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“Blood Miracle” of San Gennaro Predicts Troubled Times Ahead, Some Claim – 21 December 2016

The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported the dried blood of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius) failed to liquify on 16 December, indicating troubled times ahead.  Failure of the “blood miracle” to occur on certain days of the year is considered a harbinger of misfortune.

The miracle of the blood’s liquefaction was first reported in 1389 and has been observed virtually every year since.  The blood is kept in a sealed glass ampoule in Naples Cathedral and is observed three times a year—on 19 September, 16 December, and the first Saturday before the first Sunday in May—on days of significance to the saint.  Failure of the blood to liquify is met with trepidation as it is considered a sign of impending disaster.  Non-occurrence of the miracle in 1939, for example, was succeeded by the Second World War.  Non-occurrence in 1980 was followed by the Irpinia earthquake, which killed nearly 2,500 people in southern Italy.


Pope Approves Canonization of Mother Teresa – 16 March 2016

Pope Francis approved the canonization of Mother Teresa and four other saints yesterday, 15 March 2016, nearly 19 years after Mother Teresa’s death at the age of 87.  Mother Teresa, also known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 19 October 2003.  Pope Francis confirmed a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa on 17 December 2015,  which paved the way for her canonization.  Two miracles are generally required before an individual may be declared a saint.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu on 26 August 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, then a part of the Ottoman Empire.  At the age of 19, she traveled to India with the Sisters of Loreto and became a teacher at the Loreto convent school in Darjeeling.  She later experienced a “call within the call,” which inspired her to conduct missionary work among the poor.  In 1950, she received the Vatican’s permission to establish a new diocesan congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to caring for “all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

Mother Teresa will be canonized on 4 September 2016.  The four others approved for canonization yesterday are Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, born Jan Papczynski, of Poland; Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad of Sweden; José Gabriel del Rosario of Argentina; and José Luis Sánchez del Río of Mexico.


The New York Times’ “Tourist’s Guide to Catholic New York” – 20 September 2015

Ahead of the Pope’s visit to the United States, today’s New York Times includes “A Tourist’s Guide to Catholic New York.”  The article provides a “point-by-point tour” through Lower Manhattan, from Battery Park to Union Square, with a detour through The Cloisters and the Saint Frances Cabrini Shrine in Upper Manhattan.  Several relics are mentioned in the article, including those of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Canonized by Pope Pau VI in 1975, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American to be declared a saint.  Apparently, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was baptized at the age of 30 at Saint Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in downtown Manhattan, and a statue of the saint can be found at the church’s entrance.  Located near One World Trade Center, Saint Peter’s serves New York’s oldest parish, which was established in 1785 following the American Revolution.

Meanwhile, a relic of the saint can be found at the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine.  Emily Brennan, the author of the New York Times article, notes with relief that the shrine contains “just a speck” of the saint’s bone.  She writes, “I still recall, with alarming detail, St. Catherine of Siena’s severed, decaying head in Italy, so I steeled myself for what was in store” at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Shrine.  The rest of the saint’s body is buried at the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Back in New York, however, a more complete set of holy relics can be found at the Saint Frances Cabrini Shrine in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.  Here, the body of Saint Frances Cabrini “lies in a glass coffin on the altar,” bearing a modeled wax head, because the real one is in Rome.  Brennan notes that The Cloisters, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is located in nearby Fort Tyron Park.  The Cloisters houses a truly remarkable collection of European art and architecture, primarily from the 12th to the 15th centuries.


Skeletons and Reliquary Discovered at Jamestown Settlement – 2 August 2015

Last week, researchers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC announced the surprising discovery of a small silver reliquary buried with one of the first English settlers of the New World.  The hexagonal reliquary was found in the grave of Captain Gabriel Archer, one of the leaders of the Jamestown colony, England’s first permanent colony in America, and a rival of Captain John Smith, the famous explorer.

According to an article published in The Atlantic, “After 400 years in the Virginia dirt, the box came out of the ground looking like it had been plucked from the ocean.  A tiny, silver brick, now encrusted with a green patina and rough as sandpaper.”  James Horn, the president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, states, “You have the very strange situation of a Catholic reliquary being found with the leader of the first Protestant church in the country.”  The Atlantic characterizes the discovery as “a historic bombshell.”  “[R]esearchers may have just discovered proof of an underground community of Catholics—including Archer and perhaps the person who buried him with the relic—who pretended to be Protestants,” the article explains.

The Washington Post reports that the hexagonal box was etched with the letter “M” and contained seven bone fragments and a small lead vial, or ampulla.  According to the Washington Post, “[s]tudies and scans showed that the box was made of non-English silver, and originated in continental Europe many decades before it reached Jamestown.”  The article further explains that the box was likely a public reliquary, rather than a reliquary for private devotion, “because it contained so many pieces of bone.”  Meanwhile, it is unclear why the letter “M” was inscribed on the reliquary.  The Washington Post notes Captain Archer’s mother’s name was Mary, and he came from Mountnessing near London.  We at Reliquarian believe the “M” may stand for “Martyr,” indicating the reliquary contained the bones of a Catholic martyr.

The Atlantic states that while other Catholic objects have been found at Jamestown over the years, those discoveries have now taken on a new meaning.  According to William Kelso, Director of Archaeology at the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, “We have been finding bits and pieces of rosaries and crucifixes and other things that were obviously Catholic.  One interpretation is they were brought over here to give to the Indians, even just to trade as trinkets.  But now I think about it in a whole different way.”

