America Magazine wants dumbed-down path to canonization

From the Jesuit run America Magazine comes this with my emphases and comments.

The Universal Call
The Editors | SEPTEMBER 19, 2011

Ever since the Second Vatican Council spoke of the “universal call to holiness,” there has been a move to recognize more lay men and women as saints, as models of sanctity for lay Catholics. Several contemporary lay women and men have already been raised to the “glories of the altar,” among them St. Gianna Molla (1922-62), an Italian mother who carried a child to term rather than consent to an abortion and died in the process. Others on their way include Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-25), the charismatic Italian social activist who said, “Charity is not enough; we need social reform.” In that same vein, the cause for canonization of Dorothy Day, the American-born co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, has just been advanced. And in 2008, Louis and Zélie Martin, the devout parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, were beatified, a rare instance of a husband and wife recognized together. [Bl. Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi.]

But when it comes to recognizing saints, the church still tends to favor popes, bishops, priests and members of religious orders. In June Pope Benedict XVI released the latest list of 27 candidates for sainthood, which included martyrs in the Spanish Civil War, among them a bishop and 13 Daughters of Charity; an Austrian priest killed in Buchenwald; the Mexican foundress of a women’s religious order; an 18th-century Italian diocesan priest and a French Dominican priest who founded the Bethany community. While there are plenty of holy Fathers and Mothers on that list, where are the holy mothers and fathers? [If the editors of America Magazine have someone in mind, I suggest that they become the actors of a cause.  After all, they have the money and resources together with the apparent will to do such.]

Fifty years after the council, in the midst of the church’s continued invitations for laypeople to lead holy lives, why are there still relatively few role models for the laity? Surely there are many who fit the definition of holiness: men and women who, aware of God’s love for them, return that love through service to their neighbor, specifically in their humility, charity and self-sacrifice.

Though the logistics may be difficult, the church should find a way to recognize models of holiness in men and women who lived “ordinary” lives. [The Church does have a way.  It is called a “cause”.  The editors of America could initiate one.] These would include: someone other than a saint from the very earliest days of the church (like St. Joseph), [There are martyrs in the ancient Church, right?  Very many of them “ordinary” people.  But note the writer’s choice of St. Joseph.  More on that later.] someone who was not royalty (like St. Elizabeth of Hungary), a married person who did not found a religious order in later years (like St. Bridget of Sweden), a couple who did not initially plan to live as “brother and sister” while married (like Louis and Zélie Martin), someone who did not found a religious community or social movement (like Dorothy Day) and someone who did not die in terrible circumstances (like St. Gianna Molla). [Do you get the sense from that list that the writers of America are focused on who has sex and who doesn’t?]

While Catholics recognize that the canonized saint needs to have led a life of “heroic sanctity,” many lay Catholics long for someone they can emulate in their daily lives. [Hold on.  Are the editors saying that Catholics are not in fact to strive for heroic sanctity?  Also, I believe the better term for what the Congregation must determine is “heroic virtue”.  I don’t want to quibble to much with “sanctity”, which is “holiness”, but we more easily come to a determination of the holiness of a person though “proofs” about their manifestation of virtues, theological and cardinal.] Which raises a question: Who is holier—Mother Teresa or the church-going mother who for decades takes care of an autistic child? Pope John Paul II or the pious man who serves as a director of religious education while holding down two jobs to support his family? The answer: they are all saintly in their own ways. “Heroic sanctity” comes in many forms—and it includes both those whose faith inspires them to found a religious order and those whose faith enables them to care for a sick child for years on end.  [That is right.  But while someone can propose that a person lived a life of “heroic virtue“, they then have to demonstrate that claim so that it can be accepted with moral certainty. That isn’t easy.  And it shouldn’t be, given the stakes.]

Three factors frustrate the desire for more lay saints. The first is the persistent belief that ordination or taking religious vows represents a higher level of holiness than does, say, raising a child. [I believe there is a pretty sound tradition that priesthood and religious life are higher callings.  But I don’t think anyone suggests that having that calling automatically means greater holiness.] But even the saints disagreed with this idea. “Holiness is not the luxury of a few,” said Mother Teresa. “It is a simple duty for you and for me.” [Yes, of course.  To be lived according to one’s state in life.  A Jesuit should know that.]

The second factor is the public nature of the lives of the priests and members of religious orders who are canonized. It is easier to see the personal impact of a founder or foundress than it is to know about a parent’s care for an autistic child. This kind of hidden lay holiness will be less likely to attract the devout simply because it is less well known. So, in the case of the ordinary layperson, the church’s requirement that a local devotion spring up around the person will be frustrated. [For someone to promote the cause of a person, they have to be known.  Those who knew the person must have the sense that the person was holy.  The issue of the person’s fama sanctitatis is important precisely because it affirms the devotion of the ordinary people the editor’s are exalting.  It is a sign of God’s favor when authentic.]

