5 Causes For Sainthood You Need To Know About

by Saints

We are all called to sainthood, aren’t we? But somehow, when reading about the saints, we can easily feel distant, different from these great figures who experienced hardships, fought against oppression, founded religious communities, endured torture for the Name of Jesus, and even died for their faith. Their stories inspire us with awe in the face of their moral and spiritual beauty. They also strengthen our faith through their witness because no one would go through so much for a God Who is not real, loving, and merciful.

However, we must remember that all saints in heaven were once sinners and that their lives started just as any other, just as yours and mine. God called them to live ordinary or extraordinary lives, to give Him their all by becoming priests, educators, missionaries, or doctors; by traveling to faraway lands to help the poor and the sick, or staying in their hometown being light in people’s lives; by giving their lives in martyrdom or growing old in a community that needed them. They bore their crosses through their journey, realizing with every step that it was not them but Him, who could transform a sinner into a saint, who could make all things new.

I am particularly interested in how every saint’s story is beautiful in its own way. That is why I am looking into causes of sainthood that are currently running – people who are considered by their communities to have fully lived the never-ending journey towards sainthood. I find these stories much closer to mine and probably to yours. They help me reflect on how God is writing my own story of holiness with creativity and tenderness and on how we are all called to be saints in the way He intended us, and only us, in our own quirky, imperfect, and special way.

5 Inspiring Causes To Sainthood You Might Not Know About

1. Servant of God Antoni Gaudí (Reus, 1852 – Barcelona, 1926)

“Beauty is the radiance of Truth.

Gaudí is a big name in architecture and art. He was the genius architect of the Sagrada Familia and numerous other buildings in Barcelona. Most people know that. What they don’t know is that he was a fervent Christian.

Gaudí was born in Catalonia in 1852 into an affluent family and had a life filled with luxuries, although he suffered illness in his childhood. Throughout his working life, Gaudí cared about the well-being of workers. He helped design the progressive Colonia Güell, a community of industrial workers with housing, cultural and religious buildings, schools, and hospitals. When assigned as the architect of the Basilica, he was not yet a practicing Christian. It is believed that while working on the representation of the Nativity for the Basilica’s facade, the architect ‘truly saw the person of Jesus Christ’. From then, he lived an ascetic lifestyle and dedicated 40 years of his life to the Basilica, turning down great offers to work in Paris and New York.

Gaudi spent his last months completely immersed in his work, living next to his workshop inside the church. He even put his savings into the project when it ran out of budget. He would go out to the streets and ask for money for the construction. Gaudi was hit by a tram in June 1926, while on his way to confession, and was initially taken for a beggar, due to his ragged clothes. Gaudí died three days later, leaving all his money to the Basilica, which has been under construction for over 130 years. When asked when the Sagrada Familia would be finished, Gaudi responded: “My Boss is not in a hurry.”

Gaudi united architecture, art, and the Christian faith. He conveyed his gifts with well-executed work by collaborating with God. All the elements and symbols of the Sagrada Familia invite us to aspire to holiness through our concrete work, almsgiving, prayer, and sacrifice, just as Gaudí did, in the image of the Holy Family. The way light and color enter this sacred place is a worship prayer towards God’s beautiful creation; it is awe-striking and fills us with joy and desire for transcendence. The three towers of Birth, Passion, and Glory mark the way walked by Jesus and invite us to follow Him. As Benedict XVI said in the Basilica’s consecration in 2010, Gaudí was a Christian example because he “overcame the current division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between existence in this temporal world and openness to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as Beauty.  [He] did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes, and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness.”.

2. Venerable Mother Mary Lange (The Caribbean, 1784 – Maryland, 1882)

“Our sole wish is to do the will of God.”

Little is known about Elizabeth Lange’s early life. Research suggests she was born in Haiti during the Haitian Revolution and flew to Cuba, where she received an excellent education. In the early 1800s, seeking peace and security, Elizabeth left Cuba and arrived in Baltimore, Maryland. The city was a destination for many French-speaking Catholic refugees from the Haitian Revolution, providing her with a new community and opportunities.

Lange swiftly identified the educational needs of fellow Caribbean immigrants’ children. Despite being a black woman in a slave state well before the Emancipation Proclamation, she was determined to address this need. Using her resources and residence, Elizabeth provided education to children of color. In 1828, Reverend James Hector Joubert – who she considered a gift of Providence – asked Lange if she would like to start a school for girls of color. Elizabeth dedicated her life to God and founded a women’s religious order, with the support and guidance of Father Joubert, despite the restrictions on black people aspiring to religious life at that time. On July 2, 1829, Elizabeth – consecrated as Sister Mary –  became the foundress and first superior of the Oblate Sisters of Providence (the first African-American religious congregation), and pledged vows with three other women.

Mother Mary’s legacy included a private school, an academy, a religious foundation, an orphanage, and a widow’s home. She also provided spiritual direction, religious education classes, vocational training, and night schools for black adults seeking literacy. After the Civil War, Mother Mary cared for 60 black war orphans, marking a new era of compassion for destitute children. She died in February, 1882 and is buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery. Her cause for sainthood started in 1991.

