April 8, 2016

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Renaissance Church: Some saints of the 16th century

John F. Fink(Tenth in a series of columns)

Whether coincidental or providential, the 16th century, during which the Protestant Reformation split Christianity, also produced some of the Church’s greatest saints.

Thomas More and John Fisher were martyred by King Henry VIII when they refused to acknowledge him as head of the Church in England.

Charles Borromeo is credited with keeping the Council of Trent in session, and later was known for his holiness while serving as archbishop of Milan. Pope Pius V implemented the decisions and the sweeping reforms of the Council of Trent, began seminaries for the training of future priests, and published a new catechism.

Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Francis Xavier, one of the original members of the society, was a great missionary in India and East Asia. Francis Borgia became a general of the society, and led it during the development of its foreign missions. (He was the great grandson of Pope Alexander VI, the only canonized saint who was a direct descendant of a pope.)

Robert Bellarmine, another Jesuit, devoted himself to the study of Church history, Scripture and doctrine. He prepared two catechisms and was declared a Doctor of the Church. Aloysius Gonzaga, still another Jesuit, had Robert Bellarmine as his spiritual advisor. He died when he was only 23, and is a patron of youth.

The Jesuit Peter Canisius is called “the second apostle of Germany” (the first was St. Boniface). A great preacher, he established colleges and seminaries and is another Doctor of the Church.

Philip Neri was the founder of the Oratory, where people lived together in community but were not a religious order. His advice was sought by many prominent figures, including participants in the Council of Trent.

In Spain, Teresa of Jesus (or Teresa of Avila), the first woman to be declared a Doctor of the Church, reformed the Carmelite Order despite severe opposition. Her partner in the reform was John of the Cross, another Doctor of the Church. Both are known for their mysticism and contemplative writings. John of God, who was from Portugal, founded the Order of Charity for the Service of the Sick.

Benedict the Moor, the son of Ethiopian slaves, entered the Franciscan Order of Recollects and became superior of the monastery of Santa Maria in Palermo, Sicily.

Jerome Emiliani and Cajetan, both from Venice, although Cajetan moved to Naples, founded hospitals and orphanages.

In Japan, Paul Miki and 25 companions were crucified for their faith.

In the “New World,” there were three saints in Peru. Turibius of Mogrovejo built roads, schools, chapels, hospitals and convents, was known as a champion of the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters, and baptized 500,000 natives. Rose of Lima cared for orphans, the elderly and the sick, but is known mainly for her severe penances.

Martin de Porres, the illegitimate son of a black woman of Panama and a Spanish grandee of Lima, was instrumental in founding an orphanage and took care of slaves brought from Africa. He was known for being able to be in two places at the same time and for cures. †

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