The third factor is the arduous, time-consuming and expensive canonization procedure, which only religious orders and dioceses have the financial resources and technical know-how to navigate. [Consider the implications of a procedure that is easy, swift, and cheap.  McSaints. Consider the impact on the Church’s reputation when many people not meriting beatification or canonization, miracles which are bogus, obtain approval.] Not many children of holy parents can manage the complex process required by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. [Where there is a will there is a way.  If people want it badly enough, and if God favors the enterprise, they find a way.  It may not be the smooth and easy road the editors of America want.  When did excellence cease to be of value in Jesuit spirituality?] Once the mother of the autistic child dies, who will advance her cause? Few might know of her holiness, yet her example might speak to more Catholics than even that of a pope[I cannot but agree.  She might be inspiring.]

If the church hopes to offer relevant models of holiness for laypeople, it is time to make the canonization process far more accessible and far less expensive for those who knew a holy husband, wife, mother, father, friend or neighbor.

So, they think the process is too complicated and expensive.

I think that these causes are very important and require the highest standards.  Having high standards will incur costs.

What aspects of finding out the truth of claims about holiness are the editors of American Magazine ready to set aside?

Another thing that makes me uncomfortable with their editorial is the sense I get that they don’t quite get what this “heroic” thing is.

At the time of the beatification of John Paul II I wondered aloud if we weren’t seeing a shift in the criteria for what is called “heroic virtue”.  I wasn’t suggesting that John Paul wasn’t heroically virtuous, by the way.  But I get a sense, in recent commentary, that what has always been understood as “heroicity” in the practice of the virtues a Christian must manifest hasn’t been somewhat undercut.

As I learned in the Studium conducted by the Congregation for Causes of Saints for future or potential postulators, et al., a virtue is practiced to a heroic degree under ordinary circumstances when it is practiced over a long portion of the person’s life and to the end with perseverance till death.  It can also be heroic when the circumstances of life are such that that most people fail.  True martyrs, for example, in their time of trial are thought to, in that time of being martyred, manifest the virtues to a heroic degree.

There is a tension inherent in the “universal call to holiness” and living a life of holiness, according to the virtues, to a “heroic” degree.  Heroic necessarily means something beyond the normal way people react to thing in life.  We are called to heroic virtues.  Not all of us attain them to a heroic degree.

And here I wonder aloud again…. could it be that the concept of “hero” has been eroded?  I don’t, for example, agree with the incessant use of the word “hero” when people do something out of the ordinary or perform some good act.  For example, I think that a Marine who is award the Congressional Medal of Honor probably did something heroic.  As much as I admire Marines, I don’t think that a Marine is a “hero” simply for serving in the Marine Corp.  I heard a story the other day and saw a video, about a man who ran to a car which was entirely engulfed in flames after an accident and, risking his own life, broke the window by pounding on it with his bare fist in order to rescue a perfect stranger.  I think acts like that are heroic.  The flames were enough to deter most people.  He did it anyway, seemingly with no self-interest. I am not sure that running to a car not on fire and opening the door and pulling a person out is “heroic”.  It could be.  The first example clearly is.  The second… not to clearly.  When you want to hold someone up as heroic, it is better to hold up clear examples of heroism, not doubtful examples.

Heroic virtue is attained through perseverance, elbow grease, and special graces.  It isn’t everyday.

That is not to say that people don’t attain the joys of heaven if they don’t manifest the virtues in a heroic degree.  They certainly can.  But when we want to hold some one up as a model of something, we hold up a model, not something ordinary.  We hold up as fine an example as we can find, so as to aspire, edify.  Cal Ripkin was a model baseball player, because he played well with great consistency for a very long time.  Some model players have shorter and less consistent careers, but they accomplished true mastery of the tools of their positions.  On cooking shows, you want to see good cooks, not just average cooks.  Even if they cook “average” or “everyday fare”, they do it well, with skill and insight.  What you then do with their recipes and examples is up to you.  You can adapt their recipes to just “okay”, or you can try to make it well.   But the model should be exemplary.

Another thing.  If the editors of American Magazine want the process to be cheaper, are they willing to abandon tenets of social justice and not pay people a proper wage for the work they do?  To put together a case for your “servant of God” you will have to cover travel and living expenses, which are not set by the Church, secretarial and translation costs, research, experts in many fields, etc.  A cause is a serious thing, like a juridical trial.  Precision is required because the truth is desired.

What aspect of finding out the truth of claims about holiness are the editors of American Magazine ready to set aside?

Yes, religious orders and dioceses have greater resources than most individuals.  The editors of American Magazine don’t think it is fair that people with resources should be able to advance causes, but those without the same resources cannot.  Do I detect a whiff of class warfare?  Let’s “dumb-down” the process so that everyone can have a whack, so that everyone can be called a “saint”.

But, “fair” is a description of the weather, not of life.

If some poor person thinks that another person who has died was a saint, then that person can go to the local bishop and make a case that a cause should be opened.  If the local bishop is convinced, he will take steps to begin a cause as the causes “actor”.

