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Feast of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – July 4

“Verso l’alto”

July 4 is the Memorial (Feast Day) of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. The following is the homily of Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB preached on Monday, July 14, 2008 during WYD Sydney at the Prayer Vigil and Eucharistic Adoration with the body of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia.

Dear Friends,
Dear Wanda, niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati,

What an honour and privilege it is to be here with you this evening in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia! Led by the young adults of Canada’s Catholic Christian Outreach [CCO], one of our nation’s outstanding movements for Catholic university students, we have gathered together to adore Jesus, gift of God for the life of the world. And young people of the entire world have also come here, to pray around the mortal remains of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati during World Youth Day 2008.

We have just listened to the blueprint for Christianity in that magnificent text of the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel [5:1-12]. The Beatitudes in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount are a recipe for extreme holiness. Every crisis that the Church faces, every crisis that the world faces, is a crisis of holiness and a crisis of saints.

If there was ever an age when young men and women needed authentic heroes, it is our age. The Church understands that the saints and blesseds, their prayers, their lives, are for people on earth; that sainthood, as an earthly honor, is not coveted by the saints or blesseds themselves.

What was so unique and special about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati? He was born in 1901, at the turn of the last century in Turin, Italy. July 4, 2008 marked the 83rd anniversary of Pier Giorgio Frassati’s entry into eternal life. Athletic, full of life, always surrounded by friends, whom he inspired with his life, Pier Giorgio chose not to become a priest or religious, preferring to give witness to the Gospel as a lay person. He never founded a religious order or started a new ecclesial movement. He led no armies, nor was he elected to public office. Death came even before he could complete his university degree (the degree was awarded to him posthumously in 2001). He never had a chance to begin a career; in fact, he hadn’t even worked out for sure what his vocation in life would be. He was simply a young man who was in love with his family and friends, in love with the mountains and the sea, but especially in love with God.

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Through World Youth Days, Pier Giorgio Frassati has become a special patron to millions of young people around the world, and most especially to the movement “Catholic Christian Outreach” in Canada. Let us consider three highlights of this young Blessed’s life that combined in a remarkable way political activism, solidarity, work for social justice, piety and devotion, humanity and goodness, holiness and ordinariness, faith and life.

Pier Giorgio’s Devotional Life and Love of the Eucharist

Pier Giorgio Frassati developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends. His friends remember him saying: “To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live, but to ‘plod along’; we must never just ‘plod along.’ ”

The Eucharist and the Blessed Mother were the two poles of his world of prayer. He felt a strong mysterious urge to be near the Blessed Sacrament. He followed Him in the processions, took part enthusiastically in the Eucharistic Congresses, but above everything he loved to spend long hours in nocturnal adoration. And his joy was so much greater when he managed to bring in front of the Blessed Sacrament, his friends, young people he knew, and the poor he looked after. During some Eucharistic vigils, the face of Pier Giorgio would be transfigured with joy and consolation at seeing hundreds of young men and women who were coming to communion.

His spiritual life, like ours, was based on the sacraments. But he went beyond simply doing what is “required”: Sunday Mass, the perfunctory confession before Christmas and/or Easter, and perhaps a small Lenten penance like giving up candy.

The Rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina and annual retreats were as much a part of his life as skiing, mountain-climbing or cycling. His life of prayer was his “daily bread,” as it should be for anyone who desires to become a saint. He was an athlete, and he knew well that in order to “reach the goal,” as he was fond of saying, he had to push himself beyond the ordinary if he wanted to be a champion.

In a letter he wrote [July 29, 1923] to the Members of “Catholic Youth” of Pollone, the mountain town north of Turin, Pier Giorgio said:

“…I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharistic Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles, the struggles against passions and against all adversities, because Jesus Christ has promised to those who feed themselves with the most Holy Eucharist, eternal life and the necessary graces to obtain it.

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And when you become totally consumed by this Eucharistic Fire, then you will be able to thank with greater awareness the Lord God who has called you to be part of his flock and you will enjoy that peace which those who are happy according to the world have never tasted. Because true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind.”

These words demonstrate a remarkable spiritual maturity and love for the Eucharist, especially considering the fact that they were coming from a young man who was only twenty-two years old.

Pier Giorgio’s respect for life and sense of social justice

In his own life and times, Pier Giorgio dealt with some of our own contemporary problems and struggles. His love of God and his tremendous sense of human solidarity bonded him with the poor, the needy, the sick, the hungry and the homeless. Frassati had a tremendous respect for human life: all life, from the earliest moments to the final moments. He was constantly defending life wherever it was diminished and under siege.

At the age of 17, in 1918, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I. What little he did have, Pier Giorgio gave to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals. The poor and the suffering were his masters, and he was literally their servant, which he considered a privilege. He often sacrificed vacations at the Frassati summer home in Pollone because, as he said, “If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?”

Pier Giorgio loved the poor. It was not simply a matter of giving something to the lonely, the poor, the sick – but rather, giving his whole self. He saw Jesus in them and to a friend who asked him how he could bear to enter the dirty and smelly places where the poor lived, he answered: “Remember always that it is to Jesus that you go: I see a special light that we do not have around the, sick, the poor, the unfortunate.”

