Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An American Saint-Maker

The American Spectator has an article about the cause of Katherine of Aragon. (Via Supremacy and Survival.)
"Her story touched me very deeply," Nassif St. John said in a recent interview. "I knew she was being treated unfairly and cruelly. Her story stuck with me my whole life."

It's one thing to feel sympathy for Katharine, but how does one go about making her a saint? Encouraged by his parish priest, Nassif St. John wrote to Michael Evans, the Catholic bishop of East Anglia, (the diocese where Katharine died and where she lies buried) and Vincent Nichols, Catholic archbishop of Westminster, seeking their advice. Archbishop Nichols and Bishop Evans both expressed their support for the cause, but emphasized that there must be clear evidence of devotion to Katharine. In other words, there must be proof that people venerate Katharine's memory and consider her saintly.

That evidence has been supplied by Charles Taylor, Dean of the Anglican diocese of Peterborough, England. Every year, about the time of the anniversary of Katharine's death, the clergy of Peterborough Cathedral (site of Katharine's grave) host a three-day commemoration of this holy but cast-off queen. There is an ecumenical memorial service in the cathedral, a candlelight procession to Katharine's grave, and a Catholic Mass offered at the High Altar.

"Quite a number of our visitors come to see Katharine's grave," Dean Taylor wrote in a recent email. "A few lay flowers or a pomegranate (symbol of Aragon), and even if most do not audibly or even consciously utter words of prayer, the visit to see and remember is to some extent an act of prayer in itself."

That is a good beginning, but more is necessary. According to Msgr. Richard Soseman, a priest of the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, who worked on the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, "Laypeople should form themselves into groups, guilds, associations, foundations, etc., to promote the life, holiness, teachings, and example of the candidate. The laity should be wildly enthusiastic about their candidate, and share the good news, which they have as a result of their devotion, with others." Msgr. Soseman also suggested producing prayer cards and perhaps pamphlets or booklets about Katharine, and disseminate them to anyone even remotely interested. To get the word out, Nassif St. John has created a website: Katharine of Aragon: The Official Website for Her Cause.

Katharine died in 1536, so obviously there are no eyewitnesses to interview about her life and character. An assessment of her holiness must be based solely on her own writings and the writings of people who knew her well. These documents exist in archives in England, Spain, and the Vatican, and the cost of tracking them down and copying them is the responsibility of the association promoting Katharine for sainthood. So this is no idle undertaking. (Read entire article.)

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