Otherwise, if the editors of America Magazine have some people in mind for beatification, I suggest that they band together to be the “actor” in a cause, approach the dioceses where the people died, and then commit to carrying the cause through to the end.

Rather than call on other people to do something, or to dumb-down the process, why don’t they write an editorial saying that they will take on the expenses of the process for any one and every one who has a person to propose?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Saints: Stories & Symbols, The Drill, The future and our choices, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. OUChevelleSS says:

    You’re absolutely right, Fr. Z. Before I even saw your analysis at the bottom I was already rolling my eyes, “these people have no idea what a heroic virtue is, that’s what makes saints.” Canonized saints were extraordinary in some degree in their life. It’s not about being nice and avoiding sin, but having the will more perfectly aligned to God and actually doing it.

    I think a lot of this is, like you said, an eroding of the idea of heroicness, at least in this area of life. But think about the situation after Vatican II and the clergy. Many clergy don’t appear to lead heroic, extraordinary vocations. “Just call me Fr. Bob, or Bob for short,” “I’m just one of you guys,” liturgical abuses, lack of visibly living the virtues, and so on. It’s not only damaging to our personal call of holiness and living heroically, but it’s also a huge reason for the vocations crisis. If being a holy saint is ordinary, why would young men want to give up wives and a family for the priesthood or to be a religious?

  2. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Just about every institution in this vale of tears has lowered standards in the past dozen decades or so. Folks thoroughly inculturated into the dominant contemporary culture are compelled to push that same process everywhere they go as they’re sure to see meaningful standards as a “repressive tool of the patriarchy” or some such.

  3. Johnny Domer says:

    The worst part of the article was how dismissive they were to St. Gianna, as if she doesn’t “count” as a lay, married saint. I suppose a woman who died rather than abort her child doesn’t quite fit the America mold; only people who spent a lot of time engaged in more liberal social reforms get the nod, I suppose (Bl. Pier Giorgio, Dorothy Day). St. Gianna’s sainthood wasn’t based JUST on her death; the woman led a remarkably devout life as a wife, mother, and physician before her death.

    Also, why the diss to St. Therese’s parents? While Louis and Zelie entered marriage thinking it would be a “brother and sister” relationship…it wasn’t. They lived as a regular married couple and had a bunch of kids, one of whom is canonized and all of whom were extremely holy. They’ve gotta be in the top-10 of Holiest Parents in History, right? How is that part of their life not exemplary?

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    To be fair Father I do think that the editors of America have a point when they talk about Religious Orders having the money neccessary to advance causes and I think you are wrong when you opine “Do I detect a whiff of class warfare?”, one thing that frustrates me now that the chances of even being allowed to test my vocation are frightenly slim is the fact that we poor wordly schlubs who have to serve two masters don’t have many examples of holiness unless you count those rich enough to pay for the proceedure.

  5. benedetta says:

    I don’t have time to read the whole thing right now but of course there are quite a lot of lay martyrs of our time who are/were ordinary lay Catholics. I expect in a generation or two that causes will be opened. In some instances we don’t know the details of what they have lived through or are currently living through for many reasons. But the truth is becoming known.

    Wouldn’t St. Benedict Laboure fit the bill. I don’t think a religious order ever accepted him and he never was ordained. St. Francis was not a priest but in his lifetime lay people affirmed the need for the concrete encouragement for sanctification he proposed.

    Still when it comes to the who gets to be declared a saint game what I teach others who ask me personally is this. The Church believes in the communion of saints. Saints who are officially declared by the Church does not equal a judgment that they are more holy than others in the communion of saints. There are saints all around and most of us even know a few, by whatever criteria in this article or in other places. If people are looking for other laity to relate to in terms of holiness then we don’t have to go very far as Catholics for the most part. If we are timing it to coincide with Second Vatican well there are generations still living and as I understand it the Church cannot declare them saints while they are alive. But I am certain there are and will be.

    What about St. Faustina. I know she was a nun so obviously the America editors would reject her. But she as a nun couldn’t really do much for anyone, wasn’t of much value, and she was “put in her place” just for pursuing closeness with Jesus from the very start. Then the fruit of her prayer caused her all kinds of heartache and more scorn. She had no one to back her. Yet she patiently endured it but at the same time did not betray the Lord.

    I think there are quite a few models of sanctity around and they are constant helps, to me, to try again even when the powers arrayed appear just to discourage from faith.

    If America needs some ideas I could point out a few and they with the resources could open the cause. In addition to parents with autistic children there are parents who have adopted more than one child with disability and taken on the full weight of care and education for them. There are lay people who have founded schools in parts of the world where children lack for any sort of opportunity as we in the US know educational opportunity. There are lay people who have fought against tide of crime overtaking their community. Then there are those who fight with all their strength to protect whatever innocents they are entrusted with. There are public officials in places of authority who refuse to be consumed by the culture of death and speak out for truth though they get heaped scorn. They all inspire me to try again.

