1923, St. Anna was permitted to live the events of Good Friday: her condition considerably worsened. Her legs became completely paralyzed. This was followed by painful cramps due to a stiffening of the spinal cord and, finally, by cancer of the rectum. In a letter of 29 January 1925 she wrote: "The most important thing for me is to pray and suffer for the holy Church and her Pastors. Whenever I receive Holy Communion, I fervently pray to our beloved Redeemer to continue protecting his holy Church and her Pastors, to grant me the most agonizing martyrdom and to accept me as a little victim of reparation". St. Anna was known for her devotion to the Sacred Heart.

After accidentally falling out of bed five weeks before her death, St. Anna suffered a brain injury, causing her to lose her voice; thus she became even more a "silent victim". On 5 October 1925 she received her last Communion. As she was making the Sign of the Cross and saying "Jesus, I live in you" she passed to the Father.

We first knew of St. Anna Schaffer through a young German, the grand niece of the saint. She entered our monastery in Italy and became Mother Anna. She attended the beatification of her relative in 1999.  Several years later she visited us here on Shaw.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Hawaiians head to Rome for Marianne Cope's canonization, October 21

St. Marianne  Cope was born in Germany in 1838 but immigrated with her family to Utica, New York when she was two years old.  She joined the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse in 1862. She was involved in the opening of the first two Catholic hospitals in Central New York. At the time, their Charter was stipulated so that medical care was to be provided to all, regardless of race or creed. She became hospital a administrator and then superior of her convent.  These experiences helped prepare her for the special ministry that lay ahead of her.

A letter dated May 28, 1883 was the letter that would change her life.  It was a letter written by a missionary in the Sandwich Islands, requesting that the Sisters take charge of the hospitals there.  Although more than 50 religious congregations had already declined, Mother Marianne wrote to Father Leonor: “I am hungry for the work and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen Ones, whose privilege it will be to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the  poor Islanders.I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”

Margaret Girdwood

Mother Marianne and six sisters boarded an express train and, after six days and five nights in a railroad coach, they arrived in San Francisco. Five days later they boarded the steamship Mariposa for the 2,200-mile sea voyage to Hawaii.  Sea sickness kept Mother Marianne miserable in her bunk for the seven days of their voyage and afflicted her on every later trip from island to island.
Mother Marianne on right
The Sisters were horrified when they viewed the Branch Hospital in Kakaako, Oahu, where Hawaiians suspected of having leprosy were detained until a clear diagnosis could be made.  There were 200 patients in a facility built for 100 but the worst problems were the filth, swarms of flies, the stench of open, untreated sores. The Sisters were shocked to realize that patients were thrown together regardless of age, sex or stage of illness. Nonetheless, Mother pinned back her wide outer sleeves, rolled up the inner ones and got to work.

Dietrich Varez

In 1887, a new government took charge in Hawaii and its officials decided to close the Oahu hospital and to reinforce the former alienation policy. Mother Marianne again responded to the plea for help coming from the new government.

 Her response would take her into a lifetime of exile together with those she served. By accepting the challenge she knew she would never be able to return home to see her beloved family and friends but once again she followed the path of sacrifice.

Life at Kalaupapa was not easy.  Life was a real challenge and day by day the drudgery, the sameness, the fear of the disease and the sadness of death preyed upon the Sisters’ nerves. The Sisters worried about contracting leprosy, however, St. Marianne said “…remember you will never be a leper, nor will any Sister of our Order.”  This prophecy has been fulfilled. Through all these years, not one of the many  sisters who worked with the lepers has ever contracted leprosy.
Brian Baker-Mosaic

St.  Marianne passed to the Father August 9, 1918. When someone commented once after a visit to the leper colony that it would be a mercy to put an end to such a hopeless and miserable life, St. Marianne responded by saying: “God giveth life; He will take it away in His own good time.  In the meantime, it is our duty to make life as pleasant and as comfortable as possible for those of our fellow-creatures whom God has chosen to afflict.”  

“Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of thirty years (at Molokai) to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world as have been these people. She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all. She came to Honolulu ready to do whatever was required of her. Without blare of trumpets, Sister Marianne entered upon her duties and through thirty long, wearisome years living apart from the world and its comforts, she labored in the cause of a stricken people. She was a heroine in life; she is a martyr in death."   Honolulu Advertiser, August 11, 1918

In my March 13 blog I wrote of my visit to Kalaupapa 40 years ago when I lived in Hawaii. It was  one of those memorable events in one's life probably owing to the holiness of the place, thanks to the two saints and all who have followed in their heroic work.

When I lived in Manoa Valley (about Honolulu), in the days when it was still a "jungle", I often went to daily Mass at the Franciscan convent just a few blocks from where we lived. The sisters  (of her Congregation) had a small girls school established in 1924 as a legacy of St. Marianne Cope.

Almost 300 people from the Hawaiian Islands will be trekking to Rome for the canonization. Among the group will be nine patient-residents from Kalaupapa.

A wonderful book telling the whole tale of the saint's life is PILGRIMAGE and EXILE (definitive biography of Mother Marianne of Molokai) by Sr. Mary Laurence Hanley, O.S.F.-1980. Updated by University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1991. Republished with new cover and updated in 2009.

Dietrich Varez

This book is long but reads like a mystery and adventure beyond the wildest telling! One could never have guessed what this gentle soul had to endure at the hands of the men in power in the Hawaiian government- their schemes and duplicity. She just tossed her veil, rolled up her sleeves, and praying, did her job. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! 

Mosaic in front of St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa

Dietrich Varez

Poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1889

Reverend Sister Marianne
Matron of the Bishop Home, Kalaupapa

To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,
A fool were tempted to deny his God.

He sees, and shrinks; but if he look again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breast of pain!—
He marks the sisters on the painful shores,
And even a fool is silent and adores.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Tomorrow, October 21, a local boy will be among the select few to receive Holy Communion from the hand of the Holy Father at the Mass of the Canonization of ST. Kateri Tekakwitha. Jake’s miracle from Bl. Kateri is what has made her one of our two newest saints.

Jake Finkbonner's face was scarred by a flesh-eating bacteria that invaded his body. St. Kateri's face was scarred by smallpox that killed her immediate family. Both are American Indians (Jake is of Lummi descent, a tribe just north of Bellingham) and both Catholics.

More than 300 years after her death, Jake was fighting for his life. Necrotizing fasciitis, or Strep A, had invaded his body and bloodstream through a small cut after being hit by a basket
ball.  Jake was admitted to a hospital in Seattle, where every day, doctors performed surgery to remove the flesh damaged by the bacteria spreading across his face, scalp and chest. For two weeks, they put the boy, who was then in kindergarten, in a hyperbaric chamber to deliver oxygen to his body to slow down the infection.

As Jake lay near death, Father Tim Sauer, advised Jake's parents to pray to Blessed Kateri, the patroness of American Indians, to intercede. Jake spent nine weeks in the hospital, and several times the doctors prepared the family for Jake's death.

Indians all across the West were praying to Bl. Kateri for Jake, as were our nuns.  We knew of the on-going saga through friends whose children went to school with Jake and others who attended the same church..

Enrique de la Vega, AZ
Elsa Finkbonner believes her 9-year-old son's victory over necrotizing fasciitis is miraculous. "There is no doubt in my mind that he is a miracle. He had everything going against him".

Doctors who treated Jake, as well as a committee of doctors at the Vatican, came to the same conclusion. They didn't think any of their medical expertise was the cure.

Jake survived, though he bears the scars on his face, neck, scalp and chest. He has had 27 surgeries, and more are on the way. His aunt Joanne, here this summer with many local youth, some who are related to Jake, said she  feels the saint’s last miracle for Jake will be a total  healing of his skin.

From Jake’s own website: I have scars now just like that J.R. Martinez from "Dancing With The Stars".  He is also a war hero…  I most admire him for how he acquired his scars.  He made the comment that he is "proud of how he got his scars". He is not afraid to put himself out on national television even though he too has scars all over his head, face and neck. He is a true hero and someone to admire. Scars and all......I thank God that I'm alive.
Jake with his Mother & the Saint

Today, Jake is training to be an altar boy at church and still playing basketball.

Several of our monastery Oblates will be traveling with a group to witness the great event of the canonization of this first Native American saint at the Vatican.

Meltem Aktar, Chicago