Biographies of Saints Canonized by Pope Francis

Author: L'Osservatore Romano

On Sunday, 15 May 2022, Pope Francis canonized 10 Saints, whose biographies follow.

Titus Brandsma

Anno Sjoerd Brandsma was a Dutch theologian, journalist and author. He was born in Ugoklooster, Netherlands, on 23 February 1881. His parents, Titus and Tjitsje Postma, had five other children. All but one chose the religious life. Theirs was a profoundly Catholic family and the foundation for Anno’s own deep faith. When lie made his reli­gious vows at the end of his novi­tiate year with the Carmelite Order, on 3 October 1899, he took the name Titus, in honour of his father. He was ordained a Carmelite priest on 17 June 1905, when he was 24 years old.

After three years in Rome, where he studied philosophy and sociolo­gy, Fr Titus returned to the Nether­lands, where he founded a newspa­per and was eventually appointed as ecclesiastical assistant of the Catholic Journalist Association.

One of his primary interests was the study of mysticism, and it was Saint Teresa of Jesus who became his companion in the spiritual life. 

Even before World War II, Fr Ti­tus had spoken out against Nazi ide­ology and anti-Jewish laws. In 1941, after the Nazis invaded the Nether­lands on 10 May 1940, the Dutch Catholic bishops took a firm stance against the Nazis, who were forcing the press to publish their propagan­da. Concerned about the Catholic press, Fr Titus spent the first 10 days of January 1942 travelling through the Netherlands by train, urging Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda. He was arrested later that month and held in a num­ber of Dutch and German prisons before being taken to the Dachau concentration camp in mid-June of that same year. The Dachau concen­tration camp held at least 110,000 prisoners until the end of the war and only 30,000 made it out live. On 26 July 1942, at the age of 61, Fr Ti­tus was killed by lethal injection.

His faith and love for others re­mained strong until the end, as the nurse who administered the lethal injection later testified. Before being executed, Fr Titus gave the nurse a rosary he had received from another prisoner in the camp. The nurse lat­er converted and shared her experi­ence during the Carmelite priest’s Process for Beatification and Can­onization.

Fr Titus’ body was cremated in the Dachau concentration camp in­cinerators, as were the bodies of thousands of other prisoners.

In 1985 Pope John Paul II beati­fied the Carmelite priest, who is de­scribed as a journalist martyr, killed in hatred of the faith.

His canonization was approved after a miracle attributed to his inter­cession was reported and confirmed. It was the miraculous healing of a Carmelite priest in Florida with ad­vanced melanoma.


Cesar de Bus

Cesar de Bus was born on 3 February 1544 in Cavaillon, France, into a no­ble and profoundly Christian family. He had a carefree lifestyle for the first 30 years of his life, as any young noble in that period. De Bus even wrote songs and plays.

In 1575, Cesar experienced a mo­ment of complete conversion. Leav­ing behind his carefree social life, he enrolled in school in Avignon, where Jesuit priest Pietro Pequet became his spiritual advisor. Cesar’s desire to be­come a priest was quickly rekindled. After eight months of studying at the Jesuit college, he returned to Cavail­lon, dedicating himself to prayer and spiritually ministering to the poor and those afflicted by the plague. He was ordained a priest in 1582, and im­mediately set out on his mission to proclaim the Word of God, with two important guiding points: the de­crees from the Council of Trent and the charism and apostolic work of Saint Charles Borromeo.

In 1583, following Pope Gregory XIII’s indications, Cesar founded his first association of lay faithful, writing its statutes and guiding their meetings.

Imitating Saint Charles Borromeo’s work teaching catechism to the young and the poor, Cesar began preparing a group of young women to go out into the town to teach cate­chism.

Then, after dedicating two years to prayer and studying the Catechism of Trent, Cesar decided to include priests and lay brothers as catechists in his association of lay faithful, thus establishing the Christian Doctrine Fathers.

Cesar de Bus’ teaching methods made his catecheses attractive and easy to comprehend. He would use his own paintings, songs and poems of familiar Gospel scenes to teach, us­ing simple and colloquial language. Through catechesis, he aimed to en­courage his listeners to be good Christians, not only in words but in actions.

