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Pope Prays For Success of Prayer Day for Canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman
Says Event, Which Includes Veneration of Relic, Is "Significant" and "Inspiring"

By Staff Reporter

LONDON, October 10, 2014  - Pope Francis has sent a special message of support for the success of a ‘Day with Newman', to be held at the Birmingham Oratory on Saturday 11th October.

In the message, sent through the Secretariat of State to the Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, Robert Byrne, the Vatican says the Pope “wishes to convey his good wishes and prayers for a successful and inspiring event. 

“The Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing upon all those persons who are participating in this significant event and working in any way for the Canonisation of the Blessed John Henry Newman.”

The ‘Day with Newman’ begins with Solemn Mass in the Oratory Church at 12 noon.  The celebrant and preacher is the first Oratorian bishop in England for 140 years, Bishop Robert Byrne, C.O. 

The Mass will be followed by prayers for the canonization and veneration of the relic.  There will also be a presentation and talk on 'Why Newman Should Be Canonized' and the day of prayer will conclude with Pontifical Solemn Benediction in the Oratory church.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham on 19th September 2010.  Prayers continue that through Newman’s intercession in heaven, God will work a further miracle, and that he will then be officially numbered among the canonized saints.

Pope Francis' Letter on Beatification of Alvaro del Portillo
"This is the path of holiness that every Christian must follow: to let himself be loved by the Lord, to open his heart to His love"

VATICAN CITY, September 30, 2014  - Here is a translation of the full text of a letter sent by Pope Francis to the prelate of Opus Dei, on the occasion of Saturday’s beatification of Alvaro del Portillo (1914-1994).

The text was sent on June 26, feast of Saint Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei.

* * *

Dear Brother:

The beatification of the Servant of God Alvaro del Portillo, faithful and first collaborator of Saint Josemaria Escriva at the head of Opus Dei, is a moment of special joy for all the faithful of that Prelature, as well as for you, who for so long were a witness of his love of God and of others, of his fidelity to the Church and to his vocation. I also wish to unite myself to your joy and to thank God who embellishes the face of the Church with the holiness of his children.

His beatification will take place in Madrid, the city in which he was born and in which he spent his childhood and youth, with an existence forged in the simplicity of family life, in the friendship and service of others, as when he went to neighbourhoods to help in the human and Christian formation of so many needy persons. And there, above all, the event took place that sealed definitively the direction of his life: his meeting with Saint Josemaria Escriva, from whom he learned to fall in love with Christ more every day. Yes, to be enamoured of Christ. This is the path of holiness that every Christian must follow: to let himself be loved by the Lord, to open his heart to His love and allow Him to be the one who guides our lives.

I like to recall the short prayer that the Servant of God used to repeat frequently, especially in personal celebrations and anniversaries: “thank you, sorry, help me more!” They are words that bring us close to the reality of his interior life and his dealings with the Lord, and which can help us also to give a new impulse to our own Christian life.

In the first place, thank you. It is the immediate and spontaneous reaction that the soul feels before God’s goodness. It cannot be otherwise. He always precedes us. No mater how much effort we make, His love always comes before, touches and caresses us first, He arrives first. Alvaro del Portillo was conscious of the many gifts that God had given him, and he thanked God for that manifestation of his fatherly love. But he did not stay there: the recognition of the Lord’s love awakened in his heart desires to follow Him with greater selflessness and generosity, and to live a life of humble service to others. Especially outstanding was his love of the Church, Bride of Christ, which he served with a heart stripped of worldly interest, far from discord, hospitable with all and always looking for the positive in others, for what unites, what builds. Never a complaint or criticism, as he learned from Saint Josemaria, he always responded with prayer, forgiveness, understanding and sincere charity.

Sorry. He often admitted that he saw himself before God with empty hands, incapable of responding to such generosity. However, the admission of human poverty is not the fruit of despair, but a confident abandonment in God who is Father.  It is to open oneself to His mercy, to His love, which is capable of regenerating our life. A love that does not humiliate, or sink us in the abyss of guilt, but which embraces us, raises us from our prostration and makes us walk with more determination and joy. The Servant of God Alvaro knew the need we have of divine mercy and he dedicated much personal energy to encourage persons who were attempting to approach the Sacrament of Confession, Sacrament of joy. How important it is to feel the tenderness of God’s love and to discover that there is still time to love.

Help me more. Yes, the Lord never abandons us, He is always at our side, He walks with us and every day awaits a new love from us. We will not be lacking in His grace, and with His help we can take his name to the whole world. Beating in the new Blessed’s heart was the desire to take the Good News to all hearts. So he went to many countries fomenting projects of evangelization, without noticing the difficulties, moved by his love of God and of brothers. The first condition to proclaim Christ to them is to love them, because Christ already loves them first. We must come out of our egoisms and comfort and go to meet our brothers. The Lord awaits us there. We cannot keep the faith for ourselves; it is a gift that we have received to give and share with others.

Thank you, sorry, help me!  Expressed in these words is the tension of an existence centered on God; of someone who has been touched by the greatest Love and lives totally of that Love; of someone who, though experiencing his human weaknesses and limitations, trusts in the Lord’s mercy and wants all men, his brothers, to experience it also.

Dear brother, Blessed Alvaro del Portillo sends us a very clear message; he tells us to trust in the Lord, who is our brother, our friend who never disappoints us and who is always at our side. He encourages us not to be afraid to go against the current and to suffer for proclaiming the Gospel. Moreover, he teaches us that in the simplicity and ordinariness of our life we can find a sure path to holiness.

I ask all the faithful of the Prelature, please, priests and laymen, as well as all those that participate in its activities, to pray for me, while imparting to them the Apostolic Blessing.

May Jesus bless you and may the Holy Virgin take care of you,




Humility: the Key That Opens the Door to Enter into the House of Holiness
Cardinal Angelo Amato's Homily at the Beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo

MADRID, September 29, 2014  - Here below is the full text of the homily of Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on the occasion of the Mass for the Beatification of Alvaro del Portillo, former prelate of Opus Dei.


1. “A shepherd according to the Heart of Christ, a zealous minister of the Church”.[1] This is the portrait that Pope Francis draws of Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, a good shepherd who, like Jesus, knows and loves his sheep, brings back to the sheepfold those who have strayed, binds up the wounds of the sick ones, and offers his life for them.[2]

As a youth, the new Blessed was called to follow Christ, going on to become a diligent minister of the Church and to proclaim throughout the world the glorious riches of his saving mystery: “This is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone, to make them all perfect in Christ. It is for this I struggle wearily on, helped only by his power driving me irresistibly.”[3] And he made this proclamation of Christ the Saviour in absolute faithfulness to the cross and, at the same time, with exemplary, evangelical joy amidst difficulties. For this reason, today the liturgy applies to him St Paul’s words: “Now 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.”[4]

Serene happiness when undergoing pain and suffering is characteristic of the saints. Moreover, the beatitudes, including the more demanding ones such as being persecuted, are nothing other than a hymn to joy.

2. There are many virtues which Blessed Álvaro practised to a heroic degree, such as faith, hope and charity. He practised these virtuous habits in the light of the beatitudes of meekness, mercy, and purity of heart. The testimonies all coincide in this. Apart from the absolute spiritual and apostolic harmony he had with the holy Founder, he also stood out as being a person of great humanity.

Witnesses state that from his childhood Álvaro was “a very happy and studious boy, who never caused any problems;” “he was affectionate, straightforward, happy, responsible and kind.”[5]

From his mother, Doña Clementina, he inherited a notable serenity, considerateness, the habit of smiling, understanding, speaking well about others, and reflecting deeply before judging. He was a true gentleman. He was not a talkative person. His engineering training gave him habits of intellectual rigour, conciseness, and precision, enabling him to go straight to the essence of problems and solve them. He inspired respect and admiration in others.

3. His consideration for others went hand-in-hand with exceptional spiritual richness. One of his outstanding graces was the unity between his interior life and his tireless apostolic zeal. The writer Salvador Bernal states that he turned the humble prose of daily work into poetry.

He was an example of fidelity to the Gospel, the Church, and the Magisterium of the Pope. Every time he went to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, he would recite the Creed before St Peter’s tomb, and a Salve Regina before the picture of Our Lady, Mother of the Church.

He always avoided focusing on himself, because he passed on the truth of the Gospel and the fullness of tradition, not his own opinions. His spiritual life was nourished by Eucharistic piety, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and veneration for the saints. He kept his awareness of God’s presence alive by frequent aspirations and vocal prayers. Some of those he used habitually were “Most Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus, grant us peace!” and “Most sweet heart of Mary, prepare a safe journey,” as well as invoking our Lady as “Holy Mary, our Hope, Handmaid of the Lord, Seat of Wisdom.”

4. A decisive moment in his life was his calling to Opus Dei. When he was 21, in 1935, after meeting St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, who was at that time a young priest of 33, he responded generously to God’s call to holiness and apostolate.

He had a deep sense of filial, affective and effective communion with the Holy Father. He received the Pope’s teaching gratefully and made it known to all the Opus Dei faithful. In the last years of his life he would often kiss the Prelate’s ring given to him by the Pope, as a way of reaffirming his total adherence to the Pope’s wishes. In particular, he backed up the Pope’s requests for prayer and fasting for peace, Christian unity, and the evangelization of Europe.

He was outstanding for his prudence and rectitude in evaluating events and people; his justice in respecting other people’s good name and freedom; his fortitude in facing up to physical or moral difficulties; and his temperance, shown in his sobriety and his interior and exterior mortification. Blessed Álvaro possessed the fragrance of Christ – the bonus odor Christi –,[6] which is the aroma of genuine holiness.

5. However, there is one virtue which Bishop Álvaro practised in an especially extraordinary way, considering it as indispensable for holiness and apostolate: the virtue of humility, which is an imitation of and an identification with Christ, who is gentle and lowly in heart.[7] He loved Jesus’ hidden life, and respected the simple manifestations of popular piety, such as going up the Scala Santa in Rome on one’s knees. Once, one of the faithful of the Prelature told him that he had visited that place but had walked up the Scala Santa normally, because, as he put it, he considered himself a mature and well-instructed Christian. Blessed Álvaro answered him with a smile that he had gone up the Holy Stairs on his knees, even though the place was somewhat stuffy because of the crowds of people and the poor ventilation.[8] It was a great lesson in simplicity and piety.

Indeed, Bishop del Portillo was “infected”, in the good sense, by the behaviour of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve.[9] For this reason, he often used to pray and meditate on the Eucharistic hymn Adoro Te devote, latens deitas – O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee. Likewise, he used to meditate on the life of Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord. He sometimes recalled a phrase from Cervantes’ Exemplary Novels: “Without humility, there is no virtue worthy of the name.”[10] And he would often recite an aspiration that is frequently used by the faithful of the Work: “Cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies – a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”[11]

For him, as for St Augustine, humility was the dwelling-place of charity.[12] He would repeat some advice which the Founder of Opus Dei used to give, quoting St Joseph of Calasanz: “If you want to be holy, be humble; if you want to be holier, be more humble; if you want to be very holy, be very humble.”[13] Nor did he forget that a donkey was Jesus’ throne during his entry into Jerusalem. Even his fellow-students, as well as stressing his extraordinary intelligence, underline his simplicity, the serene innocence that came of not considering himself better than others. He thought that his worst enemy was pride. One witness states that he was “humility personified”.[14]

His humility was not harsh, showy, or ill-tempered, but affectionate and cheerful. His joy was based on his conviction that he himself was worth very little. At the beginning of 1994, the last year of his life on earth, in a meeting with some of his spiritual daughters, he said, “I say this to you, and I say it to myself. We have to struggle all our lives to become humble. We have the marvellous school of humility of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St Joseph. Let’s learn from them. Let’s fight against our own ego, which constantly rears up like a viper, ready to bite. But we are safe as long as we keep close to Jesus, who is the offspring of Mary, and is the one who will crush the serpent’s head.”[15]

For Don Álvaro, humility was “the key that opens the door to enter into the house of holiness”; while pride was the greatest obstacle to seeing and loving God. He said, “humility strips away from us the ridiculous cardboard mask that presumptuous, self-satisfied people wear.”[16] Humility is the recognition of our limitations, but also of our dignity as God’s children. The best praise of his humility was given by a woman in Opus Dei after the Founder’s death: “The one who has died is Don Álvaro, because our Father lives on in his successor.”[17]

A cardinal testifies that when he read about humility in the Rule of St Benedict or the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, he felt he was contemplating a very high ideal, but one that was unattainable for ordinary human beings. But when he met and got to know Blessed Álvaro, he understood that it was possible to practise total humility.

6. What Cardinal Ratzinger said in 2002 with regard to the canonization of the Founder of Opus Dei can also be applied to Blessed Álvaro. Speaking of heroic virtue, Cardinal Ratzinger, who was at the time Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: “Heroic virtue does not mean precisely accomplishing great things unaided, but that in a person’s life there appear things that he did not bring about, because he made himself transparent and available for God to act (…) That is holiness.”[18]

This is the message that Blessed Álvaro del Portillo hands on to us today. He was “a shepherd according to the Heart of Christ, a zealous minister of the Church”.[19] He invites us to be holy like him, living a holiness that is friendly, merciful, good-natured, meek, and humble.

The Church and the world need the great spectacle of holiness so that its pleasing fragrance can purify the noxious fumes of the many vices which are being praised so arrogantly and insistently.

Now, more than ever, we need an ecology of holiness, to counteract the pollution of immorality and corruption. The saints invite us to bring to the heart of the Church and society the pure air of God’s grace, which renews the face of the earth.

May Mary, Help of Christians and Mother of the Saints, help and protect us.

Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, pray for us.



Mass of Thanksgiving for Blessed Alvaro del Portillo
Prelate of Opus Dei Pays Tribute to Predecessor Whose Holiness Showed the Divine Mercy to Others

MADRID, September 29, 2014 - A Mass of thanksgiving took place Sunday morning for the beatification of Alvaro del Portillo.  The venue was the very same streets of Valdebebas that was filled with the more than 200,000 people that attended the beatification on Saturday.  A good number of these people returned same day to their homes in order to save travel costs.  Nevertheless, tens of thousands of others joyfully attended today’s ceremony.

At the beginning of the ceremony during the Angelus, Pope Francis from Rome remembered the beatification that took place yesterday in Madrid and prayed that “the exemplary Christian and priestly witness of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo give rise in many the desire of uniting themselves ever more to Christ and to the Gospel”.

Prayer for all the world’s families in union with Pope Francis

Considering that the event was attended mainly by families from the five continents, the prelate of Opus Dei dedicated a good part of his homily to them.  This he did, by uniting himself to the wishes of Pope Francis who dedicated this Sunday to prayer, against the background of the celebration of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the family:  “On this day which the Holy Father Pope Francis has dedicated to praying for the family, we unite ourselves to the petitions of the entire Church through this communion of love, this school of the Gospel which is the family”.  

Monsignor Echevarria addressed families saying: “Our Lord loves you, Our Lord is present in your marriage which is the image of the love Christ has for the Church.  I know that many of you dedicate yourselves generously to supporting other married couples along their path of faithfulness.  I know that many of you help other homes to go forward in this social context that is sometimes difficult and even hostile.  Take courage!  Your work as Gospel witnesses is necessary for the whole world”.

He wanted also to thank them: “Now we thank also those parents who are here gathered and to all those who take care of children, of the aged and of the sick”.

The massive crowd of these days is testament to the fruitfulness of the life of Alvaro del Portillo

At the start of his homily the Prelate make specific reference to the beatification ceremony that took place the day before: “The crowd during these days, the thousands of people from all over the world and so many others who are already waiting for us in Heaven, give special testimony to the fruitfulness of Don Alvaro’s life”.  Speaking further he said, “we cannot really call this a crowd, but rather a family gathering, united by love of God and love for one another.  This same love is also made strong today in the Eucharist, during this Mass of thanksgiving for the beatification of our beloved Don Alvaro, bishop, prelate of Opus Dei”.

Alvaro del Portillo revealed the divine mercy through his solidarity with the poor and abandoned

During the Thanksgiving Mass Monsignor Echevarria explained that “looking at the holy life of Don Alvaro we discover God’s hand, the grace of the Holy Spirit and the gift of a love which transforms us.  The prelate urged all to aim that “others may discover God’s goodness in my way of life, as was the case in the daily activities of Don Alvaro, who already in this beloved Madrid also revealed the divine mercy through his solidary with the poor and abandoned”.

Continuing with this spirit of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo the collections from the Masses of yesterday and today will be used to support four social projects he helped to start when he was alive:

- The construction of a mother-and-child Centre in the Niger Foundation and Diagnostic Centre in Enugu, Nigeria, a project that will benefit 12,000 people annually.

- A program to eradicate infant malnutrition in Bingerville (Cote d’Ivoire) and that will directly benefit 5,000 people.

- Four outpatient clinics on the outskirts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a project that will offer health care to 10,000 children a year.

- Scholarships for the training of African priests in Rome.

At the end of the ceremony the 3,500 young volunteers, in spite of the natural tiredness of these days of intense work helped to collect the materials used for the ceremony.


Don Alvaro del Portillo Beatified in Madrid
Tens of Thousands Celebrate Life of St. Josemaria Escriva's Successor

MADRID, September 29, 2014 - The beatification of Alvaro del Portillo, the first successor of St. Josemaria as head of Opus Dei, took place on Saturday before a massive crowd, in a ceremony presided over by the delegate of Pope Francis, Cardinal Angelo Amato, who was accompanied by Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, emeritus archbishop of Madrid and the bishop prelate of Opus Dei, Javier Echevarria.

A message from Pope Francis opened the ceremony

The ceremony began with the Vicar General of Opus Dei, Fernando Ocariz reading a message sent by Pope Francis.  The Holy Father pointed out that “Blessed Alvaro del Portillo teaches us that simplicity and ordinary life are a sure path to holiness”, reminding everyone that Blessed Alvaro “went to many countries, fostering projects of evangelization without being inhibited by difficulties, moved only by his love for God and for his brothers and sisters.  Whoever is very immersed in God knows how to be close to other people” (full text at: www.alvarodelportillo.org). 

Immediately following the solemn act of beatification by Cardinal Amato at 12:24 h an image of the new blessed was revealed to the faithful.  His feast day will be celebrated on May 12 every year in the diocese to be determined by the Holy See.

Another key moment was the transfer of the relics of Alvaro del Portillo to the altar, borne by the Ureta Wilsom family, whose son Jose Ignacio was miraculously cured thanks to the intercession of the new blessed. 

A massive and international participation

The universal nature of the new blessed was manifested by the presence of hundreds of thousands of faithful from more than 80 countries and especially the participation of 18 cardinals and more than 150 bishops from all over the world.

Among those on the front row at the ceremony were more than 200 people with some form of disability or the other, as well as representatives of the many social initiatives promoted by the new blessed, particularly in Africa and in Latin America.  There were also many families and some Spanish and international civil authorities.

From very early in the morning, 1,600 big buses and a bus shuttle service took the more than 300,000 people from the Metro stations to the 185,000 square meters of Valdebebas.  They were thus able to wait for the start of the ceremony watching some audio-visual programs on 26 giant screens.  They prepared themselves spiritually either by praying in the 13 chapels available or by receiving the sacrament of penance in one of the 80 confessionals spread throughout the area.

The homily laid emphasis on his faithfulness to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Pope

In his homily Cardinal Amado illustrated some virtues which the new blessed “lived in a heroic manner”, such as his “faithfulness to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Magisterium of the Pope”.  According to the cardinal, Alvaro del Portillo “fled from all kinds of self-seeking because he transmitted the truth of the Gospel and not his personal opinions”.  Among other things, “he stood out for the prudence and uprightness of intention in the way he valued events and persons.  He also stood out through the respect he had for the honour and freedom of others”.

Cardinal Amato continued: “Today Blessed Alvaro del Portillo invites us to an amiable, merciful, affable, meek and humble holiness.  The saints invite us to put into the womb of the Church and of society the pure air of the grace of God which renews the face of the earth”.

The huge turnout of the faithful was marked by piety and the joy of singing that was accompanied by the 200-voice choir of the last World Youth Day.  1,200 priests distributed communion in Valdebebas.

Msgr. Echevarria: a special prayer for those who suffer persecution as a result of their faith

At the end of the celebration, Monsignor Javier Echevarria, Prelate of Opus Dei spoke some words of gratitude to God, to the Church and to Pope Francis, as well as to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to Cardinal Amato and to the Archdiocese of Madrid, the choir, the volunteers and the media, all of who have made possible the ceremony that has been followed by many throughout the world.

The prelate continued: “the raising of Alvaro del Portillo to the altars reminds us anew of the universal call to holiness, proclaimed with great fervour by the Second Vatican Council”.  He also made reference to the “joy that St. Josemaria Escriva would undoubtedly feel in seeing this most faithful son of his proposed as an intercessor and model for all the faithful”.

Monsignor Echevarria asked those present to pray in a special way “for our brothers and sisters who suffer persecution for their faith, including martyrdom in different parts of the world”.

The Diocese of Madrid is proud of its son

In his closing remarks Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco wished to point out the bond that exists between Alvaro del Portillo and the city of Madrid.  "Not only for historical reasons but also because of the influence which his life and writings have had on the hearts of so many faithful of this Archdiocese.  His footprints are also felt through the spiritual and social good done by the very many initiatives that owe their inspiration to him”. 

In conclusion, Cardinal Rouco said “Blessed del Portillo, who was born here in Madrid, is ours in a unique way and so sends us special blessings from heaven”. “As a diocesan Church” he added, “we are very proud of the faithful help he lent to St. Josemaria in spreading the message of Opus Dei throughout the world and for the contributions he made to the Second Vatican Council”. 

At the end of the ceremony the more than 3,500 young volunteers helped participants to leave Valdebebas on their way back to Madrid.  While some returned to their places of origin, others came back on Sunday for the traditional Mass of Thanksgiving which was presided over by Bishop Javier Echevarria, the prelate of Opus Dei.

1st Successor of Josemaría Escrivá to Be Beatified in September
Don Alvaro Elected to Head Opus Dei in 1975; Held Office 19 Years

ROME, January 22, 2014  - After Pope Francis’s approval of the required miracle and the formal decree of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (5 July 2013), the Holy See has confirmed in a letter dated 21 January 2014 that the Holy Father (at the request of the Prelat of Opus Dei, Msgr. Javier Echevarria) has established that Alvaro del Portillo will be beatified in Madrid, his hometown, on 27 September 2014.

            An International Encounter in Madrid

The beatification ceremony in Madrid will be presided over by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, and faithful from all over the world are expected to participate. The next day, Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving.

"In this moment of profound joy,” said Bishop Javier Echevarría, “I wish to thank Pope Francis for his decision to proceed with the beatification of this bishop who loved and served the Church so much. From now on, let us entrust to the soon-to-be Blessed Alvaro the intentions of the Holy Father: the apostolic renewal and service to God of all Christians, the care and support of the needy, the upcoming synod on the family, the holiness of priests. "

            Don Alvaro and Madrid

The biography of Bishop del Portillo - whom many people call " Don Alvaro " - is closely linked to the city of Rome (where he lived most of his life) and Madrid, where he was born on March 11, 1914, and where he spent his childhood and youth with his parents and 7 siblings. It was also in the capital of Spain that he met St. Josemaria Escrivá and decided to join Opus Dei in 1935.

While he was a 19-year-old engineering student in Madrid, the young Alvaro del Portillo took part in the activities of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, teaching catechism to children in Vallecas and other poor neighborhoods and distributing donations and food to needy families. Later, encouraged by St. Josemaria, he continued to carry out similar activities with the young people who participated in the initial work of Opus Dei organized around the DYA Academy.

After finishing his civil and ecclesiastical studies, he was ordained in Madrid by the bishop of the diocese, Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, on 25 June 1944, and he carried out his priestly ministry there until he moved to Rome in 1946.

            The Setting of the Beatification

As is well known, the papal decree of Benedict XVI on the rites of beatification and canonization - promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on 29 September 2005 - states that beatifications will be celebrated by a representative of the Holy Father, usually the prefect of the aforementioned Congregation, in the place that is considered most suitable. The same decree provides that only canonizations will be presided over by the Pope.

For this reason, when the upcoming beatification was announced, several options were explored, with preference being given to central locations in Rome other than St. Peter’s Square, which is reserved to the Holy Father. Due to the large number of expected participants, however, these proposals proved difficult to implement, and the Congregation considered particularly opportune a second hypothesis which presented itself: celebrating the ceremony in Madrid, the birthplace of Alvaro del Portillo, in the year that marks the centenary of his birth, which will also allow a larger number of his countrymen, for whom a trip to Rome would be difficult because of the current economic crisis, to attend the ceremony.

Plans are already being made to attend to the participants from around the world, including visits to the Cathedral de la Almudena and places related to the life of Alvaro del Portillo and the beginnings of Opus Dei , which was founded by St. Josemaria Escrivá - in Madrid - on October 2 , 1928.

            In Rome, Close to Pope Francis

The organizing committee is also preparing various events in Rome for attendees who wish to extend their pilgrimage to visit the Successor of St. Peter ("videre Petrum" – to see Peter, as St. Josemaria liked to say, quoting a phrase of St. Paul).

The civil authorities are looking into the possibility that, during the days following the beatification, the body of Don Alvaro, which rests in the crypt of the Prelatic Church, Saint Mary of Peace, in Rome, be provisionally transferred to the much-larger Basilica of Sant’ Eugenio to make room for the people who want to pray before Blessed Alvaro del Portillo.

After the beatification, there will be a Mass of thanksgiving in one of the Roman basilicas. The faithful may also participate in that week’s Wednesday audience with Pope Francis and thus express their grateful union with the Roman Pontiff.

            All Together, in the Footsteps of Don Alvaro

Both in Rome and Madrid, activities promoted by Harambee Africa International will be organized in order to finance four medical and educational projects in sub-Saharan Africa, which  were encouraged by Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, during the years when was Prelate of Opus Dei.

"Harambee " means "all for one" in Swahili . Attendees at the beatification will be invited to assist with their donations in the launching of a mother-and-child center associated with Niger Hospital (Enugu, Nigeria), the expansion and improvement of facilities at three medical centers of the nursing school of Monkole Hospital Center (Kinshasa, Congo), and the development of a program to fight child malnutrition at the Ilomba Rural Center (in Bingerville, Ivory Coast). A fourth project is to obtain scholarships for African seminarians at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an institution founded in Rome by Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, following the desire of St. Josemaria Escrivá.

Rosalinda Corbi, coordinator of the Harambee activities, explains that "it seemed necessary to share the gift of this beatification with the people who need it most, and we wanted to carry it out in a way that would have pleased Don Alvaro, who from his youth dedicated a great deal of time to the sick and needy. "

Pope Francis' Letter On the Occasion of the 8th Centenary of Trinitarian Founder, St. John of Mata

VATICAN CITY, December 17, 2013  - Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s Letter to the Minister General of the Order of the Trinitarians, on the occasion of the 8th centenary of the death of the Founder, Saint John of Mata.

* * *

To the Very Reverend Father

Friar Joseph Narlaly

Minister General of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of Captives

Dear Brother:

In this year in which the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of Captives, and all those united to it with spiritual bonds, observe the eighth centenary of the death of their Holy Founder, John of Matha, and the four hundred years of the happy passing of Saint John Baptist of the Conception, Reformer of the same Order, I wish to unite myself to you in your thanksgiving to God Trinity for these outstanding figures for the Church, sending you this simple message  of encouragement and spiritual closeness, with the hope that it will serve as stimulation and support to go forward with enthusiasm and decision on the spiritual path that they traced, for the glory of the thrice Holy One and the good of those going through different trials.

The old motto: Hicest Ordo adprobatus, non a sanctis fabricates, sed a solo summo Deo (Saint John Baptist of the Conception, Works III, 45) which the Trinitarian Religious have always proclaimed, begins from a profoundly rooted  awareness in you that this charism is a gift of God, accepted by the Church from its beginning through pontifical approval. God has gone before us, <he has beaten us>, choosing these servants of his to manifest his mercies in them. They were able to accept the challenge, in docility to the Church that discerns the charisms. Thus, if today we celebrate the dies natales of its Founder and Reformer, we do so precisely because they were able to deny themselves, to take up with simplicity and docility the cross of Christ and put themselves entirely and unconditionally in God’s hands, so that He would build their Work.