Venerable Mother Mary’s extraordinary faith sustained her against all odds, guiding her in selflessly giving to her black brothers and sisters. She navigated disappointment, loneliness, opposition, poverty, and racial injustice. Jesus was her everything. Her unwavering faith is a model for all to aspire to.

3. Blessed Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma (Poland, 1944)

Amidst the widespread indifference and hostility toward the fate of Jews during the German occupation, thousands of heroes resisted the collective madness and took enormous risks to assist their Jewish neighbors. In the Polish town of Markowa, the tragic story of the Ulma family stands as a symbol of Polish sacrifice during this terrifying period.

Jozef Ulma, a farmer and photographer, lived with his wife Wiktoria and their six children. Witnessing the execution of Jews in their town, the Ulmas chose compassion over complicity. In the Fall of 1942, they agreed to hide a Jewish family, along with two sisters, Golda and Layka Goldman.

On the night of March 23, 1944, the German police arrived in Markowa. They found the hidden Jews on the Ulma farm and mercilessly shot them. Subsequently, the entire Ulma family, including a pregnant Wiktoria and their six young children, was brutally murdered.

The impact of this atrocity rippled through the community, creating panic among Polish peasants who were sheltering Jews. Yet, amidst this darkness, stories of resilience emerged. Families like the Wiglusz in Markowa continued to shelter Jews, embodying Jesus’s message of compassion and mercy in the face of brutality.

In September 1995, Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma were honored with the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center for their courageous actions during this troubling time. In 2022, the couple was recognized by Pope Francis as martyrs. The beatification of the Ulma family holds an important place in the history of the Catholic Church, marking the first time in our century in which an entire family is beatified together. 

4. Venerable Satoko Kitahara (Japan, 1929 – 1958)

This woman’s story is way too inspiring to ignore. Kitahara descended from samurai warriors and was raised in a shrine household in Japan. During World War II, she worked in an airplane warehouse. She discovered Roman Catholicism after the war, having lost loved ones to killings and illnesses. One March afternoon, while on a walk with a friend talking about the meaning of life and suffering, she saw a man entering the Sacred Heart Church and felt the urge to follow him. Although she was unsure of who that woman was, Kitahara was captivated by a Marian statue, and was overwhelmed by an “indefinable emotion.” Over the next few months, she embarked on a series of visits to various churches. Kitahara began attending the Mercedarian Sisters Convent, where she received catechism and went to Mass. In 1949, despite her father’s disagreement, she was baptized wearing a wedding dress and adopting the name of Elisabeth.

Soon after, she aspired to become a Mercedarian nun. However, her dreams were shattered when she fell ill with tuberculosis. This left Kitahara discouraged and uncertain about God’s plan for her. She soon found a new calling aiding the impoverished, orphaned, and sick. Dedicating herself to alleviating the suffering caused by the war, Kitahara realized that she could better help people by living among them.  “I had thought I was a great Christian because I condescended to dole out some free time, helping Ants children with their homework! … It hit me now. There was only one way to help those ragpicker children: become a ragpicker like them!”. She renounced her wealth and status, choosing to live with the homeless and outcasts. 

She devoted the remaining days of her life, managing tuberculosis and working to improve the villages where she lived towards a better and healthier environment. Kitahara died at 28 years old. Her beatification process began in 1981 and was declared Venerable in 2015 when Pope Francis acknowledged her life of heroic virtue.

Kitahara’s story has touched generations of Christians in Japan and the world, showing the depth of her conversion. Her life was even featured in a Japanese musical broadcast worldwide.

5. Blessed Isidoro Bakanja (Congo, 1887 – 1909)

“If you see my mother, or if you go to the judge, or if you meet a priest, tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian.”

A convert and a young martyr, Isidoro has a story worth telling. He was born in Bokendela (Congo), during the Belgian colonization, in the heart of the Boangi tribe. From a young age, he worked as a bricklayer or on farms. The details of his conversion are not clear, but we know he was taught the faith by Cistercian monks and decided to embrace the faith at the age of eighteen. Isidoro was deeply devoted to the Rosary and always carried it with him. He became a lay Carmelite and was invested in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He started teaching the faith in any way he could, being called “catechist” by his community. Gentle, truthful, and inherently respectful, Isidoro approached his work with diligence and remained steadfast in his faithful prayers, a fact attested by many non-Christian witnesses.

The context in which he grew up and lived was complicated for living out the faith.  Many colonists were atheists and despised Catholicism, since missionaries frequently defended natives’ rights. While employed on a Belgian colonialists’ plantation in Ikili, the owner forbade Bakanja from sharing his Christian beliefs with fellow workers. “You’ll have the whole village praying and no one will want to work!” However, Bakanja continued to wear the Carmelite scapular. One day, the plantation superintendent removed the scapular, beat him violently, and chained him. In agony, Isidoro pleaded for mercy, uttering, “My God, I’m dying.” Despite his pleas, the agent persisted in kicking Isidoro in the neck and head, instructing his servants to intensify the beating. After an onslaught of more than a hundred blows, those present lost count.

Two missionaries spent several days with Isidoro and reported that he received the last sacraments devoutly. They encouraged him to forgive the agent who had beaten him, and Bakanja assured them he already had. “I shall pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much.” Enduring six months of prayer and suffering, Isidoro passed away with a rosary in hand and a scapular around his neck. Pope John Paul II beatified him on April 24, 1994.

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