Category Archives: Sainthood causes

Miriam Teresa Demjanovich –an American blessed

Miriam TeresaToday, the Catholic Church in America witnessed the beatification of a woman Sr. Miriam Teresa –the fourth American-born woman to be beatified. This is the first time a beatification ceremony happened in the USA. The Mass and rite was offered by Cardinal Angelo Amato in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ.

Interesting, our new blessed was a member of the Eastern Catholic Church in the United States. She was a member, however, of a religious order of the Latin Church, the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth. Her feast day is May 8. The Blessed’s book, Greater Perfection, published after her death remains germane to those interested in the spiritual life.

The Vatican Radio interview with Bishop Kurt Burnette (eparchial bishop of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Passaic) notes very well the importance of Blessed Miriam Teresa for us: her understanding of the sacrament of Baptism, her teaching on prayer, her desire to be of complete service to the Triune God. As the bishop says, Americans are known for their activism; and the other American blesseds and saints are known for their activity in building up the Mystical Body of Christ –the Church, but her God has chosen to raise up for us a model of holiness who is a contemplative.

“Bishop Burnette reflected on the impact of her legacy on Eastern and Western spirituality.

“One of the remarkable things about her writings, I believe, is that she brings an Eastern Christian spirit of unity into the Western analysis. The Western theology tends to be analytical. For example, when she talks about prayer, in the West they had divided prayer up into three stages. What they called the purgative, the illuminative and the unitive. But Sr. Miriam Teresa claims that prayer always includes all three parts.”

Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Sr. Miriam Therese when a young boy who lost his eyesight due to macular degeneration was cured after prayers through her intercession. For Bishop Burnette, this miracle along with her profound humility, spirituality and insight are clear signs of God’s confirmation of her sanctity. “I don’t believe we really choose who is going to be canonized, God does,” he concluded.

Alvaro Del Portillo declared “Blessed” in Madrid

Bl Alvaro del PortilloShortly after the elected of Francis to the Throne of Peter, he approved of the miracle that would lead to his beatification. His first miracle, if you are interested, concerned a case in 2003 where a Chilean baby boy’s heart started beating despite doctors’ failed 30-minute efforts to resuscitate him. The boy’s parents prayed to Del Portillo for his intercession from God to save their child. From all reports the child lives a normal life, going to school and playing soccer.

In the car last evening I was listening to various news services and NPR had a story –none of the other international services did– of the beatification of Del Portillo. But the real story seemed not the beatification of a man known for holiness but his connection to Opus Dei famously derided in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. I fail to see what one thing really has to do with another.

Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s original vision for Opus Dei has nothing to do with the political monikers of being liberal or conservative. Many will frame the group in these terms out ignorance. Opus Dei –a Latin concept meaning “The Work of God”– is about encouraging Catholics to know their ordinary, everyday work and life as a path to holiness. In other words, we are all called in whatever our work is, to the universal call to holiness; a strong emphasis of the Second Vatican Council and many saints. Religion is NOT just for 47 minutes on a Sunday morning where you put your money in the parking meter.

So, what ought to be admired about Opus Dei is the group’s emphasis and witness on the dignity of the laity. This same emphasis is also seen in two other ecclesial movements in the Church: Communion and Liberation and Focolare. But, The Work of God since its founding in 1928 has a significant challenge to the ultra-clerical attitudes of our Church while raising up the beauty of being a lay Christian and building up the Mystical Body of the Church.

Blessed Alvaro Del Portillo’s style was humble and faithful to the charism he was given by God to fulfill in history. His reputable for holiness is well-regarded and and substantiated. Del Portillo worked with Saint Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei for more than 40 years, and later his successor as the group’s leader until 1994.

Opus Dei is a lay organization in the Church with more than 90K members; only 2,073 are priests.

Blessed Alvaro, pray for us.

