† Saint of the Day †(January 23)

✠ St. Marianne Cope ✠

Religious Sister:

Born: Maria Anna Barbara Koob
January 23, 1838
Heppenheim, Grand Duchy of Hesse

Died: August 9, 1918 (Aged 80)
Kalaupapa, Hawaiʻi

Resting place:
Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu, Hawaii

Venerated in:
Roman Catholic Church
(Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities)
Episcopal Church

Beatified: May 14, 2005
Pope Benedict XVI

Canonized: October 21, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI

Major shrine:
Saint Marianne Cope Shrine & Museum
601 N. Townsend St.
Syracuse, New York, U.S.

Feast: January 23

Patronage: Lepers, Outcasts, Those with HIV/AIDS, Hawaiʻi.

Marianne Cope, also known as Saint Marianne of Molokaʻi, was a German-born American religious sister who was a member of the Sisters of St Francis of Syracuse, New York, and administrator of its St. Joseph’s Hospital in the city. Known also for her charitable works, in 1883 she relocated with six other sisters to Hawaiʻi to care for persons suffering Hansen’s Disease on the island of Molokaʻi and aid in developing the medical infrastructure in Hawaiʻi. Despite direct contact with the patients over many years, Cope did not contract the disease.

Today’s saint was a model female Franciscan who emulated Saint Francis’ heroic example of personally caring for those outcasts of all outcasts—lepers. Saints are not born, of course; they are made. And Saint Marianne Cope came from a specific time, place, and family. She could have developed her abundant talents in many directions and used them for many purposes, but she re-directed what God loaned her to serve and honour Him, His Church, and mankind. The Church, the Franciscans, and Hawaii were the arenas in which this elite spiritual athlete exercised her skills. She was asked for much and gave even more. She became a great, great woman.

Marianne Cope was born in Germany and was brought to New York state by her parents when she was still a baby. She was the oldest of ten children. Her parents lived, struggled, and worked for their kids. She saw generosity in action at home every day. She quit school after eighth grade to work in a factory to financially support her ailing father, her mother, and her many siblings. The challenges inherent to migration, a new culture, illness, a large family, and poverty turned Marianne into a serious, mature woman when she was just a teen. She fulfilled her long-delayed desire to enter religious life in 1862. Once professed, she moved quickly into leadership positions. She taught in German-speaking Catholic grade schools, became a school principal, and was elected by her fellow Franciscans to positions of governance in her Order. She opened the first hospitals in her region of central New York, dedicating herself and her Order to the time-honoured religious vocation of caring for the sick, regardless of their ability to pay for medical services. She was eventually elected Superior General. In her early forties, she was already a woman of wide experience: serious, administratively gifted, spiritually grounded, and of great human virtues. But this was all preparation. She now began the second, great act of her drama. She went to Hawaii.

In 1883 she received a letter from the Bishop of Honolulu begging her, as Superior General, to send sisters to care for lepers in Hawaii. He had written to various other religious Orders without success. Sister Marianne was elated. She responded like the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Here I am, send me” (Is 6:8). She not only sent six sisters, but she also sent herself! She planned to one day return to New York but never did. For the next thirty-five years, Sister Marianne Cope became a type of recluse in remote Hawaii, giving herself completely to the will of God.

Sister Marianne and her fellow Franciscans managed one hospital, founded another, opened a home for the daughters of lepers, and, after a few years of proving themselves, opened a home for women and girls on the virtually inaccessible island of Molokai. Here her life coincided with the final months of Saint Damien de Veuster. Sister Marianne nursed the future saint in his dying days, assuring him that she and her sisters would continue his work among the lepers. After Father Damien died, the Franciscans, in addition to caring for the leprous girls, now cared for the boys as well. A male Congregation eventually relieved them of this apostolate.

Sister Marianne Cope lived the last thirty years of her life on Molokai until her death in 1918. She was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and canonized by him in 2012. She loved the Holy Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the Church. And because she loved God first, she loved those whom God loves, her brothers and sisters in Christ. She sacrificed for them, left home and family for them, put her health at risk for them, and became a saint through them.

Saint Marianne Cope, help us to be as generous as you were in serving those on the margins, those who need our help, and those who have no one else to assist them. You were a model Franciscan in dying to self. Help us to likewise die so that we might likewise live.