Cesar became the first Superior General of his Congregation, which was approved by Clement VIII on 27 December 1597.

His health deteriorated toward the end of his life and he became blind. Cesar de Bus died in Avignon on Easter morning, 15 April 1607, when he was 63 years old.

Lazarus Devasahayam Pillai

Lazarus Devasahayam Pillai, an 18th century martyr from Tamil Nadu, is the first Indian layman to be declared a saint. He was born in 1712 in the Kingdom of Travancore, in the district of Kanyakumari to Vasudevan Nampoothiri, a Brah­min, and Devaki Amma, from the Nair caste. His name was Nilam, short for Nilakandan.

Nilakandan began his career in the military, where he excelled and he later worked in the Travancore Kingdom palace. He married Bhargaviammal, a wealthy woman from his same caste.

In Vadakkankulam, Nilakandan met Jesuit Fr Buttari, and told him that he wanted to become a Chris­tian. Aware of the danger that con­verting to Christianity could cause to a member of the noble caste, Fr Buttari asked him to undergo a pe­riod of discernment to test the depth and conviction of Nilakandan’s decision. After finding in him not only a desire to be baptized, but also a zealous willingness to shed his blood for the faith, Fr Buttari agreed to baptize Nilakan­dan. He was baptized on 14 May 1745 at the age of 32, and was given the name “Devasahayam”, which is the Tamil translation of the biblical name, “Lazarus”.

Devasahayam converted a num­ber of the king’s soldiers and oth­ers, and started attending Catholic churches to receive the sacra­ments.

Unhappy about his conversion, the king had Devasahayam arrested on 23 February 1749, and told him to renounce the Christian faith or face harsh punishment. Devasahayam calmly reaffirmed his desire to remain a Christian until his death. The following day the king sentenced him to death, but re­voked the sentence just before the execution after receiving a warning that killing Devasahayam would bring great calamities. Devasahayam was forced to parade through the capital for 16 days, during which he was humiliated. The martyr accepted his suffering with patience and joy.

He was later accused of instigat­ing disobedience to the king, and was sentenced to death for a sec­ond time. But the king again re­voked the sentence. Devasahayam was then moved from town to town, as a warning to Catholics.

On 14 January 1752, he was awakened in the middle of the night by soldiers, who gave him 15 minutes to pray before shooting him. The martyr died with the names of Jesus and Mary on his lips.


Luigi Maria Palazzolo

Luigi Maria Palazzolo was born on 10 December 1827 in Bergamo, Italy, to Ottavio Palazzolo and Teresa An­toine. The youngest of nine children, who passed away one after the other, he found in his mother a wise and loving teacher.

As a teenager, he would visit the sick in the hospital and in private homes, bringing them food from his own lunch and dinner and some­times giving them money. His gener­ous actions set the tone for what would be a life full of charity and ho­liness.

On 23 June 1850, after completing his studies, he was ordained a priest. Fr Luigi chose to dedicate himself to young people, especially those in his town’s largest and poorest parish centre. He soon became director of the centre and used his own inheri­tance to expand it. When his spiritu­al director, Msgr Alessandro Valsecchi, asked him to minister to young women, Fr Palazzolo put one of his own properties at the disposal of the women of the Pia Opera of Saint Dorotea.

During spiritual exercises in Rome, Fr Luigi was overcome by a strong desire to live in extreme poverty. On his return to Bergamo, he left behind his material posses­sions to better serve orphans, the sick and the poor.

Fr Luigi and the sisters who worked with him continued to pro­vide education and care to orphans and young people.

In 1885, Fr Luigi’s health quickly deteriorated. He died on 15 June 1886, a little over a month after the Sisters of the Poor that he founded were officially approved by the Church.

