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August 2019 Posts

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When will there be saints of color the U.S. can claim as their own?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 13, August 2019 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
Saints of color
There already are—and we’re poised for more.

There already are—and we’re poised for more. Mohawk Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), from what became upstate New York, was known for her healing abilities. Filipino Saint Pedro Calungsod was a teen missionary martyred in Guam in 1672. Since Guam is now U.S. territory, we share this saint with the Philippines. In Puerto Rico, Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodrigues Santiago (1918-1963) brought a historically disaffected laity to the liturgy and sacraments. He translated works into Spanish to instruct the faithful. Blessed Charlie, as he’s called, awaits one more miracle for canonization.

Also keep your eye on five Venerables. Born a slave in what’s now Haiti, Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) relocated to New York with the household. There he studied hairdressing, as elaborate hairstyles were in vogue. Even before acquiring his freedom, Toussaint was a powerhouse of charity with the wealth he accrued, buying the freedom of other slaves and assisting the needy regardless of color. Rafael Cordero Molina (1790-1868) was denied an education as part of the African community in Puerto Rico. Under his parents’ instruction, he became a teacher dedicated to the literacy and faith formation of black children, while working as a cigar maker and shoemaker.

Henriette DeLille (1813-1862) of New Orleans was a free person of mixed race. Such women customarily were “kept” by a white man, marriage being unlawful. Attracted by the ministry of French sisters, Henriette desired admittance to religious life instead. Barred from white orders, she formed the Sisters of the Holy Family, teaching Creole children, and caring for the sick and orphans. Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), first acknowledged black priest in the United States, was born to slave parents in Missouri. (Mixed-race brothers James, Patrick, and Alexander Healy were ordained earlier, but their light skin invited less scrutiny.) After a long struggle for the right to be ordained, Tolton’s ostracization by an all-white clergy made his ministry a lonely vigil of courage. 

In addition, three black Servants of God are in the pipelines. From Cuba of Haitian parents, Mary Elizabeth Lange (1794-1882) founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore to provide education for black children. Her sisters also treated the sick, opened a night school for black women, and took in orphans during the Civil War. Julia Greeley (ca. 1833?48?-1918) was born a slave in Missouri. She moved with various families until arriving in Denver. After becoming Catholic, Julia promoted devotional literature she herself couldn’t read. Begging on behalf of others, she became known as Denver’s Angel of Charity. Thea Bowman (1937-1990) of the Franciscan Nuns of Perpetual Adoration, was a tireless instigator for racial justice in the church. The edict promoting her cause defines her as “Educator, Evangelizer, Missionary Disciple, Advocate for Cultural Awareness and Racial Harmony.” Through song and inspired evangelization, Sister Thea moved the hearts of bishops and laity alike. 

Book: Saints of North America, by Vincent O’Malley, C.M. (Our Sunday Visitor, 2004). Not inclusive of all biographies above.

Check out the online Hagiography Circle for updates on causes presently in motion:

How many times has Mary appeared in history and where?

Posted by: Alice L. Camille   🕔 Tuesday 13, August 2019 Categories: Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints
The church considers Marian apparitions open for selective acceptance and devotion.

This is a loaded question. The Vatican supplies no exact number of Marian apparitions. The current spokesperson for the Marianum Pontifical Institute in Rome, Father Salvatore Perrella, reports that nine apparitions have been declared worthy of belief in the last century. This doesn’t imply they occurred in the past century, only that they were examined in that period. The lists of bona fide Mary sightings are generally confined to less than a dozen, including: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico, 1531), Laus (France, 1664), Rue du Bac/Miraculous Medal (France, 1830), La Salette (France, 1846), Lourdes (France, 1858), Pontmain (France, 1871), Knock (Ireland, 1879), Fatima (Portugal, 1917), Beauraing (Belgium, 1932), and Banneux (Belgium, 1933). Recently, Green Bay, Wisconsin’s own Our Lady of Good Help (1859) was granted local devotional approval.

No doubt some will be concerned that Medjugorje isn’t on that list, but the inquiry into these apparitions hasn’t been concluded. In fact, about 300 Marian sightings from the 20th century alone have been or are being considered in Syria, Japan, Korea, and Rwanda, as well as across Latin America and Europe. How frequently have such claims have been made in the past? Estimates careen widely between 1,500 and 21,000 apparitions, including eight sightings in the United States and six in Canada. Whichever number is more credible, the vast majority of these claims received only limited or local interest.

When did Mary start showing up? According to tradition, the apostle James first encountered Our Lady in Zaragoza, Spain in the year 40. Saint Gregory of Nyssa avowed a personal experience of Mary, and the construction of St. Mary Major Basilica was prompted by an apparition—both in the 4th century. Marian apparitions remained rare until the second millennium. Since then, sightings have multiplied. Still, the messages received have been fairly uniform. Our Lady encourages conversion, prayer, penance, and reconciliation. She offers rosaries, medals, scapulars, and healings. She prevents invasions and ends wars. The recipients of these apparitions are most often poor children or humble adults.

What are we to make of all this? The church considers Marian apparitions open for selective acceptance and devotion. These private revelations “do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith” and “it is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation.” (CCC 67) This is church-speak for: belief in apparitions isn’t required, and must not contradict the faith of Christians.


Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations, by Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1978

Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, by Hilda Graef (Ave Maria Press, 2009)



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