We are all called to experience the joy that springs from the encounter with Jesus, to conquer our egoism, to come out of our own comfort and to dare to reach all the fringes that need the light of the Gospel (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 20). This is what Saint John of Matha and Saint John Baptist of the Conception did with their life and apostolic courage. They, who were leading religious lives that were respectable, although perhaps somewhat comfortable and safe, received a call from God, which turned them around and pushed them to spend and exhaust themselves in favor of the neediest, of those who were suffering for proclaiming their faith in the Gospel, of those whose joy was in danger of being robbed from them. In the course of the centuries, in perfect attunement with that foundational spirit, the House of the Holy Trinity has been the home of the poor and the disregarded, a place where wounds of the body and the soul are healed, and this is done with prayer, which, as the Holy Reformer well said, is a better medicine than many remedies, and also with unconditional dedication and with disinterested and loving service. The work, the effort and gratitude are condensed in the Rule of Saint John of Matha with the words Ministro and sine proprio (Trinitarian Rule, n. 1).In fact the Trinitarians have clear, and we must all learn from them, that in the Church all responsibility or authority must be lived as service. From this it follows that our action must be stripped of all desire for profit or personal promotion, and must always seek to put in common all the talents received from God to direct them, as good administrators, to the end for which they were given, namely, to alleviate the most underprivileged. This is Christ’s concern and that is why the Houses of your Family “always have the door open”  for fraternal welcome (Original Directory of the Trinitarian Sisters 2. Cf. Evangelii gaudium, 46).

Now, on uniting myself with your song of praise to the Most Holy Trinity,  through these great Saints I wish to implore you that, following their example, you will never cease to look at Christ and, with the strength of his Spirit, give yourselves with humility to serve the poor and captives. There are many of these today. We see them each day and we cannot ignore them, contenting ourselves with a good word. Christ was not like that. It is a condition of life to acquire Christ’s sentiments, in order to see his face in those who suffer and give them consolation and the light that springs from his pierced Heart. You must also dare to be the first (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 24), exactly as Saint John Baptism of the Conception proposed it to his friars with the attractive image of a game of cards, trying to make them understand that it is in this stake for the poor that we gain an authentic and happy life. For the Saint, this is the challenge God gives us: his poor, and if we lose this hand, he tells us, we are totally lost (Works III, 79). Therefore, for your apostolic works and initiatives do not look for a foundation other than “the roots of charity” and “the interest of Christ,” whom my Predecessor, Innocent III, considered as the essential  jambs  of this new way of life that he approved with his apostolic authority (Operante divinae dispositionis clementia, Bull 17.12.1198).

In bidding you farewell, while imparting the Apostolic Blessing upon all the members of the Order and of the entire Trinitarian Family, I beg that, as it is an immemorial tradition among you,  you not fail to pray for the Pope. I know that this intention is constant, together with that of the poor, and that you present them to the Lord every night. It pleases me very much to think that you put the Bishop of Rome in prayer together with the poorest, as this reminds me that I cannot forget them, as Jesus did not forget them, who felt in the depth of his Heart that he was sent to give them the Good News and that, with his poverty, he enriched us all (cf. Luke 4:18; 2 Corinthians 8:9). May He bless you and the Holy Virgin take care of you.



Vatican, December 17, Solemnity of Saint John of Mata of the year 2013, the first of my Pontificate.

Pope Francis Declares Model Jesuit a Saint
Holy Father Waives Rules to Canonize Father Pierre Favre, First Recruit of St. Ignatius of Loyola

VATICAN CITY, December 17, 2013  - Pope Francis has declared the 16th century Jesuit Father Pierre Favre a saint, bypassing the usual procedures for canonization.

The Vatican announced the Pope’s decision on Dec. 17, Francis’ 77th birthday.

The Holy Father has long viewed Father Favre, the first follower of the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, as a model figure.  

Born in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France in 1506, the French Jesuit met Ignatius while the two were college roommates at the University of Sorbonne in Paris, along with another future Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier. After ordination, Father Favre spent most of his ministry preaching Catholicism in Germany and elsewhere during the Protestant Reformation. He died in 1546.

Pope Francis has spoken of the influence Father Favre has had in his life, in particular his message of dialogue with anyone “even the most remote and even with his opponents.” In an interview with the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, he praised Father Favre’s “simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”

Father Favre and Pope Francis are said to have many characteristics in common and share many of the same ideas. Father Favre was a supporter of Catholic reform and a pioneer of ecumenism. St. Ignatius used to say he was “someone who can squeeze water from a rock” and regarded him as the most efficient spiritual leader of all his followers. He also said Father Favre had “a gift for guiding people’s souls towards God” and wanted to appoint him as the Society of Jesus’s top representative in Rome.

Back in June, the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire reported that Francis was looking to extend the liturgical cult surrounding the 16thcentury Jesuit to the universal Church. The newspaper reported that to canonize such a figure who lived centuries ago and based solely on the cult of holiness surrounding him “would be a unique technical procedure.”

The practice is mainly applied to individuals who lived a long time ago and for whom a canonical process was begun but not completed in their lifetime. Examples of this so-called “equivalent” canonization have been Cyril and Methodius who were proclaimed saints by John Paul II. Pope John XXIII also canonized Gregorio Barbarigo, whom Pope John had also held up as a model figure, in a motu proprio in 1960.

“Equivalent” canonization is a rare procedure, meaning popes can declare someone who has enjoyed widespread reverence over time deserves veneration by the universal Church without having to go through the usual canonization steps. These include proving two miracles attributed to the candidate’s intercession.

Pope Benedict XVI used the procedure in his pontificate to declare Hildegard of Bingen a saint.

During an audience with the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints today, Angelo Amato, Pope Francis also declared a miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Maria Teresa Demjanovich, a sister with the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth. Born in Bayonne, New Jersey, on March 26, 1901 she died in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 8 May 1927.

The Pope also declared the heroic virtues of Servant of God Emmanuel Establés Herranz, diocesan priest and founder of the Religious Esclavas de la Virgen Dolorosa. Born in Campillo de Dueñas, Spain, on 1 January 1880, he died in Madrid on June 29, 1968.

Finally, the Pope proclaimed the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Giorgio Ciesielski, a layman, born in Krakow, Poland, February 12, 1929, and died in Egypt October 9, 1970.

The 800 Martyrs of Otranto
Faithful Witnesses of Christ Among First Saints Canonized by Pope Francis

By Ivan de Vargas

ROME, May 13, 2013 - The Church now has 802 new Saints, after the first canonization that Pope Francis presided over on Sunday in Saint Peter’s Square. They are the 800 martyrs of Otranto -- killed savagely by the Ottoman army in 1480, as well as two Latin American nuns who worked their whole lives at the service of the poorest and invalid: Mother Laura Montoya (1874-1949), and Mother Lupita (1878-1963). This is one of the great events planned in the Year of Faith.

Antonio Primaldo and Companions

Antonio Pezzulla, called Primaldo, is the only name that has been recorded of the 800 fishermen, artisans, shepherds and farmers of the small Italian city of Otranto, in the region of Apulia, whose blood was shed out of fidelity to Christ, during an incursion of the Ottoman army on July 29, 1480.

The martyrdom of Antonio Primaldo and his companions is set historically in the warlike context that lasted for a long time in Europe’s relations with the Ottoman Empire. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the siege of Belgrade in 1456, Mehmed the Conqueror tried in vain to conquer the Island of Rhodes in 1479. He then went to the end of the Italian coast, closest to the ports of Albania, already under his dominion.

In the Hands of the Ottoman Army

The Turks approached the city of Otranto, with some 150 ships and more than 15,000 men, led by the Gedik Ahmed Pasha. The city had 6,000 inhabitants and had been abandoned by the Aragonese militias, committed in Tuscany. No sooner has the siege began, which lasted 15 days, they were ordered to surrender, and ordered to renounce their faith in Christ and convert to Islam. As the inhabitants refused, the city was bombed and fell into the hands of the invaders on August 12. The inflamed army killed them mercilessly, striking them with scimitars.

Arriving at the cathedral, where a good part of the inhabitants had sought refuge, the Ottomans knocked down the door and encircled Archbishop Stefano Pendinelli, who was celebrating Holy Mass and distributing the Eucharist to those present. Archbishop Pendinelli was horribly quartered on the spot. In addition to the prelate, they killed canons, Religious and other faithful who were in the church.

Death Rather than Apostasy

The next day, the Ahmed Pasha ordered that all the survivors, some 800 men, be taken to the Turkish camp and forced to apostatize. Antonio Primaldo, a humble cloth shearer, answered firmly and immediately on behalf of all. He said they “regarded Jesus Christ as Son of God, their true Lord and God, and preferred to die a thousand times rather than deny him and become Muslims.” Commander Ahmed then ordered their execution.

Youths, adults, the elderly were led with ropes around their neck and their hands tied behind their back to the hill of Minerva, on the outskirts of the city. Before they were martyred, they comforted one another.

Primaldo, the first to suffer decapitation, stood up miraculously and stayed that way until the end of the killings. The miracle so impressed Berlabei, one of the executioners, that he flung his scimitar, confessed himself a Christian and was then impaled.

The inert bodies were left out in the open for a year in the place of execution, where they were found uncorrupted by the troops sent to liberate Otranto. In June of 1481, their remains were taken to the nearby church , “to the source of Minerva,” and on October 13 they were moved to the Cathedral. At the beginning of 1500 a chapel was built inside the Cathedral to house the relics definitively, constant object of pilgrimages.

Popular Recognition

Antonio Primaldo and his companions were recognized immediately as martyrs by the people. Every year on August 14, the local church devoutly celebrates their memory. On December 14, 1771 the decree of confirmation was issued of devotion ab immemorabili, accorded to the martyrs.

In 1988, the then archbishop of Otranto,Archbishop Vincenzo Franco, appointed the historical commission. The diocesan investigation was carried out from 1991-1993. It was recognized as valid by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on May 27, 1994. On July 6, 2007, Benedict XVI approved the decree recognizing that Blessed Antonio Primaldo and companions had been killed for their fidelity to Christ.


“Our diocese has awaited this moment for a long time. At a time of profound crisis, the imminent canonization of our martyrs is a strong invitation to live daily martyrdom to the utmost, made of fidelity to Christ and to His Church,” writes the Archbishop Donato Negro of Otranto. The recognized miracle, needed for the mentioned decree, refers to the cure from cancer of Sister Francesca Levote, professed religious of the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare.

Benedict XVI fixed the date of the canonization in the Ordinary Public Consistory of last February 11, the day he announced his resignation from the Petrine Ministry.


Otranto Martyrs: Witnesses of Sanctity for the Laity
Historical Perspectives on Canonization of Antonio Primaldo and Companions

By Ann Schneible

ROME, May 14, 2013  - It was during a consistory called to declare the canonization of saints that Benedict XVI chose to announce his resignation. Last Sunday, these saints were canonized, among them 800 martyrs: Antonio Primaldo and his companions.

Saint Antonio Primaldo was a 15th century tailor and townsman of the southern Italian town of Otranto. The region was invaded by the Ottoman Turks who brutally executed Otranto's religious and civil leaders. When the invaders ordered the townspeople to convert to Islam, Saint Antonio encouraged his fellow townsmen to die for Christ since Christ had died for them. Refusing to convert, they were led to a hillside outside the city where they were beheaded, Saint Antonio being the first among them.

Speaking with ZENIT shortly after Pope Benedict's resignation, historian Timothy O'Donnell, president of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, noted how the then-Holy Father "realized the timeliness of the witness of these martyrs for a number of reasons: first of all, because they are laymen. These are men who were just involved with the world."

When the invaders where trying to force the townsmen of Otranto to apostatize, O'Donnell said, Primaldo, the lay tailor, stood up and gave a "heroic testimony, that Christ has died for us, so we should die for him. He ends up strengthening all the other men. The fact that all of these other laymen gave their life for Christ is a powerful witness."

O'Donnell also noted the relevance of elevating to sainthood these martyrs in today's day and age. "The greatest periods, in which the Church has been strongest," he said, "has been when she's persecuted. There are many countries in our world where the threat of radical Islam has been a source of persecution. But also in Europe with secularism, and the assault on religious liberty that we're seeing in the United States, is cause for concern."

The canonization of the Otranto martyrs, he continued, offers a reminder to the people of Italy and Europe "of the heroic witness of laypeople who were intimately involved in the city life, but had such a deep love of their faith and their families that they were willing to die rather than renounce it."

Associate professor of ancient and medieval history for Jacksonville State University, Donald Prudlo, described  the historical context of the Otranto martyrdom, explaining how it was not only a powerful witness to the faith, but was significant to European history. "Mehmed II, called the Conquerer, was the Sultan of the Ottoman empire (r. 1451-1481)… The attack on Otranto in 1480 was a raiding party designed to test Italy's defenses. It was also calculated to spread terror across the coasts of Italy, and indeed it did alarm Europe greatly."

"Antonio and his companions in a certain way saved Europe," continued Prudlo, "for their example showed that Catholic Europe was not to be terrorized."

Prudlo added that he was particularly struck that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI chose to announce his renunciation during the canonization consistory of the Otranto martyrs. "Benedict too, like them, is on the leading edge of the fight to save Europe, not only from Islamic extremism in this case, but from rampant secularism and relativism. Antonio and his companions are martyrs of religious intolerance."

"In response to the irrationality of violence and intolerance," he said, "they laid down their lives. In a similar way, Benedict has lived a life dedicated to faith and reason, and this is why I found it particularly poignant that the Pope chose that moment for his announcement."

On St. Bonaventure
"The work of Christ and of the Church never regresses but always progresses"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 16, 2012.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On the liturgical calendar, July 15 is the memorial of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Franciscan, doctor of the Church, and successor to St. Francis of Assisi in the leadership of the Order of Friars Minor. He wrote the first official biography of the Little Poor Man (Poverello), and at the end of his life he was also the bishop of this Diocese of Albano. In one of his letters Bonaventure wrote: “I confess before God that what made me love the life of blessed Francis the most was that it reflected the beginnings and growth of the Church (Epistula de tribus quaestionibus, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Introduzione generale, Roma 1990, p. 29). These words immediately send us back to today’s Gospel, of this Sunday, that presents us with Jesus’ first sending of the 12 Apostles on mission. “Jesus called the 12 to himself,” writes St. Mark, “and sent them out two by two … and he instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a staff – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic” (Mark 6:7-9). Francis of Assisi, after his conversion, practiced this Gospel to the letter, becoming a most faithful witness to Jesus; and associated in a singular way with the mystery of the cross, he was transformed into “another Jesus,” as Bonaventure, in fact, presents him.

At the inspirational center of St. Bonaventure’s life and theology is Jesus Christ. We find this centrality of Christ in the second reading of today’s Mass (Ephesians 1:3-14), the celebrated hymn of St. Paul to the Ephesians, which begins thus: “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus, who has blessed us with every spiritual benediction in heaven in Christ.” In four passages that each begin with the phrase “in him,” referring to Jesus Christ, the Apostle then shows how this plan of blessing is realized. “In him” the Father has chosen us before the creation of the world; “in him” we have redemption through his blood; “in him” we have become heirs, predestined to be “the praise of his glory”; “in him” those who believe in the Gospel receive the seal of the Holy Spirit. This hymn of St. Paul contains the vision of history that St. Bonaventure helped to spread in the Church: all of history has Christ as its center, Christ, who also guarantees newness and renewal in every age. In Jesus, God has said and given everything, but since he is an inexhaustible treasure, the Holy Spirit never ceases to reveal and actualize his mystery. Hence the work of Christ and of the Church never regresses but always progresses.

Dear friends, let us invoke Mary Most Holy – who tomorrow we celebrate as the Virgin of Mount Carmel – that she might help us, with St. Francis and St. Bonaventure, to respond generously to the Lord’s call, to announce his Gospel of salvation with words and, above all else, with our life.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gives the twelve authority to preach and cast out demons. Relying on his power alone, their efforts bear fruit. Let us continue to strive to keep our lives rooted in Christ so that we too may be effective instruments of the Gospel. May God bless you!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday.


Pope's Message to the Bishop of Avila
"We are invited today to that radicalism and fidelity by this illustrious daughter of the diocese of Avila"

ROME, JULY 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the bishop of Avila, Spain, Bishop Jesús Garcia Burillo, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the convent of Saint Joseph in Avila and the beginning of the Carmelite Reform promoted by Saint Teresa of Jesus.

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To the Venerable Brother

Monsignor Jesus GARCIA BURILLO
Bishop of Avila

1. Resplendens stella. “A star that would give of itself great splendor” (Book of Life, 32, 11). With these words the Lord encouraged Saint Teresa of Jesus to found in Avila the convent of Saint Joseph, beginning of the reform of Carmel, whose 450th anniversary will be observed next August 24. On the occasion of this happy circumstance, I wish to unite myself to the joy of the beloved Avila diocese, of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, of the People of God pilgrimaging in Spain and of all those in the universal Church who have found in Teresian spirituality a sure light to discover that man obtains the true renewal of life through Christ. Enamored of the Lord, this illustrious woman wished to please Him in everything. In fact, a saint is not one who carries out great feats based on the excellence of his human qualities, but one who allows Christ to penetrate their soul, to act through their person, He being the real protagonist of all their actions and desires, who inspires every initiative and sustains every silence.

2. To let oneself be led by Christ in this way is possible only for one who has an intense life of prayer. In the words of the Saint of Avila, this consists of “friendship, being very often alone with Him whom we know loves us” (Book of Life 8, 5). The reform of Carmel, whose anniversary fills us with inner joy, was born of prayer and tends to prayer. On promoting a radical return to the original Rule, moving away from the mitigated Rule, Saint Teresa of Jesus wished to foster a way of life that favored a personal encounter with the Lord, for which it is necessary “to be in solitude and to gaze at Him within oneself, and not to be surprised by such a good guest” (Way of Perfection 28, 2). The convent of Saint Joseph was born precisely so that her daughters would have the best conditions to find God and establish a profound and intimate relationship with Him.

3. Saint Teresa proposed a new way of being a Carmelite in a world which was also new. Those were “harsh times” (Book of Life 33, 5). And in such times, said this Teacher of the spirit, it is necessary “to be strong friends of God to support the weak” (Ibid., 15, 5). And she insisted eloquently: “The world is burning, they want to sentence Christ again, they want to knock down his Church. No, my Sisters, it is not the time to treat with God matters of little importance”! (Way of Perfection 1, 5). Is not this luminous and challenging reflection, made more than four centuries ago by the mystic Saint, familiar to us in the circumstance in which we are living?

The ultimate end of the Teresian Reform and of the creation of new convents, in the midst of a world lacking in spiritual values, was to protect with prayer the apostolic task; to propose a way of evangelical life that would be a model for those seeking the way of perfection, stemming from the conviction that all genuine personal and ecclesial reform is affected by reproducing increasingly in ourselves the “way” of Christ (cf. Galatians 4:19). The Saint and her daughters had no other commitment. Neither did her Carmelite sons, who did no more than try “to advance in all the virtues” (Book of Life 31, 18). In this connection, Teresa wrote: Our Lord “appreciates more a soul won, through his mercy, by our industry and prayer than all the services we can render Him” (Book of the Foundations, 1, 7). In face of forgetfulness of God the Holy Doctor encouraged praying communities, which with their prayer protect those proclaiming the Name of Christ everywhere, supplicating for the needs of the Church, and taking to the Savior’s heart the clamor of all peoples.

4. Today also, as in the 16th century, amid rapid transformations, it is necessary that confident prayer be at the heart of the apostolate, so that the message of the Redeemer Jesus Christ will resound with crystal clarity and forceful dynamism. It is urgent that the Word of life vibrate harmoniously in souls, with sonorous and attractive notes.

In this passionate task, the example of Teresa of Avila is of great help to us. We can affirm that, in her time, the Saint evangelized without lukewarmness , with ardor that was never extinguished, with methods that were far removed from inertia, with expressions haloed with light. This keeps all its freshness in the present circumstance, centered also following the dictate of the Avila mystic, on contemplation of the Most Sacred Humanity of Christ as the only way to attain the glory of God (cf. Book of Life 22, 1; The Abodes [Las Moradas]6, 7). Thus genuine families will be able to be formed, which discover in the Gospel the fire of their abode, living and united Christian communities, cemented on Christ as their cornerstone and thirsting for a life of fraternal and generous service. Also to be desired is that incessant prayer promote the urgent cultivation of vocational pastoral care, stressing particularly the beauty of consecrated life, which must be properly supported as the treasure that it is of the Church, as torrent of Graces, both in its active as well as in its contemplative dimension.

The strength of Christ will also lead to redoubling initiatives so that the people of God recover their vigor in the only way possible: making room in our interior for the sentiments of the Lord Jesus (cf. Philippians 2, 5), seeking in every circumstance a radical living of his Gospel. This means, above all, to allow the Holy Spirit to make us friends of the Master and to configure us with Him. It also means accepting his mandate in everything, and adopting in ourselves criteria such as humility in conduct, giving up the superfluous, not wronging others, acting with simplicity and lowliness of heart. Thus, those around us will perceive the joy that stems from our adherence to the Lord, putting nothing before his love, always being ready to give a reason for our hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) and living, as Teresa of Jesus, in filial obedience to our Holy Mother the Church.

5. We are invited today to that radicalism and fidelity by this illustrious daughter of the diocese of Avila. Taking up her beautiful legacy, at this moment of history, the Pope calls all the members of that particular Church, but in an intimate way young people, to take seriously the common vocation to sanctity. Following in Teresa of Jesus’ footprints, allow me to say to those who have the future before them: aspire also to belong totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus. Fear not to tell Our Lord as she did: “I am yours, for you I was born, what do you want me to do?” (Poem 2). And I ask Him to enable you to respond to his calls illumined by divine grace, with “determined determination,” to offer the “little” that is in you, trusting that God never abandons those who leave everything for His glory (cf. Way of Perfection 21, 2; 1, 2).

6. Saint Teresa knew how to honor the Most Holy Virgin with great devotion, whom she invoked under the sweet name of Carmel. I place under her maternal protection the apostolic endeavors of the Church in Avila so that, rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit, she will find the appropriate ways to proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm and courage. May Mary, Star of evangelization, and her chaste spouse Saint Joseph intercede so that the “star” that the Lord lighted in the universe of the Church with the Teresian reform, will continue to radiate the great brilliance of the love and truth of Christ to all men. With this yearning, Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, I send you this message, which I pray you to make known to the flock entrusted to your pastoral vigilance, and very especially to the beloved Discalced Carmelites of the convent of Saint Joseph of Avila, that they may perpetuate in time the spirit of their Founder, and of whose fervent prayer for the Successor of Peter I have grateful certainty. To them, to you and to all the faithful of Avila I impart with affection the Apostolic Blessing, pledge of copious heavenly favors.

Vatican, July 16, 2012


Papal Homily at Canonization Mass
"Incredible Examples of Such Passionate Love"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily from a Mass he celebrated Sunday for the canonization of Guido Maria Conforti, Luigi Guanella and Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro

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Venerable brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today our Sunday liturgy is enriched by several events that cause us to thank and praise God. Not only do we celebrate World Mission Sunday with the whole Church -- an annual event that aims to reawaken missionary drive and commitment -- but we also praise the Lord for three new saints: Bishop Guido Maria Conforti, Father Luigi Guanella, and Sister Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. I happily greet all of you present, particularly the official delegations and the numerous pilgrims who have come to celebrate these three exemplary disciples of Christ.

The Word of the Lord, proclaimed just a couple minutes ago in the Gospel, reminded us that the Divine Law can be summed up in love. Matthew the Evangelist tells how the Pharisees, after Jesus had silenced the Sadducees with his response, conspired to put him to the test (see Matthew 22:34-35). One of them, a doctor of the law, asked Jesus: "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Verse 36). Jesus responds with complete simplicity to the deliberately crafty question: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment" (Verse 37-38). Truly, the main requirement for all of us is that God be present in our lives. As the Scriptures say, he ought to permeate all the levels of our being and to fill us completely: Our hearts should relish him and be touched by him, as well as our souls, our wills, our minds and our thoughts. We should be able to say with St. Paul, "It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 1:20).

And right away Jesus adds something that the doctor of the law hadn't even asked for: "The second is similar: You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Verse 39). By saying that the second commandment is similar to the first, Jesus implies that loving our neighbor is as important as loving God. In fact, love for our brothers and sisters is the visible sign of God's love that a Christian can show to the world. It is very providential that precisely today the Church points out to all its members three new saints who were transformed by God's love and who oriented their entire lives to it. In diverse situations and with different charisms, each of them loved the Lord with all their hearts, and they loved their neighbors as themselves, "so as to be examples for all believers." (1 Titus 1:7)

Psalm 17, which we heard a short while ago, invites us to confidently abandon ourselves into the hands of the Lord, who is "faithful to his holy ones" (Verse 51). This attitude guided St. Guido Maria Conforti in his life and ministry. From his youth, when he had to overcome his father's opposition in order to enter the seminary, he showed a firm decision to follow God's will and to correspond entirely to the caritas Christi (love of Christ), which attracted him while he contemplated Christ crucified. He felt a strong need to announce Christ's love to all who had not heard of it, and the motto Caritas Christi urget nos (the love of Christ impels us, 2 Corinthians 5:14), sums up the missionary institute that he brought to life when he was barely 30 years old. It is a religious family entirely at the service of evangelization under the patronage of St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the East. St. Guido Maria was called to live this missionary drive as a bishop in Ravenna and later in Parma. He gave himself entirely to help the souls of those entrusted to him, especially those who were far from the Lord. His life was marked by many trials, including several serious difficulties. But he knew how to accept each situation with docility, welcoming it as part of the path traced out for him by divine providence. In every circumstance, even in the most painful losses, he knew how to recognize God's plan, which drove him to build up Christ's Kingdom above all by denying himself and accepting God's will each day with a trusting abandonment that grew more so each day. He first experienced and witnessed what he also taught his missionaries -- that perfection consists in doing God's will, according to the example set by Christ crucified. St. Guido Maria Conforti fixed his inner eye on the cross, which gently attracted him; in contemplating the cross, he saw the horizons of the world spread out before him, and he felt the urgent desire that is hidden in the heart of every person to receive and accept the only love that can save us.

The human and spiritual witness of St. Luigi Guanella is a special grace for the whole Church. Throughout his life he courageously lived the Gospel of charity, the "great commandment," which today the Word of God has invited us to live. Thanks to a deep and continuous union with Christ in the contemplation of his love, Don Guanella followed divine providence and became a friend, teacher, comfort and support to the very poor and weak. God's love stirred up in him the desire to do good to everyone entrusted to him in his everyday life. He gave careful attention to each person's path, respecting each individual's growth. At the same time, he firmly hoped that every person, created in the image and likeness of God, who savored the joy of being loved by him -- the Father of all -- would give the best of himself to others. Today we want to praise and thank the Lord because he has given us a prophet and apostle of charity in St. Luigi Guanella. In his example, which is full of kindness and care for the weak, we see a shining witness to God's loving presence and action -- the God who, as the first reading reminded us, defends the foreigner, the widow, the orphan, and the poor one who must pawn his own coat, his only covering for the night (cf. Exodus 22:20-26). May this new saint of charity be for everyone, and especially for the members of the congregation that he founded, an example of a deep and fruitful synthesis of contemplation and action, just as he lived it. The last words that he pronounced on his deathbed, "in caritate Christi" (in the love of Christ), sum up his entire human and spiritual experience. Christ's love shines on the life of every person, showing that by giving ourselves to others we lose nothing, and in fact, find our true and complete happiness. May St. Luigi Guanella help us to grow in our friendship with the Lord in order to bring God's love to everyone, to promote life in every condition and circumstance, and to help human society become ever more a family of the children of God.

In the second reading, we heard a passage from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, which uses the metaphor of manual labor to describe the work of evangelization. In a certain way, that metaphor also applies to the virtues of St. Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. When St. Paul writes this letter he is also working to earn his wages, and it seems clear from the tone of the letter and from the examples he uses that he preaches in his workshop and finds his first disciples there. This same attitude inspired St. Bonifacia, who, from the very beginning, united her daily work with her following of Christ. Work, which she had done since childhood, was not only a way not to be burdensome to others, but it also enabled her to fulfill her vocation and it offered her the opportunity to attract and form other women, who could likewise find God and hear his loving call in work, where they could discern their life project and learn to carry it out. This was how the Servants of St. Joseph was founded, in the midst of the humility and simplicity of the Gospel, which presents a school of Christian life in the home at Nazareth. In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul also says that his love for the community is tiring because it entails imitating Christ's self-giving to others, not expecting anything in return and not seeking anything but to please God. Mother Bonifacia, who dedicated herself enthusiastically to her apostolate and who started to see the first results of her labors, also lived this experience of loss and rejection, even by her disciples, and this was how she learned a new dimension of following Christ: the cross. She carried it with an endurance that gives hope, offering her life for the unity of the work she had started. This new saint is a perfect example of God's work and an echo calling her daughters, the Servants of St. Joseph, as well as us, to receive her testimony with the joy of the Holy Spirit, without fearing opposition, and to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven everywhere. We entrust ourselves to her intercession, and we ask God to bless all workers, especially those who carry out menial tasks or whose work is not sufficiently appreciated. May they discover God's loving hand in the midst of their daily work and witness to his love, transforming their tiredness into a song of praise to the Creator.

