We Need an American Male Saint
One of the more interesting stories about Mother Teresa is her role in the canonization of St. Damien de Veuster. She decided a saint for lepers was needed and approached the Holy Father, St. John Paul II, about making the SS.CC. missionary priest—and a leper himself—a symbol of hope and special interceder for those with leprosy. St. John Paul II obliged, starting St. Damien’s cause and beatifying him in 1995. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI canonized him in 2009.
I think there’s a similar need today, not for a saint for lepers, but for an American male saint. Men in this country need a positive role model and powerful intercessor. Most will agree that there’s a real crisis of faith among American men, including Catholic men. This was the whole point of Bishop Olmsted’s exhortation, Into the Breach. So many guys are practicing the faith timidly or leaving it altogether, resulting in a family leadership vacuum. We need men to hold the line against the forces of evil.
Bishop Olmsted proposed ten saints in the exhortation (page 7), all fine examples from which I’ve profited myself. But I wonder if a uniquely American man might help in this regard. A guy who lived in this country, played baseball, served in the US armed forces, celebrated the 4th of July, ate apple pie. One who spoke American English and wrote with an American voice. Perhaps a saintly example who hits close to home might help the men around us step into the breach.
There are some very worthy candidates out there. My favorite is Fr. Emil Kapaun, a diocesan priest from Kansas who became a US Army chaplain in WWII and the Korean War. Chinese soldiers captured him and a number of other US soldiers in November 1950. He carried a fellow serviceman on the long march to a camp in North Korea, where he eventually died. President Obama posthumously awarded Kapaun the Medal of Honor in 2013. The Church has already documented two clear miracles attributed to his intercession.
I also like Fr. Solanus Casey, a Capuchin friar originally from Wisconsin who served many years at St. Bonaventure monastery in Detroit. He had enough brothers in his family that they formed their own baseball team, with Fr. Solanus as catcher (with no mitt). Fr. Solanus’s last act and words before dying were to sit up stoutly in his hospital bed and say, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ!”
We’ve also got Fr. Vincent Capodanno, Fr. Walter Ciszek, Michael McGivney, and of course Archbishop Fulton Sheen. We have women who have made it through to canonization—Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel—but no men.
Obviously I’m no Mother Teresa (who is?!), but we can still play a part in furthering these causes through prayer and talking about these guys. Teach your sons about them; tell their stories to your friends and family. Visit their hometowns or other associated places. We had a wonderful visit to Fr. Kapaun’s birthplace, Pilsen, KS, a couple years ago. These men are living in the Body of Christ with us and are cheering us on as we run our own races. They are American men who lived masculine lives in the breach, showing us it’s possible to get to Heaven from the United States. Let us follow them onward.