Red versus White Martyrdom

On FB today a friend asked the question about the distinction between red and white martyrdom. We don’t hear much about white martyrdom in the Catholic Church. Probably because it is a bit more difficult to ascertain and that we have a lot of evidence of “hatred for the faith” going around. But it may be the case that our white martyrs of today are the ones who are listed annually by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Some think there are 11 Christians are martyred every hour around the world. So, I know the concept of red martyrdom –being killed out hatred for professing Christian faith; I was fairly certain about white martyrdom, but wasn’t confident. So, I asked a friend who is another Orthodox monk. My friend’s response follows:
Sts Boris and GlebA “Passion-bearer,” is one who is killed, not directly for professing the Christian Faith, but while practicing and upholding the practical implications of the Faith, frequently accepting death rather than themselves shedding blood. Their voluntary death links them in a very special way, to that of Christ’s Passion, so they are said to bear his passion in their own bodies.
The first to be designated as such were Ss. Boris and Gleb, sons of St Vladimir of Kiev. They were devout Christians who refused to shed blood or defend their royal rights against their brother, who had them murdered.
St Nicholas II and his Family were officially canonized as Passion Bearers, not martyrs (though they are often referred to as the latter). This was for the way in which they bore their humiliation and suffering following the Tsar’s abdication, all the while maintaining their faith in the Lord and trust in his Will. So, while one can quibble over Nicholas’ ups and downs as an Emperor, there is no question as to his genuine faith, model family life (not something most royals were known for), devotion to duty, and steadfastness under tribulation.
In the case of such Passion Bearers as the Imperial Family, including my beloved Grand Duchess/Nun St Elizabeth and her companions, a person with a secular mindset will say that they were killed simply because they were members of the former ruling family. However, viewed in Orthodox terms, the status of the Tsar as an anointed king (sacral and sacrosanct) who was actually very devout and strove to live and model the Faith, gives his death along with that of his family, a martyric character.

Servant of God Brother Bernardo Vaz Lobo Teixeira de Vasconcelos

Bernardo de VasconcelosBernardo Vaz Lobo Teixeira de Vasconcelos was a Benedictine monk, mystic, poet, and authored Cântico de Amor. Studied at the University of Coimbra and there was part of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society which did works of evangelization and charity especially with the poor. Likewise, he was devoted to regular eucharistic adoration. Professionally, he was an editor of the journal which studied democracy.

Bernardo was born in São Romão Corgo (Celorico de Basto), Portugal, on July 7, 1902.  He discerned a call to the monastic life and entered the Monastery of Singeverga on 16 August 1924 and professing vows in September 29, 1925. His name in religion was Brother Bernardo da Anunciada. The superior sent him to the Abbey of Mont-César in Beligium to study theology. He was back home in a year’s time due a diagnosis of TB.

Bernardo illness weakened his body and yet he was peaceful and trusting in Divine Providence. The hundredfold was very present in Brother Bernardo’s life. In a letter to a fellow patient Bernardo wrote:

“don’t get delivered to sadness that only serves to disable our best energies … it expands your heart and let him the life-giving Sun of joy. Joy, but with so many ordeals? I’m telling you: who did you see still no cross? The cross follows us wherever we go and we have to take; and, if we don’t want to raise our arms and generously to hugs, I mean: with all the ardor of our hearts-what do we have to take a challenge behind us, the drags.”

Brother Bernardo died in the early hours of July 4, 1932, after a long suffering caused by TB. He is buried in the parish church of São Romão do Corgo

Brother Bernardo Vaz Lobo Teixeira de Vasconcelos is now honored with the title of Servant of God.

In all things may God be glorified.

Blandina Segale to be studied for sainthood

Blandina SegaleSister Bladina Segale, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, is now being studied for possible canonization. Segale who died at the tender age of 91 in 1941. The Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan is handling the cause.

The AP story says Sister Segale “challenged Billy the Kid, calmed angry mobs and helped open New Mexico territory hospitals and schools.”

She is the first from New Mexico to have a cause opened. The Sister of Charity was born in Cicagna, Italy, on January 23, 1850 and died on February 23, 1941. More of what the press is saying about Sister Bladina Segale can be found here.

If you are interested, you may want to find a copy of At the End of the Santa Fe Trail, a book containing the narrative and correspondence of Sister.

Sister Bladina joins a list many US citizens being considered for sainthood. Know, though, it could be several years before the advances since much work has to be organized and sanctity recognized. A Crisis Magazine article on Sister Bladina gives a good sense of who this woman is and her relevance for us today.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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