"I love you, Lord, my strength." Dear brothers and sisters, we proclaimed this in the responsorial psalm, and these three new saints are incredible examples of such passionate love. Let us be inspired by their example and led by their teaching so that our lives may become a testimony of true love of God and of others.

May the Virgin Mary, Queen of all saints, and the intercession of St. Guido Maria Conforti, St. Luigi Guanella, and St. Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro obtain this grace for us. Amen.


VATICAN CITY, 1 MAY 2011 (VIS) - At 10:00am this morning, the Second Sunday of Easter of Divine Mercy Sunday, Benedict XVI presided over the Eucharistic celebration during which Servant of God John Paul II, Pope (1920-2005) was proclaimed a Blessed, and whose feastday will be celebrated 22 October every year from now on.

Eighty-seven delegations from various countries, among which were 5 royal houses, 16 heads of state - including the presidents of Poland and Italy - and 7 prime ministers, attended the ceremony.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world filled St. Peter's Square and the streets adjacent. The ceremony could also be followed on the various giant screens installed in Circo Massimo and various squares around the city.

The text of the Pope's homily follows:

"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, patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, brother 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.

'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe' (Jn 20:29). In today's Gospel Jesus proclaims this beatitude: the beatitude of faith. For us, it is particularly striking because we are gathered to celebrate a beatification, but even more so because today the one proclaimed blessed is a Pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: 'Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven' (Mt 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church. The eternal beatitude of John Paul II, which today the Church rejoices to proclaim, is wholly contained in these sayings of Jesus: 'Blessed are you, Simon' and 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!' It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ's Church.

Our thoughts turn to yet another beatitude, one which appears in the Gospel before all others. It is the beatitude of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, who had just conceived Jesus, was told by Saint Elizabeth: 'Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord' (Lk 1:45). The beatitude of faith has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter. Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ's resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community. In particular we can see how Saint John and Saint Luke record the powerful, maternal presence of Mary in the passages preceding those read in today's Gospel and first reading. In the account of Jesus' death, Mary appears at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25), and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles she is seen in the midst of the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14).

Today's second reading also speaks to us of faith. St. Peter himself, filled with spiritual enthusiasm, points out to the newly-baptized the reason for their hope and their joy. I like to think how in this passage, at the beginning of his First Letter, Peter does not use language of exhortation; instead, he states a fact. He writes: 'you rejoice', and he adds: 'you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls' ( 1 Pt 1:6, 8-9). All these verbs are in the indicative, because a new reality has come about in Christ's resurrection, a reality to which faith opens the door. 'This is the Lord's doing', says the Psalm (Ps 118:23), and 'it is marvelous in our eyes', the eyes of faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God - bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious - are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Karol Wojtyla took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Krakow. He was fully aware that the Council's decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. This icon from the Gospel of John (19:25-27) was taken up in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyla: a golden cross with the letter 'M' on the lower right and the motto 'Totus tuus', drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyla found a guiding light for his life: 'Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria - I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart' (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 266).

In his Testament, the new Blessed wrote: 'When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, said to me: "The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium"'. And the Pope added: 'I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church - and especially with the whole episcopate - I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a Bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate'. And what is this 'cause'? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter's Square in the unforgettable words: 'Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!' What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan - a strength which came to him from God - a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others.

When Karol Wojtyla ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its 'helmsman', the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call 'the threshold of hope'. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an 'Advent' spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a 'rock', as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Eucharist.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God's people. How many time you blessed us from this very square. Holy Father, bless us again from that window. Amen".



VATICAN CITY, 1 MAY 2011 (VIS) - At the end of the beatification Mass and before the Regina Coeli, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims and the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square and the surrounding area.

Speaking in French the Pope asked that "the life and work of Blessed John Paul II be the source of a renewed dedication to the service of all persons and all humankind. I ask him to bless the efforts of all in building a civilization of love, respecting the dignity of each person, created in the image of God, with special attention to those who are weakest".

Then, addressing the pilgrims in English, Benedict XVI expressed the wish that the new Blessed's "example of firm faith in Christ, the Redeemer of Man, inspire us to live fully the new life which we celebrate at Easter, to be icons of divine mercy, and, and to work for a world in which the dignity and rights of every man, woman, and child are respected and promoted".

"I invite you", he continued in Spanish, "to follow the example of faithfulness and love for Christ and Church that he left us as a precious inheritance. May his intercession always accompany us from heaven, so that the faith of Your peoples remain solid at its roots and that peace and harmony sustain the necessary progress of Your peoples".

On greeting the Polish dignitaries the Pope asked that their fellow countryman "obtain for you and your earthy nation the gift of peace, unity, and every prosperity".

Benedict XVI finished by thanking the Italian authorities for their collaboration in organizing the day. "I extend my most heartfelt greetings to all the pilgrims - those gathered here in St. Peter's Square, the adjoining streets, and other places around Rome - and all those who have joined in via radio and television; ... to the ill and the elderly, with whom the new Blessed felt particularly close".

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father, accompanied by the concelebrating cardinals, walked inside the Vatican basilica to venerate the new Blessed. Then the various dignitaries present, along with the bishops, entered, following which the other faithful present also had the opportunity to venerate the new Blessed.

Excerpt of Decree for John Paul II's Beatification
"Sign of the Depth of Faith and Invitation to a Fully Christian Life"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2011 - Here is an excerpt of the decree written by the Congregation for Saints' Causes regarding the beatification of Servant of God John Paul II, published today by Vatican Radio. The prefect of the saints' causes dicastery is Cardinal Angelo Amato.

The full text can be found on ZENIT's Web page: www.zenit.org/article-31459?l=english

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Beatification: Sign of the depth of faith and invitation to a fully Christian life

The proclamation of a Saint or of a Blessed by the Church is the fruit of putting together various aspects regarding a specific Person. First, it is an act which says something important in the life of the Church herself. It is linked to a "cult," i.e. to the memory of the person, to his full acknowledgment of him in the awareness of the ecclesial community, of the country, of the Universal Church in various countries, continents and cultures. Another aspect is the awareness that the "presentation on the altars" will be an important sign of the depth of the faith, of the diffusion of faith in the path of life of that person, and that this sign will become an invitation, a stimulus for us all towards a Christian life ever more profound and full. Finally, thesine qua non condition is the holiness of the person's life, verified during the precise and formal canonical proceedings. All this provides the material for the decision of the Successor of Peter, of the Pope in view of the proclamation of a Blessed or of a Saint, of the cult in the context of the ecclesial community and of its liturgy.

John Paul II's pontificate was an eloquent and clear sign, not only for Catholics, but also for world public opinion, for people of all color and creed. The world's reaction to his lifestyle, to the development of his apostolic mission, to the way he bore his suffering, to the decision to continue his Petrine mission to the end as willed by divine Providence, and finally, the reaction to his death, the popularity of the acclamation "Saint right now!" which someone made on the day of his funerals, all this has its solid foundation in the experience of having met with the person who was the Pope. The faithful have felt, have experienced that he is "God's man," who really sees the concrete steps and the mechanisms of contemporary world "in God," in God's perspective, with the eyes of a mystic who looks up to God only. He was clearly a man of prayer: so much so that it is from the dynamism of his personal union with God, from the permanent listening to what God wants to say in a concrete situation, that the whole of "Pope John Paul II's activity" flowed. Those who were closest to him have been able to see that, prior to his meetings with his guests, with Heads of State, with Church high officials or ordinary citizens, John Paul II would recollect himself in prayer according to the intentions of the guests and of the meeting that was to come.

1. Karol Wojtyla's contribution to Vatican II Council

After Vatican II, during the pontificates of Paul VI and of John Paul II, the manner of presentation, and thus of self-presentation of the papacy, has become quite expressive. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II, the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs published in 2004 a book entitled "Go Forth in the Whole World." Giancarlo Zizola, a "vaticanist," remarked on the fact that "the papacy has conquered its citizenship in the realm of public visibility, breaking away from the siege of worship marginalisation where it had been kept by decree of secular society, in the name of a militant vision of the liberal tenet of Separation of Church and State" (p. 17). A German historian, Jesuit Klaus Schatz, speaking of Paul VI and of John Paul II, underlined the meaning of the "papacy on the way" -- thus in conformity with Vatican II -- more in the manner of a missionary movement than as a static pole of unity. Schatz refers to the manner of interpreting the papal mission as a challenge to "confirm the brothers in the faith" (Luke 22:32), in a way tied to structural authority, but with a strong spiritual and charismatic hint, in link with the personal credibility and rooted in God himself.

Let us pause a moment to consider Vatican II. The young archbishop of Cracow was one of the most active Council Fathers. He made a significant contribution to the "Scheme XIII" which was to become the Pastoral Constitution of the Council "Gaudium et Spes" on the Church in the Modern World, and to the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium." Thanks to his studies abroad, bishop Wojtyla had a concrete experience of evangelisation and of the mission of the Church, in Western Europe or in other continents, but above all of totalitarian atheism in Poland and in the other countries of the "Soviet Block." He brought all this experience to the Council debates, which were certainly not like drawing-room conversations, extremely courteous but void of contents. Here was a substantial and decisive effort to insert the Gospel's dynamism into the conciliar enthusiasm rooted on the conviction that Christianity is capable of furnishing a "soul" to the development of modernity and to the reality of the social and cultural world.

All this was to be of use in preparing for the future responsibilities of the Successor of Peter. As John Paul II said, he already had in his mind his first encyclical, "Redemptor Hominis," and brought it to Rome from Cracow. All he had to do in Rome was to write down all these ideas. In this encyclical, there is a wide invitation to humankind to rediscover the reality of Redemption in Christ: "Man (…) remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer 'fully reveals man to himself.' [...] man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly 'expressed' and, in a way, is newly created. [...] The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly -- and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being -- he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must 'appropriate' and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself (No. 10). [...]

"This union of Christ with man is in itself a mystery. From the mystery is born 'the new man,' called to become a partaker of God's life, and newly created in Christ for the fullness of grace and truth. [...] Man is transformed inwardly by this power as the source of a new life that does not disappear and pass away but lasts to eternal life. [...] This life, which the Father has promised and offered to each man in Jesus Christ (…) is in a way the fulfilment of the 'destiny' that God has prepared for him from eternity. This 'divine destiny' is advancing, in spite of all the enigmas, the unsolved riddles, the twists and turns of 'human destiny' in the world of time. Indeed, while all this, in spite of all the riches of life in time, necessarily and inevitably leads to the frontier of death and the goal of the destruction of the human body, beyond that goal we see Christ. 'I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me ... shall never die'" (No. 18).

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Full text of decree: www.zenit.org/article-31459?l=english

Benedict XVI's Message to Newman Conference

"He Was Always Honest in the Search for Truth"

ROME, NOV. 22, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the participants in the symposium organized in Rome by the "International Center of Newman Friends" on the topic: "The Primacy of God in the Life and Writings of Blessed John Henry Newman."

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To the Reverend Father
Hermann Geisseler, F.S.O.
Director of the International Center of Newman Friends

While the joy is still very alive in me of having been able to proclaim as blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman during my recent trip to the United Kingdom, I address a cordial greeting to you, the illustrious relators, and to all the participants in the symposium organized in Rome by the International Center of Newman Friends. I express my appreciation for the topic chosen: "The Primacy of God in the Life and Writings of Blessed John Henry Newman." With it, in fact, is made rightly evident theocentrism as the essential perspective that characterized the personality and work of the great English theologian.

It is well know that young Newman, despite having been able to know, thanks to his mother, the "religion of the Bible," went through a period of difficulties and doubts. For 14 years, in fact, he was under the influence of philosophers such as Hume and Voltaire and, recognizing himself in their objections against religion, he pointed himself, in keeping with the humanist and liberal fashion of the time, to a sort of deism.

The following year, however, Newman received the grace of conversion, finding peace "in the thought of only two absolutely and luminously evident beings, myself and my Creator" (J.H. Newman, "Apologia pro Vita Sua," Milan, 2001, pp. 137-138). Hence, he discovered the objective truth of a personal and living God, who speaks to the conscience and reveals to man his condition of creature. He understood his own dependence on the being of him who is the principle of all things, thus finding in him the origin and meaning of his personal identity and singularity. It was this particular experience that constitutes the basis of the primacy of God in Newman's life.

After his conversion, he let himself be guided by two fundamental criteria -- taken from the book The Force of Truth, of Calvinist Thomas Scott -- which manifested fully the primacy of God in his life. The first -- "sanctity rather than peace" (ibid., p. 139) -- documents his firm will to adhere to the interior teacher with his own conscience, of abandoning himself confidently to the Father and of living in fidelity to the recognized truth. These ideals entailed immediately "a great price to be paid." In fact, Newman both as an Anglican as well as a Catholic, had to undergo many trials, disappointments and misunderstandings. Yet, he never lowered himself to false compromises or was content with easy consensus. He was always honest in the search for truth, faithful to the appeals of his conscience and reached out toward the ideal of sanctity.

The second motto chosen by Newman -- "growth is the only expression of life" (ibid.) -- expresses wholly his disposition to a continuous interior conversion, transformation and growth, always confidently leaning on God. Thus he discovered his vocation at the service of the Word of God and, turning to the Fathers of the Church to find greater light, proposed a true reform of Anglicanism, adhering finally to the Catholic Church. He recapitulated his own experience of growth, in fidelity to himself and to the will of the Lord, with the famous words: "Here on earth to live is to change, and perfection is the result of many transformations" (J.H. Newman, "The Development of Christian Doctrine," Milan, 2002, p. 75). And Newman was throughout his life one who was converted, who was transformed, and in this always remained himself, and always became increasingly himself.

The horizon of the primacy of God also marked profoundly Newman's numerous publications. In the mentioned essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, he writes: "There is a truth; there is only one truth; ... the search for truth must not be the extinguishing of curiosity; ... the acquisition of truth does not resemble at all the excitement of a discovery; our spirit is subjected to truth, it is not, therefore, superior to it and is held not so much to dissertate on it, but to venerate it" (pp. 344-345). The primacy of God is translated, hence, for Newman, in the primacy of truth, a truth that is sought above all by disposing one's inner self to acceptance, in an open and sincere confrontation with everyone, and which finds its culmination in the encounter with Christ, "Way, Truth and Life" (John 12:6). Because of this, Newman renders witness to truth also with his very rich literary production ranging from theology to poetry, from philosophy to pedagogy, from exegesis to the history of Christianity, from novels to meditations and prayers.

In presenting and defending the truth, Newman was always careful to find the appropriate language, the right form and appropriate tone. He sought not ever to offend and to render testimony to the gentle inner light ("kindly light"), making an effort to convince with humility, joy and patience. In a prayer addressed to St. Philip Neri he wrote: "May my countenance always be open and joyful, and my words gentle and pleasing, as is suitable for those who, no matter what the state of their life, enjoy the greatest of all goods, the favor of God and the expectation of eternal happiness" (J.H. "Newman, Meditations and Prayers," Milan, 2002, pp. 193-194).

To Blessed John Henry Newman, master in teaching us that the primacy of God is the primacy of truth and of love, I entrust the reflections and work of the present symposium, while, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, I am happy to impart to you and to all the participants the implored apostolic blessing, pledge of abundant heavenly favors.

From the Vatican, Nov. 18, 2010


Benedict XVI's Reflection on St. Joseph
"He Too Is Called to Be a Disciple of Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in the Vatican Gardens when he inaugurated and blessed a fountain dedicated to St. Joseph, a gift from the Governor's Office of Vatican City State.

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Lords Cardinal,

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,

It is a motive of great joy to me to inaugurate this fountain in the Vatican Gardens, in a natural context of singular beauty. It is a work that is going to enhance the artistic patrimony of this enchanting green space of Vatican City, rich in historic-artistic testimonies of various periods. In fact, not only the lawn, the flowers, the trees, but also the towers, the little houses, the pavilions, the fountains, the statues and the other constructions make of these gardens a fascinating unicum. They were for my predecessors, and are also for me, a vital space, a place that I often frequent to spend some time in prayer and in serene relaxation.

In addressing my cordial greeting to each one of you, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for this present, which you have given me, dedicating it to St. Joseph. Thank you for this kind and courteous thought! It was a committed enterprise, which witnessed the collaboration of many. I thank first of all the Lord Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo also for the words that he addressed to me and for the interesting presentation of the works carried out. With him I thank the archbishop, monsignor Carlo Maria Viganò and the bishop, monsignor Giorgio Corbellini, respectively secretary-general and vice secretary-general of the governorate. I express my intense appreciation to the Office of Technical Services, the planner and sculptor, the consultants and the work team, with a special thought to the Hintze spouses and to Mr. Castrignano, of London, who generously financed the work, as well as to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Kyoto. A word of gratitude to the Province of Trent, to the municipalities and to the Trent companies, for their contribution.

This fountain is dedicated to St. Joseph, beloved and close figure to the heart of the People of God and to my heart. The six bronze panels that embellish it evoke as many moments of his life. I wish to pause briefly on them. The first panel represents the espousals between Joseph and Mary; it is an episode of great importance. Joseph was of the royal line of David and, in virtue of his marriage to Mary, would confer on the Son of the Virgin -- on God's Son -- the legal tile of "son of David," thus fulfilling the prophecies. The espousals of Joseph and Mary are, because of this, a human event, but determinant in the history of humanity's salvation, in the realization of the promises of God; because of this, it also has a supernatural connotation, which the two protagonists accept with humility and trust.

Very soon the moment of trial arrives for Joseph, a trial challenging for his faith.

Engaged to Mary, before going to live with her, he discovers her mysterious maternity and is disturbed. The Evangelist Matthew stresses that, being a just man, he was unwilling to repudiate her, and therefore decided to send her away quietly (cf. Matthew 1:19). But in his dreams -- as he is represented in the second panel -- the angel made him understand that what was happening in Mary was the work of the Holy Spirit; and Joseph, trusting in God, consents and cooperates in the plan of salvation. The divine intervention in his life could not but perturb his heart. To trust God does not mean to see everything clearly according to our criteria, it does not mean to carry out what we have planned; to trust God means to empty ourselves of ourselves and to deny ourselves, because only one who accepts losing himself for God can be "just" as St. Joseph, that is, can conform his own will to God's and thus be fulfilled.

The Gospel, as we know, has not kept any word from Joseph, who carries out his activity in silence. It is the style that characterizes his whole existence, both before finding himself before the mystery of God's action in his spouse, as well as when -- conscious of this mystery -- he is with Mary in the Nativity -- represented in the third image. On that holy night, in Bethlehem, with Mary and the Child, is Joseph, to whom the Heavenly Father entrusted the daily care of his Son on earth, a care carried out with humility and in silence.

The fourth panel reproduces the dramatic scene of the Flight into Egypt to escape the homicidal violence of Herod. Joseph is compelled to leave his land with his family, in haste: it is another mysterious moment of his life; another trial in which he is asked for full fidelity to God's plan.

Later in the Gospel, Joseph appears in only one more episode, when he goes to Jerusalem and lives the anguish of losing the son Jesus. St. Luke describes the anxious search and the wonder at finding him in the Temple -- as it appears in the fifth panel -- but even greater is the astonishment at hearing the mysterious words: "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49). This twofold question of the Son of God helps us to understand the mystery of Joseph's paternity. Reminding his own parents of the primacy of the One he calls "my Father," Jesus affirms the primacy of the will of God over every other will, and reveals to Joseph the profound truth of his role: He too is called to be a disciple of Jesus, dedicating his existence to the service of the Son of God and of the Virgin Mother, in obedience to the Heavenly Father.

The sixth panel represents Joseph's work in his shop in Nazareth. Jesus worked with him. The Son of God is hidden from men and only Mary and Joseph guard his mystery and live it each day: The Word Incarnate grows as man in the shadow of his parents, but, at the same time, they remain, in turn, hidden in Christ, in his mystery, living their vocation.

Dear brothers and sisters, this beautiful fountain dedicated to St. Joseph constitutes a symbolic reminder of the values of simplicity and humility in carrying out day by day the will of God, values that distinguished the silent but beautiful life of the Custodian of the Redeemer. To his intercession I entrust the hopes of the Church and of the world. May he, together with the Virgin Mary, his spouse, always guide my way and yours, so that we are able to be joyful instruments of peace and of salvation.

On a Saint Who Taught and Guided Holy Priests
"His Secret Was Simple: To Be a Man of God"
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A short while ago we ended the Year for Priests: a time of grace that has borne and will bear precious fruits for the Church, an opportunity to remember in prayer all those who have responded to this particular vocation. Accompanying us on this path, as models and intercessors, were the Holy Curé d'Ars and other figures of holy priests, true lights in the history of the Church. Today, as I announced last Wednesday, I would like to remember another figure, who stands out in the group of "Social Saints" in Turin of the 19th century: St. Joseph Cafasso.

Remembering him seems proper because in fact a week ago was the 150th anniversary of his death, which occurred in the Piedmont capital on June 23, 1860, when he was 49. Moreover, it is good to recall that, on Nov. 1, 1924, Pope Pius XI, approving the miracles for the canonization of St. John Mary Vianney and publishing the decree of authorization for the beatification of Cafasso, joined these two figures of priests with the following words: "Not without a special and beneficial disposition of Divine Goodness we have witnessed new stars emerge on the horizon of the Catholic Church: the parish priest of Ars and the Venerable Servant of God, Joseph Cafasso. In fact these two beautiful, dear, providentially timely figures must be presented to us today; the small and humble, poor and simple, but also glorious figure of the parish priest of Ars, and the beautiful, great, complex, rich figure of the priest, teacher and formator of priests, the Venerable Joseph Cafasso."

These are circumstances that offer us the occasion to better know the living and timely message that emerges from the life of this saint. He was not a parish priest as the Curé d'Ars, but was above all a formator of parish and diocesan priests and, more than that, of holy priests, among whom is St. John Bosco. He did not found religious institutes, as other holy priests of the 19th century in Piedmont did, because his "foundation" was the "school of priestly life and holiness," which he brought about by example and teaching, in the Ecclesiastical Academy of St. Francis of Assisi in Turin.

Joseph Cafasso was born in Castelnuovo d'Asti, the same country of St. John Bosco, on Jan. 15, 1811. He was the third of four children. The last, his sister Marianna, would be the mother of Blessed Joseph Allamano, founder of the Missionaries of the Consolata. He was born in a 19th century Piedmont characterized by grave social problems, but also by a great number of saints who were determined to find remedies for them. They were linked among themselves by a total love of Christ and a profound charity toward the poorest: the grace of the Lord is able to spread and multiply the seeds of holiness!

Cafasso did his secondary studies and two years of philosophy at the College of Chieri and, in 1830, he went to the theological seminary where he was ordained a priest in 1833. Four months later he entered the place that for him would be the fundamental and only "stop" of his priestly life: the Ecclesiastical Academy of St. Francis of Assisi in Turin. Having gone there to perfect himself in pastoral ministry, here he brought to fruition his gifts as a spiritual director and his great spirit of charity. The academy, in fact, was not only a school of moral theology where young priests, coming above all from the countryside, learned to confess and to preach, but it was also a true and proper school of priestly life, where presbyters were formed in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola and in the moral and pastoral theology of the great holy bishop, Alphonsus Mary of Liguori.

The type of priest that Cafasso found in the academy and that he himself contributed to reinforce -- especially as rector -- was that of the true pastor with a rich interior life and a profound zeal in pastoral ministry: faithful to prayer, committed to preaching and catechesis, dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist and to the ministry of confession, according to the model embodied by St. Charles Borromeo, by St. Francis de Sales and promoted by the Council of Trent. A happy expression of St. John Bosco synthesizes the meaning of the educational work in that community: "at the Academy one learned to be a priest."

St. Joseph Cafasso tried to bring about this model in the formation of young priests so that, in turn, they would become formators of other priests, religious and laymen, according to a special and effective chain. From his chair of moral theology he educated them to be good confessors and spiritual directors, concerned with the true spiritual good of the person, animated by great balance in making the mercy of God felt and, at the same time, an acute and lively sense of sin.

Docent Cafasso had three main virtues, as St. John Bosco recalled: tranquility, wisdom and prudence. For him, the ministry of confession was the verification of the lessons taught, and he himself dedicated many hours of the day [to hearing confessions]. Bishops, priests, religious, eminent laymen and simple people went to him: To all he was able to give the necessary time. For many, as well, who became saints and founders of religious institutes, he was a wise spiritual adviser. His teaching was never abstract, based only on the books used at that time, but was born of the intense experience of the mercy of God and of the profound knowledge of the human spirit acquired in the long hours spent in the confessional and in spiritual direction: his was a true school of priestly life.

His secret was simple: to be a man of God; to do, in little daily actions, "that which can turn to the greater glory of God and to the advantage of souls." He loved the Lord totally, he was animated by a well-rooted faith, sustained by profound and prolonged prayer, he lived a sincere charity toward all. He knew moral theology, but he likewise knew the situations and the hearts of people and looked after their best interests, as the Good Shepherd.

Each of those who had the grace of being close to him was transformed into another good pastor and effective confessor. He indicated with clarity to all priests the holiness to be attained precisely in pastoral ministry. Blessed Father Clement Marchisio, founder of the Daughters of St. Joseph, affirmed: "You entered the Academy being a great cheeky youngster and a rash leader, without knowing what it meant to be a priest, and you came out entirely different, fully conscious of the dignity of the priest." How many priests were formed by him in the academy and then followed spiritually!

Among these -- as I already said -- emerges St. John Bosco, who had him as spiritual director for a good 25 years, from 1835 to 1860: first as cleric, then as priest and finally as founder. All the fundamental choices of the life of St. John Bosco had St. Joseph Cafasso as their counselor and guide, but in a very specific way: Cafasso never tried to form a disciple in Don Bosco "in his image and likeness" and Don Bosco did not copy Cafasso. He imitated him, certainly, in human and priestly virtues -- describing him as a "model of priestly life" -- but according to his own attitudes and his own peculiar vocation ... a sign of the wisdom of the spiritual teacher and of the intelligence of the disciple: The first did not impose himself on the second, but respected him in his personality and helped him to read the will of God for him.

Dear friends, this is a beautiful teaching for all those who are involved in the formation and education of young generations and also a strong reminder of the importance of having a spiritual guide in one's life, who helps us to know what God wants from us. Our saint affirmed with simplicity and depth: "The whole of holiness, perfection and profit of a person is in doing the will of God perfectly. (...) Happy are we if we succeed in thus pouring our heart into God's, to so unite our desires, our will to his as to form only one heart and one will: to will what God wills, to will it in such a way, in such time, in such circumstances as he wills it, and to will all this for no other reason than that God so wills it."

However, another element characterizes the ministry of our saint: attention to the least, in particular to prisoners, which in 19th-century Turin lived in inhuman and de-humanizing places. Also in this delicate service, carried out for more than 20 years, he was always the good shepherd, understanding and compassionate: a quality perceived by the detained, who ended up conquered by that sincere love, the origin of which was God himself. The simple presence of Cafasso did good: It brightened and touched hearts hardened by the ups and downs of life and above all enlightened and shook indifferent consciences. In the early times of his ministry among the imprisoned, he often took recourse to the great preaching that succeeded in involving almost the whole prison population. With the passing of time, he preferred simple catechesis, done in conversations and in personal meetings: Respectful of the affairs of each one, he addressed the great themes of Christian life, speaking of trust in God, of adherence to his will, of the usefulness of prayer and the sacraments, whose point of arrival is confession, the encounter with God made for us infinite mercy. Those condemned to death were the object of very special human and spiritual care. He accompanied to the scaffold, after having heard their confessions and administered the Eucharist, 57 people condemned to death. He accompanied them with profound love up to the last breath of their earthly existence.

He died on June 23, 1860, after a life offered entirely to the Lord and consumed for his neighbor. On April 9, 1948, my predecessor, the Venerable Servant of God Pope Pius XII proclaimed him patron of Italian prisons and, with the apostolic exhortation "Menti Nostrae" of Sept. 23, 1950, proposed him as a model to priests committed to confession and spiritual direction.

Dear brothers and sisters, may St. Joseph Cafasso be a call to all to intensify the way toward the perfection of the Christian life, holiness; in particular, may he remind priests of the importance of dedicating time to the sacrament of reconciliation and to spiritual direction, and remind all of the attention we must give to the neediest. May we be helped by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom St. Joseph Cafasso was most devoted and whom he called "our dear Mother, our consolation, our hope."

