For the past two weeks, we have been talking about the saints. St. Anthony of Padua was selected as our favorite saint by a poll of several hundred Tablet readers. The runners-up included St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Jude, in that order.
Now for a few overall observations about the voting. I was surprised that the same five saints who topped our poll 14 years ago also finished in the top five spots this time, albeit in a different order. I had thought that different names would have been chosen simply because there are many more saints from which to choose today and also because the ethnic make-up of the diocese has changed so much.
There are some very saints in the parishes that did not fare well in our balloting. For instance, there are so many shrines to Padre Pio in Brooklyn and Queens, yet the venerable saint from northern Italy only received five votes.
A number of votes were cast for different titles of Mary the Mother of Jesus. We did not consider her as a proper choice since we revere the Mother of God to be above the rank of saint. Mary was the only person besides Jesus who was conceived without Original Sin, and so we put her in a class all her own.
A few “Blesseds” – such as Mother Teresa, Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt, Angela of Foligno and John XXIII – also received votes. Father Solanus Casey and Dorothy Day, neither of whom have achieved “Blessed” status, also received votes which should speak well for their future standing in the Church.
One of our newest saints, Kateri Tekakwitha, received several votes but not enough to break into the top five.
I was surprised that popular saints, such as John Vianney and Maximilian Kolbe, were selected by only one person each. Others with one vote included the ranks of Catherine of Siena, Joan of Arc, Monica, Katherine Drexel, Andrew, John Bosco and Ann.
Two votes were received for Paul and Gerard Majella. Three each for Teresa of Avila and Clare.
And then there also were nominations for Dismas, Dymphna, Cono, Roch, Julianna of Nicomedia, Hannibal, John of Patmos and Queen Esther.
Dismas is the “good” thief who was crucified alongside Jesus and asked for forgiveness as he was dying. Dymphna is the patroness for mental and nervous disorders. Cono is an obscure saint from the hill town of Teggiano, near Salerno, Italy, who remains a favorite among members of a social club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Roch was a 14th-century ascetic known for tending to the sick in public hospitals in Italy. Julianna was a fourth-century martyr. Hannibal, also known as Annibale di Francia, was a 19th-century priest whose sad experience of losing a parent made him deeply sensitive to the plight of children bereft of parents. John of Patmos is the name given by some modern scholars to the author of the Book of Revelation. Queen Esther is the heroine of the Book of Esther and technically not a canonized saint.
Our little exercise in voting for these holy men and women is not merely a contest, but it should serve as a reminder that the saints are people to be remembered for their good works and persevering faith. They not only serve as intercessors for our prayers, but they also are people whose lives are meant to serve as good examples of how we are to live our lives.
Thanks to all who took the time to participate in reminding us of the Catholic tradition of venerating the saints.