All Hallows’ Eve–Saints in New York
A blessed “All Hallows’ Eve” tomorrow!
We’re starting one of my favorite, and busiest, times of the year. Over the next few weeks we will celebrate Thanksgiving, the Feast of Christ the King, the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new Church year, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and, finally Christmas!
Of course, it all begins with the Feast of All Saints on November 1, and All Souls on November 2, this Sunday and Monday.
Saints, and possible future saints, have been much in the news lately. Pope Francis, during his address to Congress last month, mentioned two potential saints with New York connections: Servant of God Dorothy Day, who lived much of her life here in New York and is buried on Staten Island, and Thomas Merton, the famed Cistersian Monk and author of The Seven Storey Mountain, who also lived for a time in New York, and, in fact, converted to Catholicism and was baptized at Corpus Christi Parish, while he was a professor at Columbia University.
Two Sundays ago, I was privileged to be in Rome as Pope Francis canonized four new saints, including Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin, the parents of The Little Flower, Saint Therese of Liseux. How appropriate that this married couple, the first ever canonized as a couple, were raised to the altars in the midst of the Synod on the Family! What a remarkable example of family life they provide.
New York has a rich history of saints — those already canonized, and those possible future saints whose causes are now underway. The first American citizen to become a saint was a New Yorker, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, and her shrine is right here in Manhattan. The first person born in America to be canonized was also a New Yorker, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity. Another saint with a strong connection to the Archdiocese of New York is Saint John Neumann, who was ordained a priest in New York, and later became the Bishop of Philadelphia.
In addition to Dorothy Day, there are several others from the archdiocese who are somewhere on the path to possible beatification and canonization, including:
Venerable Pierre Toussaint, the former Haitian slave who became known as the Father of Catholic Charity in New York for his selfless devotion to others;
Venerable Terence Cardinal Cooke, my beloved predecessor, whose life of service, humility, and selfless obedience to God’s will was summarized in his Episcopal motto, Fiat Voluntas Tua – “Thy will be done,” and who was so exemplary during his final illness;
Servant of God Sister Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, also known as Mother Mary Alphonsa, daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the foundress of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, dedicated to caring for those with incurable cancer, at a time when those with that disease were treated as outcasts;
Servant of God Sister Mary Theresa Tallon, foundress of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate;
Servant of God Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers;
Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, the founder of the Atonement Friars;
Servant of God Bishop James Walsh, co-founder of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
Bishop Walsh’s Maryknoll co-founder, Father Thomas Price, is also a candidate for canonization, although his cause is being directed by his home diocese in Raleigh. Another Maryknoll priest – a Staten Islander, Father Vincent Capodanno – is also on the path that we hope and pray will one day lead to sainthood, for heroically sacrificing his life ministering to soldiers in need as a chaplain during the Vietnam War
That’s quite an impressive list of New Yorkers who have, in one way or another, lived a life of heroic virtue. There’s also others who have a strong relationship with New York – like Father Felix Varela, a hero in his native Cuba, who served as our Vicar General in the early days of the Diocese of New York; Father Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest who lived in the Archdiocese for 20 years; and, his fellow Capuchin, Father Stephen Eckert, who lived in Yonkers for eight years. And, of course, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the great television and radio evangelist, who made New York is home for so much of his priestly life.
Nor can we forget saints from other areas of our state, such as Saint Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs; Saint Kateri Tekakwitha; and, Saint Marianne Cope.
All of these individuals are good role models for us, helping to show us how we can live out our lives and follow Jesus’ call to holiness. That’s one role of saints, to help us become saints too. Our goal in life is not and must never be centered on the things of this world. It’s to enjoy eternity forever in the Kingdom of God, becoming part of our heavenly family, the communion of saints!
So, this Sunday, we rejoice for all those who have entered into God’s presence, and pray to them to intercede for us that we may one day join them. On Monday, All Souls Day, we pray for those who have died, but may now be in purgatory, awaiting purification, so that they too will soon become part of our supernatural family in heaven, and reverently remember the faithful departed, especially those among our families and friends.
It’s a wonderful way to begin this busy, joyful, time of year. By calling to mind with love and gratitude those who have gone before us, and remembering to keep our eyes firmly fixed on our ultimate destination, joining the saints in heaven.