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these days we celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of a great model of priestly holiness and apostolic zeal, Saint Joseph Cafasso, a priest of Turin, Italy, in the nineteenth century. Saint Joseph devoted his entire ministry to the formation of priests, spiritual direction and service to the poor, especially prisoners condemned to death. May his example encourage all priests in faithful witness to the Gospel.

Yesterday, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I conferred the Pallium upon thirty-eight Archbishops from throughout the world. I would now like to greet the English-speaking Archbishops present at today’s Audience, together with their family members and the pilgrimage groups which accompanied them to the Tombs of the Apostles:

Archbishop Alex Thomas Kaliyanil of Bulawayo (Zimbabwe),
Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi of Maseru (Lesotho),
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (Philippines),

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham (England),
Archbishop Jerome Edward Listecki of Milwaukee (USA),
Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town (South Africa),

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati (USA),
Archbishop Francis Kallarakal of Verapoly (India),
Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju (Korea),

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami (USA),
Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark (England),
and Archbishop Matthias Kobena Nketsiah of Cape Coast (Ghana).

Dear Brothers, I ask the Lord to strengthen all of you in your witness to the apostolic faith and in generous service to the flocks entrusted to your care.

I also greet the many other English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially the groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Ghana, Palestine, the Philippines, South Korea, Canada and the United States of America. I thank the Schola Cantorum of Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast, for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

My thought turns finally to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. The solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul celebrated yesterday is followed today by the memorial of the First Roman Martyrs. Dear young people, imitate their heroic evangelical witness and be faithful to Christ in every situation of life. I encourage you, dear sick people, to take up the example of the protomartyrs to transform your suffering into an act of donation for love of God and of brothers. May you, dear newlyweds, be able to adhere to the plan that the Creator established for your vocation, so as to succeed in bringing about a fecund and lasting family union.

On 2 Priests of the 19th Century
"It Is Not Possible to Exercise Charity Without Living in Christ"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are drawing close to the end of the Year for Priests and, on this last Wednesday of April, I would like to speak about two saintly priests who were exemplary in their giving of themselves to God and in their witness of charity -- lived in the Church and for the Church -- toward their neediest brothers: St. Leonard Murialdo and St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo. Regarding the first, we mark the 110th anniversary of his death and the 40th of his canonization; regarding the second, the celebrations have begun for the second centenary of his priestly ordination.

Murialdo was born in Turin on Oct. 26, 1828: it was the Turin of St. John Bosco, of St. Joseph Cottolengo himself, a land fertilized by so many examples of holiness of the lay faithful and priests. Leonard was the eighth child of a simple family. As a child he entered, together with his brother, the school of the Escolapios Fathers of Savona for elementary, middle and high school; he found prepared educators, in a climate of religiosity founded on serious catecheses, with regular pious practices. During his adolescence, however, he went through a profound existential and spiritual crisis that led him to advance his return to his family and to conclude his studies in Turin, enrolling in the two-year period of philosophy. 

A "return to the light" occurred -- as he recounts -- after a few months, with the grace of a general confession, in which he rediscovered God's immense mercy; at 17 the decision matured to become a priest, as a response of love to God who had seized him with his love. He was ordained on Sept. 20, 1851. Precisely in that period, as a catechist of the Guardian Angel Oratory, Don Bosco met and came to esteem him, convincing him to accept the direction of the new Oratory of St. Louis in Porta Nuova, which he did until 1865. There he also came into contact with the grave problems of the poorest classes, he visited their homes, developing a profound social, educational and apostolic sensitivity that led him later to dedicate himself independently to multiple initiatives in favor of youth. Catecheses, school and recreational activities were the foundation of his educational method in the Oratory. Don Bosco wanted him with him on the occasion of the audience granted by Blessed Pius IX in 1858.

In 1873 he founded the Congregation of St. Joseph, whose apostolic objective was, from the beginning, the formation of youth, especially the poorest and most abandoned. The environment of Turin at the time was marked by the intense flourishing of charitable works and activities promoted by Murialdo until his death, which occurred on March 30, 1900.

I wish to underline that the central nucleus of Murialdo's spirituality was the conviction of the merciful love of God: a Father who is always good, patient and generous, who reveals the greatness and immensity of his mercy with forgiveness. St. Leonard experienced this reality at the existential, not the intellectual level, through a living encounter with the Lord. He always considered himself a man graced by the merciful God: because of this he lived the joyous sense of gratitude to the Lord, the serene awareness of his own limitations, the ardent desire of penance, the constant and generous commitment to conversion. He saw all his existence not only illumined, guided, sustained by this love, but continually immersed in the infinite mercy of God. He wrote in his Spiritual Testament: "Your mercy surrounds me, O Lord ... How God is always and everywhere, so he is always and everywhere love, is always and everywhere mercy." 

Recalling the moment of crisis he had in his youth, he wrote: "See how the good God wanted his goodness and generosity to shine again in an altogether singular way. Not only did he admit me again to his friendship, but he called me to a choice of predilection: he called me to the priesthood, and this only a few months after my return to him." Because of this, St. Leonard lived his priestly vocation as a free gift of the mercy of God with a sense of gratitude, joy and love. He wrote as well: "God has chosen me! He has called me, has in the end forced me to the honor, to the glory, to the ineffable happiness of being his minister, of being 'another Christ.' And where was I when God sought me? At the bottom of the abyss! I was there, and God came there to seek me; there he made me hear his voice."

Underlining the greatness of the mission of the priest who must "continue the work of redemption, the great work of Jesus Christ, the work of the Savior of the world," namely, that of "saving souls," St. Leonard always reminded himself and his confreres of the responsibility of a life consistent with the sacrament received. Love of God and love for God: this was the force of his journey of holiness, the law of his priesthood, the deepest meaning of this apostolate among poor young people and the source of his prayer. St. Leonard Murialdo abandoned himself with confidence to Providence, fulfilling generously the divine will, in contact with God and dedicating himself to poor young people. In this way he joined contemplative silence with the tireless ardor of action, fidelity to the duties of each day with the ingeniousness of initiatives, strength in difficulties with the serenity of the spirit. This was his way of holiness to live the commandment of love, towards God and towards his neighbor.

With the same spirit of charity, 40 years before Murialdo lived St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, founder of the work he himself called "Little Home of Divine Providence" and also called today "Cottolengo." Next Sunday, in my pastoral visit to Turin, I will be able to venerate the remains of this saint and meet the guests of the "Little Home."

Joseph Benedict Cottolengo was born in Bra, a town in the province of Cuneo, on May 3, 1786. The first born of 12 children, six of whom died at an early age, he showed from his boyhood great sensitivity toward the poor. He embraced the path of priesthood, imitated also by two brothers. The years of his youth were those of the Napoleonic venture and of the consequent hardships in the religious and social realm. Cottolengo became a good priest, sought after by many penitents and, in the Turin of that time, a preacher of spiritual exercises and conferences for university students, where he earned notable success. At the age of 32, he was appointed canon of the Most Holy Trinity, a congregation of priests that had the task of officiating in the Church of Corpus Domini and of giving decorum to the religious ceremonies of the city, but he felt ill at ease in that post. God was preparing him for a particular mission and, in fact, with an unexpected and decisive meeting, made him understand what his future destiny would be in the exercise of the ministry.

The Lord always puts signs on our way to guide us according to his will to our real good. For Cottolengo this happened, in a dramatic way, on Sunday morning of Sept. 2, 1827. Arriving in Turin from Milan was a stage coach crowded as never before, where a whole French family was crammed in which the wife, with five children, was in an advanced state of pregnancy with high fever. After having wandered through several hospitals, that family found lodgings in a public dormitory, but the woman's situation got worse and some started to look for a priest. By a mysterious design they came across Cottolengo, and it was in fact he who, with a heavy and oppressed heart, was to accompany the death of this young mother, amid the torment of the whole family. 

After having performed this painful task, with a suffering heart, he went before the Most Blessed Sacrament and prayed: "My God, why? Why did you want me to be a witness? What do you want from me? Something must be done!" Rising, he had all the bells rung, lighted the candles and welcoming the curious in the church, he said: "Grace has done it! Grace has done it!" From that moment Cottolengo was transformed: all his capabilities, especially his economic and organizational abilities, were used to give life to initiatives in support of the neediest.

He was able to involve in his enterprise dozens and dozens of collaborators and volunteers. Moving to the outskirts of Turin to expand his work, he created a sort of village. Every building he succeeded in constructing he gave a significant name: "house of faith," "house of hope," "house of charity." He activated the style of "families," establishing true and proper communities of persons, volunteers, men and women, religious and laity, united to address and overcome together the difficulties that presented themselves. Every one in that Little Home of Divine Providence had a specific task: those who worked, prayed, served, instructed, administrated. The healthy and the sick all shared the same daily burden. The religious life was also defined in time, according to the particular needs and exigencies. He even thought of his own seminary, for the specific formation of priests for the Work. He was always ready to follow and serve Divine Providence, never to question it. He said: "I am a good for nothing and I don't even know what I am doing. However, Divine Providence knows what it wants. And it is for me only to second it. Forward in Domino." For his poor and neediest he described himself always as "the laborer of Divine Providence."

Next to the small towns he also wished to found five convents of contemplative sisters and a monastery of hermits, and he regarded it as among the most important accomplishments: a sort of "heart" that had to beat for the whole Work. He died on April 30, 1842, saying these words: "Misericordia, Domine; Misericordia, Domine. Good and Holy Providence ... Holy Virgin, now it is up to You." His whole life, as a newspaper of the time wrote, had been "an intense day of love."

Dear friends, these two priests, of whom I have presented some traits, lived their ministry in the total gift of their lives to the poorest, to the neediest, to the last, always finding the profound root, the inexhaustible source of their action in the relationship with God, drinking from his love, in the profound conviction that it is not possible to exercise charity without living in Christ and in the Church. May their intercession and example continue to enlighten the ministry of so many priests who spend themselves with generosity for God and for the flock entrusted to them, and may they help each one to give himself with joy and generosity to God and to his neighbor.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the Year for Priests draws to its close, I would like to devote today's catechesis to the example of two remarkable priests of the nineteenth century associated with the Italian city of Turin. Saint Leonard Murialdo, the founder of the Congregation of Saint Joseph, devoted his life to the education and pastoral care of disadvantaged young people. He saw his priestly vocation as a gracious gift of God's love, to be received with gratitude, joy and love. Imbued with a powerful sense of the Lord's mercy, he encouraged his confreres to unite contemplation and apostolic zeal, and to confirm their preaching by the example of their lives. Saint Joseph Cottolengo, who lived a generation before Saint Leonard, was another outstanding apostle of charity. Early in his priesthood, after a dramatic encounter with human suffering, he founded the "Little Home of Divine Providence," involving scores of people -- priests, religious and laity alike -- in a great charitable outreach which continues today. May the example of these two great priests, outstanding for their love of God and their devotion to Christ and the Church, continue to inspire and sustain the many priests today who generously devote their lives to God and to the service of our brothers and sisters in need.

I offer a most cordial welcome to the ecumenical delegations from the Lutheran Church of Norway and from the Church of England. My warm greeting also goes to the group of Jewish leaders visiting the Vatican with the Pave the Way Foundation. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Norway, Indonesia and the United States of America I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


US Nun Closer to Canonization
Founded Order of African Americans to Minister to Slaves

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2010 - An American nun who founded a congregation of sisters to minister to the poor and elderly, and particularly to slaves, is now recognized as venerable.

Sister Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, is one of seven to be recognized as venerable with decrees authorized by Benedict XVI on Saturday.

Henriette Delille (1812-1862) was of African descent and lived in Louisiana but she was not a slave. She founded her congregation of black sisters in 1842.

In addition to the proclamation regarding Venerable Henriette, the Pope also authorized proclamations noting the heroic virtue of two Germans, two Italians, a Paraguayan and a Slovenian. The new venerables are:

-- Maria Felicia de Jesús Sacramentado (born Maria Felicia Guggiari Echeverría), a Paraguayan professed sister of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (1925-1959);

-- Maria Frances of the Cross (born Franziska Amalia Streitel), German founder of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows (1844-1911);

-- Maria Theresia (born Regina Christine Wilhelmine Bonzel), German founder of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration (1830-1905);

-- Ivan Franjo Gnidovec, Slovenian bishop of Skopje-Prizren (1873-1939);

-- Luigi Novarese, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Silent Workers of the Cross (1914-1984);

-- Francesco Antonio Marcucci, Italian archbishop-bishop of Montalto (1717-1798).

Martyrs and miracles

The Holy Father also approved recognition of miracles obtained through the intercession of six people. They are:

-- Blessed Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Spanish founder of the Servants of St. Joseph (1837-1905);

-- Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Spanish bishop of Osma (1600-1659);

-- Maria Barbara of the Blessed Trinity (born Barbara Maix), Austrian founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1818-1873);

-- Anna Maria Adorni, Italian founder of the Congregation of Handmaidens of Blessed Mary Immaculate and of the Institute of the Good Shepherd of Parma (1805-1893);

-- María de la Inmaculada Concepción (born María Isabel Salvat y Romero), Spanish superior-general of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross (1926-1998);

-- Stephen Nehme (born Joseph), Lebanese professed religious of the Order of Maronites (1889-1938).

The Pontiff recognized three martyrs:

-- Szilard Bogdanffy, Romanian bishop of Oradea Mare of the Latins, died in prison in Nagyenyed, Romania (1911-1953).

-- Gerhard Hirschfelder, German diocesan priest, died in the Dachau concentration camp (1907-1942).

-- Luigi Grozde, Slovenian layman and member of Catholic Action, killed at Mirna in hatred of the faith (1923-1943).

Alfred Delp SJ: committed to Christ
Michael Holman SJ

Sixty-five years ago today, a German Jesuit priest was executed as a traitor in Berlin for his continued and outspoken resistance to the Nazi regime. Michael Holman SJ introduces us to Alfred Delp, a man of remarkable faith and courage, whose radical commitment to following Christ even in life-threatening circumstances challenges us to hear and respond to the call of Christ in our own time.

Last summer I got to know someone, albeit very much at second or third hand, who made a profound impression on me. This was one of those encounters which shook me to the foundation; one of those encounters which made me think a good deal about the way in which I go about living my life as a follower of Christ in our country today.

Let me first set the scene. In July, I had gone up to Liverpool to make my retreat at the Jesuit Spirituality Centre, Loyola Hall, in the suburb of Rainhill. We Jesuits make an eight-day silent retreat each year. We are, as one of our founder’s closest followers put it, ‘contemplatives in action’. So listening to God’s call in our lives and responding generously is what we are all about and this time of silence is one way of attuning ourselves to God’s voice amidst the many voices that shout all around us.

In the early days of that retreat, I was very much taken with something that a woman whom I admire very much had written many years ago, but they are words which apply just as much today.
‘Faith in Jesus is very, very rare’

Ruth Burrows is a Carmelite sister, a follower of Teresa of Avila, who lives in their convent in Quidenham, in Norfolk. She had written that ‘faith in Jesus is very, very rare’, by which I took her to mean not so much the intellectual assent to a God and to Jesus as the Son of God, but the kind of faith which allows Jesus, and the Gospel of Jesus, to take hold of our lives. That is the faith that Ruth Burrows says is ‘very, very rare’. For too many of us, faith, like much else in life, is compromised.

It was with those challenging words ringing in my ears that during my retreat I met someone. Now that someone has been dead for sixty-five years now, but so vivid was the story that I read that it became something of a personal encounter. You’ll probably know from your own experience how that can happen. I like reading biographies of other Jesuits, I like reading about what it was that gave them life. So I picked up this biography of a man whose name I had heard often but about whom I knew precious little and I was fascinated by what I read.

A modern man

Alfred Delp was born in southern Germany in 1907. He was illegitimate; his parents married not long after he was born. His mother was a Catholic but he was raised a Lutheran, the faith of his father. Later on in life, he wrote that ‘if ever they try and canonise me just tell them I was a brat’. He was wild and independent but it was that spirit which at the age of seventeen or thereabouts led him to decide for himself that he would become a Catholic, and which three years later took him into the Society of Jesus.

His training was much like my own half a century later, with the study of philosophy followed by the study of theology, with a period of three years working in a school in between. The biography included photographs of Delp; I could see him in young people I had known myself, so modern did he look. When working in that school he liked to try things out, to spread his wings, to do things his way and to show he could succeed. All this annoyed his Jesuit headmaster who later became his Provincial! I too was once a headmaster and now I am Provincial, and yes, I have known Jesuits like him. There was much I could relate to in his story.

Alfred Delp was modern in another sense, too. He was very much taken up with the new humanism that was sweeping the Church in the pre-war years, as it would in the years before and after the Second Vatican Council, which he never saw. This humanism we must never lose sight of because it was forged in an age of so much human suffering which gives it a peculiar authority. It stressed the importance of the human person, the individual human person, the uniqueness and dignity of each person and the wonder of each person as God’s creation in God’s own likeness.

In his studies, Alfred became an expert in the social teaching of the Church, that ‘best kept secret’ of our Catholic tradition, and he was doing all this in the mid-thirties when his homeland was in the grip of Hitler and the Nazis. He did all this at a time when the totalitarianism of Russia and his own country emphasised ‘mass-man’ and put the rights and dignity of the individual at the service of the State.

Alfred was ordained priest in 1937 and after a while was sent to be pastor of a church that the Jesuits had responsibility for in Munich. In 1941, the Nazis produced a propaganda film, explaining their policy of euthanasia, the ‘mercy killing’ of the handicapped. From his pulpit he denounced the film. He spoke of the importance of those living with disability, both as individuals and in terms of their significance in the community, and their significance in calling forth the best of human qualities – God-like qualities – in the rest of us.

Perhaps you would expect this kind of protest from a Catholic priest. Living in circumstances such as those, what else would he do? Astonishingly, to many if not to most, things didn’t seem so clear. There came a time when the German bishops wanted to produce a report condemning euthanasia and the disappearance of so many people, among them so many priests. Delp approved of a draft of the document, which was outspoken in its criticism of the regime. But the bishops were divided and feared an all-out assault on the Church. Moreover, Catholics fought in the army of the Reich so some thought this a time for patriotism. As the brave Bishop of Berlin put it, the final version ‘was dry cleaned, the spots removed and all the colour too’.

Towards the end of 1944, Delp was arrested and imprisoned. For two years he had been meeting with like-minded intellectuals, the so-called Kreisau group, planning the future of post-war Germany. He was now suspected of involvement in the assassination attempt on Hitler featured in the recent Tom Cruise movie, Valkyrie. He was charged with treason.
‘God alone suffices’

Friends brought bread and wine to Alfred in prison and he celebrated Mass. He kept the Blessed Sacrament with him always. In his laundry, his friends smuggled in a pen, ink and paper. He wrote a diary and a set of reflections on the Church and on society, which have proven extraordinarily prophetic. Writing of England all those years ago, he talked about it having lost its spirit and soul to materialism. But above all, these writings tell us of his struggle to remain committed to Christ, his temptation to compromise, his struggle to live knowing that ‘God alone suffices’, as Teresa of Avila wrote.

On 8 December, a Jesuit visited him in prison and, handcuffed, with tears pouring down his face, he made his final profession in the Society of Jesus.

In January 1945, he was put on trial. They found no evidence for his complicity in the assassination attempt. But his judge was a fanatic Nazi who hated Christianity, hated the Catholic Church and hated Jesuits above all. Delp was sentenced to death.

On 2 February, aged 37, he was taken to the Plötzensee Prison and that afternoon, in a room that is now a shrine, he was hanged from a meat hook in the ceiling. He was then cremated and his ashes were scattered over human sewage, as was required for traitors. His few possessions were collected together and presented to his mother who kept them under her bed in a suitcase until she died in 1967.
‘His ears were opened, his tongue was released’ (Mk 7:31-37)

‘Faith in Jesus is very, very rare.’ It is granted to some to have their eyes opened and their ears unstopped so that they can read the signs of the times and hear the call of Christ. To even rarer ones is granted what is needed to respond with unspeakable love and generosity.

This kind of generosity is a flame that kindles other fires. Delp inspired heroism in many others. He inspired his secretary who risked her life bringing a pen and ink in his laundry and distributing his letters. He himself had been inspired by another Jesuit priest in Munich, Rupert Mayer, who unlike Delp is now beatified by the Church for his uncompromising resistance.

But what fire does Delp’s flame kindle in us? It makes me wonder the extent to which we are blind to the signs of the times and deaf to the call of Christ. How accustomed to compromise in our own times have we become? To what extent are we beguiled by the prevailing social consensus with the result that we blend in nicely with the countryside, but little more?

It was the assault on life that made Alfred Delp’s mission urgent. In our own times this same assault is considerable too – at the start of life and at the end of life. In an over-commercialised economy with an over-individualised social policy, which has too little concern for its impact on our environment, the unique significance and dignity of each and every human life is being compromised.

Maybe something more radical is being asked of the followers of Christ today? Maybe we need our eyes opened, our ears unstopped and our tongues loosened? Maybe that is the way to our renewal as a Church in Western Europe? Lest it continue to be said about this generation that faith in Jesus is indeed very, very rare.

Michael Holman SJ is the Provincial of the British Jesuits.


On Paul VI's Marian Devotion

"He Placed his Priesthood Under the Protection of the Mother of Jesus"

BRESCIA, Italy, NOV. 8, 2009 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus after he had celebrated Mass in the birthplace of Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.

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At the end of this solemn celebration, I would like to offer cordial thanks to those who were responsible for the liturgical animation and those who in various ways helped with the preparation and realization of my pastoral visit here in Brescia. Thanks to all! I also greet those who are following us on radio and television, along with those in St. Peter’s Square, and in a special way the numerous volunteers of the L’Unione Nazionale Pro Loco of Italy.

In this Angelus I would like to recall the profound devotion that the Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini had for the Virgin Mary. He celebrated his first Mass in the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the marian heart of your city, not far from this piazza. In this way he placed his priesthood under the protection of the Mother of Jesus, and this connection accompanied him his whole life.

As his ecclesial responsibilities grew, he developed a broader and more organic vision of the relationship between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the mystery of the Church. In this perspective, his Nov. 21, 1964, address at the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council is memorable. During that session of the Council the Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium," was promulgated. The document had, as Paul VI noted, "an entire chapter dedicated to the Madonna as its apex and crown." The Pope noted that it contained the largest synthesis of marian doctrine ever elaborated by an ecumenical council, with the purpose of "manifesting the countenance of the Church to which Mary is intimately joined" ("Enchiridion Vaticanum," Bologna 1979, p. [185], nos. 300-302). In that context he proclaimed Mary Most Holy "Mother of the Church" (cf. ibid., no. 306), underscoring with lively ecumenical sensitivity that "devotion to Mary … is a means essentially ordained to orient souls to Christ and thus join them to the Father, in the love of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., no. 315).

Echoing the words of Paul VI, we too today pray: O Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, to you we commend this Church of Brescia and all the people of this region. Remember all your children; bring their prayers before God; keep their faith firm; strengthen their hope; make their charity grow. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary (cf. ibid., nos. 317, 320, 325).


Papal Address at Bonaventure's Birthplace

"The Universe Itself Can Again Be the Voice That Speaks of God"

BAGNOREGGIO, Italy, SEPT. 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Sunday at Bagnoreggio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

This morning's solemn Eucharistic celebration in Viterbo opened my pastoral visit to your diocesan community, and this meeting here in Bagnoreggio practically closes it. I greet you all with affection: religious, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious, pastoral agents, young people and families, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I renew my gratitude first of all to your bishop for his affectionate words, which referred to my link with St. Bonaventure. And I respectfully greet the mayor of Bagnoreggio, grateful for the courteous welcome he gave me in the name of the whole city.

Giovanni Fidanza, who later became Friar Bonaventure, joins his name to that of Bagnoreggio in the well-known presentation that he makes of himself in the Divine Comedy. On saying: "I am the soul of Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio, who in exalted tasks put to one side erroneous endeavors" (Dante, Paradise XII, 127-129), which underscores how, in the important tasks that he had to undertake in the Church, he always postponed attention to temporal realities -- "erroneous endeavors" -- in favor of the spiritual good of souls. Here, in Bagnoreggio, he spent his childhood and adolescence; then he followed St. Francis, for whom he manifested special gratitude because, as he wrote, when he was a child he "snatched him from the jaws of death" (Legenda Maior, Prologus, 3,3) and predicted "bona venture," as your mayor recalled recently. He was able to establish a profound and lasting bond with the poor man of Assisi, drawing from him ascetic inspiration and ecclesial genius. You jealously guard the famous relic of the "holy arm" of this illustrious fellow-citizen, keep alive his memory and reflect deeply on his doctrine, especially through the Center of Bonaventure Studies, founded by Bonaventure Tecchi, which every year promotes special study conferences dedicated to him.

It is not easy to summarize the extensive philosophical, theological and mystical doctrine that St. Bonaventure left us. In this Year for Priests, I would like to invite priests especially to listen to this great doctor of the Church and to reflect more profoundly on his teaching of wisdom rooted in Christ. He directs every step of his speculation and mystical tension to wisdom that flowers in holiness, passing through the degrees that range from what he calls "uniform wisdom," which concerns the essential principles of knowledge, to "multiform wisdom," which consists of the mysterious language of the Bible, and then to "omni-form wisdom," which recognizes in the whole of created reality the reflection of the Creator, to "informed wisdom," that is, the experience of profound mystical contact with God, wherewith man's intellect knows the infinite Mystery in silence (cf. J. Ratzinger, St. Bonaventure and the Theology of History, Porziuncola publishers, 2006, pp. 92ff). On remembering this profound researcher and lover of wisdom, I would also like to express my encouragement and appreciation for the service that theologians are called to give, in the ecclesial community, of that faith that seeks understanding, that faith which is a "friend of intelligence" and which becomes a new life according to God's plan.

From St. Bonaventure's rich cultural and mystical patrimony I limit myself, this afternoon, to consider a "path" of reflection that might be useful for your diocesan community's pastoral journey. He was, in the first place, a tireless seeker of God, from the time of his studies in Paris until his death. He indicates in his writings the path to be followed. "Given that God is on High," he wrote, "the mind must ascend to him with all its strength" (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, No. 25).

In this way, he traces a committed path of faith, in which it is not enough "to read without unction, to speculate without devotion, to do research without admiration, to be circumspect without joy, to be expert without piety, to know without charity, to be intelligent without humility, to study without divine grace, to speak without wisdom inspired by God" (Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Prologue 4). This journey of purification involves the whole person striving, through Christ, to the transforming love of the Trinity. And, given that Christ, forever God and man forever, effects in the faithful a new creation with his grace, the exploration of the divine presence becomes contemplation of him in the soul "where he dwells with the gifts of his uncontainable love" (ibid. IV, 4), to be finally transported in him. Hence, faith is the perfection of our cognitive capacities and participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of the world; we experience hope as preparation for our encounter with the Lord, who will constitute the fulfillment of that friendship that already unites us to him. And charity introduces us to divine life, making us see all people as brothers, according to the will of our common heavenly Father.

In addition to being a seeker of God, St. Bonaventure was a seraphic singer of creation who, following St. Francis, learned to "praise God in all and through all creatures," in which "shines the omnipotence, wisdom and goodness of the Creator" (ibid. I, 10). St. Bonaventure presents a positive vision of the world, gift of God's love to men: He recognizes in it the reflection of the highest Goodness and Beauty that, following St. Augustine and St. Francis, assures us that it is God himself. God has given it all to us. From him, as original source, flow truth, goodness and beauty. To God, as on the steps of a stairway, one ascends until arriving and almost attaining the highest Good and in him we find our joy and peace. How useful it would be if also today we rediscovered the beauty and value of creation in the light of divine goodness and beauty! In Christ, observed St. Bonaventure, the universe itself can again be the voice that speaks of God and leads us to explore his presence; exhorts us to honor and glorify him in everything (Cf. Ibid. I, 15). Herein we perceive the spirit of St. Francis, with whom our saint shared love for all creatures.

St. Bonaventure was a messenger of hope. We find a beautiful image of hope in one of his Advent homilies, where he compares the movement of hope to the flight of a bird, which spreads its wings as far as possible, and employs all its energies to move them. In a certain sense, it make its whole being a movement to rise and fly. To hope is to fly, says St. Bonaventure. But hope exacts movement from all our members and our projection to the authentic stature of our being, to God's promises. He who hopes, he affirms, "must lift his head, directing his thoughts on high, to the height of our existence, that is, to God" (Sermo XVI, Dominica I Adv., Opera Omnia, IX, 40a).