The Congregation of the Sis­ters of the Poor continued their mis­sion to serve the poorest of the poor, opening several communities in Italy. They played a significant role in field hospitals during the First World War and among people deported to con­centration camps in the Second. In 1952, they launched a mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where in 1995, during the ebola epi­demic, six sisters died while tending to the sick, because as Luigi Palazzo­lo had indicated, their mission was to love and serve the most vulnerable people, including the sick, no matter the risk. The sisters were recognized for their heroic virtues in 2021.

Charles de Foucauld

Born into a devout Christian family in Strasbourg, France, on 15 Septem­ber 1858, Charles de Foucauld was baptized two days after his birth. He received his first communion and confirmation on 28 April 1872. He lost both his mother and father when lie was six years old, and he and his sister Maria went to live with their grandfather.

Extremely bright and curious, de Foucauld began to cultivate a pas­sion for literature from an early age. He succumbed to the religious scep­ticism and positivism of his time, and soon took up a worldly and dis­orderly life that however, left him dissatisfied. In 1876 Charles joined the Saint-Cyr military academy and was an officer by the time he was 20 years old. He was sent to Algeria, but three years later, not having found what he was looking for, he left the military to explore Morocco. His scientific observations earned him recognition as one of the great explorers of the 19th century.

Charles de Foucauld rediscovered the Christian faith thanks to his dis­covery of Islam, an internal search for truth and the help of Abbot Huvelin. In October 1886, Charles went to the Abbot in the Church of Saint Augustine in Paris, to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and communion. His conversion became complete and definitive.

Renewed by his conversion, Charles de Foucauld realized he wanted to consecrate his entire life to God. For three years, guided by Huvelin, de Foucauld sought to un­derstand how to fulfil his vocation.

After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Charles de Foucauld discov­ered the mystery of Nazareth, which would become the heart of his charism. He joined the Trappists of Our Lady of the Snows in the Dio­cese of Viviers, France, and after a few months, was sent to Syria, to the poor Trappists of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

He stayed there for seven years, learning from monastic life. But not finding the radicality he desired, he asked to leave. In January 1897, the Abbot Father General relieved him of his temporary Trappist duties to follow his personal vocation. Charles then went to live in Nazareth, where he worked as a housekeeper for the Poor Clares. Completing his humble tasks and meditating on the Gospel, de Foucauld realized the need to take Jesus and Christian virtues to non-believ­ers.

He was ordained a priest in Viviers on 9 June 1901.

He then returned to Algeria, to the border with Morocco, where he made it his mission to make Christ known to everyone he met, not by preaching, but through the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, prayer, penance, charity and universal fra­ternity.

He built a refuge where he wel­comed and sheltered all who arrived: Christians, Muslims, Jews.

In 1905, Charles moved to Tamanrasset in the heart of the Sa­hara, where he continued his mis­sion serving the poorest of the poor. He was killed by raiders on 1 De­cember 1916, and beatified on 13 November 2005.


Giustino Maria Russolillo

Giustino Russolillo was born on 18 January 1891 in Pianura di Napoli, Italy, to Luigi Russolillo and Giuseppina Simpatia. He received his First Holy Communion at the age of five and from then on de­clared that he wanted to be a priest. He entered the seminary of Pozzuoli when he was 10 and then the regional seminary of Napoli-Posillipo, run by the Jesuits, where he completed his studies in theology. He was ordained a priest on 20 September 1913 in the cathedral of Pozzuoli. During the sacred rite, as the assembly invoked the saints, he made a vow to found a religious congregation for vocations. After spending some time teaching cate­chism to children and young people on 30 April 1914, the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, he began to share a life with other young people in his father’s home, beginning a “vocations home”, an oasis of voca­tional discernment for young peo­ple, especially poor ones who were inclined towards the priesthood or consecrated life but who were not yet oriented towards a particular in­stitute. However, the bishop of the diocese refused to grant him per­mission to pursue this project fur­ther.

During WWI he was assigned to serve in a military hospital where, noting the zeal of some sisters in their assistance to the wounded, he developed the idea of a female con­gregation to work alongside the male one in service to vocations. In 1920 he became parish priest in his town and resumed a community life with a dozen young people in the parish house of Saint George Mar­tyr. Thus was born the first institute of consecrated life which was called Society of Divine Vocations, known as the Vocationists. One year later a group of young women members of an association which was founded by him also entered a community life under their animator, Rachele Marrone, becoming the Congrega­tion of the Sisters of Divine Voca­tions. His sister Giovanna later joined the congregation, becoming its mother general.

