ROME, OCT. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- As Christians in India continue to face persecution for their faith, they will have a new advocate in the figure of soon-to-be St. Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception. Blessed Alfonsa (born Anna Muttathupadathu) is one of four people to be canonized by Benedict XVI this Sunday. The other three are Maria Bernarda Butler, from Switzerland; Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán from Ecuador; and Father Gaetano Errico from Italy.
Blessed Alfonsa will be the first woman from India to be canonized. She was a religious of the Poor Clares.
Anna Muttathupadathu was born in the Indian state of Kerala in 1910. Her mother died when she was a baby and she was brought up by an aunt who wanted her to marry.
However, Muttathupadathu was determined to dedicate her whole life to Jesus Christ, following the example of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She entered the convent in 1928, and received the name of Alfonsa.
Her delicate health was held to be an obstacle in religious life and her superiors wanted her to return to her home; but Sister Alfonsa persevered in her vocation and made her perpetual vows in 1936. She died 10 years later at age 35.
Maria Bernarda Butler, founder of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Help of Christians, born Verena Butler, will also be canonized.
She was born to peasant parents in Switzerland in 1848. In 1867she entered the Franciscan convent of Mary Help of Christians in her country. She made her religious profession two years later, taking the name Maria Bernarda of the Sacred Heart of Mary.
She left for Ecuador with six companions in 1888, where she founded the Congregation of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, whose charism is to spread the Kingdom of God through works of mercy.
Seven years later, in the wake of the religious persecution headed by the Ecuadorian government, Mother Maria Bernarda and her companions left the country and went to Colombia. She stayed there for 29 years, until her death in 1924 at age 76.
Another evangelizer of Ecuador is Blessed Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán.
She was born to a farming family but left her home village in search of spiritual direction, where she met Franciscan Father Pedro Gual, who lived in Lima. The priest began to help her spiritually and materially, and eventually asked her to go to Lima, where she practiced charity, especially toward the poor and infirm.
She longed to live in herself the passion of Christ, and scourged herself and crowned herself with thorns. She died the day Vatican Council I opened, offering her last sufferings for this important ecclesial event.
“Humility and charity, practiced to a heroic degree, shine in Narcisita, as does penance appropriate to the age, for the expiation of the sins of her people, especially of priests, radiating Christ in the midst of the people,” Monsignor Roberto Pazmino, vice postulator of her cause of canonization, told ZENIT.
Gaetano Errico was born on the outskirts of Naples, Italy, in 1791. He died in that town in 1860.
As a priest he visited terminally ill patients in Neapolitan hospitals for the incurable, as well as prisoners.
He heard confessions at all hours of the day and night until his death. In confession, he tried to show the mercy of the love of God, at a time when Jansenism advocated a rigorous vision of the Christian faith.
He was spiritual adviser to cardinals and archbishops and to King Ferdinand of Naples, but he also counseled the very poor in search of direction.
To all, he repeated, “Spend much more time at the feet of the sacramental Jesus than at the feet of the confessor.”
He wished to make his life a prophecy of God’s mercy, and thus named the congregation he founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.