In his address, the Lord Mayor posed a question: "What will Bagnoreggio be tomorrow?" In truth, we all wonder about our future and that of the world, and this question has much to do with hope, for which every human heart is thirsty. In the encyclical "Spe Salvi," I wrote that not just any hope is sufficient to address and overcome the difficulties of the present: a "certain hope" is indispensable which, giving us the certainty of attaining a "great" goal," justifies the effort of the journey" (cf. No. 1). Only this "great hope-certainty" assures us that, despite the failures of our personal life and the contradictions of history as a whole, we are always protected by the "indestructible power of Love."

When we are sustained by such hope we never run the risk of losing the courage to contribute, as the saints did, to the salvation of humanity, and "we can open ourselves and open the world so that God will enter, God, who is truth, love and goodness" (cf. No. 35). May St. Bonaventure help us to "spread the wings" of hope, which drives us to be, as he was, incessant seekers of God, singers of the beauties of creation and witnesses of that Love and Beauty that "moves everything."

Thank you, dear friends, once again, for your hospitality. While I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I impart to you, through the intercession of St. Bonaventure and especially of Mary, faithful Virgin and Star of Hope, a special apostolic blessing, which I extend with pleasure to all the inhabitants of this beautiful land, rich in saints.


The Martyrs of Otranto, 1480

In 1480, Italy celebrated the feast of the Assumption with spectacular liturgies, processions and, of course, banquets. With the exception of Otranto, a tiny town on the Adriatic coast, where 800 men offered their lives for Christ. They were the Martyrs of Otranto.

A few weeks earlier the Turkish fleet had docked just outside the Otranto harbor. Their arrival had been feared for years; since the fall of Constantinople in 1454, it was only a matter of time before the Ottoman Turks encroached on Europe.

Otranto stands closest to the Ottoman-controlled eastern side of the Adriatic.
St. Francis de Paul recognized the imminent danger to the town and its Christian citizens and pleaded for reinforcements to protect Otranto. He predicted, "Oh unhappy citizens, how many cadavers do I see covering your streets? How much Christian blood do I see flooding you?" But the leaders of Christendom refused to address the danger.

On July 28, 1480, 18,000 Turkish sailors swarmed the harbor of Otranto. They offered terms of surrender to the citizens, hoping to gain this first foothold into Italy without resistance and complete a lightening conquest of the Adriatic coast. The Sultan Mehmed II had boasted to Pope Sixtus IV that he would "allow his horse to eat his oats on the Tomb of St. Peter."

Pope Sixtus, recognizing the seriousness of the threat, exclaimed: "People of Italy, if you wish to continue to call yourselves Christians, defend yourselves!"

Although his pleas fell on deaf ears among most of the crowned heads of the peninsula -- they were too busy fighting among themselves -- the people of Otranto listened.

Fisherman, not fighters, they had no artillery and numbered under 15,000 including women, children and the elderly. But by common consent they took the keys to the city and cast them into sea, committing themselves completely to resisting the Turkish fleet.

The sophisticated Turkish artillery ripped at the strong defensive walls, but the Otrantini repaired the breaches as soon as they opened. Charging the walls, the Turks found the determined citizens impavidly defending the ramparts with boiling oil, without armor, and often using their bare hands.

The citizens of Otranto foiled the Sultan’s plan for a sneak attack and bought Italy two weeks of precious time to organize defenses and prepare to repel the invaders, but on Aug. 11, the Turks broke through the walls and overwhelmed the city.

The Turkish army methodically passed from house to house, sacking, looting and then setting them on fire. The few survivors took refuge in the cathedral. Archbishop Stefano, heroically calm, distributed the Eucharist and sat among the women and children of Otranto while a Dominican friar led the faithful in prayer from the pulpit.

The invading army broke open the door of the cathedral and the subsequent violence to the women, children and Archbishop -- who was beheaded on the altar -- shocked the Italian peninsula into action.

The Turks had taken the city, destroyed homes, enslaved its people and turned the cathedral into a mosque. Some 14,000 people had died in the capture of Otranto, mostly its own citizens, but a little band of 800 were left alive, so the Turks could fully dominate the proud partisans by forcing them to convert.

Their option was Islam or death. Eight hundred men, chained together, had lost home and family and seemed utterly subjugated to the victorious Turks.

One of the 800, a textile worker named Antonio Primaldo Pezzula, rose from humble craftsman to heroic leader on that day. Before the Pasha Agomat, Antonio turned to his fellow Otrantini and declared: "You have heard what it will cost to buy the remainder of our little lives! My brothers, we have fought to save our city; now it is time to battle for our souls!"

The 800 men aged 15 and up unanimously decided to follow the example of Antonio and offered their lives to Christ.

The Turks, who had hoped for moment of triumphant propaganda, wanted to avoid a massacre. They offered the return of the women and children who were about to be shipped off as slaves, in return for the conversion of the men, and they threatened a mass beheading if they failed to comply. Antonio refused, followed by the rest of men.

On the vigil of the Assumption, the 800 were led outside the city and beheaded. Tradition has it that Antonio Pezzula was beheaded first, but his acephalous body remained standing until the last Otrantino had been killed.

One of the executioners, a Turk named Barlabei, was so amazed by this prodigy that he converted to Christianity, and was also martyred.

The remains were lovingly collected, and are to this day kept in the Cathedral of Otranto. On the 500th anniversary of the sacrifice of the Otrantini, Pope John Paul II visited the city and paid homage to the martyrs.

Benedict XVI officially recognized their martyrdom in 2007, bringing Antonio Pezzula and his companions a step closer to their canonization.

This "hour of the laity" at Otranto, separated from us by a half a millennium, still resonates as an example of witness to the love of Christ. Few of us will ever be asked the same heroic sacrifice as Antonio Pezzuli and his fellow weavers, farmers and townsfolk, but how would we answer his exhortation: "Stand strong and constant in the faith: With this temporal death we will gain eternal life."


On St. John Eudes
"He Wanted to Remind People … of the Heart"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today during the general audience held at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. He reflected on St. John Eudes and the formation of the clergy.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

Celebrated today is the liturgical memorial of St. John Eudes, tireless apostle of devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who lived in France in the 17th century, a century marked by opposing religious phenomena and also by great political problems. It was the time of the Thirty Years War, which devastated not only a great part of Central Europe, but also devastated souls.

While contempt was being spread for the Christian faith by some currents of thought that were prevalent then, the Holy Spirit inspired a fervent spiritual renewal, with prominent personalities such as that of Berulle, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort and St. John Eudes. This great "French school" of holiness also had St. John Mary Vianney among its fruits. By a mysterious design of Providence, my venerated predecessor, Pius XI, proclaimed John Eudes and the Curé d'Ars saints at the same time, on May 31, 1925, offering the Church and the whole world two extraordinary examples of priestly holiness.

In the context of the Year for Priests, I wish to pause to underline the apostolic zeal of St. John Eudes, directed in particular to the formation of the diocesan clergy.

The saints have verified, in the experience of life, the truth of the Gospel; in this way, they introduce us into the knowledge and understanding of the Gospel. In 1563, the Council of Trent issued norms for the establishment of diocesan seminaries and for the formation of priests, as the council was aware that the whole crisis of the Reformation was also conditioned by the insufficient formation of priests, who were not adequately prepared intellectually and spiritually, in their heart and soul, for the priesthood.

This occurred in 1563 but, given that the application and implementation of the norms took time, both in Germany as well as in France, St. John Eudes saw the consequences of this problem. Moved by the lucid awareness of the great need of spiritual help that souls were feeling precisely because of the incapacity of a great part of the clergy, the saint, who was a parish priest, instituted a congregation dedicated specifically to the formation of priests. He founded the first seminary in the university city of Caen, a highly appreciated endeavor, which was soon extended to other dioceses.

The path of holiness he followed and proposed to his disciples had as its foundation a solid confidence in the love that God revealed to humanity in the priestly Heart of Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary. In that time of cruelty and loss of interior silence, he addressed himself to the heart so as to leave in the heart a word from the Psalms very well interpreted by St. Augustine. He wanted to remind people, men and above all future priests of the heart, showing the priestly Heart of Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary. A priest must be a witness and apostle of this love of the Heart of Christ and of Mary.

Today we also feel the need for priests to witness the infinite mercy of God with a life totally "conquered" by Christ, and for them to learn this in the years of their formation in the seminaries. After the synod of 1990, Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis," in which he took up and actualized the norms of the Council of Trent and above all underlined the need for continuity between the initial and permanent moments of formation. For him, for us, this is a real point of departure for a genuine reform of priestly life and apostolate, and it is also the central point so that the "new evangelization" is not simply an attractive slogan, but rather is translated into reality.

The foundations of formation in the seminary constitute that irreplaceable "humus spirituale" in which it is possible to "learn Christ," allowing oneself to be progressively configured to him, sole High Priest and Good Shepherd. The time in the seminary should be seen, therefore, as the actualization of the moment in which the Lord Jesus, after having called the Apostles and before sending them out to preach, asks that they stay with him (cf. Mark 3:14).

When St. Mark narrates the vocation of the Twelve Apostles, he tells us that Jesus had a double objective: The first was that they be with him, the second that they be sent to preach. But in going always with him, they truly proclaim Christ and take the reality of the Gospel to the world.

In this Year for Priests, I invite you to pray, dear brothers and sisters, for priests and for those preparing to receive the extraordinary gift of the priestly ministry. I conclude by addressing to all the exhortation of St. John Eudes, who said thus to priests: "Give yourselves to Jesus to enter into the immensity of his great Heart, which contains the Heart of his Holy Mother and of all the saints, and to lose yourselves in this abyss of love, of charity, of mercy, of humility, of purity, of patience, of submission and of holiness" (Coeur admirable, III, 2).

With this spirit, we will now sing together the Our Father in Latin.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the pilgrims from India and Nigeria. Our catechesis considers Saint John Eudes whose feast we celebrate today. He lived in seventeenth-century France which, notwithstanding considerable trials for the faith, produced many outstanding examples of spiritual courage and insight. Saint John Eudes’ particular contribution was the foundation of a religious congregation dedicated to the task of giving solid formation to the diocesan priesthood. He encouraged seminarians to grow in holiness and to trust in God’s love revealed to humanity in the priestly heart of Jesus and in the maternal heart of Mary. During this year let us pray in a special way for priests and seminarians that, inspired by today’s saint, they may spiritually "enter into the heart of Jesus", becoming men of true love, mercy, humility and patience, renewed in holiness and pastoral zeal. My dear Brothers and Sisters, upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

©Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Curé d'Ars
"Since His Earthly Youth He Sought to Conform Himself to God

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Aug. 5 at his Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, during which commented on the Holy Curé d'Ars.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's Catechesis I would like briefly to review the life of the Holy Curé of Ars. I shall stress several features that can also serve as an example for priests in our day, different of course from the time in which he lived, yet marked in many ways by the same fundamental human and spiritual challenges.

Precisely yesterday was the 150th anniversary of his birth in Heaven. Indeed it was at two o'clock in the morning on 4 August 1859 that St John Baptist Mary Vianney, having come to the end of his earthly life, went to meet the heavenly Father to inherit the Kingdom, prepared since the world's creation for those who faithfully follow his teachings (cf. Mt 25: 34).

What great festivities there must have been in Heaven at the entry of such a zealous pastor! What a welcome he must have been given by the multitude of sons and daughters reconciled with the Father through his work as parish priest and confessor!

I wanted to use this anniversary as an inspiration to inaugurate the Year for Priests, whose theme, as is well known, is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests". The credibility of witness depends on holiness and, once and for all, on the actual effectiveness of the mission of every priest.

John Mary Vianney was born into a peasant family in the small town of Dardilly on 8 May 1786. His family was poor in material possessions but rich in humanity and in faith. Baptized on the day of his birth, as was the good custom in those days, he spent so many years of his childhood and adolescence working in the fields and tending the flocks that at the age of 17 he was still illiterate.

Nonetheless he knew by heart the prayers his devout mother had taught him and was nourished by the sense of religion in the atmosphere he breathed at home. His biographers say that since his earthly youth he sought to conform himself to God's will, even in the humblest offices.

He pondered on his desire to become a priest but it was far from easy for him to achieve it.

Indeed, he arrived at priestly ordination only after many ordeals and misunderstandings, with the help of far-sighted priests who did not stop at considering his human limitations but looked beyond them and glimpsed the horizon of holiness that shone out in that truly unusual young man.

So it was that on 23 June 1815 he was ordained a deacon and on the following 13 August, he was ordained a priest. At last, at the age of 29, after numerous uncertainties, quite a few failures and many tears, he was able to walk up to the Lord's altar and make the dream of his life come true.

The Holy Curé of Ars always expressed the highest esteem for the gift he had received. He would say: "Oh! How great is the Priesthood! It can be properly understood only in Heaven... if one were to understand it on this earth one would die, not of fright but of love!" (Abbé Monnin, Esprit du Curé d'Ars, p. 113).

Moreover, as a little boy he had confided to his mother: "If I were to become a priest, I would like to win many souls" (Abbé Monnin, Procès de l'ordinaire, p. 1064). And so he did. Indeed, in his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fertile, this unknown parish priest of a forgotten village in the south of France was so successful in identifying with his ministry that he became, even in a visibly and universally recognizable manner, an alter Christus, an image of the Good Shepherd who, unlike the hired hand, lays down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10: 11).

After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life in the decades of his priestly service. His existence was a living catechesis that acquired a very special effectiveness when people saw him celebrating Mass, pausing before the tabernacle in adoration or spending hour after hour in the confessional.

Therefore the centre of his entire life was the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. Another fundamental characteristic of this extraordinary priestly figure was his diligent ministry of confession.

He recognized in the practice of the sacrament of penance the logical and natural fulfillment of the priestly apostolate, in obedience to Christ's mandate: "if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (cf. Jn 20: 23).

St John Mary Vianney thus distinguished himself as an excellent, tireless confessor and spiritual director. Passing "with a single inner impulse from the altar to the confessional", where he spent a large part of the day, he did his utmost with preaching and persuasive advice to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence (cf. Letter to Priests for the inauguration of the Year for Priests).

The pastoral methods of St John Mary Vianney might hardly appear suited to the social and cultural conditions of the present day. Indeed, how could a priest today imitate him in a world so radically changed? Although it is true that times change and many charisms are characteristic of the person, hence unrepeatable, there is nevertheless a lifestyle and a basic desire that we are all called to cultivate.

At a close look, what made the Curé of Ars holy was his humble faithfulness to the mission to which God had called him; it was his constant abandonment, full of trust, to the hands of divine Providence.
It was not by virtue of his own human gifts that he succeeded in moving peoples' hearts nor even by relying on a praiseworthy commitment of his will; he won over even the most refractory souls by communicating to them what he himself lived deeply, namely, his friendship with Christ.

He was "in love" with Christ and the true secret of his pastoral success was the fervor of his love for the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all who were seeking God. His testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for every baptized person and especially for every priest the Eucharist is not merely an event with two protagonists, a dialogue between God and me. Eucharistic Communion aspires to a total transformation of one's life and forcefully flings open the whole human "I" of man and creates a new "we" (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, La Comunione nella Chiesa, p. 80).

Thus, far from reducing the figure of St John Mary Vianney to an example albeit an admirable one of 18-century devotional spirituality, on the contrary one should understand the prophetic power that marked his human and priestly personality that is extremely timely.

In post-revolutionary France which was experiencing a sort of "dictatorship of rationalism" that aimed at obliterating from society the very existence of priests and of the Church, he lived first in the years of his youth a heroic secrecy, walking kilometers at night to attend Holy Mass. Then later as a priest Vianney distinguished himself by an unusual and fruitful pastoral creativity, geared to showing that the then prevalent rationalism was in fact far from satisfying authentic human needs, hence definitively unlivable.

Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, contemporary society is facing challenges that are just as demanding and may have become even more complex.

If in his time the "dictatorship of rationalism" existed, in the current epoch a sort of "dictatorship of relativism" is evident in many contexts. Both seem inadequate responses to the human being's justifiable request to use his reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his own identity.

Rationalism was inadequate because it failed to take into account human limitations and claims to make reason alone the criterion of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism humiliates reason because it arrives de facto at affirming that the human being can know nothing with certainty outside the positive scientific field.

Today however, as in that time, man, "a beggar for meaning and fulfillment", is constantly in quest of exhaustive answers to the basic questions that he never ceases to ask himself.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had very clearly in mind this "thirst for the truth" that burns in every human heart when they said that it is the task of priests "as instructors of the people in the faith" to see to the "formation of a genuine Christian community", that can "smooth the path to Christ for all men" and exercise "a truly motherly function" for them, "showing or smoothing the path towards Christ and his Church" for non-believers and for believers, while also "encouraging, supporting and strengthening believers for their spiritual struggles" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 6).

The teaching which in this regard the Holy Curé of Ars continues to pass on to us is that the priest must create an intimate personal union with Christ that he must cultivate and increase, day after day.

Only if he is in love with Christ will the priest be able to teach his union, this intimate friendship with the divine Teacher to all, and be able to move people's hearts and open them to the Lord's merciful love. Only in this way, consequently, will he be able to instil enthusiasm and spiritual vitality in the communities the Lord entrusts to him.

Let us pray that through the intercession of St John Mary Vianney, God will give holy priests to his Church and will increase in the faithful the desire to sustain and help them in their ministry. Let us entrust this intention to Mary, whom on this very day we invoke as Our Lady of the Snow.


South Africa's 1st Saint?
Diocese Sends Case for Benedict Daswa to Rome

TZANEEN, South Africa, JULY 17, 2009- The first case for a South African native saint was advanced as officials concluded a diocesan inquiry into the life and death of Servant of God Benedict Daswa.

A press release from the South African bishops' conference reported Monday that the inquiry was completed at the beginning of July, and the final documents sent to the prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, Archbishop Angelo Amato.

These documents, which will be brought to Rome by Archbishop James Green, South Africa's apostolic nuncio, include over 850 pages of testimonies about Daswa.

He was born in 1946 to a traditionalist family in a small Lemba tribe, an ethnic group claiming common descent and some similar traditions as Jewish people.

Benedict Daswa lived among the Venda people in the Limpopo province, the northernmost region of the country.

He was preparing to be a primary school teacher when he converted to Catholicism.

In his new faith life, he saw a conflict between Catholic beliefs and the witchcraft present in his culture.

Thus, Daswa took a strong stance against it, both privately and publicly, stating that witchcraft led to the killing of innocent people.

He openly rejected using "muti" or "medicine" derived from natural substances and used for "protection against evil or for success in sports and other activities."

The bishops' conference stated that this stance eventually led to his death.

Benedict was stoned and bludgeoned to death on Feb. 2, 1990, a few days after refusing to give money for witchcraft causes.

The conference stated that all evidence shows that Daswa led a holy life and was martyred for the faith.

Now, it continued, five years after the initiation of the diocesan inquiry, prayer cards will be prepared to encourage people to pray for Divine favors through his intercession, which will further his cause for beatification.

A biography is being produced to make the Servant of God more widely known.


Pope Approves Cardinal Newman Miracle
Recognizes Martyrdom of Dachau Victim, Spanish Priests

VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2009 - Today, Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of decrees recognizing miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtue in several causes for canonization.

A Vatican communiqué reported that the Pope received in private audience Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, and authorized the congregation to promulgate the following decrees.

Miracles attributed to the intercession of the following:

-- Blessed Cándida Maria de Jesús Cipitria y Barriola (1845-1912) (born Juana Josefa), Spanish founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus.
-- Servant of God John Henry Newman (1801-1890), English cardinal and founder of the Oratories of St. Phili p Neri in England.

-- Servant of God Angelo Paoli (1642-1720) (born Francesco), Italian professed priest of the Order of Carmelites of the Strict Observance.
-- Servant of God Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas (1843-1927) (born Soultaneh Maria), cofounder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.

The martyrdom of the following:

-- Servant of God José Samsó i Elías (1887-1936), Spanish diocesan priest, pastor and archpriest of Santa María de Mataro, killed during religious persecution in Spain.
-- Servant of God Teófilo Fernández de Legaria Goñi (1898-1936) (born Beniamino), and four companions, professed priests of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

-- Servant of God Georg Häfner (1900-1942), German diocesan priest, killed in the concentration camp of Dachau, Germany.
-- Servant of God Zolt an Ludovico Meszlenyi (1892-1951), Hungarian titular bishop of Sinope and auxiliary of Esztergom, killed at Kistarcsa, Hungary.

Proclamation of the heroic virtue of the following was also approved:

-- Servant of God Engelmar Unzeitig (1911-1945) (born Uberto), German professed priest of the Congregation of Missionaries of Mariannhill.
-- Servant of God Anna María Janer Anglarill (1800-1885), Spanish founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Family of Urgell.

-- Servant of God Maria Serafina del Sacro Cuore di Gesu Micheli (1849-1911) (born Clotilde), Italian founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Angels.
-- Servant of God Teresa Manganiello (1849-1876), Italian laywoman of the Third Order of St. Francis.


Miracle Healing Advances Cardinal Newman's Cause
Birmingham Oratory Prepares for Beatification

BIRMINGHAM, England, JULY 3, 2009 - Members of the Oratory in Birmingham are preparing to celebrate the imminent beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, after today's announcement that Benedict XVI approved a miracle through his intercession.

A press release distributed by the bishops' conference of England and Wales affirmed that the beatification of the theologian and Catholic convert is now certain.

The miracle that was approved by the Pope as a step in the cause of canonization was the 2001 healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan of the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

Sullivan, now 70, had a debilitating back injury that interrupted his diaconal studies and threatened to leave him paralyzed. After receiving this diagnosis, he went to his home and turned on the television as a distraction from the pain and disappointment.

A program about the life of Cardinal Newman was being aired, and it ended with a request to contact the postulate for the cause of his beautification if any favors were received through his intercession.

Sullivan recited a prayer to the cardinal, and the next morning, he awoke free of pain.

He was able to return to his studies, but eight months later, in April 2001, the pain came back. He once again prayed for Cardinal Newman's intercession, and when the pain disappeared, doctors stated that there was no human explanation for the immediate recovery.

Sullivan, who was ordained a permanent deacon in September 2002, affirmed, "Upon hearing of the recent developments in Rome regarding Cardinal Newman's cause for beatification, I was left with an intense sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to Almighty God and my intercessor Cardinal John Henry Newman."

He continued, "I have dedicated my vocation in praise of Cardinal Newman, who even now directs all my efforts."


In Rome, Father Edoardo Cerrato, procurator-general of the Oratory, stated, "On behalf of the 82 houses of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Newman's own congregation, I welcome this decision with joy and look forward to the ceremony of beatification with great anticipation."

Father Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory, which was Cardinal Newman's community, affirmed, "The prayers of Christ's faithful all over the world have now been answered."

The priest noted that it is "providential that the beatification of this great English theologian will occur in the pontificate of Benedict XVI, a major theologian in his own right whom Cardinal Newman has influenced profoundly."

Cardinal Newman was declared venerable in 1991 by Pope John Paul II.


Papal Homily at Canonization Mass
"Let Us Thank the Lord for the Gift of Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave on April 26 at the canonization Mass of five newly recognized saints.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Third Sunday in the Easter Season, the liturgy once again focuses our attention on the mystery of the Risen Christ. Victorious over evil and over death, the Author of life who sacrificed himself as a victim of expiation for our sins "is still our priest, our advocate who always pleads our cause. Christ is the victim who dies no more, the Lamb, once slain, who lives for ever" (Easter Preface iii).

Let us allow ourselves to be bathed in the radiance of Easter that shines from this great mystery and with the Responsorial Psalm let us pray: "O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us."

The light of the face of the Risen Christ shines upon us today especially through the Gospel features of the five Blesseds who during this celebration are enrolled in the Roll of Saints: Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli. I willingly join in the homage that the pilgrims are paying to them, gathered here from various nations and to whom I address a cordial greeting with great affection.

The various human and spiritual experiences of these new Saints show us the profound renewal that the mystery of Christ's Resurrection brings about in the human heart; it is a fundamental mystery that orients and guides the entire history of salvation. The Church therefore, especially in this Easter Season, rightly invites us to direct our gaze to the Risen Christ, who is really present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

In the Gospel passage, St Luke mentions one of the appearances of the Risen Jesus (24: 35-48). At the very beginning of the passage the Evangelist notes that the two disciples of Emmaus, who hurried back to Jerusalem, had told the Eleven how they recognized him in "the breaking of the bread" (v. 35).

And while they were recounting the extraordinary experience of their encounter with the Lord, he "himself stood among them" (v. 36). His sudden appearance frightened the Apostles. They were fearful to the point that Jesus, in order to reassure them and to overcome every hesitation and doubt, asked them to touch him -- he was not a ghost but a man of flesh and bone -- and then asked them for something to eat.

Once again, as had happened for the two at Emmaus, it is at table while eating with his own that the Risen Christ reveals himself to the disciples, helping them to understand the Scriptures and to reinterpret the events of salvation in the light of Easter.

"Everything written about me," he says, "in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (v. 44). And he invites them to look to the future: "Repentance and forgiveness of sins [shall] be preached in his name to all nations" (cf. v. 47).

This very experience of repentance and forgiveness is relived in every community in the Eucharistic celebration, especially on Sundays. The Eucharist, the privileged place in which the Church recognizes "the Author of life" (Acts 3: 15) is "the breaking of the bread," as it is called in the Acts of the Apostles. In it, through faith, we enter into communion with Christ, who is "the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice" (cf. Preface for Easter, 5) and is among us.

Let us gather round him to cherish the memory of his words and of the events contained in Scripture; let us relive his Passion, death and Resurrection. In celebrating the Eucharist we communicate with Christ, the victim of expiation, and from him we draw forgiveness and life.

What would our lives as Christians be without the Eucharist? The Eucharist is the perpetual, living inheritance which the Lord has bequeathed to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood and which we must constantly rethink and deepen so that, as venerable Pope Paul VI said, it may "impress its inexhaustible effectiveness on all the days of our earthly life" (Insegnamenti, v [1967], p. 779).

Nourished with the Eucharistic Bread, the Saints we are venerating today brought their mission of evangelical love to completion with their own special charisms in the various areas in which they worked.

St Arcangelo Tadini spent long hours in prayer before the Eucharist. Always focusing his pastoral ministry on the totality of the human person, he encouraged the human and spiritual growth of his parishioners. This holy priest, this holy parish priest, a man who belonged entirely to God ready in every circumstance to let himself be guided by the Holy Spirit, was at the same time prepared to face the urgent needs of the moment and find a remedy for them.

For this reason he undertook many practical and courageous initiatives such as the organization of the "Catholic Workers Mutual Aid Association," the construction of a spinning mill and a residence for the workers and, in 1900, the foundation of the "Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth" to evangelize the working world by sharing in the common efforts after the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

How prophetic the charismatic intuition of Father Tadini was and how timely his example remains today in an epoch of serious financial crisis! He reminds us that only by cultivating a constant and profound relationship with the Lord, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, can we bring the Gospel leaven to the various fields of work and to every area of our society.

Love for prayer and for manual labour also distinguished St Bernardo Tolomei, the initiator of a unique Benedictine monastic movement. His was a Eucharistic life, entirely dedicated to contemplation, expressed in humble service to neighbour. Because of his rare spirit of humility and brotherly acceptance, he was re-elected abbot for 27 years, until his death. Moreover, in order to guarantee the future of his foundation, on 21 January 1344 he obtained from Clement VI papal approval of the new Benedictine Congregation called "Our Lady of Monte Oliveto".

During the epidemic of the Black Death in 1348, he left the solitude of Monte Oliveto for the monastery of S. Benedetto at Porta Tufi, Siena, to attend to his monks stricken with the plague, and died, himself a victim, as an authentic martyr of love.

The example of this Saint invites us to express our faith in a life dedicated to God in prayer and spent at the service of our neighbour, impelled by a love that is also ready to make the supreme sacrifice.

"Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him" (Psalm 4: 3). These words of the Responsorial Psalm express the secret of the life of Bl. Nuno de Santa María, a hero and saint of Portugal. The 70 years of his life belong to the second half of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th, which saw this nation consolidate its independence from Castille and expand beyond the ocean not without a special plan of God opening new routes that were to favour the transit of Christ's Gospel to the ends of the earth.

St Nuno felt he was an instrument of this lofty design and enrolled in the militia Christi, that is, in the service of witness that every Christian is called to bear in the world. He was characterized by an intense life of prayer and absolute trust in divine help.

Although he was an excellent soldier and a great leader, he never permitted these personal talents to prevail over the supreme action that comes from God. St Nuno allowed no obstacle to come in the way of God's action in his life, imitating Our Lady, to whom he was deeply devoted and to whom he publicly attributed his victories. At the end of his life, he retired to the Carmelite convent whose building he had commissioned.

I am glad to point this exemplary figure out to the whole Church particularly because he exercised his life of faith and prayer in contexts apparently unfavourable to it, as proof that in any situation, even military or in war time, it is possible to act and to put into practice the values and principles of Christian life, especially if they are placed at the service of the common good and the glory of God.