A German news reporter who observed Frassati at the Italian Embassy wrote, “One night in Berlin, with the temperature at twelve degrees below zero, he gave his overcoat to a poor old man shivering in the cold. His father, the Ambassador scolded him, and he replied simply and matter-of-factly, ‘But you see, Papa, it was cold.’”

In that same letter written to the Members of “Catholic Youth” of Pollone, Pier Giorgio urged his peers with these words:

“The Apostle St. Paul says, “The charity of Christ needs us,” and without this fire, which little by little must destroy our personality so that our heart beats only for the sorrows of others, we would not be Christians, much less Catholics.

Finally there is the apostolate of persuasion. This is one of the most beautiful and necessary. Young people, approach your colleagues at work who live their lives away from the Church and spend their free time not in healthy pastimes, but in vices. Persuade those unfortunate people to follow the ways of God, strewn with many thorns, but also many roses.

But if every one of you were to possess these gifts to the highest degree, and did not have the spirit of sacrifice in abundance, you would not be a good Catholic. We must sacrifice everything for everything: our ambitions, indeed our entire selves, for the cause of the Faith.”

Beneath the smiling exterior of the restless young man was concealed the amazing life of a mystic. Love for Jesus motivated his actions.

Pier Giorgio’s suffering and death

Just before receiving his university degree in mining engineering, he contracted poliomyelitis, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick for whom he cared. His sickness was not understood. His parents, totally taken up by the agony, death and burial of his grandmother, had not even suspected the paralysis. Two days before the end, his mother kept on scolding him for not helping her in difficult moments.

Not even in those desperate final days could he ever forget his closest friends, the poor. While lying on his death bed he wanted the usual material assistance to be brought to them. It was Friday, the day he visited them. On July 3, 1925, a day before his death, his hand already paralyzed from polio, Pier Giorgio asked his sister Luciana to take a small packet from his jacket and with a semi-paralyzed hand he wrote the following note to Grimaldi: “Here are the injections for Converso. The pawn ticket is Sappa’s. I had forgotten it; renew it on my behalf”.

We know that Pier Giorgio wanted to see Jesus so much that he used to say: “The day of my death will be the most beautiful day of my life.” Pier Giorgio’s sacrifice was fulfilled at seven o’clock in the evening of July 4, 1925. His funeral was a triumph. The streets of Turin were lined with a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family: clergy and students, and the poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly for seven years.

God gave Pier Giorgio all the external attributes that could have led him to make the wrong choices: a wealthy family, very good looks, manhood, health, being the only heir of a powerful family. But Pier Giorgio listened to the invitation of Christ: “Come and follow me.” He anticipated by at least 50 years the Church’s understanding and new direction on the role of the laity.

In beatifying Frassati alone in St. Peter’s Square on May 20, 1990, Pope John Paul II described Pier Giorgio as the “man of the eight Beatitudes” and said in his homily:

“By his example he proclaims that a life lived in Christ’s Spirit, the Spirit of the Beatitudes, is “blessed”, and that only the person who becomes a “man or woman of the Beatitudes” can succeed in communicating love and peace to others. He repeats that it is really worth giving up everything to serve the Lord. He testifies that holiness is possible for everyone, and that only the revolution of charity can enkindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of people. …He left this world rather young, but he made a mark upon our entire century, and not only on our century.”

Conclusion

Tonight, together with the Servant of God, John Paul II, the young mountain climber of Pollone stands at the window of the Father’s house and smiles upon us, as he intercedes for us and for the young people of the world who have come to Sydney to discover the Lord and his holy ones in the vast Communion of Saints and community of the Church. Let me conclude by speaking for a few moments directly to Pier Giorgio on your behalf.

Carissimo Pier Giorgio,

I never had the privilege of meeting you in life. Whoever has met you knows that in your eyes, in your gestures and in your actions, you always carried a little piece of heaven. You shared that with those who knew you in your lifetime, and now with those of us who have known you for the past century.

Since 1925 when you left this earth to return to the house of your father, you have continued your work on our behalf “dall’alto”, from above! In your lifetime you never had the privilege of coming to a World Youth Day. You have watched them from afar, and blessed them with countless graces.

For many years your mortal body remained hidden in the family tomb in Pollone, and then placed in a dark corner of Turin’s Cathedral. Many who visited didn’t even know you were there! I was one of those visitors several years ago. I simply couldn’t find where they had laid you to rest! Such a powerful witness and light must never be hidden, but held up for imitation and inspiration.

We Catholic Christians believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the instrument of God’s work, the frame of God’s house in our midst. And we know, with St. Paul, that “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling — if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” [II Corinthians 5:2-4]

Your presence among us this evening, both from your vantage point at the window of the Father’s home in heaven and through your mortal remains in this Cathedral, witnesses to your mortality that has been swallowed up by new life. Pier Giorgio, you almost didn’t make it to Sydney! Thank God that the Church in Australia, with the help of the Holy Spirit, prevailed over all those forces which tried to prevent you from attending your first World Youth Day down under!

