Pope Francis’ Great Americans

Pope Francis, during his visit to our country this week, elevated one figure from American history to sainthood, and spotlighted two other Catholics in his speech to the U.S. Congress. Who are they and what do they have to show and teach us?

St. Juniperro SerraSt. Junípero Serra

This missionary was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded nine missions for evangelizing the native people from San Diego to San Francisco in what is today California. In his homily for St. Junípero’s canonization on Wednesday, Pope Francis said of him:

“He was the embodiment of ‘a Church which goes forth,’ a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.

Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: ‘Siempre adelante! Keep moving forward!’ For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!”

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationServant of God Dorothy Day

This Catholic social activist was an agnostic American journalist who converted and established the Catholic Worker Movement, Houses, and Newspaper. These advanced Catholic social teachings and provided direct aid for the poor and homeless. As a young woman, prior to her conversion, Day had an abortion and later gave birth to her daughter, though she never married. (A patron for repentance from sins like these seems much needed in our time.) The cause for her canonization has been opened by the New York Archdiocese since 2000, bestowing her the title “Servant of God.” In his (first of its kind) speech before Congress on Thursday, Pope Francis said, “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

Dorothy Day’s own famous quotes include, “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” Of herself, in life she said, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” And of Catholicism she said, “Our faith is stronger than death, our philosophy is firmer than flesh, and the spread of the Kingdom of God upon the earth is more sublime and more compelling.”

Thomas MertonThomas Merton  (1915–1968)

This monk lived a life as checked as Day’s prior his conversion to Catholicism during college in his mid-twenties. In December 1941, he joined the Trappist monetary in Gethsemani, Kentucky. Seven years later, he published an autobiography about his converion and spiritual journey called “The Seven Storey Mountain.” Though Merton wrote more than 70 books, this work spoke to his generation more than any other, inspiring many monastic vocations.

In his speech before Congress, Pope Francis said of Merton:

“He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: ‘I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers.’ Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”

Thomas Merton own quotes include: “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.” And, “Faith is the total surrender to Christ, which places all our hope in Him and expects all strength and sanctity from his merciful love.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: