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Possible Beatification of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI

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Upon receiving dozens of requests yesterday for confirmation of the details about Pope Paul VI’s imminent beatification, at the conclusion of October’s Synod of Bishops, it is important to remember that before speaking or writing authoritatively of approval of a miracle or an established date for the ceremony, the Congregation of Saints must meet, approve the findings of a miracle and then the Prefect of the Congregation would present them to Pope Francis for his final approval and signature.  This has not yet been done.  Therefore it is best to wait for the decree before announcing and writing about the date of his beatification.

In the meantime, numerous individuals and news agencies asked me to provide a   It may be helpful to you.

The Servant of God Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)

Pope Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini on September 26th 1897. He was the Pope from June 21st 1963 to his death on the 6th of August 1978. Cardinal Montini, upon his election to the papacy, took the name Paul VI to indicate a renewed worldwide mission to spread the message of Christ. He re-convoked the Second Vatican Council, which was automatically suspended with the death of John XXIII, and gave it priority and direction. In his first Papal address he committed himself to a continuation of the work begun by John XXIII with the opening of the Second Vatican Council. On September 14th 1965 he announced the establishment of the Synod of Bishops called for by the Council fathers. He was one of the most traveled popes in history and the first to visit five continents.

Before his pontificate Montini served in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State from 1922 to 1954. During World War II Montini was responsible for organizing the extensive relief work and the care of political refugees.

In 1954, Pius XII named him Archbishop of Milan, the largest Italian diocese. Montini took possession of his new see on January 5th 1955 and soon made himself known as the “archbishop of the workers.” He revitalized the entire diocese, preached the social message of the Gospel, worked to win back the laboring class, promoted Catholic education at every level, and supported the Catholic press. His impact upon the city at this time was so great that it attracted world-wide attention. At Pope John’s first consistory Archbishop Montini was one of 23 prelates raised to the cardinalate. His response to the call for a Council was immediate and even before it met he was identified as a strong advocate of collegiality.

To those who knew him best, Paul VI was described as a brilliant man, deeply spiritual, humble, reserved and gentle, a man of “infinite courtesy.”  He is noted for his rigorous reform of the Roman curia, his well-received address to the UN in 1965, his encyclical Populorum progressio (1967), his second great social letter Octogesima adveniens (1971)—the first to show an awareness of many problems that have only recently been brought to light—and his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, his last major pronouncement which also touched on the central question of the just conception of liberation and salvation.

Paul VI sought dialogue with the world, with other Christians, other religions, and atheists. He saw himself as a humble servant and demanded significant changes in favor of the poor. After a period of ill health Paul VI died on August 6th 1978. In 1993 the cause for Paul VI’s canonization was started and as of December 2013, Vatican officials stated that a miracle attributed to the intercession of Paul VI was “medically unexplainable” and once confirmed, Venerable Paul VI would be called “Blessed”.

If in fact Pope Paul VI is proclaimed Blessed in the near future, he would become the tenth Roman Pontiff who has the title “Blessed”.  At present the others are:

1. Blessed Victor III

2. Blessed Urban II

3. Blessed Eugene III

4. Blessed Gregory X

5. Blessed Innocent V

6. Blessed Benedict XI

7. Blessed Urban V

8. Blessed Innocent XI

9. Blessed Pius IX

Brother André: Montreal’s Porter and Heaven’s Gatekeeper – A Reflection on St. André of Montreal

Among those canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at the Vatican was Canadian Brother André Bessette, of the Congregation of Holy Cross.  For nearly 40 years Brother André worked as a porter at the College of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur in the Montreal neighborhood of Côtes-des-Neiges.  Speaking about his assignment as doorman, he once quipped, “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door.”

As porter of the College, Brother André lived in a small room located near the main entrance that also served as his office.  He urged people who came to him to pray with confidence and perseverance, while remaining open to God’s will. He admonished people to begin their path to healing through commitments to faith and humility, through confession and a return to the sacraments. He encouraged the sick to seek a doctor’s care. He saw value in suffering that is joined to the sufferings of Christ. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but always retained a joyful nature and good humor. At times he was seen weeping along with his visitors as they recounted to him their sorrows and difficulties.  Word spread quickly when many of those with whom he prayed were healed. As Brother André was becoming known as a miracle worker, he insisted all the more, “I am nothing…only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”
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“What John Paul II asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do” – Full text of beatification homily

The following is the full text of the homily of Pope Benedict XVI, preached today at the Mass of Beatification of John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Beatification of Pope John Paul II
Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world – cardinals, bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

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Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin: A Canadian Witness for Holy Week

In 1858, four Sisters of St. Ann traveled from Montreal to Canada’s West Coast aboard the SS Seabird with Victoria’s first Bishop, Modeste Demers (a relative of their current Bishop!).  They made the two-month voyage via a circuitous route through the Isthmus of Panama. Their goal was to aid the Bishop in his mission to the local Aboriginals, and so they began in earnest their work of providing them education and health care.   In 1871 a large brick building, St. Ann’s Academy, was erected and in 1876 Saint Joseph’s Hospital was finished.   In 1941, Mount Saint Mary’s extended care facility was constructed as an extension to Saint Joseph’s Hospital.  It was there in 2005, while studying at the University of Victoria, that I first met the Sisters of St. Ann.

Today, April 18th, is the feast of Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin.  She was born Esther Blondin in Terrebonne, Quebec on April 18th, 1809. Raised in a devout farming family, she learned piety from her mother and unwavering patience in the midst of suffering from her father.  Nineteenth century colonial America was simply about survival and so education usually fell by the wayside.  For Esther it was no different, for at 22 she couldn’t read or write.

After briefly working as a domestic in the Convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame, she entered as a novice, however ill health forced her to leave.  At the age of 24 Esther became a teacher in the hopes of helping other children acquire the education they deserve.  The only problem was that, at the time, the Church required separate schools for boys and girls and, unfortunately, many parish communities could not afford two schools. So in many cases no schools were built.

At 48, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Esther brought before her Bishop a plan to found a religious community dedicated to the education of poor children, solving the issue of running two schools by simply having boys and girls together in one school.  Her Bishop agreed, and on September 8th, 1850, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Ann was formed.

Esther, now Mother Marie-Anne, became the first superior of her fledgling community.  God blessed the community with vocations and soon it became apparent that they would need to expand into another motherhouse.  It was at this time that the new chaplain of the community, Fr. Marechal, began taking over control of the sisters’ affairs.  Difficulties between Fr. Marechal and Blessed Marie-Anne led the Bishop to ask for her resignation and her promise not to accept the nomination if re-elected as Superior.  From this point on, and until her death in 1890, Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin lived a life of persecution, forced to perform the most menial tasks in her community and kept out of all administration.  Her sisters were not even able to acknowledge her as their spiritual mother despite several attempts to re-elect her as their Superior!

The paradox of Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin’s life is that despite the best efforts of her chaplain and Bishop, she became more useful to the growth of her community. By consciously suffering injustices in reparation for her sins and the sins of her community, she ensured the blessings of God.  Her example becomes all the more poignant during Holy Week, for Jesus himself suffered the most injustices and insults.  Yet God in his eternal wisdom gives some of us the blessing of suffering for his sake.  For St. Paul says in 1 Col 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.”  During this Holy Week, we would do well to contemplate more deeply Blessed Marie-Anne Blondin’s life and her witness of humble service.

Charter for Christian Living and Recipe for Extreme Holiness — A Biblical Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

As the Church continues her pilgrim journey throughout history, we need a vision to sustain us and give us hope in the midst of our shadows, ambiguities and sins, our joys and hopes and victories.  That biblical vision is found in the great Christian charter in today’s Gospel passage.  Today’s Gospel often called “the Sermon on the Mount” [Mt 5:1-12a] is the first of the five discourses [5:1-7:29] that are a central part of the structure of Matthew’s Gospel.  The Lucan parallel is the “Sermon on the Plain” [Luke 6:20-49], although some of the sayings in Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” have their parallels in other parts of Luke.

The careful topical arrangement of the sermon is probably not due only to Matthew’s editing; he seems to have had a structured discourse of Jesus as one of his sources. The form of that source may have been as follows: four beatitudes [Matthew 5:3-4, 6, 11-12], a section on the new righteousness with illustrations [5:17, 20-24, 27-28, 33-48], a section on good works, [6:1-6, 16-18], and three warnings [7:1-2, 15-21, 24-27].  Unlike Luke’s sermon, Matthew’s text is addressed not only to the disciples but to the crowds.

The formulation “Blessed are (is)” used in today’s Gospel passage occurs frequently in the Old Testament in the Wisdom literature and in the psalms. Although modified by Matthew, the first, second, fourth, and ninth beatitudes have Lucan parallels (Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20; Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21, 22; Matthew 5:6; Luke 6:21a; Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 5:22-23). The others were added by the evangelist and are probably his own composition.

The meaning of the beatitudes

The beatitudes are the great charter for Christian living.  They reveal God’s ultimate justice and outline Jesus’ prophetic outreach to those who live on the fringes of society.  So many people– the sick, the lame, the poor and the hungry converge on Jesus on that Galilean hillside.  In this awesome biblical scene overlooking the Sea, Jesus puts biblical justice into practice by proclaiming the beatitudes.  Authentic justice is a bonding of one’s self with the sick, the disabled, the poor and the hungry.  The crowds that listened to Jesus were awestruck because he spoke with authority, with the force of someone who knew the truth and offered it freely to others.  He was a teacher like no other.

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Message on the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, by Fr. Thomas Rosica

Dear Friends of Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network,

I am presently attending the World Youth Day 2011 International Preparatory Meeting of the Episcopal Conferences of the World, leaders of International Youth Movements, and the Spanish National Team for World Youth Day 2011, taking place in the Royal Monastery of El Escorial in the mountains outside of Madrid in Spain.  The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops asked me to represent them at this international gathering of Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and several hundred youth leaders from every corner of the globe.