  6. Let’s not forget that the Church already has a day in both the Ordinary Form calendar and the Extraordinary Form calendar set aside to honor all of the Saints, officially canonized and not officially canonized: All Saints’ Day (and maybe All Souls Day as well). Not every saintly person HAS to be canonized and given a feast day. Father Z does have a good point in that if a person is believed to have lived a good and holy life, you can start a cause for the canonization of that person. My main point is that we are all called to be saints, but it takes a lifetime to completely form a saint and that canonization is there to recognize all who went above and beyond the call to live their life as close to the example of Jesus as humanly possible. All Saints’ Day is there to celebrate all of the saints, but especially those who lived saintly lives that aren’t officially canonized.

    On a side note, let’s not forget that it takes a miracle attributed to that person to make them fully qualified for official canonization.

  7. asperges says:

    There is a thread throughout this that wants something NOW. It is a sort of instant TV mentality, but many of the saints’ causes waited and have waited centuries. The late Pope’s radical change of speed and sheer quantity of proclaimed saints was seen by some as immoderate and even more so the speed with which his own cause was rushed through, one has to say, to some degree also. There is much to be said for a gradated and considered process. No doubt it does have its faults. Perhaps this needs attention. Money and influence should not be the primary movers in the causes of saints.

    The other point though is that everyone is called to holiness and, please God, most of our faithful friends and parents are in time saints. It does not need Vatican approval and public decree to get into heaven. We celebrate the throng which no-one can number on All Saints Day and remember with even greater love those in Purgatory the day after.

    This article smacks of the familiar resentment of elitism and hierarchy and a desire for some sort of democratic approach as “fairer.” But exceptional men and women of heroic virtue, merit exception. I once heard a French preacher storm: “Mes freres: There is no equality in Heaven. Do you think you are as good as St Peter or the Blessed Virgin?!”

    To quote from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers:
    “When every one is somebodee,
    Then no one’s anybody!”

  8. Supertradmum says:

    What has not been discussed in the article is that it is much harder for a lay person to achieve obvious holiness while in the market place. The married life, or even single state, with all of the anxieties and tangles of daily life, would be much harder, as the social structure a lay person finds themselves in daily is not conducive and mostly, positively hostile, to holiness. I am not saying that a priest, monk or nun, or missionary sister have an easier time being holy, only that they have, in place, structures which allow for prayer, reflection, mutual support and mutual correction leading to daily conversion. A lay person has a hard enough time finding a spouse who wants to pray to rosary or not use contraceptives. Single people, like myself, are totally isolated in a sea of secularism. I would suggest that the laity, being on the front lines of the horrible spiritual warfare “in the world”, and having to be there and “not of the world”, produce less saints, just as the Marines probably sustain more casualties as they are the first to hit the beach, as it were. I honestly do not believe there are many holy lay people for the simple reason that the structures which would help them be holy, are missing. In my own family, I have no support for a holy lifestyle and have, therefore, become more isolated than I would chose to be. How many Catholics are encouraged in the raising of their children in an orthodox manner, or actually find it possible to go to daily Mass or say a daily rosary, or the Divine Liturgy. The numbers are small. Where are the heroic lay men and women–in very small, isolated communities where no one notices their holiness except God.

    A second problem is the lack of spiritual directors available for the laity. If one finds one, if he is a priest, he is usually so busy he cannot take anyone else on. Spiritual growth without direction is almost impossible,unless the Lord in His Mercy gives one infused knowledge and extraordinary graces. I cannot imagine their are many lay people who have spiritual directors in these days of priest shortages. The number of orthodox nuns has dwindled. We live in deserts, and must learn to live like the desert hermits within the polis.

  9. Supertradmum says:

    apologies for the modifications–I have had a very rough “lay” day.

  10. Jack Hughes says:


    I agree with you, I spent six weeks as a guest in a Monastary last Fall and I DID NOT want to go home, Full Divine Office, Extraordinary Form 5 days a week, communal Rosary before Vespers and Compline and at least 1 hour of Silent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every day……………….

    You can imagine how I felt when after having extended an invitation to make a vocational visit the Carmelites of Wyoming withdrew said invitation becaues of ‘concerns about my background’ i.e. my father ran away and left my mom nearly 11yrs ago, also the local Fraternity Priest wouldn’t even meet with me to discuss the posiblity of trying my vocation with them; simply saying that ‘I wouldn’t fit in’. Sometimes I think that Traditional groups should put a notice up on their websites stating ” The Apostle Paul may be a Saint but we would have refused him entry based on the fact that he was a murderer”.

    heck even Alessandro Serenelli was admited to the Capuchans as a laybrother!!!!