Several other young women dis­covered their vocation to consecrat­ed lay life under his guidance, shar­ing the same spirit of service to vo­cations. By 1977 with the approval of the Church of Naples they became the secular institute, Vocationist Apostles of Universal Sanctifica­tion. Giustino continued to work for the vocation of young people throughout his life. He died on 2 August 1955 in Pianura di Napoli. The three Institutes he founded are now present in 20 countries.


Marie Rivier

Marie Rivier was born in Montpezat, France, on 19 December 1768. When she was 16 months old, a fall left her partially paralysed. Her mother would take her to a nearby chapel every morning to ask Our Lady of Mercy for healing. Young Marie quickly solidified her conviction that the Virgin Mary would grant her request. Every day, she would repeat the same prayer: “Holy Virgin, heal me and I will bring you little girls. I will teach them and tell them to love you well”. She was healed on 15 August, 1777. Remembering her promise, she decided to dedicate herself to educating children.

In 1785, Marie asked to join the sisters of Notre Dame in Pradelles, but was rejected because of her poor health. She decidcd to open her own convent.

In 1786, when she was 18 years old, Marie was granted permission to open a school in Montpezat. She proved to be a capable and dedicat­ed teacher. She frequently visited the sick and helped the poor.

The French Revolution forced Marie to adapt to new challenges, as priests were exiled and religious houses suppressed. Instead of giv­ing up on her work, her projects be­came even more ambitious, and in her zeal, Marie Rivier invited a group of young women to join her in opening a convent.

On 14 June 1794, Marie arrived in Thueyts, where she opened a school in the house of the Domini­can Tertiaries.

On 21 November 1796, during a Eucharistic celebration held in se­cret in the Dominican house, Marie and her four companions consecrat­ed themselves to God. They called their Institute “Presentation of Mary”. Between 1802 and 1810, 46 schools were opened in the Diocese of Viviers and the Congregation spread throughout France and be­yond, educating children and teenagers, but also focusing on Christian formation for adults.

By the time of Marie’s death on 3 February 1838, more than 300 sis­ters in 141 communities were carry­ing out her mission. She was beat­ified in 1982 by Pope John Paul II.


Maria of Jesus Santocanale

Born in Palermo on 2 October 1852 to Giuseppe Santocanale and Donna Caterina Andriolo Stagno, Maria of Jesus Santocanale, in the world Car­olina Concetta Angela, was the Foundress of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Lour­des. She was baptized on first Vespers on the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi and subsequently received her first Holy Communion during Lent of 1861. Eight years later, she asked to re­ceive the sacrament of Confirmation. Her faith continued to grow as did her interest in consecrated life.

When her maternal grandfather be­came ill, she was called to his bedside in Cinisi, Italy. There she entrusted her spiritual guidance to the Arch­priest of Cinisi, Fr Mauro Venuti. Thus, on 20 November 1873, she joined the Daughters of Mary of the Parish of Saint Anthony Abbot, even­tually becoming its president.

After receiving permission from the parish priest in autumn of 1880, she began teaching catechism to some youths. However, she became ill and bedridden in January 1884, an illness that would last 16 months. After recov­ering from the illness, she sought the advice of Fr Venuti, who suggested she embrace the spirituality of Saint Francis. On 13 June 1887, she received the tertiary habit and assumed the name Maria of Jesus. In the following months she was joined by other young women. The fledgling community moved into her grandparents’ home on 11 February 1891. In 1896 an or­phanage was established and the fol­lowing year a school for girls and a kindergarten. As her community grew, she felt the need to adopt a rule, which was granted to her together with the decree of aggregation as an institute to the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor. On June 13, 1910, Carolina, with the new name of Maria of Jesus, was vest­ed with the Capuchin habit along with 11 sisters and on 11 February 1911, she professed her vows.