As we venerate your mortal remains, we give thanks to the Lord Jesus who gave you life, inspiration, strength, hope and the crown of glory. As we reflect on your youthfulness, your simplicity, your beauty, goodness and humanity, we recognize the call given to each of us: to be men and women of the Beatitudes.

Thank you, Pier Giorgio, for listening to Jesus’ words and making them your own. Your example has moved me and hundreds of thousands of others to translate the Beatitudes into Good News with our very lives. Be with us on this great expedition to heaven!

Pier Giorgio, help us to strive for simple hearts, attentive to the needs of others, and friendships based on that pact which knows no earthly boundaries or limits of time: union in prayer. If we do not know the road, and if we often abandon the path, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If by being superficial we have not put in our knapsack all that we need for the climb, and if we never lift up our gaze because we do not want to take the first demanding steps to set ourselves on the way, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we lack the strength to overcome the most difficult passes, and if we have the strength, but prefer to use it to turn back, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we never pause to be nourished by the bread of eternal life, and if we do not quench our thirst from the fountain of prayer, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

When we do not know how to contemplate the beauty of the gifts we have received, and when we do not know how to offer ourselves for others, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we have committed many sins, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

If we lost hope, show us the way “verso l’alto” upward to heaven!

Three years ago, at the opening ceremonies for World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the throng of young people from the entire world:

“Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.”

That is why we have gathered together tonight in this great Cathedral down under! May all the young people who have journeyed to Sydney, and those of us who have been young for a while, find in Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati what Jesus’ Sermon on a Galilean hillside really meant.

Pray for us, Pier Giorgio Frassati. Show us the way “verso l’alto”, upward to heaven and deep in to the heart of God. Teach us how to be Saints for the Church and for the world!

Amen.

St. Josephina Bakhita – Model of True Emancipation

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Called the “Madre Moretta” (the Black Mother), Josephina Bakhita was a former slave who became a Canossian Sister (Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa) in Italy. She was born in the Sudan, in northeastern Africa, about 1870, and at the age of nine was stolen by slavers. The slave traders gave her the name Bakhita, meaning “the Lucky One.” She escaped from these slavers only to be caught by another, who took her as a gift to his daughter in El Obeid. There she was treated well until she broke a vase. Then she was sold to a Turkish officer who sold her again in the market in Khartoum. She was brought by the Italian vice-council, who returned to Italy, taking Josephine with him. There she was given to a Signora Michieli in Genoa. She was sent to a convent by her new owner, to be educated in the school operated by the Daughters of Charity of Canossa. Josephina became a Christian on January 9, 1890, and was baptized by the cardinal patriarch. She refused to leave the convent after discovering her religious vocation, despite the demands of Signora Michieli, who claimed ownership. The cardinal patriarch and the king’s procurator were called upon to mediate the matter, and they decided in favor of Josephina’s vocation. Josephina was welcomed into the Canossian convent, and she made her novitiate and took religious vows. Her holiness and devotion were demonstrated in her labors as a cook, gate keeper, and keeper of linens. It was obvious that God had brought Josephina out of Africa to glorify him among the Europeans. With this in mind, Josephina, the Madre Moretta, traveled throughout Italy to raise funds for the missions. She served as a Canossian for half a century, dying in Schio, Italy, on February 8, 1947, and was revered by the people of her adopted land. She has not been forgotten by the Sudanese either. Her portrait hangs in the cathedral at Khartoum.

Pope John Paul II beatified Josephina on May 17, 1992, in the presence of three hundred Canossian Sisters and pilgrims, many from the Sudan. The Holy Father declared:

In our time, in which the unbridled race for power, money, and pleasure is the cause of so much distrust, violence, and loneliness, Sister Bakhita has been given to us once more by the Lord as a universal sister, so that she can reveal to us the secret of true happiness: the Beatitudes….Here is a message of heroic goodness modeled on the goodness of the Heavenly Father.

During his homily at her canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II said that in St. Josephine Bakhita:

We find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
Former National Director and C.E.O., World Youth Day 2002
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada

Behind Vatican Walls: Apple vs. Android?

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This week the Pope’s message for the World Day for Social Communication was released with some fanfare at the Vatican. The real fanfare, however, was going on inside the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis met with Apple CEO Tim Cook. The meeting comes one week after the pope met with Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The meetings have set off a storm of speculation: Is the Vatican hoping to work with the two tech giants in some capacity? If so, what is this project?

Both executives are also philanthropists: Schmidt and his wife founded the Schmidt Family Foundation to support initiatives focused on renewable energy, ecological agriculture and human rights. Meanwhile Cook quietly announced in 2015 that he plans to give away most of his fortune and has reportedly spoken about human rights, immigration reform and HIV transmission as issues he is passionate about.

Much ado was also made about the fact that Cook is openly gay, with some reporters saying it is the first official audience the pope has held with an openly gay person. Such statements ignore a big part of the Church’s message on sexuality issues: a person is not defined by that one trait. Almost certainly Cook’s sexuality had nothing to do with the whatever was discussed during his meeting with Pope Francis.

What is clear though is that something is brewing involving the digital world. Whatever it is should be very interesting.