  11. benedetta says:

    To me also a saint is someone who intercedes, intervenes, and brings mercy, even if without remarkable or fantastic means, in response to a call received within the context of their acknowledged responsibility as a member of the Church, in faithfulness to the Church. I expect that of the generation of Second Vatican saints there will be great numbers of people who lost livelihood or were penalized in career advancement or suffered all sorts of punishments in a variety of material and concrete ways in the course of attempting to remain faithful to the Church’s witness on behalf of the sanctity of life.

    Perhaps there is a problem with the paradigm proposed, namely that we are to “emulate” saints. Of course saints are models of sanctity/holiness and we should imitate in so far as possible. But I think their status is less about a hall of fame award or adulation and more about their solidarity to every believer. They are not out there or far away from us at all. They are not unreachable. And every one was human and though born in different times and places in solidarity with all humanity, sharing many of the very same attributes, foibles, opinions and preferences that we moderns test out or evolve through or settle on as the case may uniquely be. They are there not to tell us that it is unattainable but rather that it is attainable, to have courage, to keep trying. And they are beyond number and as diverse as human life itself. In other words, if we cannot relate to one saint or another because they did not have the internet back then I don’t think the fault is theirs or the Church’s.

    Even when we are in places that the best people can’t access for one reason or another the saints still intercede. It’s not a matter of sociology or demographics as helpful an American approach as that can be to some problems of the world. I think it’s a matter of faith.

  12. Dr. Eric says:

    What about Bl. Anna Maria Taigi? She was married, “enjoyed married life” if you get my meaning, and was a mystic. That should be right up America’s alley.

  13. Panterina says:

    It doesn’t surprise me. We are living in the “good enough” era, where living a decent life is thought to be sufficient to merit sainthood. People don’t want to put in the heroic effort that sainthood rightly deserves. What I find amusing is that there hasn’t been another time like now when so many lay people have been canonized. And they’re still complaining that we don’t have enough lay role models?

  14. S. Murphy says:

    St Thomas More is a pretty darn good example, not just for lawyers a politicians, but for anyone with a family, a profession, and the possibility of a boss’s expectations conflicting with the individual’s moral obligations. Bl Franz Jagerstatter was pretty heroic, too. Although, I guess they died in terrible circumstances, like St Gianna Molla, so they’re not what America is looking for…
    I suspect there’s a lot of people who have benefitted by knowing (or being raised by) someobody who demonstrating inspiring personal virtue and holiness, who wouldn’t even think of going to the Vatican and saying ‘Hey, you should canonize my Mom.’ But if the Lord wants it, the reputation, local cult, and miracle will happen. Otherwise, they have their reward in heaven, and those who knew have the benefit of their example, and probably their love.
    Heroic examples are out there, though. If everything Paul Glynn says about Takashi Nagai in a Song for Nagasaki is true, someone (maybe America?) should open a cause for Nagai’s canonization.

  15. rakesvines says:

    This might speak to the need for thoroughness that the Jesuits are missing when requesting a fast lane to canonization.
    Two men considering a religious vocation were having a conversation. “What is similar about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders? ” the one asked.
    The second replied, “Well, they were both founded by Spaniards — St. Dominic for the Dominicans, and St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Jesuits. They were also both founded to combat heresy — the Dominicans to fight the Albigensians, and the Jesuits to fight the Protestants.”
    “What is different about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?”
    “Met any Albigensians lately?”

  16. TravelerWithChrist says:

    This article has the same smell as many lefty writings.
    They either didn’t do their homework (as a Catholic…well…) or they write to skew the direction.
    Sts Zelie and Louis Martin’s family didn’t push for the cause – they were all nuns who are deceased.
    And what about St Maria Goretti, her family did NOT have money, she was not a nun, nor was she an adult, but I don’t think she fits their mold as she died protecting her virginity?

    I suspect they want a few “lay saints” who are ordinary, like me and other readers (I can’t include you Fr Z, as you are one of THoSE). They show a great lack in humility. I think, no I know my mother is a saint in heaven (she died after raising 9 children and 2 in heaven, all of whom are still Catholic). I don’t need her to be canonized and I don’t think she would consider herself one of the great saints if you could ask her. Can’t they be satisfied that if we die and make it to heaven, we will be saints?

  17. benedetta says:

    Agree also with what supertradmum says. Perhaps the problem isn’t with the supposedly evil/wretched “procedures” (which are after all there to bring accountability) of the Church in canonization. I have to say I tend to only hear encouragement to the universal call to holiness of the laity from orthodox Catholics. Since the phenomenon in this country of ewtn and lay movements encouraging the universal call to holiness is something that is only beginning to take root and for many years there was really little discussion on that or it was openly derided taking the sociological approach it is going to take some time and resources to investigate it. It doesn’t mean it is not happening.

    When it comes to marrieds, of course the editors of America would know much better than I but it’s my understanding that one’s vocation to marriage is the context, according to Second Vatican, in the way that a priest’s vocation is his context. Years ago I actually asked someone in the Church about married saints. Not, a father or a mother but, married because marriage in the Church’s eyes is a vocation itself, marriage vows and living them out in the context of the Church is considered by the Church as a very real and important call.