Since childhood, Geltrude Comensoli felt a special attraction for Jesus present in the Eucharist. Adoration of Christ in the Eucharist became the principal aim of her life, we could almost say the habitual condition of her existence. Indeed, it was in the presence of the Eucharist that St Geltrude realized what her vocation and mission in the Church was to be: to dedicate herself without reserve to apostolic and missionary action, especially for youth.

Thus, in obedience to Pope Leo XIII, her Institute came into being which endeavoured to translate the "charity contemplated" in the Eucharistic Christ, into "charity lived," in dedication to one's needy neighbour.

In a bewildered and all too often wounded society like ours, to a youth, like that of our day in search of values and a meaning for their lives, as a sound reference point St Geltrude points to God who, in the Eucharist, has made himself our travelling companion. She reminds us that "adoration must prevail over all the other charitable works," for it is from love for Christ who died and rose and who is really present in the Eucharistic Sacrament, that Gospel charity flows which impels us to see all human beings as our brothers and sisters.

St Caterina Volpicelli was also a witness of divine love. She strove "to belong to Christ in order to bring to Christ" those whom she met in Naples at the end of the 19th century, in a period of spiritual and social crisis. For her too the secret was the Eucharist. She recommended that her first collaborators cultivate an intense spiritual life in prayer and, especially, in vital contact with Jesus in the Eucharist. Today this is still the condition for continuing the work and mission which she began and which she bequeathed as a legacy to the "Servants of the Sacred Heart."

In order to be authentic teachers of faith, desirous of passing on to the new generations the values of Christian culture, it is indispensable, as she liked to repeat, to release God from the prisons in which human beings have confined him.

In fact, only in the Heart of Christ can humanity find its "permanent dwelling place." St Caterina shows to her spiritual daughters and to all of us the demanding journey of a conversion that radically changes the heart, and is expressed in actions consistent with the Gospel. It is thus possible to lay the foundations for building a society open to justice and solidarity, overcoming that economic and cultural imbalance which continues to exist in a large part of our planet.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness that shines out in the Church with rare beauty today in Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli.

Let us be attracted by their examples, let us be guided by their teachings, so that our existence too may become a hymn of praise to God, in the footsteps of Jesus, worshipped with faith in the mystery of the Eucharist and served generously in our neighbour.

May the maternal intercession of Mary, Queen of Saints and of these five new luminous examples of holiness whom we venerate joyfully today, obtain for us that we may carry out this evangelical mission. Amen!


Salesian Missionary Declared Venerable

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2008 - The heroic virtue of Sister Maria Troncatti, a Salesian who served the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, has been recognized by the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

The decree was presented today by Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of that dicastery, in the presence of the newly elected superior-general of Sister Troncatti's congregation, the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.

Sister Troncatti is the ninth member of this religious family to be declared venerable, following Margarita Occhiena, the mother of St. John Bosco.

The Salesian news agency explained that Sister Troncatti (1883-1969) lived with the Shuar population of southeast Ecuador for more than 40 years, carrying out "an enormous work of evangelization, in the midst of various kinds of risks."

The woman religious died in 1969 in a plane crash.

The diocesan report on a possible miracle attributed to Sister Troncatti has already been turned into the Vatican congregation.


Papal Homily at Canonization
"The Ministry of Reconciliation Is a Ministry That Is Relevant"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of parts of a pluri-lingual homily Benedict XVI gave today at a Mass he celebrated in St. Peter's Square. During the Mass he canonized four saints.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today four new saints are being proposed for the veneration of the universal Church: Gaetano Errico, Maria Bernarda Bütler, Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception and Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán. The liturgy presents them with the Gospel image of the guests who participate in the feast dressed in wedding garments. The image of the feast is in the first reading and in various other Bible passages: It is a joyous image because the feast accompanies a wedding celebration, the covenant of love between God and his people. The Old Testament prophets continually directed Israel's expectations toward this covenant. And in a time marked by trials of every sort, when problems threatened to discourage the people, the reassuring word of the prophet Isaiah comes forth: "On this mountain," he says, "the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines" (25:6). God will put an end to the sadness and shame of the people, who will finally live happily in communion with him. God will never abandon his people: this is why the prophet invites them to rejoice: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us" (25:9).

If the first reading exalts in God's fidelity to his promise, the Gospel, with the parable of the wedding feast, brings us to reflect on the human response. Some of those who were invited first rejected the invitation, because they are drawn by other interests; others scorned the king's invitation, provoking not only their own chastisement but that of the whole city. The king, however, is not discouraged and he sends his servants to find others to fill up the hall where the feast is taking place. Thus, the rejection of the invitation on the part of those who were first invited has as its effect the extension of the invitation to all, with a special predilection for the poor and the disadvantaged. This is what happened in the Pascal Mystery: The power of evil was defeated by the omnipotence of God's love. The risen Lord can now invite everyone to the feast of Easter joy, himself furnishing the guests with the wedding garments, the symbol of the gratuitous gift of sanctifying grace.

But man must respond to God's generosity with free acceptance. This is precisely the generous path that was followed by those whom we are venerating today as saints. In baptism they received the wedding garment of divine grace. They kept it pure or purified it and made it bright in the course of their lives through the sacraments. Now they are joining in the heavenly wedding feast. The feast of the Eucharist, to which the Lord invites us every day and in which we must partake with the wedding garment of his grace, is the anticipation of that crowning feast in heaven. If it happens that this wedding garment is sullied or torn by sin, God's goodness does not reject us or leave us to our fate, but offers us the possibility, through the sacrament of reconciliation, of restoring the integrity of that wedding garment that is required for the feast.

The ministry of reconciliation, therefore, is a ministry that is relevant. The priest Gaetano Errico, founder of the Congregazione dei Missionari dei Sacri Cuori di Gesù e di Maria, dedicated himself to this sacrament with diligence, assiduity and patience, never refusing it nor counting the cost. He thus entered among the group of other extraordinary priests who tirelessly made the confessional a place to dispense God's mercy, helping men to rediscover themselves, to fight against sin and make progress in the spiritual life. The street and the confessional were the two particular places of Gaetano Errico's pastoral work. The street was the place that permitted him to offer his customary invitation: "God loves you, when shall we meet?" and in the confession he made their encounter with the mercy of the heavenly Father possible. How many wounded souls did he heal in this way! How many people did he help to be reconciled with God through the sacrament of forgiveness! In this way St. Gaetano Errico became an expert in the "science" of forgiveness, and concerned himself with teaching it to his missionaries: "God, who does not wish the death of the sinner, is always more merciful than his ministers; so be as merciful as you can and you will find mercy with God!"


Mother María Bernarda, a well loved and well remembered figure especially in Colombia, deeply understood that the banquet the Lord has prepared for all peoples is represented in a very particular way in the Eucharist. There, Christ himself receives us as friends and gives himself for us at the table of the bread and of the word, entering into intimate communion with each one. This was the source and pillar of the spirituality of this new saint, as well as the missionary drive that led her to leave her homeland of Switzerland and open herself to other evangelizing horizons in Ecuador and Colombia. In the midst of the serious adversities that she had to face, including exile, she carried engraved on her heart the exclamation from the Psalm we heard today: "Though I walk through dark valleys, I fear no evil, for thou art with me." (Psalm 23:4). In this way, docile to the Word of God and following the example of Mary, she did as the servants of the Gospel that we heard: She went in every direction proclaiming that the Lord invites all to his banquet. In this way she brought others to participate in the love of God to which she had dedicated all of her life with fidelity and joy.

"He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces" (Is 25:8). These words of the prophet Isaiah contain the promise which sustained Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception through a life of extreme physical and spiritual suffering. This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonized saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God's grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ's and now delights in the "rich fare and choice wines" of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Is 25:6).

She wrote, "I consider a day without suffering as a day lost". May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise.

The young Ecuadorian laywoman, Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán, offers us a perfect example of a prompt and generous response to the invitation that the Lord makes to us to participate in his love. And from a very young age, upon receiving the sacrament of confirmation, she clearly felt in her heart the call to live a life of sanctity and surrender to God. To assist with docility the action of the Holy Spirit in her soul, she always sought the counsel and guidance of good and expert priests, considering spiritual direction as one of the most effective means to reach sanctity. St. Narcisa de Jesús shows us a path to Christian perfection accessible to all faithful. Despite the abundant and extraordinary graces she received, her life developed in great simplicity, dedicated to her work as a seamstress and her apostolate as a catechist. In her passionate love for Jesus, that brought her to embark on a path of intense prayer and mortification, and to identify herself more and more with the mystery of the cross, she offers us an inviting testimony and a polished example of a life totally dedicated to God and neighbor.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of sanctity, that today shines in the Church with singular beauty. Jesus invites us all to follow him, like these saints, on the way of the cross, to inherit the eternal life that he, dying, made a gift to us. May their examples encourage us, their teachings orient and comfort us, their intercession sustain us in our daily toil, so that we too may one day share with them and all the saints the joy of the eternal feast in the heavenly Jerusalem. May Mary, the Queen of the Saints, whom we venerate with particular devotion during this month of October, obtain this grace for us. Amen.


Sister Faustina's Confessor to Be Beatified
Church to Recognize 2nd Married Couple as Blessed

ROME, AUG. 20, 2008 - Sister Faustina's confessor and St. Thérèse's parents are among the six who will be beatified in the next two months.

The group also includes an Italian founder and two Italian priests, one of whom was martyred in Yugoslavia.

Polish Father Michal Sopocko, Sister Faustina Kowalska's confessor and spiritual director, and principal promoter of the revelations the nun received on Divine Mercy, will be beatified Sept. 28 in Poland. Father Sopocko (1888-1975) also founded the Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus.

Another witness of Divine Mercy, Vincenza Maria Poloni (born Lugia) (1802-1855), founder of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy, will be beatified Sept. 21.

Father Francesco Bonifacio (1912-1946), martyr and victim of ethnic cleansing in Communist Yugoslavia, will be beatified Oct. 4 in Italy.

Diocesan priest Father Francesco Pianzola (1881-1943), founder of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Queen of Peace, will also be beatified that same day.

Finally, as previously announced, Louis and Marie-Zélie Martin, parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, will be beatified on Mission Sunday at the Cathedral of Lisieux. Mission Sunday is celebrated this year on Oct. 19. St. Thérèse, together with St. Francis Xavier, is the patron of missions.

The Martins are the second married couple to be beatified by the Church. Italian spouses Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi were beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 21, 2001.


Cause Opens for St. Gianna Beretta's Brother
Prelate Calls Them "Spectacularly Important Siblings"

By Alexandre Ribeiro

SÃÃO PAULO, Brazil, JULY 1, 2008 - The brother of a woman canonized after she opted to risk her life to save her unborn child is also being considered for official recognition as a saint.

The cause for Friar Albert Beretta, brother of St. Gianna Beretta, opened in Italy last month. Friar Albert was an Italian missionary in Brazil for 33 years, and is also an "example of the ideal of holiness," a bishop who worked with him told ZENIT.

Retired Bishop Serafim Spreafico of Grajau, Maranhao, in northern Brazil, reflected on the life of his countryman and fellow Capuchin, and that of his sister.

"They are two spectacularly important siblings for today's world, extraordinary examples of fraternity, of family holiness," he said.

The bishop and Friar Albert worked closely together for 20 years, both in Italy and Brazil.

Albert Beretta was born in Milan in 1916. He was already a doctor and surgeon when he was ordained a priest in the Capuchin Order in 1948. He left for Brazil a year later.

Bishop Spreafico described Friar Albert as "a witness of the beatitudes. [……] He was a witness of God's presence in every person, from the beginning to the end."
The bishop recalled an episode involving Friar Albert: "He had been praying for some time before the tabernacle when I arrived. Then he asked me: 'Will we be closer to God in heaven than we are here at this moment, before the tabernacle?'

"I must say I was surprised by the very simple way he asked me that, his simplicity in living in the presence of God.
"I then answered, 'yes,' and in heaven we will be immersed in God, as St. Thomas says. At that moment, in silence, he returned to pray."

Also a missionary

Gianna (1922-1962) also wanted to go to Brazil, to work as a missionary beside her priest brother, Bishop Spreafico said. She trained for seven years to be able to go, but her frail health impeded her.

"In the spiritual dimension, she was and is a missionary in Brazil, so much so that it was in that country that the two miracles took place that raised her to the order of saints," he noted.

Gianna was a physician like her brother. She married and had four children. During her pregnancy with her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, she developed a fibroma in her uterus. Rather than choosing an abortion or a hysterectomy, Gianna chose to have the fibroma removed, though further complications were anticipated. She gave birth to little Gianna Emanuela, but died a week later.

She was beatified in 1994 and canonized in 2004. Her husband and Gianna Emanuela were present at the ceremony.

Bishop Spreafico told ZENIT that he always entrusts himself to the intercession of St. Gianna and Friar Albert.

"As members of my diocese, though St. Gianna [only] in the spiritual dimension, the two siblings must obey me," the bishop quipped. "So I pray to them to grant many graces and holiness to the Church in Brazil."


Cause Opens for US Priest

ROME, MAY 11, 2008 - The cause for beatification for a 20th-century Massachusetts-born priest officially opened in Rome.

The cause of Father Theodore Foley (1913-1974) officially opened Friday.

For 10 years, Father Foley was the superior general of the Congregation of the Passion, also known as the Passionists.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Benedict XVI's vicar for the Diocese of Rome, described the priest's life during the inauguration ceremony. He invited the Passionist Fathers to walk the way of sanctity, "which Father Foley followed with such dedication."

Daniel Foley was born in 1913 in Springfield to a family of Irish immigrants. He attended the schools the Passionist Fathers, where he heard the call to the priesthood. He entered the Passionists congregation in 1932 and in the following year made his first profession, taking the name Theodore. He was ordained a priest in 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1958, Father Foley became the general consultor and assistant to the superior-general of the Passionists. He was himself elected superior-general in 1964, a post that he held until his death on Oct. 9, 1974.

Father Giovanni Zubiani, postulator of the cause of beatification, spoke of Father Foley as a man open to dialogue "but firm on the principles and charism of the congregation."


Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass for John Paul II
"Death Was the Seal of an Existence Totally Given to Christ"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2008 .- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Mass on the third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The date of April 2 has been imprinted in the Church's memory as the day the Servant of God Pope John Paul II [said] good-bye to this world. Let us again live with emotion the hours of that Saturday afternoon, when the news of his passing away was received by a great multitude of people in prayer who filled St. Peter's Square. For a few days, the Vatican Basilica and this Square truly became the heart of the world. An uninterrupted river of pilgrims paid homage to the remains of the venerated Pontiff and his funeral was a last testament of the esteem and the affection that he had won in the spirit of so many believers and people from all the corners of the earth.

Just like three years ago, today as well, just a short time has passed since Easter. The heart of the Church finds itself still submerged in the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord. In truth, we can interpret the entire life of my beloved predecessor, particularly his Petrine ministry, according to the sign of Christ resurrected. He felt an extraordinary faith in Him, and with Him, he maintained an intimate, unique, uninterrupted conversation. Among his many human and supernatural qualities, he had an exceptional spiritual and mystical sensitivity.

It was enough to see him praying: He literally submerged himself in God and it seemed that everything else during those moments was left outside. During the liturgical celebrations, he was attentive to the mystery being carried out, with a keen capacity to perceive the eloquence of God's word in the development of history, penetrating deeply into God's plan. Holy Mass, as he often repeated, was for him the center of the day and all his existence -- the "living and holy" reality of the Eucharist that gave him spiritual energy to guide the people of God on the path of history.

John Paul II died on the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, "the day the Lord made." The throes of death happened on this "day," in the new time-space that is the "eighth day," desired by the Holy Trinity through the work of the incarnate Word, dead and risen. Pope John Paul II showed on various occasions that already from before, during his life, and especially in the fulfilling of his mission as Supreme Pontiff, he was in some way submerged in this spiritual dimension

His pontificate, taken together and in many specific moments, presents itself to us as a sign and testimony of the resurrection of Christ. This paschal dynamism, which made of John Paul II's existence a total responding to the call of the Lord, could not be expressed except without a participation in the sufferings and the death of the divine Master and Redeemer. "This saying is trustworthy," the Apostle Paul says, "If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:11-12).

Since childhood, Karol Wojtyla had experienced the truth of these words, finding the cross on his path, in his family, with his people. Very soon he decided to carry it beside Jesus, following in his footsteps. He wanted to be his faithful servant to the point of welcoming the call to the priesthood as a gift and a commitment for all of his life. With Him, he lived, and with Him, he wanted to die. And all of this by way of the unique mediation of most holy Mary, mother of the Church, mother of the Redeemer, intimately and truly associated with the salvific mystery of his death and resurrection.

In this evocative reflection, the biblical readings just proclaimed guide us: "Be not afraid!" (Matthew 28:5). The words of the angel of the Resurrection, addressed to the women before the empty tomb, which we just heard, became a type of motto on the lips of Pope John Paul II, since the solemn beginnings of his Petrine ministry. He repeated them on various occasions to the Church and to the world on the journey toward the year 2000, and after having passed that historical time, as well as afterward, in the dawn of the third millennium. He always pronounced them with inflexible firmness, first raising up [his] crosier predominated by the cross, and later, when his physical energies were weakening, nearly clinging to it, until that last Good Friday, in which he participated in the Way of the Cross from his private chapel, embracing within his arms the cross.

We cannot forget that last and silent testimony of love for Jesus. That eloquent scene of human suffering and faith, in that last Good Friday, also indicated to believers and to the world the secret of every Christian life. That "be not afraid" was not based on human strength, nor on successes accomplished, but rather, only on the word of God, on the cross and resurrection of Christ. In the degree in which he was being stripped of everything, at the end, even of his very words, this total surrender to Christ manifested itself with increasing clarity. As it happened to Jesus, also in the case of John Paul II, words gave way at the end to the ultimate sacrifice, to the gift of self. And death was the seal of an existence totally given to Christ, conformed to him even physically with the traits of suffering and trusting abandonment to the arms of the heavenly Father. "Let me go to the house of the Father," these words -- report those who were at his side -- were his last words, the fulfillment of a life totally oriented to knowing and contemplating the face of the Lord.

Venerated and dear brothers: I give thanks to all of you for having united yourselves to me in this Mass for the soul of the beloved John Paul II. I address a particular thought to the participants in the first world congress on Divine Mercy, which begins precisely today, and which aims to go deeper in his rich magisterium on this theme. The mercy of God, he himself said, is a privileged key for interpreting his pontificate. He wanted the message of the merciful love of God to reach all men and women and he exhorted the faithful to be its witnesses. (Cf. Homily at the dedication of the Shrine of Divine Mercy, Aug. 17, 2002.)

For this reason, he wanted to elevate to the altars Sister Faustina Kowalska, a humble religious converted by the mysterious divine design into the prophetic messenger of divine mercy. The Servant of God John Paul II had known and personally lived the terrible tragedies of the 20th century, and he asked himself during a long time what could stop the advance of evil. The answer could only be found in the love of God. Only divine mercy, in fact, is capable of putting limits on evil; only the omnipotent love of God can topple the dominance of the evil ones and the destructive power of egotism and hate. For this reason, during his last visit to Poland, upon returning to his native land, he said, "Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind."

Let us give thanks to God because he has given the Church this faithful and courageous servant. Let us praise and bless the Virgin Mary for having ceaselessly watched over his person and his ministry for the benefit of the Christian people and all of humanity. And while we are offering for his chosen soul the redeeming Sacrifice, we ask him to continue interceding from heaven for each one of us, for me in a special way, who Providence has called to take up his inestimable spiritual heritage. May the Church, following his teaching and example, faithfully continue its evangelizing mission without compromises, spreading tirelessly the merciful love of Christ, fount of true peace for the entire world.


Papal Message to Funeral of Focolare Founder
"I Give Thanks to God for the Service Chiara Has Offered to the Church"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2008 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's letter to his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who celebrated today the funeral Mass of the founder of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich.

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To Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state

I spiritually participate in the solemn liturgy with which the Christian community accompanies Chiara Lubich in her taking leave of this earth to enter the bosom of the heavenly Father. I renew with affection my profound condolences to the leaders of the whole Work of Mary -- Focolare Movement, as well as to those who have collaborated with this generous witness of Christ, who have given themselves without reserve to the spreading of the Gospel message in every ambit of contemporary society, always attentive to the "signs of the times."

There are many reasons to give thanks to the Lord for the gift he has given to the Church in this woman of intrepid faith, a meek messenger of hope and peace, founder of a great spiritual family that extends across multiple fields of evangelization.

Above all I would like to give thanks to God for the service Chiara has offered to the Church: a silent and incisive service, always in harmony with the magisterium of the Church. "The Popes," she said, "have always understood us." That is because Chiara and the Work of Mary have always tried to respond with docile fidelity to each one of their invitations and desires.

The uninterrupted list of each of my venerable predecessors, from the Servant of God Pius XII and Blessed John XXIII to the Servants of God Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, is a concrete testimony. The thought of the Pope was for her a sure directional guide. Moreover, seeing the initiatives that she has started, one could even affirm that she had an almost prophetic capacity to intuit [that thought] and act on it in an anticipatory way.

Her heritage passes now to her spiritual family: May the Virgin Mary, constant model as a reference point for Chiara, help each member of Focolare to follow the same path, contributing to make the Church be ever more a house and school of communion, as dear John Paul II wrote after the Jubilee Year 2000.

May the God of hope receive the soul of our dear sister, [and] console and support the commitment of those who take on her spiritual testament. For this intention, I assure a particular memory in prayer, as I send to all those present in the sacred rite the apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, 18 of March of 2008

Benedictus PP XVI


The Martyrs of Spain's Civil War
by Wlodzimierz Redzioch

Fifty thousand Spanish people attended the beatification ceremony of 498 martyrs, victims of religious persecution in 1930's Spain. These 498 people were killed only for their faith in Jesus Christ and their ideals, their killing being part of the anti-Catholic plan of the Republican government in power since 1931. The figures of this persecution are impressive: 13 bishops, 4,154 priests and seminarians, 2,365 religious, 283 nuns and about 4,000 laymen killed for helping or hiding nuns or priests.

As Monsignor Vicente Carcel Orti, the Spanish historian who has been living in Rome for forty years and who worked for the Curia, points out, the Spanish Church did not seek any confrontation with the Republic, but was persecuted in spite of her neutrality. The government persecuted the Church in legislative terms, while Republican extremists used violence against people and things. Anti-clerical violence was unleashed by Freemasons and Communists. Persecution started long before the civil war. According to Monsignor Carcel Orti, the shameful history of the Spanish Republic, a puppet in the hands of the Stalinist regime, has been concealed on account of its follow-up: the long winter of Franco's dictatorship has, in a way, justified a distorted and mythicized reading of those tragic years.

This long interview with the Spanish historian is meant to throw light on this dramatic period in the history of the Spanish Church in order to achieve a better understanding of what is going on in present-day Spain.

Twentieth-century Spain was a nation of martyrs. What was the political and ideological context in which the persecution of the Church and the martyrdom of believers occurred?

MONSIGNOR VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: It was a slow process which began with a great anticlerical movement in the 19th century. In 19th century Spain the Church was closely linked to the monarchy by means of concordats. Catholicism was, in practice, the state religion, like the Orthodox religion in Greece and Romania and Anglicanism in England. In the 1920's King Alphonse XIII handed power over to Primo de Rivera, who set up a military dictatorship (we are talking about the age of dictatorships: there was Mussolini in Italy, Stalin in Russia and Hitler in Germany). The military regime, on the one hand, dissolved parliament, trade unions and political parties; on the other hand it ushered in a period of security and economic growth, through public works amongst other things. Unfortunately economic growth came to a sudden halt with the 1929 world crisis. The following year the Republicans won the municipal elections. Thus General Primo de Rivera relinquished his power while the king left the country, though without abdicating. It was under these circumstances that the Republicans seized power on April 14th, 1931, and proclaimed the Republic.

Why did the Republic persecute the Church and Catholic believers?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: The Republicans had built up so much hatred for the monarchy and everything relating to it, the Church included, that, once they seized power, they began to hit their enemies. Their first and easiest target was the Church, being defenseless. The new regime made laws against the Church; in the meantime anarchists, socialists and Communists began to use violence against people and things.

What was the role of Freemasonry in this anti-Catholic campaign?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: Freemasonry played a key role in the anti-Catholic campaign since Freemasons were present in political institutions, in the government and the "Cortes" (the Spanish parliament), where they had at least 183 deputies. Spanish Freemasonry therefore played a major role in the making of anti-Catholic laws and in the defamatory campaign against the Church.

What kind of persecution was the Church faced with from 1931 to 1936?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: As historians have ascertained, a growing number of measures against the Catholic Church and religious practice were taken between 1931 and 1936. These oppressive laws aimed at a radical and antidemocratic conception of the separation between Church and State. Numberless examples could be quoted: the Jesuits were dissolved in January 1932; in May 1933 a law against ecclesiastical property deprived the Church of all her possessions, which were handed over to civil authorities; a law was passed against the teaching of religion in schools, and the clergy was forbidden to teach. Violent persecution proper began in 1934 with the "Turon martyrs," who have already been canonized, and many other believers murdered during the Communist Revolution of the Asturias, when priests, religious and seminarians, 37 in all, were killed and 58 churches were burned. After 1936 in all the main cities, cathedrals, religious communities and parish churches were attacked, ransacked and burned. These persecutions aimed at erasing all traces of Catholic tradition in Spain. Hatred for the faith went even beyond murders and found expression in thousands of sacrilegious acts: tabernacles were emptied, consecrated particles were eaten, shot at, strewn in the streets and trodden on; churches were used as stables, altars were demolished, priests and nuns were held at gunpoint in the attempt to force them to recant their faith. Let us remember that persecutions started years before the beginning of the civil war, and the Church could be accused of supporting Franco's Falangists, referred to as "rebels."

But wasn't the Church hostile to the Republican government?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: Spanish bishops recognized the legitimate Republican government from the start. The problem, however, was that the Republican authorities had always been openly hostile to Catholics. After the events of the Asturias, in the summer of 1936, socialists, Communists and anarchists started the most violent persecution in the history of Spain, aimed at the physical elimination of the Church, of both people and things; this persecution lasted until 1939.

Could you quote any figures?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: Albeit incomplete, the figures are impressive: 18 bishops, 4,184 between priests and seminarians, 283 nuns and about 4,000 laymen were killed for helping or hiding priests or nuns. It must be emphasized that in the part of the country occupied by Franco's troops, no harm was done to the clergy nor were the churches destroyed.

Some critics of Franco say that he had 16 Basque priests executed.

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: It is true that when the nationalist troops entered Bilbao, 16 priests were shot, not because they were priests, but for political reasons with other people. I have found the documentary evidence of this along with the witness of the bishop who had asked those priests to refrain from being involved in political activities. Such political activities triggered off Franco's repression, which also involved 16 priests. When the Pope learned about this, he immediately sent a telegram to Franco, who promised that events like that would never happen again. The martyrdom of priests, however, only occurred in the "red" areas. In addition, the Republicans destroyed churches and monasteries (in my diocese, the diocese of Valencia, over 1000 churches and other sacred buildings were destroyed).

When did the beatification causes of the Spanish martyrs begin?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: At the end of the civil war in 1939, the Holy See demanded that all information about the persecution available to parishes and dioceses be collected. Once all the necessary material had been collected, bishops gradually started the diocesan phase of the beatification cases. These cases began in the 1940's and continued into the 1950's. At the end of the diocesan phase, all documents were sent to Rome for the "Roman" phase, to be held by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Yet Paul VI stopped the cases, as he thought it would be best to wait until fifty years had passed from those dramatic events. Also, he posed a condition: Spain was to have a democratic government (the military regime was still in power in 1960's Spain). At the beginning of John Paul II's pontificate Spain was already a democracy; the Spaniards therefore asked the Pope to proceed with the beatification cases, but he did not comply with their request, since fewer than fifty years had passed since the end of the civil war. John Paul II waited until 1987 to celebrate the first beatification case of martyrs who were victims of religious persecution (three Carmelite nuns from Guadalajara). This marked the beginning of the beatifications of our martyrs. On October 18th we celebrated sixteen beatifications, raising 979 martyrs to the altars. As far as I know, the Congregation is now examining another 2000 cases so that 2000 martyrs will probably be beatified in six or seven years' time.

The Church has sometimes been accused of opening up an old sore with the beatification of the martyrs of the civil war.