The reliquary will go on periodic display in Jamestown, though there are no plans to ever open the box itself.  Mr. Kelso told the Washington Post that opening the reliquary “would likely damage the box.”  He also said that while he is not a staunchly religious person, he believed “keeping it closed is somehow the right, respectful thing to do.”

Various pictures of the reliquary and other photographs from the excavation may be found here and here.  Additionally, an article published in Scientific American about the discovery of the reliquary can be found here.


Pope Francis Expected to Canonize Parents of Saint – 5 March 2015

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Pope Francis plans to canonize the parents of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in October.  Saint Thérèse’s parents, Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, were beatified in 2008 and, if approved for sainthood, will become the first spouses ever canonized as a couple.

Pope Francis has a special devotion to Saint Thérèse.  During his tenure as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis used to keep a photograph of the saint on a shelf in his library, and he still regularly appeals to her for guidance.  “When I have a problem,” he has said, “I ask the saint, not to solve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it.”

The XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family will meet in Rome from 4 to 25 October 2015.


Pope Canonizes Sri Lanka’s First Saint – 14 January 2015

Pope Francis declared Joseph Vaz, an 17th century priest and defender of Catholicism, Sri Lanka’s first saint before a crowd of over half a million people today in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  Born in 1651 in what was then the Portuguese colony of Goa, Vaz is celebrated for converting nearly 30,000 people and establishing a network of priests in Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, during a period of intense persecution by the island’s Protestant Dutch rulers.

In raising Vaz to sainthood, Pope Francis dispensed with the Church’s procedural norm for the canonization of saints, which requires the certification of two miracles before an individual may be declared a saint.  The Vatican never confirmed a second miracle attributable to Vaz, but as in the case of Pope Saint John XXIII, who was canonized in 2014, Pope Francis made an exception to the two-miracle rule in declaring Vaz a saint.

An interesting discussion on canon law, miracles, and the canonization process may be found here.


Manuscripts of Saint Francis to Be Displayed in the United States – 9 November 2014

Thirteen medieval manuscripts and nineteen artifacts from the Sacred Convent of Saint Francis in Assissi will go on displayed this month for the first time in the United States.  The exhibition includes a fragment of an early vita of Saint Francis, commissioned around the time of his canonization, as well as a poem written by Saint Francis himself.  The exhibition will first be shown at United Nations headquarters from 17 to 28 November before traveling to Brooklyn Borough Hall, where the exhibition, titled “Friar Francis: Traces, Words and Images,” will be open to the public through mid-January 2015.

The New York Times reports that although no evidence of Saint Francis’s signature or other handwriting can be found among the documents, the saint “certainly . . . touched the papal bulls that in the 1220s registered the pope’s messages to the order.”  Saint Francis most likely dictated his writings, according to historians.

More information, including a slideshow of items scheduled for display, can be found here at The New York Times’s website.


Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a New Jersey Nun, Becomes Seventh Beatified American – 4 October 2014

Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a member of the Sisters of Charity, was beatified today at a mass held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.  Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, in 1901, Sister Miriam Teresa authored a vast body of spiritual writings and was recognized for her extraordinary devotion during her lifetime.

In 2013, Pope Francis confirmed a miracle, which occurred in 1964, attributed to Sister Miriam Teresa’s intercession.  The miracle involved the healing of a young boy diagnosed with macular degeneration, who was told his condition was irreversible.  According to an article in the New York Times, “A teacher at [the boy’s] school, a member of the Sisters of Charity, gave him a prayer card and a memento of Sister Miriam Teresa.  He and his mother prayed to her.  Within six weeks, he could see again . . . .”

The boy’s mother later sent a letter to the Sisters of Charity explaining the apparent miracle, but the letter was lost between two file cabinets and was not rediscovered until 1998.  By then, the doctors who had treated the boy, and the sisters at the school, had died.  The boy’s medical records, however, had been preserved, and they were sent to various doctors in the United States and Italy for examination.  The doctors concluded there was no medical explanation for the boy’s recovery.

Now aged 55, the boy who had been healed carried a photo card and relic of Sister Miriam Teresa at Sister Miriam Teresa’s Beatification Mass today.  The relic, a lock of hair, is stored in an elaborate, gold-plated reliquary.  At the Mass, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (Congregatio de Causis Sanctorum), read a letter from Pope Francis declaring May 8th as Sister Miriam Teresa’s feast day.

Sister Miriam Teresa is the seventh beatified American.  Only three native-born Americans have been declared saints:  Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katherine Drexel, and Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk Indian canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.


Sainthood Delayed over Fight for Archbishop’s Remains – 14 September 2014

An article in today’s New York Times describes an on-going controversy over where the remains of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 to 1966, should be laid to rest.  Declared “venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2012, Archbishop Sheen’s body is currently buried in a marble crypt below the main altar of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

The article, “Tug of War for Bishop’s Body, or It’s Parts, Delays Sainthood,” notes that the dispute has brought a halt to Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood, “just as he appeared close to beatification, the final stage before canonization.”  “To be sure,” the article states, “disputes over remains of saints are nothing new in the Roman Catholic Church, and in the past the resolution has sometimes been to divide the body.  St. Catherine of Siena is enshrined in Rome, but her head is revered in a basilica in Siena, Italy.  St. Francis Xavier, the 16th-century missionary, is entombed in Goa, India, but his right arm is in Rome, in a reliquary at the Church of the Gesu.”

A compromise involving a division of Archbishop Sheen’s body, however, is unlikely, the New York Times reports.  In the opinion of Archbishop Sheen’s niece, “We should have moved out of the 14th century by now.”  She believes her uncle’s body should remain where it is.

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