Today, shortly after noon, the meetings were interrupted and Cardinal Stanislas Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity at the Vatican, announced to the large assembly that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the miracle attributed to the Venerable Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, thus clearing the way for his Beatification.  Cardinal Rylko then announced that Pope Benedict, himself, will formally proclaim Pope John Paul II “Blessed” on Sunday, May 1, 2011 during a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

This year, May 1 happens to be the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday.  Nor is it a coincidence that May 1, known as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker in the Catholic Church, is also known as “May Day” on secular calendars.  Communists and Socialists around the world commemorate May Day with marches, speeches, and festivals.  How fitting that in addition to being Divine Mercy Sunday this year, the man who was a unique instrument and messenger in bringing down the Iron Curtain and the deadly reign of Communism and godlessness, will be declared “Blessed” on May 1.

The news of Pope John Paul II’s imminent beatification was fitting in this assembly of youth leaders and shepherds who oversee pastoral ministry to young people throughout the world.  Following Cardinal Rylko’s announcement, Bishop César Franco, head of World Youth Day in Madrid announced that one of the principal patrons of World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid would be Blessed John Paul II.  A thunderous, sustained, standing ovation followed the announcement.  Many sitting near me in the large meeting room in Spain’s “El Escorial” Monastery were weeping openly upon hearing this news.

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On S+L Saturday: Beatification of Chiara Luce Badano

In her short time on earth Chiara Badano lived a life of great love and holiness.  Chiara’s story cannot help but touch all who hear it. Salt + Light is bringing you the next chapter in Chiara’s story. Tomorrow, Saturday September 25th, Chiara Luce Badano will be named Blessed.  Her beatification marks the first for the Focolare Catholic Lay Movement to which she belonged.

BADANO-BEATIFYChiara is a shining reminder that Saints do exist in modern day. Her story begins with her birth in the town of Sassello, Italy. Her parents had tried to conceive for 11 years before they were blessed with their new baby girl. She is described by those who knew her as an abundantly kind and giving person with a deep devotion to Jesus. She joined the Focolare Movement in her teens. The founder of the movement, Chiara Lubich, gave her the nickname Chiara ‘Luce’ meaning light. She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 17.  She accepted her illness with grace saying that if this is what Jesus wanted, then she wanted it too. She died in 1990 at the age of 19. Her cause for sainthood began in 1999. Now just 20 years after her death, Chiara Luce Badano will be declared Blessed.

Salt + Light is proud to bring you the events of the day live from Rome, starting with Chiara Luce Badano’s Beatification Mass at Castel Leva, Rome at 10 am ET/7 am PT.  Later on in the day we’re airing live from Rome at 3pm ET/12:00pm PT a two hour program celebrating her beatification.

Be a part of this next chapter in Chiara’s Legacy. Share in this special occasion for the Focolare movement and young Catholics everywhere.

Photo: CNS

Cardinal Newman, Undefined

Who really is Cardinal John Henry Newman? Back when I was a student involved in the Newman Centre at Queen’s University, I confess that I knew nothing about the life and works of the centre’s namesake. Now, having spent the past few weeks researching him for Catholic Focus, I’ve learned that it’s not an easy question.

Cardinal John Henry NewmanThose who try to keep up with Catholic opinion must feel besieged by the dozens of commentaries about Newman. The heavyweight authors include Conrad Black, who, like Newman, was a convert to the Catholic faith. Black’s hagiography elevates Newman to the “exalted realm of Shakespeare and Churchill”. (While he’s at it, he pens glowing praise for Pope Benedict XVI, ranking him as “one of the greatest intellects who has held that office in several centuries.”)

Then just today, the semi-official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published a tribute by Tony Blair—yet another convert. The former British Prime Minister credits Newman for the concept of the development of doctrine. Moreover, he even attributes to him the concept of development itself, reasoning that “We probably would not be using the terms ‘Millennium Development Goals’ or ‘international development’ today if he had not first used the word in his theology.”

Blair maintains that Newman “was, and is, a Doctor of the Church,” adding that “there is still time to proclaim him as such.”

A consensus has emerged that Newman truly is Blessed, as he will be proclaimed in Birmingham, England this Sunday. Yet so much ink has been spilt on the question of whether Newman’s legacy belongs to the Church’s traditionalists or its reformers. Pundits from both camps find evidence to claim him as one of their own. Instead of enjoying Newman’s broad appeal, the ideologues will spoil their weekend, fuming over the thought of their opponents applauding the beatification.

The rest of us can simply rejoice. And in the mean time, we can learn more about the only person that Benedict XVI has chosen to personally beatify.

On tonight’s Catholic Focus, we meet a priest who likely knows more about Newman than most of the commentators combined. As the superior of Toronto’s Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Fr. Jonathon Robinson belongs to the same congregation as Cardinal Newman. He was involved in the launch of Newman’s cause for sainthood in 1958.

Catholic Focus airs tonight at 7 & 11 pm, repeating Saturday at the same times. S+L will broadcast Cardinal Newman’s beatification Mass live this Sunday at 5 am (all times Eastern).