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: It is a specious dispute with a strong ideological and political orientation. The victims beatified and canonized have never been referred to as "martyrs of the civil war," but victims of religious persecution; the Church has always paid tribute to martyrs of faith and always will. Civil and military institutions commemorate "soldiers killed in war" or "victims of political repression," both on the Republican and on the Nationalist sides, but this doesn't mean opening up an old sore, even though political parties sometimes clearly exploit past events.

How can these martyrs become a mark of reconciliation?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: Nowadays the word "martyr" is abused; in common speech it is used in several senses, but its original and most proper use refers to someone suffering or dying for God's sake, bearing witness to their faith, forgiving and praying for their executioners, as Jesus Christ did on the cross. Others can be called "heroes" or "victims" for various causes, sometimes questionable, but are referred to as "martyrs," since this word is abused, being extended to those suffering for somebody or something.

"Christian martyrs" have no ideological or political motivation except their faith in God and love of their neighbors. These martyrs never waged or fomented any war; they were never involved in party strife. They brought an everlasting message of peace and love, which lightens our faith and feeds our hope.

The beatification of these martyrs coincides with the Spanish Parliament's decision to commemorate the victims of Franco's regime. Who were they?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: They were people killed in the civil war and in the ensuing wave of repression. This involved the winners' ideological enemies. Franco's reaction was violent, but did not last too long. Republicans were tried, though by court-martials, and documents of these trials have come down to us.

A point must be made: those who fought for the Republic at that time did not fight for freedom or democracy, but to set up a regime like the one in power in the Soviet Union. Franco was therefore right when he said that he was making war on Communism. If he had not won, there would have been the Spanish Soviet Union.

All over the world left-wing parties have always idealized the Spanish Republicans and depicted Franco as the incarnation of evil.

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: Franco saved the Church from total destruction. Without his intervention the Church would probably have been blotted out. Yet no one knew at the time that he would become a dictator.

Franco also saved Spain from the Second World War.

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: This is another very important element. At the end of the civil war, Hitler paid a visit to Franco and asked his permission for the German army to cross Spain as far as Gibraltar (he intended to conquer North Africa and occupy the whole Mediterranean). Franco did not give his consent on the grounds that the country had been devastated by the civil war and could not afford to be involved in another conflict.

Pius XI, who was in contact with Franco, warned him against Hitler (Franco declared himself a Catholic, Hitler was a pagan).

At the end of the Second World War Franco established relations with the U.S.A. and brought his country into the U.N. Spain was recognized by all states. When certain circles demand that the Spanish Church apologize for her relations with Franco's regime, I therefore ask myself: "What do we have to apologize for? For having ten thousand martyrs?"

Such requests are made by the ideological heirs of those who persecuted the Church. They do everything to erase all memories of her martyrdom.

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: These requests are only demagogical. In addition, the Spanish Church produced a document many years ago, recognizing that mistakes had been made and forgiving her persecutors. In this document it was also pointed out that no other course of action was possible under those circumstances.

Why is the struggle against Franco still a myth to the whole of the Left, a symbol of the fight for democracy against dictatorship?

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: Most of the European Left was and is Communist. Since Franco was the only one to defeat Communists on the battlefield, these have reacted by presenting the fight of the International Brigades as the fight for freedom against dictatorship. Unfortunately Communist organizations are the most backward and the most conservative ones nowadays; they are unable to revise their past or make any self-criticism.

Socialist, Communist and Masonic parties are in power in Spain nowadays. They see the Church in the same way as the Republicans who tried to destroy her 70 years ago. Needless to say, nobody kills priests and nuns or burns religious buildings, but the Church is perceived as a hindrance to the real progress of Spain and the whole of mankind, as an institution to marginalize and reduce to silence, being the holder of a conservative vision of man, an ideological adversary. Zapatero seems to be willing to create a new world, a new man in Spain.

VICENTE CARCEL ORTI: This is typical of all left-wing totalitarian regimes. Stalin too intended to create a new man; so did Pol Pot. Freedom is at risk in Spain, as the state is trying to interfere with people's private lives, to impose a given way of life, to decide how they must bring up their children, etc. It is not enough for laws to be passed by a parliament to be right. As there is only one voice to defend man's good, attempts are being made to hush it. Yet, whilst politicians are voted into and out of power, the Church remains.

© Urbi et Orbi Communications


Faithful Even Unto Death: The Witness of Alfred Delp, S.J.
by Fr. Albert Münch

Editor's Note: Fr. Alfred Delp was a German Jesuit priest who was imprisoned in Berlin. At the time of his arrest, he was the Rector of St. Georg Church in Munich, and had a reputation for being a gripping, dynamic preacher, and one who was an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime. He was an important figure in the Resistance movement against Nazism.

Accused of conspiring against the Nazi government, he was arrested in 1944, tortured, imprisoned, and executed on February 2, 1945. While in prison, Fr. Delp was able to write a few meditations found in Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings, 1941-1944, which also includes his powerful reflections from prison during the Advent season about the profound spiritual meaning and lessons of Advent, as well as his sermons he gave on the season of Advent at his parish in Munich. These meditations were smuggled out of Berlin and read by friends and parishioners of St. Georg in Munich. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Fr. Delp's birth and the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

The following article contains some of the thoughts and recollections of Fr. Albert Münch, a close friend of Fr. Delp. It was first published in Reden und Ansprachen zum Gedenken an Pater Alfred Delp, S.J., Hammerich, Lampertheim, 1975, vol. 1, pp. 13-26. Translation from the German by Abtei St. Walburg.

Personal experiences with Alfred Delp

As you know, he was born in the year 1907 in Mannheim and then moved with his family to Lampertheim. The local pastor, Father Unger, helped him to go to high school in order start him on the way to a career that would be "suitable" for him. I met him in Dieburg, at the diocesan seminary for boys, and attended my last two years of high school there with him.

I can tell you a few things about him: Delp was a difficult person; he was always restless, but he fit with his times. If, today, we say that youth are restless and that, in the past, they were different--that is nonsense. In the past, the youth were also restless. And even in the youth movement, in which we were both involved—he with "Neudeutchland", I with "Quickborn"—there was plenty of unrest. However, one thing was certain: We always met one another on a common foundation. We knew where to find our footing. We were people who were believers, for whom the Lord God was in no way a problem, but rather, a part of life. Faith gave us security, and we never tried any kind of hairsplitting, either, over faith, or its deepest meaning, or the Lord God. We tried to envision man and the world in such a way that they fit in with these thoughts of God. That was the most important thing.

Also, there was something else besides this, a second foundation. Back then, the youth movement had a great idea: We wanted to get out into nature, to see in it the will of the Creator, and to live out of His Creation. Our hiking and camping trips came from this idea, and often we would hike from Dieburg to Breuberg, through the forests of the Odenwald. In Breuberg, we met with Dr. Gottron, a dear friend and youth leader, who gave us an introduction into the liturgy, Vespers, and devotions. The singing of the Psalms there remains something unforgettable.

Those were two foundations, and today, when we look back on Father Delp's life, we can say that these were two points he never forgot. He stood by them and, we can say, they were simply the Christian attitude, or simply a matter of course in his life. He never turned aside from them.

He graduated with us in 1926. Let me look back once more to the time before graduation. Alfred Delp could not be still, as I said. His whole personality, his mind and spirit sparkled. Therefore, there were often discussions, even in the school with our teachers. Although we did not want to criticize them at all, they often had their own pace, their own way. They often wanted no change. And it was Alfred, of course, his mind bubbling over with ideas, who would interrupt in a way that was fun. And many times, when he spoke that way, his speech got ahead of him, you might say, and kept on going. He often floundered just because his train of thought was already too far ahead, before the thought was verbalized.

The same thing showed up in his handwriting. I love to recall the moment when our German teacher said: "Delp, buy yourself a typewriter, at long last! I can no longer read anything you write." For when he wrote, his mind went on ahead and entire lines came out almost like a stenograph, which nobody could read except him. Thus, one can say he had a scintillating mind and, even back then, a restless spirit that looked further ahead. However, he was someone who had foundations, who stood for something. For him, the foundation would remain unquestionable throughout all of his struggles and all of the difficulties he would have to experience.

Vocation and ordination

After graduation, he went to Munich to the Jesuits. Another friend went with him, but soon left the Order. One classmate went to Würzburg and studied theology there. Unfortunately, as a pastoral assistant, the friend from Würzburg had a fatal motorcycle accident when a child ran into the street. I went to Mainz. The classmate who withdrew from the Jesuit Order became a physician. Delp studied and worked in Munich. In the Jesuit Order, one had to be thirty years old for ordination, but he was not idle during this waiting period. As early as the year 1935, he wrote a book: Tragic Existence. He wrote it in opposition to the fashionable philosophy of Heidegger. Not only the godlessness, but modern man's "incapability of God", must be seen, for that was the tragedy of the time. Delp saw this and worked it into his writings for Stimmen der Zeit. He wrote articles, books, and tried to navigate his way through.

It was in 1937, on June 24 in Munich, that we saw one another again. He was ordained to the priesthood there by the well-known Cardinal Faulhaber. I think we can say that Delp was pleased to be ordained by such a famous person who stood up and fought in those times.

Here in Saint Andreas Church, we celebrated his first Holy Mass. We were together again, but would very soon go our separate ways. Meanwhile, many things had happened. If I may say a couple of personal things, it will perhaps give a clearer view of those times. Oh, yes, you can hear how people make accusations: "Why didn't the people resist?" Anyone who knows how hard it was to risk saying just one word in the pulpit that was displeasing to those in power also knows that prison was certain to those who took that risk.

Resistance and ministry

Delp came to see me one more time, after the journal, Stimmen der Zeit, was abolished. After they had plundered that whole building and stolen all there was to steal, he showed up. We spoke about the situation. His plans seemed dangerous to me. "Be careful," I warned him. "Maybe you don't know these brothers well enough." At that point, I already had been in prison twice, and had been sentenced to four months in prison, and only got out of that through an amnesty. I had to change my workplace as Pastoral Assistant three times. Therefore I said: "Watch out!"

However, with what you could call boyish cheerfulness, he answered, "No problem. I've got my documents here." At any rate, he believed he would be able to get out of the country. Unfortunately that would no longer be possible. That was our last meeting. It was tragic to hear later what had happened to him.

He came to Bogenhausen in Munich and worked in the parish, as rector of St. Georg. I am sure he did well. We hear how he was a leader, decision-maker, and guide. As I already mentioned, with every word that we spoke from the pulpit, we had to very carefully consider how far we could go. Mostly we had to speak metaphorically and, in this way, we were understood by the faithful. The men of the Gestapo, the secret state police who mostly served as spies, understood us too, but could not touch us. I, myself, was arrested for a third time and then expelled from Germany.

Plans for the future

In 1942, Alfred Delp was faced with what can be called a challenge. Count Moltke asked the Jesuit Provincial, Father Rösch, to give him someone who could say something about the social teachings of the Church. Helmuth von Moltke and his people were not seeking to carry out a violent coup. However, they knew things could not go on that way much longer. Anyone who followed the situation—and I did, from Rome—had to say, "Maybe until 1944 or '45, then the whole thing is going to collapse." And these men made plans for what would become of our poor German people afterwards. First, of course, everything would have to collapse and we would stand on the brink of horrifying ruin—we experienced it in 1945.

Moltke invited Delp to join the group, which met in Kreisau on Moltke's estate, or in Munich, or Berlin, anywhere. It was too dangerous to keep meeting at the same place. They know that the "bloodhounds" were everywhere. I don't know if you know this: ten million Germans were constantly under surveillance by the Gestapo, and two million were in prisons and concentration camps. So you can picture how things were, how it seemed, how careful one had to be, and how dangerous it all was. Nevertheless, Delp worked with Moltke, with Gerstenmaier, with Gross, with Sperr and the others. And all but Gerstenmaier would lose their lives for it. Moltke was arrested in January 1944. He did not want a violent revolution, and had stayed out of the plans of those officers who, with Stauffenberg, were preparing to assassinate Hitler. He did not want that, but wanted to prepare for the day of Germany's defeat.

Arrest and imprisonment

Then they came for Father Delp as well. On 28 July 1944, he fell into the hands of the Gestapo. They arrested him in the morning after the Holy Mass. Two officers had stood in the back of the church and, after the service, they nabbed him and led him away. At first, friends thought he was in a camp, but then they found him in Berlin, at the Lehrter Stra?e prison. And then, alongside his martyrdom, the heroism of the laity began. We know that in Berlin and Munich, lay people cared for him and risked their own freedom—maybe even their lives—to save him, to help him. Anyone who has been in prison, who knows what it means to be stuck there with no connection to the outside, also knows what a comfort it is to find a piece of bread or a little message in a packet of laundry that someone was able to bring. That was a sign that there were people who were thinking of him and who sympathized.

When you read his letters and notes, written on small slips of paper that were smuggled out of the prison, you have to ask, astonished, where in the world did he get the strength? I return to what I said at the beginning, and answer, "From his faith in God, from that foundation from which he lived. From the joy that he had filled his soul with, not only through his studies and theological knowledge, but through the strength that he stored up in his soul when he was outside in nature, climbing mountains. That gave him a foothold to get through difficulties and tough times.

It was on 8 December 1944 that Alfred finally arrived at what he had long desired. He wanted to give himself completely and totally to his Lord God. It had already been planned that he make his final profession of vows on 15 August, but, because of his arrest, the date had to be postponed. On December 8, his confrere, Father Tattenbach came with full authorization to Berlin, to receive his final vows. It must have been an interesting scene, the two of them sitting at a table with a prison guard keeping watch. And Father Delp made his vows in the presence of his confrere.

Faithful unto death

Then came the day in January 1945, the horrible day of that stupid, idiotic, terrible show trial before the People's Court. Perhaps you have heard the name of Roland Freisler. In Berlin, they spoke of "Raging Roland" in his red robes, who held forth, foaming at the mouth, and shouted down, screamed down, and bellowed down everything, without rhyme or reason. It must have been a gruesome spectacle.

Moltke, Delp and the others stood before this man. It is astonishing how Father Delp, who otherwise let the sparks fly, stood quietly and matter-of-factly before the judge. The words of the Holy Scripture are true: When you stand before your enemies, do not ask what you should say, for the Spirit of God will tell you what you should say. And when Delp, in peace and certainty before the judge, point for point refuted the charges against him, especially those related to 20 July, then one can only marvel and say that it was not the man speaking here, but God.

Nevertheless, he was condemned to death with Moltke. Let's keep it brief. On 2 February 1945, he was strangled. None of us was there. No one knows the details...let's not speak of it—it is horrible. To think of these men who were intellectually outstanding, men who had ideals, men who wanted to survive and to give their best for their people—to think that these men had to depart from this life because of such a satanic system!

Valediction to Father Delp: A man who consistently went the way that he had recognized as the right way. Completely human, creature of God, completely Christian, faithful to his Master even unto death.

Grateful acknowledgement is due to Father Hammerich of St. Andreas Church, Lampertheim, for permission to publish text and photo. First published in Reden und Ansprachen zum Gedenken an Pater Alfred Delp, S.J., Hammerich, Lampertheim, 1975, vol. 1, pp. 13-26. Translation from the German by Abtei St. Walburg. Photo: Procession to the church for Father Delp's first Mass on 4 July 1937. Father Albert Münch (far left), Father Alfred Delp, S.J. (center).


6-Year-Old on Way to Sainthood
Pope Approves Decree of Heroic Virtue

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2007- A 6-year-old Italian girl who cheerfully endured the amputation of her leg and offered it in union with the sacrifices of Christ might someday become the youngest canonized non-martyr saint.

Benedict XVI approved Monday the decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Antonietta Meo, who died of bone cancer. Along with the recognition of Meo's virtue, the Pope approved six decrees recognizing miracles, and seven other decrees affirming lives of heroic virtue.

Born in 1930, Antonietta was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 5 after a fall caused by a knee injury would not heal.

The girl formed the habit of leaving a letter at the foot of a crucifix every night. At first, she dictated these notes to her mother; later she wrote them herself. The more than 100 letters and her diary reveal an intense mysticism and a surprising level of theological reflection, albeit hidden in simple phrases.

"Dear Jesus," one of the letters says, "I love you very much. I want to abandon myself in your hands [...] I want to abandon myself in your arms. Do with me what you want. [...] Help me with your grace. You help me, since without your grace, I can do nothing."

Her letters were written to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. In a letter to Mary from Sept. 18, 1936, she said, "Dear little Virgin, you who are very good, take my heart and bring it to Jesus."

Antonietta died July 3, 1937, five months before her 7th birthday.

In 1981, the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes removed the norm restricting "heroic virtue" only to those who had lived a "period of maturity." The change in the norm permitted the visionaries of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco, to be beatified in 2000.

Holiness from a wheelchair

Benedict XVI also approved the decree of heroic virtue attributed to Manuel Lozano Garrido, a Spanish journalist who spent 28 years in a wheelchair.

Lozano Garrido (1920-1971) entered the Catholic Action group at age 11. During the Spanish civil war, he distributed holy Communion to the imprisoned.

His long illness began in 1942 and just one year afterward, he began to need a wheelchair. Twenty years later, nearly 10 years before his death, he lost his sight.

From his wheelchair, with progressive paralysis affecting more and more of his body, he became a recognized writer and journalist. His professional life led to many publications, including reports for the Associated Press and nine books on spirituality. When his right hand became paralyzed, he learned to write with his left. When that hand, too, lost movement, he would dictate his words.


Besides the decrees pertaining to Antonietta and Lozano Garrido, Benedict XVI authorized the publication of decrees of miracles obtained through the intercession of the following Servants of God:

-- Michael Spocko, Polish priest (1888-1975).

-- James Ghazir Haddad (born Khalil), Lebanese professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins and founder of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Lebanon (1875-1954).
-- Maria Maddalena dell'Incarnazione Sordini (born Caterina), Italian founder of the Order of Sisters of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (died 1824).

-- Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve, French foundress of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (1811-1854).
-- Vincenza Maria Poloni (born Luigia), Italian foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Verona (1802-1855).
-- Maria Giuseppina di Gesu Crocefisso Catanea (born Giuseppina), Italian professed nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (1896-1948).

The Pope also approved decrees of heroic virtue for the following Servants of God:

-- Francesco Mottola, Italian priest and founder of the Secular Institute of the Oblates of the Sacred Heart (1901-1969).
-- Serafino Morazzone, Italian priest (1747-1822).
-- Raphael Louis Rafiringa, Madagascan professed religious of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools (1856-1919).

-- Stephen Nehme (born Joseph), Lebanese professed religious of the Order of Maronites (1889-1938).
-- Anna Maria Marovich, Italian member of the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Immaculate (1815-1887).
-- Maria Piera De Micheli (born Giuseppa Maria), Italian professed sister of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Buenos Aires (1890-1945).


A Martyr's Letter to His Girlfriend
"Let My Memory Always Remind You There Is a Better Life"

MADRID, Spain, NOV. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a letter from Bartolomé Blanco Márquez, written to his girlfriend from prison the day before he was executed during religious persecution in 1930s Spain. Márquez was beatified Oct. 28; the letter is published in the “Summarium Super Martyrio” of his beatification cause.

Bartolomé Blanco Márquez was born in Cordoba in 1914. He was arrested as a Catholic leader -- he was the secretary of Catholic Action and a delegate to the Catholic Syndicates -- on Aug. 18, 1936. He was executed on Oct. 2, 1936, at age 21, while he cried out, “Long live Christ the King!”

* * *

Provincial prison of Jaen, Oct. 1, 1936

My dearest Maruja:

Your memory will remain with me to the grave and, as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you. God has deemed fit to sublimate these worldly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in him. Though in my final days, God is my light and what I long for, this does not mean that the recollection of the one dearest to me will not accompany me until the hour of my death.

I am assisted by many priests who -- what a sweet comfort -- pour out the treasures of grace into my soul, strengthening it. I look death in the eye and, believe my words, it does not daunt me or make me afraid.

My sentence before the court of mankind will be my soundest defense before God's court; in their effort to revile me, they have ennobled me; in trying to sentence me, they have absolved me, and by attempting to lose me, they have saved me. Do you see what I mean? Why, of course! Because in killing me, they grant me true life and in condemning me for always upholding the highest ideals of religion, country and family, they swing open before me the doors of heaven.

My body will be buried in a grave in this cemetery of Jaen; while I am left with only a few hours before that definitive repose, allow me to ask but one thing of you: that in memory of the love we shared, which at this moment is enhanced, that you would take on as your primary objective the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will procure our reuniting in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.

Goodbye, until that moment, then, dearest Maruja! Do not forget that I am looking at you from heaven, and try to be a model Christian woman, since, in the end, worldly goods and delights are of no avail if we do not manage to save our souls.

My thoughts of gratitude to all your family and, for you, all my love, sublimated in the hours of death. Do not forget me, my Maruja, and let my memory always remind you there is a better life, and that attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.

Be strong and make a new life; you are young and kind, and you will have God's help, which I will implore upon you from his kingdom. Goodbye, until eternity, then, when we shall continue to love each other for life everlasting.


Miguel Pro: Viva Cristo Rey! The Cristeros Versus the Mexican Revolution
by Christopher Check

Imagine going to confession on a Saturday afternoon only to find no priest available. You drive to nearby — or even distant — churches and encounter only frustrated parishioners facing the same situation. A couple with a new baby cannot find a priest to baptize him. The last time anyone in the group attended Mass was months ago. This nightmare gives some sense of the profound evil that gripped Mexico nearly a century ago.

Socialist historians from Mexico and Russia have argued that the Cristeros were superstitious peasants manipulated by elites who felt threatened by the revolution's promise of progress and justice. To make such arguments they had to ignore the facts of the story (the wealthy of Mexico, including practicing Catholics, opposed the uprising), as well as the eleven centuries of Catholic militancy that informed it. Seduced by Marxist errors and Masonic superstitions, revolutionaries declared war on the Catholic Church. They seized control of the government and, in 1917, wrote a socialist constitution packed with anticlerical articles with the goal of marginalizing the Church's influence — if not driving her from Mexico altogether.

Backed by the full force of federal law, the Revolutionary Government confiscated all Church property, including hospitals, monasteries, convents, and schools. Priests were forbidden to wear their clerics in public. They were not allowed to express opinions on politics, even in private conversation. They could not seek justice in the Mexican courts. To take a religious vow became a criminal act. All foreign clergy were deported.

In 1926, the president of Mexico, Plutarco Elias Calles, added teeth to the persecution with additions to the penal code. The "Calles Law," as it came to be known, called for uniform enforcement throughout the country of the Constitution's anticlerical articles. It threatened severe sanctions for violations and for government officials who failed to enforce them. "As long as I am President of the Republic, the Constitution of 1917 will be obeyed," he vowed, saying he would not be moved by the "wailing of sacristans or the pujidos (groans) of the over-pious" (David C. Bailey, Viva Cristo Rey!: The Cristero Rebellion, and the Church-State Conflict in Mexico, 65).

Self-Proclaimed Enemies of God

Calles was, in one sense, just another anticlerical revolutionary in a century-old series of anticlerical revolutionaries. For him the Church represented a past he wished to see liquidated.

Unable to operate under these conditions, the Mexican bishops, after agonized deliberations and consultation with the Holy See, suspended public worship on July 31, 1926. Three bishops went into hiding; the rest left the country in exile. The next day, for the first time in more than four hundred years, no priest in Mexico ascended ad altare Dei to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Priests who remained in Mexico faced two choices: cooperation with the government or a life on the run. Those who cooperated were forced to abandon their parishes, to move to urban areas, and to register with their state governments — which now had the power to set clerical quotas. In the state of Tobasco, for example, Governor Tomas Canabal restricted the number of priests in his state to six, one for every thirty thousand citizens. He demanded these six take wives. In true Marxist fashion, he renamed his capital city, San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist), to Villa Hermosa (beautiful villa), and named his children Lenin, Lucifer, and Satan. His business card identified him as "The Personal Enemy of God."

A courageous minority of priests refused to register. They went into hiding and roamed Mexico by night and in disguise, doing their best to bring the sacraments to the faithful. If caught, they were arrested, fined, jailed, and sometimes tortured and executed.

Following the suspension of public worship, the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, an organization formed by middle-class Catholic intellectuals, circulated a petition signed by two million Mexicans demanding constitutional reform. Their cries were ignored; the government went so far as to deny the petition existed. The people responded with a nationwide boycott of government transportation services, energy, and entertainment. The boycott failed because Mexico's wealthy — including many practicing Catholics — felt the sting of the boycott and complained to the government. Federal police were sent in to break up picket lines. By January 1927, many of the faithful concluded that they had exhausted all peaceful means of protest. The Mexican landowning peasant class in the rural west took up arms.

Bishops: Fight or Flight?

Was this the effect that the bishops had desired? In the case of a few, perhaps, yes. Bishop Leopoldo Lara y Torres of Tacambaro wrote to Calles telling him that the bishops were prepared to seal their protest "in blood." The fiery tactics of Bishop Francisco Orozco y Jiménez of Guadalajara made Rome nervous; he endured three exiles for his public opposition to the government. Bishop José de Jesús Manríquez y Zárate of Huejulta had been arrested once already for circulating tracts condemning Calles and for using his pulpit to denounce his administration. Bishop Zárate would later help supply the Cristeros, and he even considered taking the field with them. For most of the bishops, however, suspension of public worship was a non-violent protest designed to bring popular pressure on the government.

The non-violent view was shared by José Anacleto Gonzales Flores, the heroic scholar and founder of the Catholic-action organization the Union Popular. As street demonstrations devolved into street violence, however, Flores reluctantly joined forces with the National League's Rene Capistran Garza in a nationwide call to arms. Flores told his followers that they were headed for Calvary.

    If one of you should ask me what sacrifice I am asking of you in order to seal the pact we are going to celebrate, I will tell you in two words: your blood. If you want to proceed, stop dreaming of places of honor, military triumphs, braid, luster, victories, and authority over others. Mexico needs a tradition of blood in order to cement its free life of tomorrow. For that work my life is available, and for that tradition I ask yours. (Bailey, Viva Cristo Rey!, 110)

Flores was martyred after an ordeal of brutal torture during which he was hung by his thumbs while federal soldiers skinned the soles of his feet. Before he died, he accomplished much more than organizing a military uprising. He and the leaders of the Union Popular operated catechesis programs for children and adults and relief efforts for the poor. Flores understood that a military victory would be hollow if there were no Catholic Mexico to replace Revolutionary Mexico. He was beatified in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.

No Support from Northern Neighbors

When the Cristeros took up arms in January 1927, they had very few arms to take up, only their battle cry, "Viva Cristo Rey!" The uprising occurred almost simultaneously in small towns and villages in a dozen western states including Zacatecas, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Durango, Michoacan, and Colima. Hundreds of small, poorly organized bands of sharecroppers and rancheros bearing machetes and a few rifles took over local municipalities by disarming the garrisons at federal outposts, as well as local police and militia units.

Lack of a long-term plan, however, took some of the steam out of these initial victories. Capistran Garza had been a great one for creating pious fervor, but he was not the man to organize an armed rebellion. His job, as he saw it, was to cross the border and stir up sympathy for the Cristero cause among U.S. Catholics, sympathy that would translate into large gifts of cash with which to buy desperately needed ammunition. Garza knew that American support would dictate the outcome of the war, but the U.S. bishops were reluctant to give any sign of supporting an armed rebellion against a government recognized by the United States. Meanwhile, most of the Mexican bishops were looking for a negotiated settlement. Garza's northern sojourn yielded almost no fruit.

Knowing nothing of the diplomatic bargaining that their uprising had generated, the Cristeros pressed ahead with their war for the soul of Mexico. In some regions they were clearly winning; in others, at least they were holding their own. Taking over one rural village at a time, they began not only better to organize their army, but also to organize alternate governments in the territories they had liberated. They controlled a wide swath of towns and cities in the state of Zacatecas. The region of Coalcoman in western Michoacan sent Calles formal notification of its succession from Mexico.

Municipal governments under Cristero control collected taxes for the war effort but also discharged the ordinary functions of civil government, such as school administration. Deeply conscious of the Christian nature of their movement, Cristero lawmakers took a hard line on moral behavior. Unmarried couples were required to marry or separate. Prostitution, gambling, and public drunkenness were severely punished, and rape could draw a sentence of death. Catholic social justice informed Cristero economic policy, which forbade speculation in corn and other crops afflicted by shortages resulting from the war.

Women Wage War of Secrecy

The war raged for thirty months. The federal government attempted to deny Cristero victories, but in fact — and in spite of severe shortages of ammunition — Catholic soldiers defeated federal units in operations ranging from large cavalry engagements on the plains of Jalisco to guerilla operations in the mountains of Durango. The American military attaché described the "remarkable tenacity" of the Cristeros and the general disorder of the federal army.

