Pope Francis listens as Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, speaks during an “ordinary public consistory” for the approval of the canonization of seven new saints, at the Vatican May 3, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church’s proclamation of new saints demonstrates that it is possible for men and women to live holy lives and that God is present and at work in the world, said the prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

“It’s useful on earth, not for heaven,” said Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect, when asked, “What is the use of proclaiming saints?”

In an interview published May 4 in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, the cardinal noted how the Second Vatican Council spoke of the “universal vocation of holiness.”

“To proclaim saints helps convince us that this vocation really exists, that the Gospel works, that Jesus does not disappoint and that we can trust in his word,” Cardinal Semeraro said in the interview the day after Pope Francis and cardinals resident in Rome held a consistory to approve the canonization of seven men and women.

The causes took years, even decades of work: studying the lives and writings of the candidates, verifying the events surrounding the deaths of those who were martyrs and looking at cures submitted as miracles attributed to the candidates’ intercession.

But, the cardinal said, “our work of discernment in the causes of saints is not done primarily with the head or with feelings, but on our knees, praying and asking for the light of the Spirit.”

“The saints don’t need our recognition,” he said. “But when we appreciate them as such, we recognize the presence of God among us and what can be more beautiful and comforting for a Christian than to feel the warmth of the closeness of the Lord?”

Asked about the difference between saints and any person who acts heroically to help another, Cardinal Semeraro said, “God is love and every expression of authentic charity has his fingerprints. But there are differences. While the heroes of this world show what a person can do, the saint shows what God can do.”

“Canonizing one of its sons or daughters, the church is not exalting a human work but is celebrating Christ alive in him or her,” the cardinal said. “Christian heroism proclaims God and spreads in the world his grace and blessing, which we cannot do without.”

Those approved for canonization during an “ordinary public consistory” on May 3, 2021 were:

– Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French hermit who was born in France, in 1858. He strayed from the faith during his adolescence, but during a trip to Morocco, he saw how devoted Muslims were to their faith, which inspired him to return to the church. He joined the Trappists, living in monasteries in France and in Syria, before seeking an even more austere life as a hermit. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1901, he lived among the poor and finally settled in Tamanrasset, Algeria. In 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders. His writings inspired the foundation, after his death, of the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of Jesus.

–Blessed Devasahayam Pillai,an 18th-century Catholic layman who was killed for refusing to refute his faith despite being brutally tortured. Born to an upper-caste Hindu family in 1712 and given the name Neelakanda, Blessed Pillai became a trusted soldier of the Hindu king but later incurred his wrath for embracing Christianity. Baptized in May 1745, he was given the name Devasahayam, a Tamil rendering of the biblical name Lazarus. He began preaching and converted his wife and others, which made many officials angry. He was arrested and sentenced to death in 1749, but just before he was sent to the gallows, the Hindu king canceled the execution order. Blessed Pillai remained imprisoned for three more years, enduring torture and public beatings and ridicule for refusing to renounce his faith before secretly being taken into the jungle and shot.

– Blessed César de Bus, the France-born founder of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine, a religious congregation dedicated to education, pastoral ministry and catechesis. Born in 1544, he died in 1607.

– Blessed Luigi Maria Palazzolo, an Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor. He was beatified by St. John XXIII in 1963. The sainthood causes of six members of the order who died in Congo in 1995 caring for victims of Ebola also are underway.

– Blessed Giustino Maria Russolillo, an Italian priest who founded the Society of Divine Vocations for men and the Vocationist Sisters. He was born in 1891 and died in 1955.

– Blessed Anna Maria Rubatto, founder of the order now known as the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto. She was born in Carmagnola, Italy, in 1844 and died in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1904.

– Blessed Maria Domenica Mantovani, co-founder and first superior general of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family. Born in 1862 in Castelletto di Brenzone, Italy, she dedicated her life to serving the poor and needy as well as assisting the sick and the elderly. She died in 1934.