Catholic devotion to the saints appears to be alive and well, and Pope Benedict XVI continues to proclaim new saints at a regular pace. The official calendar of saints' feast days will grow this weekend when the pope canonizes seven men and women, including Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai and three laypeople: the Native American Kateri Tekakwitha, the Filipino Peter Calungsod and the German Anna Schaffer. The canonization Mass Oct. 21 is among the first big events of Pope Benedict's Year of Faith, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and launches a strengthened commitment to the new evangelization. According to Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the appeal of the saints and their concrete examples of holiness give them "an undeniably positive role to play in this time of new evangelization," since they are living proof that the church is holy. In a new book, Cardinal Amato writes that it's easy to understand how people can question the church's holiness when they see the sinful behavior of some of its members. But the good, loving and charitable activities of other members are the best evidence that the church truly is the holy body of Christ, he says. "The holiness of the church is not the sum of the holiness of its children, but is a spiritual gift received from the spirit of the Risen Christ," he writes. "Throughout history, the church carries the treasure of its holiness in earthen vessels. Being aware of that, the historic church can do nothing other than continually convert to the cross of Christ." The saints and martyrs officially recognized by the church are the "demonstration that the church, even if it is not already perfect, given the misery of many of its sons and daughters, is not less holy, but continues to produce the fruits of holiness and always will." For Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari, who served as an expert at Vatican II and shepherded Blessed Kateri's sainthood cause for 55 years, saints are not mythic heroes but real men and women who show all Christians that it's possible to live holy lives no matter where they were born or what their state of life. It's not a matter of demonstrating extraordinary courage in a dangerous situation, but "living an ordinary life in an extraordinary way," a way that "comes from the spirit of Jesus poured into our hearts," Father Molinari told Catholic News Service. Another great thing about the saints, Father Molinari said, is that they are ready, willing and able today to help the church's members along the path of holiness. The Second Vatican Council "purified" exaggerated practices related to the veneration of the saints, for example, where the faithful would "enter into a church and go to the statue of St. Anthony or St. Rita and touch it, but not even think that the Lord is present in the tabernacle," he said. But the council still emphasized the fact that those friends of God are part of the church and will intervene on behalf of those still living on earth, he said. Following are profiles of the two U.S. saints to be canonized Oct. 21.Kateri Tekakwitha: Loved Christ over clan's objections Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, "the Lily of the Mohawks," is the young Indian maiden who, despite objections from some in her own clan, came to know and love Christ. She was born in 1656 in a village on the Mohawk River called Ossernenon, now Auriesville, N.Y. Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother a Christian Algonquin raised among the French. She was born into a period of political and religious turmoil, 10 years after three of the Jesuit martyrs were tortured and killed: Rene Goupil, Isaac Jogues and Jean Lalande. Indians blamed the "Blackrobes" for the sudden appearance of deadly white man's diseases, including small pox. When Kateri was only 4, a smallpox epidemic claimed her parents and baby brother. Kateri survived, but her face was disfigured and her eyesight impaired. According to legend, she was raised by relatives who began to plan her marriage. But after meeting with Catholic priests, Kateri decided to be baptized and pursue religious life. When she was baptized on Easter in 1676 at age 20, her relatives were not pleased. She fled the next year to Canada, taking refuge at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Caughnawaga on the St. Lawrence River, about 10 miles from Montreal. She reportedly made her first Communion on Christmas in 1677. She astounded the Jesuits with her deep spirituality and her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She took a private vow of virginity and devoted herself to prayer and to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and elderly of Caughnawaga. Kateri was not the only member of her community to embrace Christianity during a colonial time fraught with conflict and struggle for native tribes. But to her older, more educated Jesuit mentors, she was remarkable. When her request to start a religious community was denied, Kateri continued to live a life of austerity and prayer. She was said to perform "extraordinary penances." She died in 1680 at the age of 24. According to eyewitnesses, including two Jesuits and many Indians, the scars on her face suddenly disappeared after her death. Her tomb is in Caughnawaga. There is a shrine to her in St. Francis Xavier Church there. Soon after Blessed Kateri died, Catholics started to claim that favors and miracles had been obtained through her intercession. American Indians have made appeals to the Catholic Church for her recognition since at least the late 1800s. Documentation for her sainthood cause was sent to the Vatican in 1932. She was declared venerable in 1942, the first step to sainthood that recognizes the candidate's heroic virtues. Two miracles that occur after death are generally needed for a sainthood cause to move forward. After a first miracle is confirmed by the church, the candidate is beatified. Kateri was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, giving her the title "Blessed." Documentation for the final miracle needed for her canonization was sent to the Vatican in July 2009. It involved the recovery of a young boy in Seattle whose face had been disfigured by flesh-eating bacteria and who almost died from the disease. But he recovered completely, and the Vatican confirmed the work of a tribunal who determined there was no medical explanation for it. On Dec. 19, the pope signed the decree recognizing the miracle in Blessed Kateri's cause clearing the way for her canonization. The U.S. church marks her feast day July 14. She is listed as patron of American Indians, ecology and the environment and is held up as a model for Catholic youths. In the United States, there are two shrines to Blessed Kateri, the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, N.Y., and the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville. The National Tekakwitha