Sunday’s ceremony began with Pope Benedict praising the five individuals as models for the faithful, and saying their works were as important today as when they were still alive. The five saints included Francisco Coll y Guitart, Rafael Arnaiz Baron, Jozef De Veuster, Jeanne Jugan, Marie de la Croix, and Polish Archbiship Zygmunt Szcezesny Felinski.
The proclamation was read at 10:33 a.m. during a solemn mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The mass, attended by 244 bishops, happened during the Second Special Assembly for Africa, scheduled to continue until October 25th at the Vatican. Originally scheduled for St. Peter’s Square, the assembly had to be relocated due to bad weather to the Basilica.
Francisco Coll y Guitart was born in 1812, and was separated from his parents at the age of ten to study the seminary in 1822. Preparing to become a priest, he repeatedly heard a voice telling him to become a Dominican. Rafael Arnaiz Baron, born in 1911 to wealthy parents in the city of Burgos in north-central Spain renounced his wealthy background and dedicated his life to prayer. Jeanne Jugan was a French nun, was born in Cancale, Brittany, in France in 1792, the sixth of eight children. She founded the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious foundation for women. Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski was born on November 1st in 1822, and went on to defend the Catholic Church when Russia annexed Poland. Father Damien (Jozef De Veuster) was born January 3, 1840 in Belgium. Over the course of several years De Veuster tended to leprosy patients on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
It was Jozef De Veuster which caused a stir of controversy when, after his death, a discussion began about Damien’s life including the mysteries surrounding him and some of the voluntary work he did with lepers. De Veuster himself contracted leprosy after several years of work with the disease. The controversy was largely backed by a Presbyterian priest in Honolulu who wrote a letter to Reverend HB Gage. Hyde referred to Father Damien as “a coarse, dirty man,” whose own suffering of leprosy could be traced to his own “carelessness.” Robert Louis Stevenson, author of “Treasure Island” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” himself a Presbyterian, authored a general open letter defending Damien from Hyde and other critics. Stevenson’s famous quote to Hyde definitely held quite a bit of weight Sunday for both its poignancy and its prescience, “If that world at all remember you, on the day when Damien of Molokai shall be named a Saint, it will be in virtue of one work: your letter to the Reverend H.B. Gage.” He went on to say, “You are one of those who have an eye for faults and failures; that you take a pleasure to find and publish them; and that, having found them, you make haste to forget the overvailing virtues and the real success which had alone introduced them to your knowledge. It is a dangerous frame of mind.” De Veuster was Beatified when a nun from Honolulu’s lung cancer was miraculously cured almost a century after De Veuster’s death.