* * * *

A more usual type of audience happened at the Apostolic Palace: Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Congregation for Saints Causes. As usual Cardinal Amato came with a list of potential saints whose heroic virtues, holy deaths, or miracles need to be recognized by the pope. Among the causes that moved forward as a result of this audience:

-Blessed José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero

 Brochero was a diocesan priest from Córdoba, Argentina who is often referred to as the “gaucho priest”. He founded a house for spiritual exercises and dedicated himself to being available to all the faithful wherever they lived and in whatever circumstances they lived. He got the nickname “gaucho priest” precisely because he would travel by mule, as far as needed, to minister to whomever needed him. Pope Francis recognized the miraculous healing of an eight year old girl who suffered a stroke and should have been left severely, permanently brain damaged.

– Blessed José Sanchez del Rio

The fourteen year old Mexican was put to death during the Cristero war after refusing to renounce his faith. A miracle attributed to his intercession was approved by the Congregation for Saints Causes and accepted by Pope Francis.

-Venerable Engelmar Unzeitig

The Czech born priest was a member of the Marianhill Missionary Society. Ordained in 1939 he was sent to Austria and assigned to a parish. In 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. Unzeitig ultimately died in Dachau of Typhoid, which he contracted after volunteering to live in the Typhoid barrack so that he could minister to those in need. Pope Francis recognized his martyrdom.

-Takayama Ukon

Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of this Japanese Samurai who died in 1614. Takamaya refused to give up his faith, which led him to disobey his chief. His decision led to him being forced into exile. He led a group of 300 Catholics to the Philippines, but died shortly after settling in Manila as a result of the journey.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below!

Photo/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/incredibleguy/5979571763)


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

The Beatitudes: Blueprint for Holiness

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Solemnity of All Saints – Sunday, November 1, 2015

The following words of Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, spoken during the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in 2008, still resound in my mind and heart on this Solemnity of All Saints:

Jesus says: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). For more than 2,000 years men and women, old and young, wise and ignorant, in the East as in the West, applied themselves to the school of the Lord Jesus, which caused this sublime commandment to echo in their hearts and minds: “You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48) […]

Their library was largely composed of the life and the words of Jesus: blessed are the poor, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the gentle, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted. The saints, understanding that the Beatitudes are the essence of the Gospel and the portrait of Christ Himself, became their imitators. 

The Beatitudes: Blueprint for Holiness

The Beatitudes in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) are a recipe for extreme holiness. As has been pointed out by many others in the past, though the Mount of the Beatitudes is a few dozen feet above sea level, it is the really the highest peak on earth! On this holy mountain in Galilee, Jesus proclaimed the new law that was expression of Christ’s holiness. They are not an abstract code of behavior. Jesus is the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted, the peacemaker. He is the new “code of holiness” that must be imprinted on hearts, and that must be contemplated through the action of the Holy Spirit. His Passion and Death are the crowning of his holiness.

Holiness is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavour but rather a continuous choice to deepen one’s relationship with God and then to allow this relationship to guide all of one’s actions in the world. Holiness requires a radical change in mindset and attitude. The acceptance of the call to holiness places God as our final goal in every aspect of our lives.

Looking at Jesus, we see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle, and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say to each of us, “Come, follow me!” The call of Christ is not simply, “Do what I say.” He says, “Come, follow me!” 

Taking stock of our treasury of Saints

The Saints and Blesseds are travel companions along our journey, in our joy and in our suffering. They are men and women who turned a new page in their own lives and in the lives of so many people. This was the core of Saint John Paul II’s message to humanity: holiness is not a gift reserved for a few. We can all aspire to it, because it is a goal within our capacity – a great lesson articulated by the Second Vatican Council and its call to universal holiness (cf. Lumen Gentium).

The Solemnity of All Saints is a wonderful opportunity for the whole Church to take stock once again of the way that Pope John Paul II changed our way of viewing the Saints and Blesseds. In nearly 27 years of his pontificate, he gave the Church 1,338 Blesseds and 482 Saints!

John Paul II reminded us that the heroes and heroines the world offers to young people today are terribly flawed. They leave us so empty. The real “stars” are the Saints and Blesseds who never tried to be regarded as heroes, or to shock or provoke. To believe greatness is attainable, we need successful role models to emulate. There is a desperate need for real heroes and heroines, models and witnesses of faith and virtue that the world of sports, cinema, science, and music simply cannot provide.

Standing at the radical centre

Many think that sainthood is a privilege reserved only for the chosen few. In fact, to become a saint is the task of every Christian, and what’s more, we could even say it’s the task of everyone! How many times have we thought that the Saints are merely “eccentrics” that the Church exalts for us to try to imitate – people who were so unrepresentative of and out of touch with the reality of the human scene? It is certainly true that all of those men and women were “eccentric” in its literal sense: they deviated from the centre, from usual practice, from the ordinary ways of doing things, the established methods. Another way of looking at the saints is that they stood at the “radical centre.”

Be the Saints of the New Millennium

Saint John Paul II spoke powerfully to young people about the call to holiness and their vocation to be saints. In his message for World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, he wrote to his “dear young friends” throughout the world unforgettable words that became the rallying cry for the greatest celebration of the Jubilee Year:

Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace. To succeed in this demanding project of life, continue to listen to His Word, draw strength from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity.

