Tuesday, January 15, 2008

St. Ita of Killeedy and Blessed Arnold Janssen: Two saints (of the day) for Huckabee

The day of the Michigan Republic Primary is upon us, and running third place in the polls in a state of 7.4 percent unemployment, both former Arkansas Governor Michael Huckabee and the people of the state need a miracle. In this regard, Fighting Irish Thomas is happy to offer the help of two of today's better known saints (and blesseds), Ita of Ireland, and Arnold Janssen of Germany, to assist both the voters and our favorite candidate.

St. Ita, Ireland's best known woman saint after the brilliant St. Brigid, was born in the sixth century at Durm, now County Waterford. She was originally named Deirdre, but early on she was called Ita (which means "thirst for holiness") for this virtue was so evident in her. She refused a wealthy suitor, took a vow of virginity, migrated (with the guidance of an angel) to a mountain in Limerick, and started a school for boys! The devil was said to attack her, and Satan started fire to her quarters, but the fire only consumed the building, leaving Ita untouched. Instead her monastery "caught fire" spiritually, and her school (which later was expanded to include women) had so many holy graduates, that Ita was nicknamed "the foster-mother of the saints of Erin." When her most famous student, St. Brendan of Clonfert, asked Ita the three things that most pleased and displeased God, her response, "Three things that please God most are true faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a grateful spirit, and generosity inspired by charity," is practically straight from Huckabee.com, while her counter answer, "The three things that most displease God are a mouth that hates people, a heart harbouring resentments, and confidence in wealth," almost perfectly depicts Mike's various opponents.

Arnold Janssen was born the second of eight children in Goch (near Munster), Germany, on November 5, 1837. Arnold (like Huck) came from modest means, his father a small-time farmer with a second job in transportation. As busy as he was, Gerhard Janssen not only read the day's Gospel but a commentary on it to his children after dinner, and this (along with his mother's constant vocal praying while attending to the children and farm animals) led Arnold into the priesthood. A dynamic student, Arnold spent the first twelve years after his ordination teaching school, but when attending a Catholic conference, the missionary zeal consumed him, and he resigned his post. Since Catholic missionary seminaries were still illegal then in Germany, Janssen moved to the Netherlands, and, in a run-down inn on the banks of the Meuse, founded the Society of the Divine Word Missionaries.

Taking the motto, "May the heart of Jesus live in the hearts of men!" the society's twin objectives, the training of missionaries and the cultivation of Christian sciences met with much skepticism but Arnold remained undaunted declaring, "the money is already there, in the pockets of the good people who will give it to you at the proper time." He started with nothing and created a society that eventually sent missionaries to China, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Chile (and shortly before his death in 1909), even Chicago! Also Janssen's Catholic magazines including Little Messengers of the Sacred Heart were an immensely popular innovation at that time, and no doubt inspired the likes of Maximilian Kolbe and later John Paul II. Janssen's "blind faith and deep practicality," certainly can be found in the Huckabee campaign, while Arnold's constant admonition to his charges, "What you cannot accomplish is not the will of God," certainly brings comfort during those primaries when the other candidate's team is too massive to overcome. But those are powerful saints, so let's not rule out a Mike Huckabee "Michigan Miracle" just yet...

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