    Of course when St. Therese used to be sort of derided as well now many people find meaning in her way and her parents together are saints. There is something to be said about the vocation of marriage and what a family is in the eyes of the Church and in terms of the universal call.

    Sometimes lately I see holiness not so much in spectacular media events but in terms of what people will resist or forego even at great cost. That sacrifice ends up being very hard to quantify or describe. In fact I see great holiness when people do not cave as a matter of course to pressures of respect, affirmation, admiration, higher pay, career advancement, the status quo, entitled interests. We live in interesting times.

  18. Christine says:

    Perhaps instead of whining about the lack of recognized lay saints, the Jesuits could roll up their sleeves and help the lay faithful grow in holiness and heroic virtue by giving retreats and offering spiritual direction.

  19. benedetta says:

    Of course children may demonstrate heroic virtue. As I understand it Mattie Stepanak’s cause is being investigated currently. In our times children I think need to observe and understand and imitate holiness in concrete terms. Innocence itself is under attack, has been for quite some time.

    I expect there are other children in other parts of the world who also may be deserving.

    This whole discussion about causes and Jesuits reminds me — the cause on behalf of Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek S.J. continues. His cheerfulness towards others, his good humor, his affirming trust in God, his faithfulness to humanity and to the Church throughout what he suffered has been very helpful to me. I think the events of his life have much to tell us. Of course he was not a lay person. But, he was forced to live as all others during his confinement, no special treatment, privileges or the signs of respect that priests enjoyed in that time and often still do now. He was stripped of any supports from the Jesuit order and the Church. He was falsely accused and his words and actions twisted and used against him by those who hated the Church over and over again. During some periods he celebrated Mass in secret. He did not preach himself yet everywhere he went he showed mercy towards those he was confined with by providing the sacraments when the faithful themselves clamored for them. Understanding his every step was watched and that everything he did served as fodder for continued entrapment, he provided the mercy of the sacraments that he could provide. In his memoirs he recounts different times when others, whether hostile or appearing as friend, advised him to find a wife and settle down (he had long given up hope that he would ever be able to leave and of course the Jesuits had said Mass for the repose of his soul, given up for dead) and he found this very funny but also attempted to seriously engage people, hostile or no, to comprehend what God had done, was doing, with his life by his vocation.

    So there you see it’s settled. Servant of God Fr. Ciszek. An SJ. A priest in solidarity with the laity in all circumstances. Who did not flee the cross but remained loyal to the end. Heroic virtue. May he intercede for all of us.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the attributes of a saint in order to decide on whether this or that lay person is or was a saint. It is my understanding that a saint fulfills all of the criteria of the Eight Beatitudes. In order to grow into the maturity of saintliness, one must also follow St. Anselm’s seven levels of humility-which include, acknowledging one’s wretchedness, weeping over one’s sinfulness, being glad that others see one’s faults, taking joy in being seen as a sinner, and so on. In addition, saintliness means that one is mature spiritually enough to die for one’s Faith, like St. Thomas More, or Margaret Clitherow, for examples. However, being able to give up one’s life for one’s Faith in Christ means that one died to self a million times, giving up all, including reputation, status, etc. so that dying or even being tortured before death, is part of the same process of purification, and ultimately, love for Christ Himself. That most lay saints are martyrs is a testimony to the fact that these people were ready to die for Christ, and practiced heroic virtues, and probably had infused virtues, long before the day of martyrdom. We are not taught how to be saints, unless we read the lives of saints, such as St. Therese, the Little Flower, or St. John of the Cross, etc. and, of course, unless we really read the Scriptures. To be a saint is to love, God first, one’s enemies, and hate one’s self. This is the challenge of the lay person in the secular world which never helps us, except in this one thing. The more we suffer and see suffering as a gift of purification of the senses and the spirit, the more we become holier.

  21. Dr. Eric says:

    St. Basil the Great’s father, St. Basil; his mother, St. Emmelia; his grandmother, St. Macrina; his grandfather, another St. Basil; his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa, his sister, St. Macrina the Younger; his brother, Peter of Sebaste; and his brother St. Naucratius were all canonized. There’s another holy family for you. C’mon America Magazine, you’re not doing your homework.

  22. pkenny says:

    There really are so many great lay examples of holiness; they are out there waiting to be discovered if one just makes the effort.

    Apart from the numerous martyrs, in recent decades we have the examples of Bl Alberto Marvelli, Bl Ivan Merz, Ven Matt Talbot, Bl Eurosia Fabris, Bl Contardo Ferrini. The are just examples that come to mind without much thought or research. We can then add numerous causes that are making progress such as the three Legion of Mary causes (Frank Duff, Edel Quinn and Alfie Lambe), Antonio Gaudi and numerous causes in Opus Dei. Plus we can also add in the newly opened cause of Zita, wife of Bl Charles of Austria. Yes, she was royalty, but Raised her children in exile and poverty and can teach us a thing or two about coping with daily hardship.