Two years later for our World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, John Paul II took up the theme of holiness and saints with renewed vigour:

Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect God’s glory. How many saints, especially young saints, can we count in the Church’s history! In their love for God their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all. […] Through the intercession of this great host of witnesses, may God make you too, dear young people, the saints of the third millennium!

At the concluding World Youth Day Mass at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 28, 2002, Saint John Paul issued a stirring challenge:

And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.

Pope Benedict XVI continued the momentum of John Paul’s invitations and exhortations to holiness at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany. At the opening ceremony on August 18, 2005, Benedict addressed the throng of young people gathered from across the entire world:

Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.

Benedict XVI continued this theme at the great Vigil on Saturday evening, August 20, 2005 at Marienfeld:

It is the great multitude of the saints – both known and unknown – in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today. In their lives, as if in a great picture book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history and is still tracing today.

Then Pope Benedict XVI cried out in that great assembly of over one million young people gathered in prayer at Marienfeld in Cologne:

The saints…are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.

The core of the proclamation of Saints and Blesseds

Every crisis that the Church faces, every crisis that the world faces, is a crisis of holiness and a crisis of saints. Holiness is crucial because it is the real face of the Church. The core of the proclamation of the Saints and Blesseds was always hope, even in the midst of the darkest moments of history. It’s almost as if in those times of darkness the light of Christ shines ever more brightly. We are living through one of those times, and the Lord is still taking applications for his extreme form of holiness and sanctity.

Believers in Jesus and his message must allow themselves to be enticed and enchanted by his life and his message contained in the Beatitudes. Today we must hold up the Beatitudes as a mirror in which we examine our own lives and consciences. “Am I poor in spirit? Am I humble and merciful? Am I pure of heart? Do I bring peace? Am I ‘blessed,’ in other words, ‘happy’?” Jesus not only gives us what he has, but also what he is. He is holy and makes us holy.

[The readings for the Solemnity of All Saints are: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; and Matthew 5:1-12a.]

Watch Fr. Thomas Rosica’s video reflection for All Saints Day.

Pope Francis’ Homily during Canonization of Four Saints

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Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Mass of the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Canonization of Four Saints

Sunday October 18, 2015

On Sunday, October 18, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated the Canonization Mass of four Saints: Saint Vincent Grossi, Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception and Saints Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin. Read the full text of his homily below:

Today’s biblical readings present the theme of service.  They call us to follow Jesus on the path of humility and the cross. The prophet Isaiah depicts the Servant of the Lord (53:10-11) and his mission of salvation.  The Servant is not someone of illustrious lineage; he is despised, shunned by all, a man of sorrows. He does not do great things or make memorable speeches; instead, he fulfils God’s plan through his humble, quiet presence and his suffering.  His mission is carried out in suffering, and this enables him to understand those who suffer, to shoulder the guilt of others and to make atonement for it.  The abandonment and sufferings of the Servant of the Lord, even unto death, prove so fruitful that they bring redemption and salvation to many.

Jesus is the Servant of the Lord.  His life and death, marked by an attitude of utter service (cf. Phil 2:7), were the cause of our salvation and the reconciliation of mankind with God.  The kerygma, the heart of the Gospel, testifies that his death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Servant of the Lord.  Saint Mark tells us how Jesus confronted the disciples James and John.  Urged on by their mother, they wanted to sit at his right and left in God’s Kingdom (cf. Mk10:37), claiming places of honour in accordance with their own hierarchical vision of the Kingdom.  Their horizon was still clouded by illusions of earthly fulfilment.  Jesus then gives a first “jolt” to their notions by speaking of his own earthly journey: “The cup that I drink you will drink… but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared” (vv. 39-40).  With the image of the cup, he assures the two that they can fully partake of his destiny of suffering, without, however, promising their sought-after places of honour.  His response is to invite them to follow him along the path of love and service, and to reject the worldly temptation of seeking the first place and commanding others.

Faced with people who seek power and success, the disciples are called to do the opposite.  Jesus warns them: “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant” (vv. 42-44).  These words show us that service is the way for authority to be exercised in the Christian community. Those who serve others and lack real prestige exercise genuine authority in the Church.  Jesus calls us to see things differently, to pass from the thirst for power to the joy of quiet service, to suppress our instinctive desire to exercise power over others, and instead to exercise the virtue of humility.

After proposing a model not to imitate, Jesus then offers himself as the ideal to be followed.  By imitating the Master, the community gains a new outlook on life: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45).  In the biblical tradition, the Son of Man is the one who receives from God “dominion, glory and kingship” (Dan 7:14).  Jesus fills this image with new meaning.  He shows us that he enjoys dominion because he is a servant, glory because he is capable of abasement, kingship because he is fully prepared to lay down his life.  By his passion and death, he takes the lowest place, attains the heights of grandeur in service, and bestows this upon his Church.

