What is a Saint?
If you look up the term “saint” in the Catholic Catechism (Catechism of the Catholic Church), you will not find any listings… none at all. Instead, the index says, “See holiness.” And indeed, a holy and good life is necessary for sainthood.
A Catholic saint is a person who has led a life of “heroic virtue.” The person, now deceased, is considered to be worthy of great respect and reverence. The Church teaches that we pray with the saints, not to them, because we believe they are close to God in heaven.
And how does someone become a saint?
Just like any other effort of value and importance, becoming a saint is a process that the Catholic Church has developed and perfected over the centuries. The Church chooses to name a someone a saint after examining that person’s life and death, and in particular, examining that person’s “heroic virtue.”
The Church considers documents and statements about the person’s life and death and, after a long process – and the verification of two separate miracles – the Church declares a person by canon law to be a saint. The process is not about “making” a saint – God alone does that; it is only a recognition of their holiness.
Why Mattie Matters?
Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek (“Mattie”) had remarkable gifts of communicating ideas and feelings through poetry, prose, and speeches. He wrote and spoke about living a life of purpose and with purpose, believing in hope and peace, playing after every storm, and finding and following our Heartsongs, or “reason for being.” These concepts were developed and expressed as early as age 3, and they were refined from around age 8 when he made his Confirmation into the Catholic Church until his death just before his 14th birthday. He tapped into profound personal struggles for his written and spoken expressions – living with a rare and incurable neuromuscular disease, the pain of chronic illness, the loss of his three siblings, and coping with challenges and discord in his personal and world communities. When his books became bestsellers, he suddenly became famous at the age of 10, and wisely used every opportunity from then on to share his ideas about purpose, hope, and peace to a wider audience.
Mattie’s call to holiness came at an early age, when, living in rural Maryland, he began receiving what he called “messages” from God – messages he shaped into poetry and written works and shared through conversations and speeches. These became the song of his heart and his purpose in life, and he encouraged others to find their Heartsong – the unique purpose given to each of us by God. As a devout Catholic, Mattie attended Mass several times a week, and was a lector and religious education teacher for 2nd and 6th graders. Throughout his life, even while critically ill, Mattie showed unselfish concern for his family, friends, and especially the infants and children alongside him in hospital Intensive Care Units. When given money to buy himself Christmas gifts, he used it instead to purchase movies and games for them, to lift their loneliness while in the hospital. He also wrote prayers and poetry for patients, families, and medical staff, especially during times of crisis and loss.
Mattie endured lifelong disability, constant health challenges, and ongoing financial difficulties. He chose not to be defeated by them, but instead, turned his face to God, responding to the purpose God gave him and living out his life as a faithful Catholic. Mattie died of complications from disability just before his 14th birthday. His final requests before death were to comfort a baby and to receive the Holy Eucharist; his final words were “thank you” and “Yes!” Thousands of people. – diverse in age, ability, aspiration, and religion – attended his wake, funeral Mass, and burial celebrations.
About the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild
Soon after Mattie died in 2004, Mattie’s childhood pastor contacted his mom, Jeni (Jennifer Smith Stepanek), to ask her to “save all of Mattie’s things” because he said that someday, a cause for sainthood would be organized for him.
In 2009, Jeni published the memoir, Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and Heartsongs. To explore the book and discuss Mattie’s life, Jeni was interviewed by EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, on his live tv show, The World Over. The audience reaction to hearing Mattie’s story, and Jeni’s, was overwhelming. Arroyo had Jeni on a few months later, and again, many viewers called in, all saying the same thing: that Mattie’s message inspired them and changed them for the better. Jeni was invited to be a guest on the show several more times over the years, and each time, viewer response was enthusiastic. Arroyo began reaching out to Catholics around the country to pursue Mattie’s cause for sainthood. The first formal meeting of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild was on the Feast of St. Matthew, September 21, 2012.
In 2014, hundreds gathered for Mattie’s 10-year anniversary with a Mass celebrated at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC, concelebrated by several members of the clergy, including Monsignor Charles Pope and Fr. Isidore Dixon – both of whom provided pastoral care to Mattie during his life.
In 2016, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild was officially incorporated as a Maryland nonprofit. Raymond Arroyo is the Guild’s Founder and President.
What’s Next for the Guild?
On October 28, 2018, the Feast of St. Jude Thaddeus – to whom Mattie had a special devotion – the Guild shared “Mattie’s Prayer” cards with clergy and participants attending the Annual White Mass in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, which celebrates belonging and purpose, especially for children and adults with disabilities. This marked the first time the Guild formally disseminated materials and information about Mattie’s Guild and cause for sainthood. A few days later, on All Saints Day, this prayer – which was created especially with youth and families in mind – was introduced to the students and staff at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic School in Rockville, Maryland. The school principal, Vincent Spadoni, is encouraging members of this community to live a devotional life, and to pray daily for Mattie’s cause and to live with purpose and faith as Mattie did.
Also on November 1, 2018, outreach through the new Mattie4Sainthood.org website and through social media (Facebook – Mattie 4 Sainthood, and Twitter – @Matite4Saint) began, offering people opportunities to learn more about Mattie’s life and the work of the Guild, and to share their own reflections about Mattie.
Each month, the Guild will be sharing a poem, passage, or prayer created by Mattie on the website and through social media and outreach to schools and youth groups. These monthly messages will include insights on Mattie’s life, his writings, and his heroic virtues. The Guild will also offer suggestions for conversation and activities related to the monthly theme that might deepen faith and understanding of the message, and also encourage attitudes and actions of virtue. The Guild will encourage children, adults, families, and communities to “reflect on, respond to, and reach out” with the shared messages and themes, and also to pray for the purpose of Mattie’s cause and to share their personal reflections with the Guild.
On December 10, 2018, Mattie’s Guild received notification that federal tax nonprofit status had been awarded, designating the Guild as a 501(c)3 organization. A primary goal of the Guild now is to raise funds so that the Directors can work with a canon lawyer to review Mattie’s life and ministry, to accept and record witness statements and testimony about Mattie’s virtues and impact, and to organize a presentation to give to the Archdiocese of Washington to advance Mattie’s Cause.
How to Share YOUR Mattie Reflections
and Statements of Support for
Mattie’s Cause of Canonization
CLICK HERE for GUIDELINES…
Prayer for Purpose
Also, on this page is a prayer that celebrates
Mattie’s purpose and faith, and that offers intentions
for our own purpose and also for Mattie’s Cause.
This prayer was created especially for children
and families who are praying for hope and peace,
and for personal and community intentions.
If you have been inspired to live a more faithful life,
or if you believe you have been granted a favor
through prayer to Mattie, please share your
reflections with Mattie’s Guild.
Formal reflections and statements need to be
notarized, and mailed in a sealed envelop to:
Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild
ATTN: Reflection for Cause
PO Box 674
Kensington, MD 20895
God Our Father, I thank You for giving us each a life with a good and holy purpose, and for giving me a song in my heart that reminds me of my purpose every day.
I thank You for the gift of my neighbor, Mattie Stepanek, who lived his Heartsong, the grace-filled purpose You placed within him.
Mattie’s Heartsong was to spread a message of hope and peace, and I, too, ask for that – for myself, my family, my friends, and for our world.
Help me remember to listen to and share the special Heartsong You have given me, today and every day of my life.
Help me to be strengthened in faith as I face daily challenges, just as Mattie was, choosing to use his gifts while living at peace with his disability and illness.
If it be Your Will, Father, allow Mattie’s cause for sainthood to move forward, so that people everywhere will be inspired by Mattie’s courage and kindness. Help me to trust in You as Mattie did, as I make this petition:
(mention your request).
We give glory to the Holy Trinity as we pray:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.