† Saint of the Day †(January 21)

✠ St. Agnes of Rome ✠

Virgin and Martyr:

Born: 291 AD
Rome, Italy

Died: 304 AD
Rome, Italy

Venerated in:
Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Anglican Communion

Canonized: Pre-congregation

Major shrine:
Church of Sant’Agnese Fuori le mura and the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, both in Rome

Feast: January 21

Betrothed Couples; Chastity and Virgins; Children of Mary; Colegio Capranica of Rome; gardeners; Girl Guides; The Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York; The City of Fresno.

Saint Agnes of Rome is a virgin martyr, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheranism. She is one of seven women who, along with the Blessed Virgin, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Agnes is also shown with a martyr’s palm. She is the patron saint of chastity and virgins, as well as gardeners.

St. Ambrose speaks with great admiration of St. Agnes, who was martyred at the tender age of 12. In his work, On Virgins, he wrote: “This is a new kind of martyrdom! One not yet of fit age for punishment, but already ripe for victory. One unready for combat, but able to win the crown. One who has not yet reached the age of judgment but who has mastered virtue…

“Joyfully she advances with unhesitating step to the place of punishment, her head not adorned with plaited hair, but with Christ. All weep; she alone is without a tear. All wonder that she is so ready to deliver her life, which she has not yet enjoyed, but which now she gives up as though she had lived it fully. All are astounded that she stands forth as God’s witness although at her age she could not yet decide about herself!

“And so it came about that what she said regarding God was believed, although what she said about a man would not be accepted. For that which is beyond nature is from the Author of nature.

“She stands, she prays, she bends down her neck. You can see the executioner tremble, as though he himself has been condemned. His right hand is shaking, his face grows pale. He fears the peril of another, while the maiden fears not for her own danger.

“You have then in one victim a twofold martyrdom, of chastity and religion. She both remained a virgin and she obtained martyrdom.”

St. Ambrose’s commentary on St. Agnes has a literary value that is both profound and very beautiful because it is all composed of contrasts. Through the use of these contrasts, St. Ambrose shows the points he wants to emphasize.

First, there is the contrast between her age and martyrdom. She is too young to be condemned to death because at such a young age no one can deserve such a punishment. And yet she is already ripe for the victory. The one who is not mature in years is nonetheless ripe to win the victory. It is glory. The immaturity of the years and maturity of the virtue.

The second contrast: She is unready for combat but ripe for the crown. A young girl at that time did not have any conditions to fight, yet she won the highest of all the laurels, which is the crown of martyrdom.

The third contrast: She is so young that she is still under the guardianship of others. The law does not consider her capable of governing herself. All present admired her because she was a witness of the Godhead, even though she was still a minor who could not be a witness of anything in a court of human law. Her word would not have any value in a normal process of law, yet she has impressed everyone with her defence of Our Lord.

In addition to this, there are contrasts that one can find in actual martyrdom. She advances joyfully, with unhesitating steps, to the place from which all people naturally flee.

Another contrast: her adornment is not artificially plaited tresses but rather Jesus Christ because He is the true adornment, the real beauty of the soul who consecrates itself to Him.

Another contrast: she is not crowned with flower wreaths like the other young Roman girls of her time, but with purity. That purity in her is splendorous and makes a kind of halo around her head.

There are still other contrasts. All are weeping to see a young girl who will be killed. But she is not. It is a glorious contrast because she is thirsting for Heaven, and not for earth. Along those lines, everyone is astonished that she can so easily give up a life that has hardly begun. Yet she sacrifices this life as if she had already lived and enjoyed it fully.

And what is the reason for all these contrasts? It is because St. Ambrose is trying to emphasize that there is something absurd in her martyrdom. For it would be natural for her to do the very opposite of what she is doing. The reason that she acts as she does with a strength that is beyond nature is that such strength can only come from the Author of nature itself. What is beyond nature is what is more than merely natural. What is more, than nature here is the One who is its author. God revealed Himself in the sanctity of St. Agnes and in the miracle of her death.

She goes forward and bends her head. She sees the executioner trembling as if he were the one who was condemned. But she – the condemned one – is calm and steady.

His right hand is shaking, his face pale. He fears the peril of another, while the maiden fears not for her own danger. The executioner trembles with fear to use the tools of punishment. But she has no fear of the executioner.

You have then in one victim a twofold martyrdom, of chastity and religion. She both remained a virgin and she obtained martyrdom.

This is the magnificent commentary of St. Ambrose on St. Agnes.