There can be no compatibility between a worldly understanding of power and the humble service which must characterize authority according to Jesus’ teaching and example.  Ambition and careerism are incompatible with Christian discipleship; honour, success, fame and worldly triumphs are incompatible with the logic of Christ crucified.  Instead, compatibility exists between Jesus, “the man of sorrows”, and our suffering.  The Letter to the Hebrews makes this clear by presenting Jesus as the high priest who completely shares our human condition, with the exception of sin: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (4:15).  Jesus exercises a true priesthood of mercy and compassion.  He knows our difficulties at first hand, he knows from within our human condition; the fact that he is without sin does not prevent him from understanding sinners.  His glory is not that born of ambition or the thirst for power; it is is the glory of one who loves men and women, who accepts them and shares in their weakness, who offers them the grace which heals and restores, and accompanies them with infinite tenderness amid their tribulations.

Each of us, through baptism, share in our own way in Christ’s priesthood: the lay faithful in the common priesthood, priests in the ministerial priesthood. Consequently, all of us can receive the charity which flows from his open heart, for ourselves but also for others.  We become “channels” of his love and compassion, especially for those who are suffering, discouraged and alone.

The men and women canonized today unfailingly served their brothers and sisters with outsanding humility and charity, in imitation of the divine Master. Saint Vincent Grossi was a zealous parish priest, ever attentive to the needs of his people, especially those of the young.  For all he was concerned to break the bread of God’s word, and thus became a Good Samaritan to those in greatest need.

Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception devoted her life, with great humility, to serving the least of our brothers and sisters, especially the children of the poor and the sick.

The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin practised Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.

The radiant witness of these new saints inspires us to persevere in joyful service to our brothers and sisters, trusting in the help of God and the maternal protection of Mary.  From heaven may they now watch over us and sustain us by their powerful intercession.

A Holy Couple – Canonization Mass

“The good Lord gave me a father and a mother more worthy of Heaven than of earth”. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

These words come to us from Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Carmelite nun and youngest daughter of Louis and Zélie Martin. Their names will soon be added to the book of saints next October during the Synod on the Family. They are the first couple to be canonized together. A holy couple, their story has a modern twist.

Louis and Zélie Martin met on the Saint Leonard Bridge in Alençon, France. It was an unexpected encounter. Both had previously contemplated entering the religious life. But as it became clear neither one of them were called to a life of celibacy, they vowed to offer their future marriage to God. When Zélie saw Louis, she heard a voice tell her this man was the one God had prepared for her. This conviction deepened the more they spent time together. They got married three months later on July 13th, 1858. Zélie was 27 years old and Louis 35.

Zélie already managed her own lacemaking business which she started at only 20 years old. She regularly received clients who needed her skillful hand to create or repair pieces of lace. She eventually opened a lacemaking factory that allowed her to take in apprentices. Her business was thriving. Apart from her leadership and goodwill, Zélie was an anxious woman. This is a character trait she attributed to her difficult childhood.

But if Zélie dealt with worry, Louis on the other hand was a gentle and patient man.  His talent lied in clock making.  He also held his own shop. Louis got into the trade starting at 19 years of age. Despite his excellent reputation, he retired from the clock making business to dedicate himself to his wife’s lacemaking factory, by becoming its client manager and bookkeeper. 

Career wasn’t everything to them. They were as much accomplices in their marriage as in their work. Both desired a holy marriage. They considered virginity to be an invaluable virtue even between husband and wife and so they practiced abstinence their first years of marriage. They had nine children, four of which died at a very young age. Louis and Zélie raised five girls, Pauline, Céline, Léonie, Marie, and Thérèse. They raised them in the faith and inspired in them charity and holiness. All of them eventually joined the Carmelites, except Léonie who joined the Sisters of the Visitation.

The Martins did face challenges, namely sickness. It started with Zélie when she was diagnosed with cancer. The pain intensified every day, without any hope of a cure, until she died at the age of 46. Through her suffering, Zélie held fast to prayer and patiently accepted God’s will and wisdom.

“If the Virgin Mary does not heal me, it is because I have done my time and that the good Lord wants me to find rest elsewhere” (last letter from Zélie to her brother Isidore Guerin, August 16th, 1877).

Some years after the death of his wife, Louis also fell ill. He had periods of forgetfulness or hallucinations and attacks of paralysis. After several episodes, he was taken to an asylum. He stayed there three years before going back home. Despite his evident weakness, he showed great strength, patience and perseverance.

“The things of this earth seemed to barely touch him; he overcame any difficulty that life gave him” (Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Autobiographic Manuscripts, 1895).

Louis and Zélie Martin call us to a total submission to God’s will and providence. God was first in everything they did. Their unity of heart showed itself in their work, their family life and in their generosity towards friends and neighbours. Having known the loss of four children and of a spouse, and endurance in the face of sickness and suffering, Louis and Zélie “were witnesses to the radical gospel engagement of the vocation of marriage, to the point of heroism […] The Martins were not afraid to do violence to themselves in order to possess the Kingdom of Heaven” (Homily, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Beatification of Louis and Zélie Martin, Lisieux, 2008).

EmilieBlogPicWritten by Emilie Callan.


This piece was originally published in the new 2015 Salt + Light Magazine. Order your copy of the magazine by phone 1.888.302.7181 x238 or by email info@saltandlighttv.org today!