Conference, based in Great Falls, Mont., was started in 1939 as a way to unify Catholic American Indians from different tribes across the United States. The organization is financed by membership dues and grants from the U.S. bishops, the Catholic Church Extension Society and the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions. When she worked in the fields, Blessed Kateri would carry a cross with her as a source for contemplation. Her last words were reported to be, "Jesus, I love you." Mother Marianne: Only superior to answer call to help leprosy patients Blessed Marianne Cope, as the head of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, N.Y., led the first group of sisters to the Hawaiian Islands in 1883 to establish a system of nursing care for leprosy patients. Of 50 religious superiors in the United States, Canada and Europe who were asked for help, she was the only one to accept the challenge. When she died in 1918 on the island of Molokai, a Honolulu newspaper wrote: "Seldom has the opportunity come to a woman to devote every hour of 30 years to the mothering of people isolated by law from the rest of the world. She risked her own life in all that time, faced everything with unflinching courage and smiled sweetly through it all." On Dec. 19, Pope Benedict XVI cleared the way for Mother Marianne's canonization by signing a decree recognizing a second miracle attributed to her intercession, but no date has been set for the canonization ceremony. The pope's action followed a Dec. 6 ruling by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes. The congregation confirmed a unanimous ruling by the medical board and theologians at the Vatican that a woman's healing was declared inexplicable since doctors had expected her to die and were amazed at her survival. No other details of the case were released. Mother Marianne was born Barbara Koob Jan. 23, 1838, in Heppenheim, Germany. She was not yet 2 when her parents brought her and her three siblings to the United States and settled in Utica, N.Y. The family later Americanized their surname as Cope. She became a U.S. citizen when her father was naturalized in 1855. The family belonged to St. Joseph's Parish in Utica, where the children, including Barbara, attended the parish school. Barbara received her first Communion and confirmation there. "Barbara wrote of experiencing a call to religious life at an early age," says a biography posted on her order's website, but family obligations delayed her vocation nine years. "As the oldest child at home, and after completing an eighth-grade education, she went to work in a factory to support the family when her father became an invalid," it said. In 1862, Barbara joined the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse, N.Y., taking Marianne as her religious name. She taught at a parish school. She later became administrator of St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, where she learned much about nursing. "Sister Marianne worked by the side of doctors in Syracuse from one of the country's most progressive medical colleges, her biography says. What she learned about various hospital systems, nursing and pharmacy procedures "she later put to good use in Hawaii." In 1877, Mother Marianne was elected mother general of her order. Six years later, she responded to the Hawaiian government's appeal for health care workers to care for patients with leprosy, now called Hansen's disease, in Honolulu. She arrived in Hawaii Nov. 8, 1883, at age 45, with six other Franciscan sisters. They first worked at the Kakaako Branch Hospital in Honolulu. Mother Marianne then opened Kapiolani Home for the daughters of leprosy patients and also founded the first general hospital on the island of Maui. Mother Marianne arrived at the Kalaupapa leprosy settlement on Molokai in 1888, a few months before the death of St. Damien de Veuster, a Belgian Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary missionary who was legendary for his ministry to Hawaiian leprosy patients. He died of the disease in 1889. She succeeded the priest as the settlement's guiding force and took over the home that he had run for men and boys. She and two of her sisters later opened a home for women and girls who suffered from the disease. Her work was celebrated in honors bestowed by the Hawaiian government and in a poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson. She died on the island Aug. 9, 1918, of natural causes. She was 80. Shortly after her death, the Sisters of St. Francis began collecting materials about her life and ministry for her eventual canonization. Her cause was officially opened May 14, 1983. On Oct. 24, 2003, the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes declared she was a person of heroic virtues, the first step in the canonization process. In April 2004, Pope John Paul II gave her the title "venerable." In general, the church must then confirm two miracles before sainthood is declared. The first miracle is needed for beatification and the second for canonization. The first miracle attributed to Mother Marianne's intercession was the medically unexplainable recovery of a New York girl who recovered from near death from multiple organ failure. In 2004, it was approved by a medical board and a group of theologians and affirmed by Pope John Paul II later that year. She was beatified in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 14, 2005, by Pope Benedict XVI. The other five saints to be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21 are:—Jacques Berthieu, a 19th-century French Jesuit missionary murdered because of his faith during an indigenous uprising in Madagascar. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI Oct. 17, 1965. French Jesuits celebrate his feast June 8.—Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest who worked in parish outreach to poor young boys and girls in northern Italy. In 1900, he founded the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. He died in April 1913 at the age of 71. He was beatified in 1997 by Blessed John Paul II. His feast day is April 26. —Anna Schaffer, a German lay Catholic from a devout Bavarian carpenter's family near Regensburg, who experienced visions during a life of pain caused by a workplace injury. Blessed John Paul II beatified her March 7, 1999. —Carmen Salles Barangueras, a Spanish Dominican Sister of the Annunciation from Catalonia, who pioneered equality of opportunity for women in the 19th century. The order today is active in 13 countries, including the United States. She was beatified by Blessed John Paul II on March 15, 1998. —Peter Calungsod, a lay Catholic from Cebu, Philippines, who accompanied Jesuit missionaries to Guam as a catechist and was martyred there in 1672 while he was in his late teens. He was beatified by Blessed John Paul II March 5, 2000.—CNS{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1019/saints/{/gallery}