    Remember , these are recent causes from the last century and I haven’t even scratched the surface…

  23. Ezra says:

    Does this mean we’ll see America pushing the causes of Montserrat Grases, Isidoro Zorzano, and Toni Zweifel?

  24. Mrs. O says:

    One neat aspect of saints is they don’t grant favors till after the Church is thru investigating. Some things will be self evident and they are there to help IF that is what they are seeking. My understanding is those who were religious were better known/ their life etc. BUT when we celebrate all saints day that is a day for ALL. I agree with Fr. If they have someone in mind, they should submit their name. If not, it may provoke us to pray for others more? I hope so.

  25. La Sandia says:

    Dear America editors:

    There actually does happen to be an apostolate whose mission it is to promote the sanctification of ordinary work and the laity’s call to holiness. It’s founder was dedicated to the idea that anyone could be a saint. In fact, not only is it well-known, it was the first personal prelature of the Catholic Church and it happens to have several lay members with active canonization causes. It’s called Opus Dei.

    (crickets chirping)

    Oh. Right. Never mind.

  26. Rich says:

    I don’t agree that the Church’s articulation of the universal call to holiness necessarily implies we are all called to be canonized saints. It is not difficult to recognize that the majority of saints and blesseds recognized by the Church are priests and religious. America’s complaint about this is only a veiled attempt to undermine the Church in suggesting it doesn’t really recognize lay people despite the universal call to holiness. And, it’s “solutions” to the problem are so vague and cursory that it seems to me they really didn’t think any real feasible solutions through; they just seem to have wanted to complain about and undermine the Church’s policies.

  27. Random Friar says:

    I agree with America, in so far as it would be good to have good holy laymen and laywoman raised to the honors of the altar.

    But I agree with Fr. Z. Rome is not supposed to do all your heavy lifting for you, America magazine. Certainly, my Jesuit brothers have a few loose pennies they can cough up to further the cause of some inspiring lay saint. Get to work!

  28. ray from mn says:

    One wonders that some Jesuits still believe in saints. Actually, some probably believe that we are all saints and we need to be listed.

    America could play a far more important role in the Church if it would take to task the notorious Jesuit priests who preach dissent while still accepting support from Jesuit universities. Those dissidents know full well that if they left the Church, they would immediately lose their platform in the media. But America is too cowardly to point out this hypocrisy. Who ever hears of Charles Curran these days?

  29. Supertradmum says:

    A reminder of what Thomas Aquinas writes of perfection and saintliness: IIa IIae q.184, a.3

    “The counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) are directed to the removal of things that hinder the act of charity and yet are not contrary to charity, such as marriage, the occupation of worldly business, and so forth.” The point here is that it is much, much harder for a person in lay state to attain perfect love, that is, perfect charity. As perfection, or saintliness, lies in the love of God, one must have all the other virtues, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and so on. Obviously, in our day and age of keeping out heads above the waters of materialist philosophies, relativism, and the moral onslaught on the senses, it is much harder for a lay person to be perfect. The article does not address any of the means of saintliness, only points out the so-called faulty procedure, which some think was already dumbed-down under John Paul II, with the omission of the third miracle and the dismissal of the Devil’s Advocate, abolished in 1983.

  30. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Maybe someone should send the editors of America magazine a copy of the book,
    “Married Saints and Blesseds through the Centuries” (Ignatius Press, 2002).

    Since they seem to be obsessed with “collar envy” (or “habit envy”), and are at least implicitly jumping on the celibacy-bashing bandwagon, they could see that the Church in her wisdom *has* canonized numerous married saints over the years.

    But of course that wouldn’t fit their “script” and agenda that the Church is elitist and clerical and disdains the married state.

  31. irishgirl says:

    How about the book ‘Secular Saints’ by Joan Carroll Cruz, published by TAN Books and Publishers? There are a lot of ‘holy laypeople’ in that book, too!
    Supertradmum @ 2:24 09/09-how right you are! It’s very hard for us lay people who suffer and struggle out in the world and have to live in places that are ‘spiritual deserts’.
    Hey, editors of America magazine, do your homework! I found a site called ‘The Hagiography Circle’, and there’s are a heck of a lot of lay candidates for sainthood listed!

  32. Supertradmum says:

    irishgirl, are you in Ireland? If so, may I visit you next month, as I shall be there.