Tune in for LIVE coverage of Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin’s Canonization Mass from the St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, October 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm ET, 9:00 am Pt. Pope Francis will preside.

The Heroism of Daily Life

ThereseNParents

Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, were the first parents of a saint to be beatified. They were the first spouses in the history of the Church to be proposed for sainthood as a couple and the second who were beatified together on October 19, 2008 in Lisieux, France. They will be proclaimed saints by Pope Francis on Sunday, October 18, 2015 at the Vatican.

The Martins worked hard while raising a large family. Though they lived In 19th century France, this couple faced challenges we face in the 21st: finding good child care; achieving professional excellence; operating a successful business; caring for elderly parents; educating a special-needs child; forming their children in the faith; finding time to pray and to be active in their parish community.

In 1877 Zélie died of breast cancer, leaving Louis a single parent with five minor daughters to bring up. Later Louis was diagnosed with cerebral arteriosclerosis and spent three years in a psychiatric hospital. Life came at them unexpectedly, just as it comes at us. They could not prevent their tragedies: the Franco-Prussian war, during which they housed nine German soldiers; the infant deaths of four of their nine children, one from abuse by a wet-nurse; their painful diseases; Zélie’s premature death. Nor could they escape their responsibilities as business owners, caregivers, spouses, and parents.

Maria & Luigi Beltrame-Quattrocchi

Zélie and Louis were not declared “blessed” nor will they be proclaimed saints because of their daughter, Thérèse. She became a saint because of them. They fostered an environment that invited Thérèse to grow in holiness. She responded freely to the invitation they offered her. When the Church recognized Louis and Zélie as a blessed couple, she pointed to the mystery of the vocation of marriage, the way of life in which most people are called to reach the common goal of all Christians: sainthood.

Thinking of the Martins, we cannot help but recall the words of St. John Paul II: “Heroism must become daily, and the daily must become heroic.” Their relics were present at the 2014 Synod on the Family for our veneration and they have been present during this year’s Ordinary Synod of Bishops.

The relics of a second holy couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, are also present for veneration at the Synod. The husband and wife lived in Rome in the first half of the 20th century, and they were proclaimed blessed by St. John Paul II on October 21, 2001. In his homily at their Beatification ceremony in Rome, Pope John Paul II said:

“This couple lived married love and service to life in the light of the Gospel and with great human intensity. With full responsibility they assumed the task of collaborating with God in procreation, dedicating themselves generously to their children, to teach them, guide them and direct them to discovering his plan of love. From this fertile spiritual terrain sprang vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, which shows how, with their common roots in the spousal love of the Lord, marriage and virginity may be closely connected and reciprocally enlightening.

Drawing on the word of God and the witness of the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life. At the centre of their life was the daily Eucharist as well as devotion to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed every evening with the Rosary, and consultation with wise spiritual directors. In this way they could accompany their children in vocational discernment, training them to appreciate everything “from the roof up”, as they often, charmingly, liked to say.”

The Martins and the Quattrocchis are the heroes of the everyday. Their witness, memory and relics among us are blessings, and invitations to each of us to aspire to daily heroism.

Relics Louis Zélie Martin

Relics of Blesseds Zélie and Louis Martin, parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux for veneration during the Synods of 2014-2015.

Tune in on Sunday, October 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm ET, 9:00 am PT for coverage of the Canonization Mass of Louis Martin and and Marie Zelie Guerin.

Preaching Priests and Christian Superheros

Preaching_Priests

Noel-BlogWelcome to S+L’s Weekly News Round-Up. As the Director of Marketing and Communications here at S+L, many interesting Catholic news stories and articles come across my desk on a daily basis. Some of them we’ll cover on our different television programs and others I’d like to share with you on this blog.

This blog column is where I’ll point out some of the more interesting news pieces that I’ve come across over the past week! Enjoy!

This week, I have a slew of different topics to share with you. On Saturday, we at S+L TV will be broadcasting live from El Salvador the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Now, we all have a general knowledge of the process of canonization. But there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes before the official declaration of a saint. Check out this short video on the steps of how the Catholic Church declares a saint.

Hallelujah! Actors help future priests amp up sermons. Now, we’ve all been there, that Sunday Mass when the sermon was delivered in a rather monotone manner. And although a dry sermon doesn’t in any way reduce the validity of the Mass, it’s great to hear that Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary has hired two professional actors to put priests-in-training through an acting/public speaking workshop nicknamed ‘Preaching Boot Camp.’ Read all about it here.

newborn_babe

Let’s talk about life in the womb for a second. Again, we all know “conceptually” what happens as a baby grows in the mother’s womb but have you even seen it presented in video? I certainly haven’t until I saw this video! 9 Months in the Womb in 4 Incredible Minutes.

If you are a big TV fan like many, there are two new ‘Catholic’ sitcoms coming out and each are garnering very different reactions. Read about it here on the Crux.

I’ve always been a big comic book and super hero fan since I was a kid. So you can image how amazed and interested I was when I recently came across this article in Relevant Magazine. It’s a definitive ranking of Christian superheroes! Superheros with names like Bibleman, Captain Salvation, Mr. Christian and The Faith Walker are definitely uber cool dudes I’d like to hang out with. Even Captain America himself believes in God:

Read all about these Christian superheroes here.

