A Welcome Example of Holiness


Pope Francis approved or advanced the causes of 14 new saints in the last few weeks, marking a particularly fruitful period as the Vatican and the world gingerly emerge from pandemic lockdowns.

It’s heartening to see that, just as it is to see that the pope has returned to delivering his traditional greeting and Sunday prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square to a masked and socially distanced gathering of the faithful below.

Still, the Covid-19 restrictions that have kept much of the world locked down for over a year have not been lifted completely in Europe, where positivity rates remain elevated and vaccine rollout has not been smooth.

That’s why the seven canonizations approved May 3 by Francis—including the hermit Blessed Charles de Foucauld—will be on hold until it’s safer to hold the large, formal ceremonies that mark such occasions at the Vatican.

The announcement of the seven new saints came less than two weeks after the pope issued a decree declaring the sainthood of Blessed Margaret of Città di Castello, a much-loved 14th century Italian Dominican laywoman, and advancing of the causes of six others.

Waiving the long formal canonical investigation usually required in making saints, the pope—on the recommendation of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes— authorized St. Margaret’s veneration as a saint under a Church practice known as “equipollent,” or equivalent canonization, which can be applied when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to the holy person.

Blind and severely disabled from birth, St. Margaret was kept hidden by her wealthy parents, who eventually abandoned her. She was later taken in by Dominican nuns and then friars, who welcomed her as a lay member of the order.

She opened a school for the town’s children, where she instructed them in the faith, and also looked after children while their parents worked. The local people began calling for her sainthood almost immediately after her death in 1320.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld was born in 1858 to a prominent family in France. Orphaned young after the death of his parents, he and his sister were lovingly cared for by both sets of grandparents. After the death of his remaining grandfather, young Charles used his inheritance to live a dissolute life in a military unit before resigning to explore Morocco. He wrote a well-received study of that country then returned to France where he rekindled his Catholic faith.

He joined the Trappists, living in monasteries in France and in Syria, before seeking an even more austere life as a hermit. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1901, he lived among the poor and finally settled in Tamanrasset, Algeria. In 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders. His writings inspired the foundation, after his death, of the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of Jesus.

Both of these young people were born to privilege but were accepted in radically different ways by their families, yet both displayed a profound and deep Catholic faith that carried them through their lives.

Although they lived in different eras, the impact they had on those they encountered was significant. We’re grateful that they will now be part of our own era as saints.