  33. IIRC, St. Gregory the Great’s whole family are also venerated as saints.

    Re: more lay saints’ causes —

    I think the problem here is that America Magazine is just assumed not to be interested in any lay local private veneration of saints or in promoting causes that aren’t of activists martyred in leftwing causes. Because if you hit the back racks of churches or wander the Internet, I guarantee that you’ll find a ton of lay causes running around out there. Granted, a lot of them are lay children or lay “victim souls” or lay mystics; and frankly, most of them strike me as being soon to discern out; but people are surely interested in this stuff. That married lady from out in California in the Twenties and Thirties who wrote endless books of visions, for example. Or that kid who was sick in bed all the time, who still has a lot of interest. Those are both quite typical lay-run causes. Or that guy who had five zillion statues of Mary in his yard due to a vow he made and lived on a shoestring. If they were medievals, they’d at least ponder his sanctity and argue a bit about how he compared to the Stylites; but they’re not interested in that kind of lay virtue (or activism?), either.

    But since most of the people at America are old enough to remember a good many causes of this sort, one concludes that they really aren’t interested in the kinds of causes that the laity tend to try to promote, and have thus blotted them out of their minds. They aren’t interested in people stopping by graves and leaving thank-you notes, because that’s just too declasse and primitive and… laypeople-ish. (“Ooh, yuck, get it off me.”)

  34. Jayna says:

    But…they’re saints. Of course they’re not ordinary. And why must they be lay? I’m not arguing against lay saints, but I take issue with the assertion that the laity are apparently incapable of using priests and nuns as moral examples because they have different lifestyles.

  35. Brad says:

    I just love lowering standards! It always works so well in retrospect!

    There are many unpublicized saints in heaven! We only know a fraction. Why are we now becoming obsessed with having Tom, Dick and Harriet all canonized, or, at the least, to be known as canonized? How very progressive, like having multiple valedictorians at HS grad and having every Joey on the little league team get a trophy for “participation”!

    This is pride to me and a sort of other worldly marxism. The victors, the saints, come back to their heavenly mansions and find all of Zhivago’s proletariat (by that I mean the proletariat are the lukewarm souls who do not want to try for heaven or acknowledge Grace’s attempts to get them there: the ones who would not face their crosses let alone carry them during the wayfaring state, the ones whom the saints put to shame) have moved into the former’s hard-earned homes and now glower at them.

    No saint in heaven, while on earth, would have been concerned with being lauded as a saint after his death. That is the litmus test for pride. They all surely wanted to become saints, but knew themselves to be supremely unworthy.

    Of course in America, in America, in 2011…

  36. inara says:

    Amparo Portilla of Spain, married mother of 11 & homemaker, who died of lung cancer in 1996, is a special inspiration to me (being a homemaker & mother of 9). She is quoted as saying, “I want to give myself to God through the love of my husband, children and, if possible, of others,” Portilla once said. “The Lord comes to me wherever I am. Loving my husband is the way to love Him.” Her cause was opened by the Cardinal of Madrid.

  37. off2 says:

    As someone above pointed out, not all saints are acknowledged as Saints. Nor need they be. Canonization is not like the Academy Awards.

    If I understand it correctly, canonization is for two purposes:

    1) To offer Saints as Catholic role models in some specific respect.

    2) To assure the faithful that prayers for the Saint’s intercession are not amiss.

    Sainthood is NOT to be an earthly reward for good, even exceptionally good, behavior.

  38. Jack Hughes says:


    I don’t think ANYONE is talking about lowering standards here, just that it might be a good idea given the fact that laity constitute 99% of the Church to give them more role models to whom they can relate to in their state of life and acknowledging a few of the factors that traditionally prevent such cannonizations.

    Personally I think your theory that this smacks of worldy marxism is on the same level as rounded squares i.e. it is utter codswallop and smacks of rash judgement.

    Also I think that Fr Z is making a rash judegment when he says “Do you get the sense from that list that the writers of America are focused on who has sex and who doesn’t?” I think that such an attitude reflects an almost manichean attitude towards sex which is perhaps attributable to his stated preference for St Augustine.

    Sometimes I get the impression that because of the perversion of sexual relations in todays society (as was the case in pagan Rome) that like some of the Early Fathers (Jerome, tertullian and Gregory of Nyssa to name a few) Traditional Catholics are adopting a very manichean attitude towards Sex (if not in practise then in words), something which the late Blessed Holy Father like St John Chrysostom tried to mitigate.

    As Pkenny points out “There really are so many great lay examples of holiness; they are out there waiting to be discovered if one just makes the effort”, now to be honest given the choice who can see anyone making an effort to discover the Devout housewife who raised 11 children, 2 of them autistic whilst managing to clean the house and prayer her Little Office and/or Rosary everyday?


    Although I am not married I can imagine it would be very difficult for a married man with a wife, children, secular job to related to St John Vianny

  39. irishgirl says:

    Supertradmum-nope, I’m not from Ireland. I’m American, born and bred in Upstate NY.
    I gave myself this ‘assumed name’ because my last name is Irish. My late father was 100% Irish-American, born on St. Patrick’s Day! So he was very proud of his heritage!
    Dad’s older brother and sister married Irish-Americans (second or third generation, I think), but he ‘broke the mould’ when he married my mother, who was born in Germany and came to the US in the 1920s.

Comments are closed.