Have you ever wondered about the physical location of where Jesus was crucified, died and was buried? Today, that place would be the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha), where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried and resurrected. Although it’s on my bucket list to visit one day, it is unfortunately not in the near future. However, for the short term, I’m more than happy to settle for this amazing video tour of the inside of the church and an explanation of the site.

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Finally, after a long and stressful day, there’s nothing better than to kick back at home with a cold drink or two, or three. Here’s an interesting question – is drinking alcohol wrong? What does the Bible say? Read about it here.

Well, that’s it for me this week folks. I’d love to hear you thoughts and comments on these stories. If you have any interesting stories yourself, please feel free to send them to me!

I hope you enjoy these little stories! I certainly have. Till next week!

– Noel

 

Photo: CNS

Palestinian women canonized during Pope’s busy weekend – Perspectives Daily


Today on Perspectives: Palestine has two new saints, President Mahmoud Abbas and Pope Francis have a cordial meeting, and the Pope meets with different groups of religious men and women.

Homily of Pope Francis at the Mass of Canonization of 4 New Saints – May 17, 2015

Palestinian Saints 2015

Pope Francis canonized four women religious on Sunday, all 19th century nuns who worked in education. St. Marie-Alphonsine and St. Mary of Jesus Crucified were from the territory that made up historical Palestine; St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve was a French nun and foundress; and St. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception came from Italy. Below, please find the full English translation of Pope Francis’ homily for Holy Mass for the VII Sunday of Easter with the Rite of Canonization:

The Acts of the Apostles have set before us the early Church as she elects the man whom God called to take the place of Judas in the college of the Apostles. It is has to do not with a job, but with service. Indeed, Matthias, on whom the choice falls, receives a mission which Peter defines in these words: “One of these men… must become a witness with us to his resurrection,” the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:21-23). In this way Peter sums up what it means to be part of the Twelve: it means to be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. The fact that he says “with us” brings us to realize that the mission of proclaiming the risen Christ is not an individual undertaking: it is to be carried out in common, with the apostolic college and with the community. The Apostles had a direct and overwhelming experience of the resurrection; they were eyewitnesses to that event. Thanks to their authoritative testimony, many people came to believe; from faith in the risen Lord, Christian communities were born and are born continually.  We too, today, base our faith in the risen Lord on the witness of the Apostles, which has come down to us through the mission of the Church.  Our faith is firmly linked to their testimony, as to a nun broken chain which spans the centuries, made up not only by the successors of the Apostles, but also by succeeding generations of Christians. Like the Apostles, each one of Christ’s followers is called to become a witness to his resurrection, above all in those human  settings  where  forgetfulness  of  God  and  human disorientation are most evident.

Francis Canonizations May 17 3

If this is to happen, we need to remain in the risen Christ and in his love, as the First Letter of Saint John has reminded us: “He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn4:16).  Jesus had repeated insistently to his disciples: “Abide in me… Abide in my love” (Jn 15:4, 9). This is the secret of the saints: abiding in Christ, joined to him like branches to the vine, in order to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-8). And this fruit is none other than love.  This love shines forth in the testimony of Sister Jeanne Émilie de Villeneuve, who consecrated her life to God and to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the exploited, becoming for them and for all a concrete sign of the Lord’s merciful love.

A relationship with the risen Jesus is – so to speak – the “atmosphere” in which Christians live, and in which they find the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel, even amid obstacles and misunderstandings. “Abiding in love”: this is what Sister Maria Cristina Brando also did.  She was completely given over to ardent love for the Lord.  From prayer and her intimate encounter with the risen Jesus present in the Eucharist, she received strength to endure suffering and to give herself, as bread which is broken, to many people who had wandered far from God and yet hungered for authentic love.

Relic Palestinian nun

An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among ourselves, his disciples, in the image of his own unity with the Father.  Today too, in the Gospel, we heard Jesus’ prayer on the eve of his passion: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). From this eternal love between the Father and the Son, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), our mission and our fraternal communion draw strength; this love is the ever-flowing source of our joy in following the Lord along the path of his poverty, his virginity and his obedience; and this same love calls us to cultivate contemplative prayer. Sister Mariam Baouardy experienced this in an outstanding way. Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant converse with the Holy Spirit.  Her docility to the Holy Spirit made her also a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world. So too, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas came to understand clearly what it means to radiate the love of God in the apostolate, and to be a witness to meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one another, of living lives of service one to another.

To abide in God and in his love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all. This is what the four women Saints canonized today did. Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians. How do I bear witness to the risen Christ?  This is a question we have to ask ourselves. How do I abide in him?  How do I dwell in his love?  Am I capable of “sowing” in my family, in my workplace and in my community, the seed of that unity which he has bestowed on us by giving us a share in the life of the Trinity?

When we return home today, let us take with us the joy of this encounter with the risen Lord. Let us cultivate in our hearts the commitment to abide in God’s love.  Let us remain united to him and among ourselves, and follow in the footsteps of these four women, models of sanctity whom the Church invites us to imitate.

Abbas Palestinian Canonization