A saint in the family

When he packed his bag for a trip to Rome, Philadelphia Msgr. James T. McDonough brought along two advance copies of a book written by a relative. The copies were quickly given away, and his suitcase will be a little lighter going back home.

“My Cousin the Saint” was written by Justin Catanoso, who is the nephew of the spouse of the monsignor’s cousin — or something like that. The genealogy of it all was pretty complex for our passing conversation.

I stopped by Msgr. McDonough’s table Thursday evening at a dinner attended by about 150 members of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. They were on a once-every-five-year pilgrimage to Rome, and seemed to be having a great time.

Being handed an uncorrected proof of a book with the words, “A relative of mine wrote this,” does not always augur well. But I began paging through it after the dinner and today found myself reading big chunks of it at the office.

St. Gaetano Catanoso (Photo from Vatican Web site)Essentially, it’s the story of what happens when Catanoso, an Italian-American journalist, discovers he has a saint in the family — his grandfather’s cousin, St. Gaetano Catanoso (left), a humble priest who built a reputation for holiness in a Calabrian village in southern Italy. He died in 1963, and was among the first group of saints canonized by Pope Benedict in 2005.

Justin Catanoso eventually went back to the Italian village and met the rest of his extended family, along the way trying to figure out what it takes to be a saint, and to be recognized as one. The story is all the more poignant because the author’s brother was dying of cancer at the time, and the family was hoping for a miracle.

“My Cousin the Saint” contains some not-to-be-missed accounts of the author’s meetings with the Vatican’s “saintmakers” (yes, yes, we know, the Vatican recognizes saints, it doesn’t make them.)

According to Amazon.com, the book’s due out in May.

The tragedy of Kenya

Kenyans displaced by violence take refuge at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Eldoret, Kenya, in January. (CNS/Reuters)As violence continues in Kenya, Jesuit Father James Martin tells a touching story of life with the Kenyan people that deserves more readers. Father Martin, who might be better known as author of the recent Catholic best-seller “My Life With the Saints,” spent two years of his Jesuit formation in Nairobi more than a dozen years ago. He came to love the people and the variety of ethnic groups and believed that the genocide in Rwanda could never happen there:

The horrific violence in Kenya, in cities like Nairobi and Kisumi, in smaller towns like Kiambaa, and in the sprawling slums of Mathare Valley and Kibera, places that I knew well, and that still retain intense memories for me, is absolutely shocking. Perhaps the countryside is simply different than the city. Or perhaps I misjudged Kenya. (It would not be the first time.)

The good news, if it can be called that, is that Catholic aid agencies don’t want to abandon the country. But Father Martin’s piece, in the America magazine blog, is a sobering reminder of man’s occasional inhumanity to his fellow man.

PHOTO: Kenyans displaced by violence take refuge at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Eldoret, Kenya, in January. (CNS/Reuters)

Looking for information on Lourdes indulgences?

A statue of Mary is seen in an undated photo in the grotto at Lourdes, France, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. (CNS/Crosiers)A caller to the newsroom this week was looking for details on how to gain a plenary indulgence in connection with the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes. So, as a service to our readers, here’s a link to our story when the special indulgence was announced two months ago.

As the story says, you don’t have to all the way to Lourdes to receive it. Starting tomorrow, you can gain the indulgence by visiting “any public sanctuary, shrine or other worthy place dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.” Open the link for details.

There’s also this backgrounder on indulgences in this week’s Denver Catholic Register.

The advantage of course of gaining the indulgence close to home is that it beats standing in line at airport security. But if you’re going to Lourdes, don’t forget that you won’t be able to bring back holy water in your carry-on baggage.

PHOTO: A statue of Mary is seen in an undated photo in the grotto at Lourdes, France, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. (CNS/Crosiers)

Most-viewed CNS stories for January

Did you miss any of these? Here’s a list of most-viewed stories for January on our public site, www.catholicnews.com/:

1. Bishop says Catholics should kneel, receive Communion on tongue

2. Bishop warns Catholics to avoid services started by Life Teen founder

3. Vatican official says pope does not want to abandon liturgical reform

4. Italian newspaper says pope to change Tridentine prayer for Jews

5. Archbishop says he will speak to Bush about Sermon on the Mount

6. The incredible shrinking field of Catholic presidential candidates

7. Jesuit general: Order is close to pope, making differences painful

8. New superior urges Jesuits to strengthen service to poor

9. In growing trend, home-schooled students find academic, social success

10. Italian church won’t object to scattering of ashes, newspaper reports