In January 1923, the Archbishop sent the decree confirming the Insti­tute. Mother Maria of Jesus died later that month surrounded by her sisters with the name of Jesus on her lips and her gaze fixed on a painting of Saint Joseph.


Maria Domenica Mantovani

Maria Domenica Mantovani co- founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, with Blessed Giuseppe Nascimbeni. The first of four children, she was born in Castelletto di Brenzone, Italy, on 12 November 1862. Her family’s pover­ty prevented her from attending school beyond the elementary level, but her lack of education was coun­teracted by her natural intelligence, her openness and her common sense.

Even from an early age, Maria Domenica dedicated much of her at­tention to prayer and to all that had to do with God. This religious and Christian sensitivity and wealth of grace was the fruit of the witness of her family: humble, hard-working, honest and rich in faith.

When she was 15 years old, Blessed Giuseppe Nascimbeni ar­rived in Castelletto, becoming its parish priest in 1885. From then on, he became Maria Domenica’s spiri­tual guide. She spent the rest of her life working tirelessly to help the priest with a variety of parish activi­ties, including teaching catechism to children, serving the poor and visit­ing the sick.

Her profound devotion to Mary Immaculate led her to make a private vow of chastity on 8 December 1886. Known for her kindness, docility, transparency and piety, she began to feel that God was calling her to live a consecrated life. In 1892, Nascimbeni founded the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family and, because Maria Domenica had assisted him in the foundation, she was named Cofoundress and first Superior General of the Congrega­tion.

Along with Blessed Nascimbeni, Mother Maria dedicated the rest of her life to the mission of the sisters. She contributed in drafting the Or­der’s Constitution and the formation of the sisters. The Institute quickly grew, and by the time of Mother Maria’s death on 2 February 1934, the Congregation had some 1,200 sisters in 150 residences in Italy and abroad.

Mother Maria’s life was marked by humility, wisdom and charity in­spired by the Holy Family of Nazareth. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 27 April 2003.


Maria Francesca of Jesus Rubatto

Anna Maria Rubatto was born in Carmagnola, in the northern Italian re­gion of Piedmont, on 14 February 1844. By the time she was 19 years old, she had lost both her father and moth­er. She moved to Turin where she ded­icated her life to works of charity, car­ing for the sick and the marginalized.

One summer day in 1883 in Loano, as she was leaving church, she heard the cries of a young construction worker who had been hit on the head by a rock that had fallen from a house under construction. Anna Maria im­mediately helped him, and a Ca­puchin friar, Angelico da Sestri Ponente, who was there, asked her if she would be the director of a new reli­gious order, for which that building was being constructed. After an in­tense period of discernment, Anna Maria decided to be a part of the new religious family that was being formed. The Institute of Tertiary Ca­puchin Sisters of Loano (which in 1973 would become the Capuchin Sisters of Maria Rubatto) was born on 23 Jan­uary 1885 with five women intent on dedicating their lives to serving the Church and the people of God.

Anna Maria changed her name to Sister Maria Francesca of Jesus and became the new Community’s first mother superior. In 1892, Mother Francesca took her sisters to Montev­ideo in Uruguay, and later to Argenti­na and Brazil, to serve the poor, sick and marginalized. In 1899, they opened a convent in Alto Alegre, in northern Brazil to help a community of Capuchin Friars Minor. Just 18 months after the sisters’ arrival, on 13 March 1901, all seven sisters chosen by Mother Francesca, and four Capuchin friars, two tertiaries and 240 faithful, were killed by a group of indigenous people stirred up by others who op­posed the religious community’s pres­ence.

Despite her poor health, she con­tinued to accompany her sisters, who were spread out across Uruguay, Ar­gentina and Brazil. She travelled from Genoa 10 Montevideo in 1902 for what was supposed to be a short visit, but she ended up staying for two years, until her death on 6 August 1904.

She left behind a clear witness of fi­delity to the Gospel, love for Christ, service to the Church and generosity toward the poor.

L’Osservatore Romano
20 May 2022, page 4