A Welcome to Pope Francis–and a Saintly Crew

For Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., the church put its best foot forward, flew its “Welcome” banners, extended its finest self. If we consider what makes the church here unique, surely one answer might be its saints. When the Saints Came Marching In addresses the question of what makes “our” saints unique? In what ways, if any, do they differ from the saints of other nations?

One difference is they were primarily people who explored new frontiers. With the fears, hopes, frustrations, longings and failures of ordinary humans, they thought and acted differently. Like those who floated the Mississippi river for the first time, scaled Pike’s Peak, or settled the unknown regions of Kentucky, they tried something new in health care, science, education, race or labor relations. The frontier has always been vital to the North American experience, inviting discovery and preventing stagnation. Knowing more about these explorers should inspire, delight and challenge. It’s not your usual collection of saints…

As Chris Pramuk, theology professor at Xavier University, Cincinnati, writes:

“When the Saints Came Marching In moves seamlessly between past and present, bringing vividly to life a host of ‘spacious souls’ and North American saints proclaimed ‘by acclamation.’ A few widely known and many often overlooked, these are people simply recognized and celebrated by their contemporaries for their goodness of heart, witness to faith, and courage for justice: Pierre Toussaint, Thea Bowman, Rachel Carson, Cesar and Helen Chavez, Mychal Judge, Dorothy Stang, and many others. At a moment in our social history when cynicism seems the norm and acerbic criticism has become all too automatic, Kathy Coffey locates the diamonds in the rough, turning their lives for us in the light with her usual directness, humor and clarity. In the humanity of these variegated saints we see a reflection of our own, and a luminous reflection, as Coffey suggests, of the church Pope Francis calls us to be. I love Coffey’s earthy, expansive, sacramental vision, and I love this book.”

Available from Liturgical Press, 800-858-5450, litpress.org/family

Next week: Newly canonized Junipero Serra

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