The Cristeros lived by a strict moral code, one that stood in strict contrast to the behavior of federal troops, who were frequently drunk or stoned and who terrorized the civilian population with pillage and rape. Consequently, public sympathy for the Cristeros was strong. For example, there was an extensive logistics network run by the Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc, a Catholic women's organization affiliated with the Unión Popular. These women devised creative and clandestine ways to keep soldiers supplied: special vests for smuggling ammunition out of federal factories and secret workshops for the production of homemade explosives, such as grenades made out of jelly tins. These courageous twenty-five thousand ladies also carried messages — written on silk and hidden within the soles of shoes — between units. All of their activities were carried out under an oath of secrecy. No evidence indicates that the oath was ever broken.

The heroic efforts of the Joan of Arc Brigades notwithstanding, the Cristero army never had enough ammunition to win a decisive victory. Too often, in the heat of battle, they had to disengage so as to live to fight another day. On several occasions they were reduced to rolling boulders (called "Hail Marys" and "Our Fathers") down a hill on advancing federal troops. Although the federal army was badly led and plagued by high rates of desertion, they were never short of arms and ammunition — supplied by the U.S. government. In at least one battle, American pilots provided air support for the federal army. Stalemate, albeit one that could last for years, seemed to be the best for which the Cristeros could hope.

"Animated by a Spirit of Good Will"

Plutarco Calles felt threatened nonetheless. The war was costing the government ninety-six million pesos a year, more than a third of its annual budget. This figure did not include the harm to his economy in reduced agricultural production (for which Calles' scorched-earth policy was to blame). Worse perhaps, his policy of relocating some 30 percent of the rural population of Mexico to urban areas in an effort to eliminate the Cristero support network was only provoking widespread resentment. Half a million Mexicans left the country, forming California's first wave of Mexican immigration. By the end of the fighting, military deaths approached one hundred thousand, 60 percent of which were federal troops.

Although Calles continued to call the shots, he turned over the presidency to his hand-picked successor, Emilio Portes Gil. Whether it was Portes Gil's more moderate positions on religious questions or Calles' growing fear that the Cristeros would never be defeated ("they are annihilating us," he told Gil), the Mexican government at last came to the bargaining table.

The man who negotiated the settlement was the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow (whose daughter Anne married Charles Lindbergh). Calles and Portes Gil knew that if the Mexican bishops restored public worship, the armed resistance would fade. Pope Pius XI would permit the restoration of public worship only if he believed that the persecution of the Church would abate and that Church property would be restored. Calles and Portes Gil had no plans to change the constitution, but they were willing to hint that enforcement could be relaxed.

On June 21, 1929, Mexico City's Archbishop Pascual Diaz and Archbishop Ruiz y Flores, the Apostolic Delegate, along with Portes Gil, issued statements to the press. The Mexican episcopal statement was brief, citing the spirit of good will in which negotiations had taken place and a desire that the restoration of public worship would "lead the Mexican people, animated by a spirit of good will, to cooperate in all moral efforts undertaken for the welfare of all the people of the country" (Bailey, Viva Cristo Rey!, 312).

Portes Gil assured the people of Mexico that the Constitution did not intend "to destroy the identity of the Catholic Church" nor "to intervene in any way with its spiritual functions" and that he was prepared to listen to "any complaints . . . regarding injustices . . . committed by undue application of the laws" (Bailey, Viva Cristo Rey!, 312). He clarified that the registration of clergy did not mean that the government could register clergy not appointed by ecclesiastical authority. He added that religious instruction could take place within the confines of a church, but not in schools, and that any law of Mexico was subject to appeal by one of her citizens.

On these two noncommittal statements, los arreglos (agreements) were brokered. Ruiz y Flores and Diaz had given the most generous interpretation possible to Pius XI's demand that Church property be restored: "In so far as could reasonably be expected," they told Morrow. Portes Gil told them that Church property not being used by the government would be returned immediately, but that the Church could give the government time to vacate buildings currently occupied. Portes Gil also ordered a total amnesty for all Cristeros, including free rail passes to return to their homes. Officers were permitted to keep their sidearms and horses.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the two bishops drove directly to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and knelt at the high altar in thanksgiving. Public worship was restored. The faithful packed the churches. Word came from Pius XI to the Cristeros asking them to lay down their arms. Over the next three months, in obedience to the Holy Father, some more reluctantly than others, that is exactly what they did.

Betrayal, Persecution, and Mass Executions

But within a few months of the arreglos, signs emerged that all was not well. A significant number of churches, schools, and rectories remained in government hands. Ruiz y Flores and Diaz attempted to meet with the president but were ignored. When they at last met with Portes Gil's successor, Pascual Ortiz Rubio (also handpicked by Calles) and asked him to honor his predecessor's promises, they were told that Portes Gil had promised nothing.

Meanwhile, the Cristeros who were not willing to move out of their states were taken prisoner and executed. The "annihilation of Catholic militants after the 1929 agreement" (Bailey, Viva Cristo Rey!, 294) lasted for several years. There were mass executions in Jalisco, and reports of Cristero veterans being hunted down and killed lasted until the 1950s. It is not known how many thousands of them lost their lives after the war had been declared over.

The worst years for the Church in Mexico were 1934 and 1935. In this period Graham Greene set his novel The Power and the Glory, in which a "whiskey priest" fights persecution and his own weaknesses.

Most state governments closed the churches. Priests practically vanished, as they were again on the run. Less than a tenth of those who had served the faithful in 1925 were permitted to operate a decade later. In truth, the number was fewer, since those who wanted to practice legally had to marry. In 1934 there were 334 registered priests for fifteen million Mexicans.

Schoolteachers in Yucatan and Michoacan were required to take a public oath of atheism and to promise to teach against the Catholic religion. Archbishop Diaz's episcopal palace was never returned. He was thrown in jail for a time and then forced to rent rooms where he could find them. Fearing to lose their property, few were willing to rent to the aged priest. He died hated by the Mexican government and not altogether loved by Catholic militants who felt he had betrayed their cause.

Doubtless it was Diaz's voice that at last convinced Pius XI to call for an end to the Cristero uprising. However, we can render no just judgment on the members of the hierarchy who sought an end to the Cristiada without bearing in mind that the Church is not a political movement. It is an institution for the care of souls. We may wish ever to see the Church triumph over her enemies, but her path must be the path of her founder, a steady march to Calvary. Pius XI and his bishops needed first and foremost to restore the sacraments to the Mexican faithful, even if the circumstances under which they were to be dispensed were trying. They negotiated in good faith, which is more than can be said for anyone else at the bargaining table.

The Seed of the Church

The Mexican Church's climb out of the hell of the Revolution has been slow, and it is not finished. Mexican schoolchildren, to the extent that they even hear the story of the Cristeros, are as likely as not to get the socialist spin. Well into the 1970s, Catholic schools received regular inspections to ensure use of government textbooks. Religion could not be taught — only "values." Not until the 1980s were the anticlerical articles repealed. Not until the late 1990s, with the beatifications and canonizations of the Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution by John Paul II and, in 2005, Benedict XVI, did a sympathetic public awareness of the Cristeros resurface.

Nonetheless, the Calles Law may be off the books, but anticlerical sentiment remains, especially in the popular media, which fumed about "opening old wounds" when last summer Miss Mexico wore a dress honoring the Cristeros. When bishops in Mexico spoke against new laws permitting abortion, the press behaved as if they had no business commenting on a "political matter."

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." After Tertullian wrote those words a century would pass before the Edict of Milan. How and when God will perfect the sacrifices of the Mexican Martyrs is up to him. For our part we can contemplate the ferocity with which the Church was persecuted not long ago in our own backyard, and the zeal of the faithful who defended her with Catholic hearts forged in centuries of fighting the enemies of Jesus Christ.

Mexico's Tarcisius: José Sánchez del Río

In 1913, in the state of Michoacan, a boy was born to Macario and Maria Sánchez del Río. They called him José. Macario and Maria were cattle ranchers who loved Jesus Christ with all their hearts and who reared their four children, of whom José was the third, to do the same. José cultivated a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe and said his rosary each day with great care. He instructed the other young children of his town in the Catholic faith, and encouraged them to make holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament. José loved to play marbles with his companions, and he learned to ride and care for horses. When José was thirteen, his older brothers, Macario and Miguel, left home to join the Cristeros. José desired to join them, but his mother forbade it. For a year he begged her to let him go. "Mother," he said, "Will you deny me the chance to go to heaven, and so soon?"

At last his mother relented, and with tears in her eyes watched her youngest son ride off to join the crusade. The Cristero commander in José's town refused the boy's appeal to enlist, so he made his way some twenty or thirty miles to the next town, Cotija, where he presented himself to the Cristero commander, Prudencio Mendoza.

"What contribution can so small a boy make to our army?"

"I ride well. I know how to tend horses, clean weapons and spurs, and how to fry beans and tortillas."

Mendoza was inspired by the boy's grit, so he made him the aide of the Cristero General Ruben Guizar Morfin. Impressed by José's service, Morfin promoted him to bugler. His job was to ride alongside the general in combat, carrying his battle standard and delivering the general's orders with his horn. The soldiers of José's regiment, inspired by his piety and fervor, nicknamed him Tarcisius after the Roman altar boy who died protecting the Blessed Sacrament from a pagan mob.

On February 6, 1928, the Cristero army was overwhelmed by the federal army in fierce and bloody combat outside of Cotija. General Morfin's horse was shot, and it looked as if he would soon be captured by the federal troops. José leapt off of his horse.

"General!" he shouted. "Take my mount and escape to safety. You are of far greater importance to the Cristero cause than I am."

Helping Morfin up into the saddle, José delivered a hard swat across the backside of the horse and sent it galloping away. He then took his rifle and bandolier and, taking cover behind a rock, began shooting the federal soldiers closing around him. At last the boy ran out of ammunition, and standing up shouted to the enemy, "I have not surrendered. I have only stopped shooting you because I am out of cartridges."

When the federal soldiers saw that they had been fired upon by a boy, they seized him in a fury. They put José in irons and dragged him off to the local church, which they had converted into a jail, a stable for their horses, and a coop for roosters they used in cockfights. These they had leashed to the church's monstrance. José scolded the soldiers for desecrating a holy place.

"Now we will see, hombrecito, how tough you are!" they sneered.

To test his resolve, they forced José to watch as they took another captured Cristero, tortured him, and hanged him from a telegraph pole. Instead of looking away, José encouraged the prisoner, telling him that they would soon meet up in heaven. For two days, José was locked in the sacristy of the church, during which time he wrote to his mother, telling her that he had no fear, that he had welcomed the will of God and looked forward to dying in the light of our Lord.

The captain of the guard offered José his freedom in exchange for information about the Cristeros, including the names of the people who were supplying them. José refused, so they pinned him down and cut the skin off the soles of his feet. At eleven at night, they marched José to the cemetery on the edge of town, all the while telling him that if he would deny Jesus Christ they would spare his life.

"Viva Cristo Rey!" shouted José, the rallying cry of the Cristeros. "Viva Cristo Rey!" over and over as he limped in his bloodied feet over the gravel and twigs. "Long Live Christ the King! Long Live the Virgin of Guadalupe!" At the graveyard, José was pushed into a shallow grave. Struggling to his feet he again shouted, "Viva Cristo Rey!" To avoid the sound of gunfire, the commander of the firing squad ordered his men to stab the boy with their bayonets. "Viva Cristo Rey!" Again the bayonet into his side. "Viva Santa Maria de Guadalupe!"

"Say 'Death to Christ the King' and save your life!" demanded the captain of the guard.

"Viva Cristo Rey!"

The captain lost all patience and drew his own pistol. The first bullet struck José in the head, knocking him to the ground. As blood pooled next to his face, José, in a final act of defiance against the enemies of Jesus Christ who had taken over his country, dipped his hand in his blood and with it drew a cross in the dirt, then touched his lips to the cross. Six more bullets at point-blank range sent the martyr into the arms of his Savior.

Torture and Death

While Cristeros often spared the lives of captured federal soldiers, the reverse was not true. Cristeros who were captured in battle were executed after undergoing torture designed to force the Catholic soldiers to reveal military secrets and to deny the faith. Electric shock, burning with blow torches, hanging by thumbs, and broken bones were common. It was also common to drag prisoners behind a horse and then quarter them alive. A widespread form of torture was to flay the soles of the feet and force the victim to walk on rock salt. Nonetheless, many Cristero prisoners died bravely, and the accounts of their deaths inspired their brothers-in-arms.

Priests captured by the Mexican government, whether they were actively serving with the Cristeros or had simply refused to register with the government, were hanged or shot. Among them was the sixty-two year old Fr. Mateo Correa Magallanes, who refused to tell federal officers what Cristero prisoners had told him in confession. Most famous of the martyred priests is Bl. Miguel Pro, unjustly implicated in a failed assassination attempt on Calles' successor, Alvaro Obregon. Pro died before a firing squad with his arms outstretched like our Lord crucified, shouting "Viva Cristo Rey!" Calles ordered the execution photographed, hoping that the grisly images would discourage Catholics supporting the Cristeros. But the photos had the opposite effect, and soon Calles was forbidding papers to print them. Although Fr. Pro himself was not part of any armed rebellion, his martyrdom inspired others to take up arms in support of the Cristeros.

Further Reading

    * Blessed Miguel Pro: Twentieth-Century Mexican Martyr by Ann Ball (TAN)
    * Blood-Drenched Altars: A Catholic Commentary on the History of Mexico by Most Rev. Francis Clement Kelley (TAN)
    * The Cristero Rebellion: The Mexican People Between Church and State by Jean A. Meyer (Cambridge; out of print)
    * Mexican Martyrdom: Firsthand Experiences of the Religious Persecution in Mexico by Wilfred Parsons, S.J. (TAN)
    * The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (Penguin)
    * Robbery Under Law: The Mexican Object Lesson by Evelyn Waugh (Akadine: Common Reader)
    * Viva Cristo Rey!: The Cristero Rebellion, and the Church-State Conflict in Mexico by David C. Bailey (University of Texas; out of print)
    * Young Faces of Holiness by Ann Ball (Our Sunday Visitor)

Christopher Check is executive vice president of The Rockford Institute and a lecturer on military and Church history. He gratefully acknowledges the kind assistance of Roberto and Margarita Ucero in preparing this article.


Caroline Chisholm, Australia's next saint?

A second Australian saint could be on the cards as supporters of Catholic pioneer Caroline Chisholm push for her beatification.

Chisholm, who died in 1877, was known as “the emigrants’ friend” for her work in helping single women and families settle in Australia and for rescuing homeless girls in colonial Sydney.

The Friends of Mrs Chisholm are preparing historical data to petition the Vatican for her eventual rise to Sainthood, The Age reported.

To be considered for sainthood, supporters will need to establish signs of two miracles — intercessions in response to prayer from beyond the grave.

A public campaign, including the printing of prayer cards and a new website, will be launched next year to coincide with the 200th anniversary of her birth.

Chisholm has always been held in high regard and was the first woman other than a monarch to feature on Australian currency, gracing the $5 note until 1992.

But the path to canonisation could be problematic as Chisholm died in England and the process of seeking sainthood needs to be triggered by the local bishop there.

Friends of Mrs Chisholm spokesperson Clara Geoghegan spokeswoman said what makes Chisholm special was her conviction and faith.

“I don't think what she did was possible by mere human effort,” Ms Geoghegan said.

"She was responding to the call of the Holy Spirit to deal with the contemporary issues of her day.

“At the very least she is as deserving as Mary MacKillop (of sainthood), but what she didn't do was to work in the name of the church.”


MacKillop one step closer to Sainthood

The road to sainthood for Mary MacKillop may be one step closer as a second miracle has been revealed. Vice-postulator of MacKillop’s cause for sainthood Sr Maria Casey has publicly announced she believes the recovery of a woman who was on her deathbed is the evidence which will elevate her to full sainthood, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. A devout Catholic, Rosa – who does not want her last name revealed – was miraculously healed as she lay in a coma, suffering multiple organ failure after enduring two bouts of breast cancer. On the night she recovered – coincidentally the Feast day of Mary MacKillop - her family were praying to Australia’s saint-in-waiting for her intercession. Among them was Father Raphael Beltrame who left the sad gathering for his presbytery to await the call back to Rosa's deathbed. However, the call never came. While Mary MacKillop was beatified in 1995, the church needs signs of two miracles from beyond the grave to award her sainthood. Sr Casey is not looking for Rosa's doctors to declare her recovery a miracle, only to ask them if they can explain it. "There are circumstances if the recovery is remarkable that there could be a shortening of the time span for investigation," Sr Casey said. Rosa, a mother of two said she does not invite the celebrity but, while others might be sceptical of supernatural intervention, she is certain that faith in MacKillop is the reason she is alive. "I've always been a devout Catholic and I've got a lot of faith - and I feel faith has pulled me through. I went back to the doctors and his exact words were, 'It wasn't what we did, we saw a miracle'. He still can't believe it," she said.


506 More to be Beatified This Year
Papal Schedule Confirmed for October-November

VATICAN CITY, OCT 12, 2007 (<A href="http://www.zenit.org ">Zenit.org</A>).- Benedict XVI has approved the beatification rites of 506 more people for this year, the vast majority of them martyrs from the religious persecution in 1930s Spain.

The Vatican released Wednesday a schedule of the liturgical celebrations over which the Pope will preside for October and November, as well as news of the approval of beatifications.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, the Holy Father will travel to Naples for a pastoral visit, during which he will open the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions.
On Monday, Nov. 5, at 11:30 a.m., Benedict XVI will celebrate a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the repose of the souls of cardinals and bishops who died during the course of the year.
For this month, the Holy Father approved five rites of beatification.
The Albertina Berkenbrock will be beatified on Oct. 20 in Tubarao, Brazil. The native Brazilian laywoman, born in 1919, was martyred in 1931.
Also in Brazil, the following day, Manuel Gómez González -- a Spanish diocesan priest, born in 1877 -- and Adílio Daronch -- a Brazilian layman, born in 1908 -- will be beatified. Both were martyred in Feijao Miudo in 1924.
Defending the faith
Another martyr, Franz Jägerstätter, will be beatified in Linz, Austria, on Oct. 26. The 36-year-old husband and father of three was decapitated on Aug. 9, 1943, because of his public opposition to Hitler and Nazism.
The beatification of Celina Chludzinska (1833-1913) will be held at St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome on Oct. 27. The widowed native of Poland founded the Congregation of Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
On Oct. 28, in St. Peter's Square, 498 martyrs of the religious persecution in Spain (1936-1939) will be beatified. It will be the largest ever group of people to be beatification at the same time.
There will be two rites of beatification in November.
On Nov. 11 in Argentina, Ceferino Namuncurá (1886-1905) -- layman and student of the San Francisco de Sales Society -- will be beatified.
One week later, on Nov. 18, the Italian priest Antonio Rosmini, theologian and philosopher, will be beatified in Novara, Italy. Father Rosmini (1797-1855) founded the Institute of Charity and the Sisters of Providence.
In Brazil in December, Lindalva Justo de Oliveira will be beatified. The sister of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul died a martyr defending her virginity in 1993. She was 39.


Pope Remembers Cardinal Van Thuân
"He Lived on Hope and Spread It Among Those He Met"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Sept. 17 address to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân.

* * *


Castel Gandolfo
Monday, 17 September 2007

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address a cordial welcome to all of you, gathered to remember beloved Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, whom the Lord called to himself on 16 September five years ago. Five years have passed but the noble figure of this faithful servant of the Lord lives on in the minds and hearts of all who knew him. I too cherish many personal memories of the meetings I had with him during the years of his service here in the Roman Curia.

I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with their collaborators. I greet the members of the San Matteo Foundation established in memory of Cardinal Van Thuân, and of the International Observatory, called after him and created for the dissemination of the Church's social doctrine, as well as the deceased Cardinal's relatives and friends. I also express my sentiments of deep gratitude to Cardinal Martino for his words on behalf of those present.

I willingly take the opportunity once again to highlight the shining witness of faith which this heroic Pastor bequeathed to us. Bishop Francis Xavier -- this is how he liked to introduce himself -- was called to the Father's House in autumn 2000, after a long and difficult period of illness faced in total abandonment to God's will. A little earlier, my venerable Predecessor John Paul II had appointed him Vice-President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, of which he later became President, and he set about publishing the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. How can we forget the outstanding features of his simple, ready cordiality? How can we not shine light on his conversational skill and his ability to make himself close to everyone? We recall him with deep admiration while we remember the great visions full of hope that inspired him and that he was able to present easily and engagingly: his fervent dedication to disseminating the social doctrine of the Church among the world's poor; his longing for evangelization in Asia, his Continent; his ability to coordinate activities of charity and human promotion which he encouraged and supported in the most remote places of the earth.

Cardinal Van Thuân was a man of hope. He lived on hope and spread it among those he met. It was thanks to this spiritual energy that he was able to withstand all the physical and moral difficulties. Hope sustained him as a Bishop who for 13 years was cut off from his diocesan community; hope helped him to see in the absurdity of the events that had happened to him -- he was never tried throughout his lengthy detention -- a providential plan of God. He received the news of the disease, the tumour that was later to lead to his death, at the same time that he learned of his appointment as Cardinal by Pope John Paul II, who held him in high esteem and was very fond of him. Cardinal Van Thuân liked to repeat that the Christian is the man of the moment, of the now, of the present time that must be welcomed and experienced with Christ's love. In this ability to live in the present shines forth Cardinal Van Thuân's intimate abandonment in God's hands and the Gospel simplicity that we all admired in him. And could it be possible, he used to wonder, that those who trust in the Heavenly Father then refuse to allow themselves to be embraced by him?

Dear brothers and sisters, I accepted with great joy the news that the Cause of Beatification of this unique prophet of Christian hope is being initiated. As we entrust this chosen soul to the Lord, let us pray that his example may be an effective lesson for us. With this hope, I cordially bless you all.


Vindicated Thinker to Be Beatified
Father Rosmini's Writings Were Condemned

NOVARA, Italy, SEPT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The beatification of a 19th-century priest whose writings were once condemned by the Holy Office will take place in Novara this fall.

Father Antonio Rosmini, a theologian and philosopher, will be beatified Nov. 18 by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Some of his works were condemned because of erroneous interpretations promoted by a few of his followers.

Ordained a priest in 1821, he went on in 1830 to found the Institute of Charity, a religious congregation recognized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Despite his absolute fidelity to Pope Pius IX, in 1849 the ecclesiastical authorities placed two of Father Rosmini's works on the Index of banned books. Condemned later with the doctrinal decree "Post Obitum" were 40 of his propositions, taken especially from posthumous works and others published in his lifetime.

It was not until July 1, 2001, that a note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by the then prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, stated that "the reasons for concern" regarding the work of Antonio Rosmini have been surmounted.

"The beatification of Father Rosmini," said Bishop Renato Corti of Novara in a press conference, "will be a singular event for the Church in Italy because it will focus the attention of today's Christians on the example of a person who dedicated his life to bringing together faith and reason. This is exactly the challenge facing us today."

According to the bishop, "The beatification will be above all a moment of great celebration for the men and women religious of the Rosminian order, who are present today throughout the world, and also for the city of Novara."


Papal Message on Cardinal Van Thuân
"We Remember Him With Great Admiration"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he received in audience at Castel Gandolfo the officials and collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the death of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân.

* * *

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopacy and Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters!

I cordially welcome all of you, gathered to remember Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, who the Lord called to himself five years ago on Sept. 16. Five years have passed, but the noble figure of this faithful servant of the Lord is still alive in our hearts and minds. I too have many personal memories of the meetings I had with him during his years of service here, in the Roman Curia.

I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively the president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with their collaborators. I greet the members of the St. Matthew Foundation established in memory of Cardinal Van Thuân, of the International Observatory, which bears his name, created to spread the Church's social doctrine, along with the relatives and friends of the deceased cardinal. To Cardinal Martino I express lively sentiments of gratitude for his greeting in the name of all those present.

I gladly take this occasion to recall, once more, the luminous witness of faith that this heroic pastor left us. Bishop Francis Xavier -- as he liked to introduce himself -- was called to the house of the Father during the autumn of 2002, after a long period of sickness that he faced with total abandonment to God's will. Years before he had been named by my venerable predecessor John Paul II as vice president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, of which he was later named president, setting in motion the publication of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

How can we forget the outstanding marks of his simple and quick cordiality? How can we not highlight his ability to dialogue and to become everyone's neighbor? We remember him with great admiration, while recalling the great visions, full of hope, which animated him and which he knew how to propose in an easy and riveting way; his fervent effort to spread the Church's social doctrine among the world's poor, how he yearned for the evangelization of his continent, Asia, the ability he had to coordinate the activities of charity and human promotion that he promoted and sustained in the remotest corners of the earth.

Cardinal Van Thuân was a man of hope; he lived hope and spread it among everyone he met. It was because of this spiritual energy that he resisted all his physical and moral difficulties. Hope sustained him as a bishop when he was isolated for 13 years from his diocesan community; hope helped him to see beyond the absurdity of the events that happened to him -- he was never put on trial during his long imprisonment -- a providential plan of God. The news of his sickness, a tumor, which led to his death, reached him almost at the same time as his elevation to cardinal by John Paul II, who held him in great esteem and affection. Cardinal Van Thuân loved to repeat that the Christian is a man of hour, of the now, beginning from the present moment to welcome and live with Christ's love. In this ability to live the present moment his intimate abandonment in God’s hands shines through as does the evangelical simplicity which we all admired in him. Is it possible -- he would ask -- that he who trusts in the Father would refuse to let himself be embraced in his arms?

Dear brothers and sisters I welcomed with profound joy the news that the cause for beatification of this singular prophet of Christian hope has begun and, while we entrust this chosen soul to the Lord, we pray that his example will be for us a valuable teaching. With that, I bless you all from my heart.


Cause for Cardinal Van Thuân Opens
His Successor Celebrates Mass on 5th Anniversary of Death

ROME, SEPT. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân's cause for beatification has been opened five years after the Vietnamese prelate died at age 74.

Cardinal Renato Martino, who succeeded Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuân as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, announced the opening of the cause at a Mass he celebrated Sunday, exactly five years after the prelate died.

During his homily, Cardinal Martino recalled his predecessor as an example "of unshakeable faith, of steadfast hope and of limitless charity."

According to the current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Van Thuân was "a shining witness of unity and forgiveness, of justice and peace, forged in the suffered experience of prison lived in union with Christ crucified and under Mary’s maternal protection."

He "knew how to distinguish between God and God’s works" above all during the 13 years of prison when he was tormented by his inability to carry out pastoral works, Cardinal Martino said.

The prelate explained that one night, a voice spoke in the depths of Cardinal Van Thuân's heart: "Why do you trouble yourself in this way? You must distinguish between God and God's works."

Cardinal Van Thuân would later recall the experience: "If God wants you to abandon these works by placing them in his hands, do it immediately and have faith in him. God will do it infinitely better than you; he will entrust his works to others, more able than you. You chose God alone, not his works! This light gave me new strength that completely changed my way of thinking."

Eucharistic faith

Cardinal Martino said his predecessor nourished Christian faith with the Eucharist.

Speaking about the Eucharist just before he died, Cardinal Van Thuân said: "Jesus gives us everything we need in the Eucharist: love, the art of loving, loving always, loving with a smile, loving right away and loving our enemies, loving by forgiving, forgetting having forgiven."

Cardinal Martino said this love and forgiveness permitted Cardinal Van Thuân to survive imprisonment, enabling him to live in the joy of Christ, in forgiveness, in love and in unity, amid seemingly unbearable difficulties.

"One cannot be a saint in intervals," Cardinal Van Thuân wrote, "but in every minute, in the present moment."

Carinal Martino spoke of how the Vietnamese prelate changed his jailors, who became his friends and helped him to build a cross of wood with a chain made from an electric wire from his prison.

He wore it to remember "the love and unity that Jesus left us in his testament."

"That old wooden cross with a little bit of metal," Cardinal Martino said, "is a moving emblem of Christian paradoxes, because it is a cross of love."

Devotion to Mary

The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace concluded the homily by affirming that Cardinal Van Thuân "loved Our Lady, as a baby loves its mother."

On Aug. 15, 1975, when the police arrested him, he had only what he was wearing and a rosary in his pocket.

Cardinal Van Thuân recalled the experience: "Mary prepared me for the persecution since 1975 when, as a young and active priest, before the grotto of Lourdes, she made me meditate on these words 'I do not promise you joy and consolations but trials and suffering.'"

Also in attendance at the memorial Mass were Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Roger Etchegaray, president of the College of Cardinals and retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, respectively.

During the Eucharistic celebration a holy card of Cardinal Van Thuân was handed out with a prayer on the back.

Cardinal Martino named Silvia Monica Correale as postulator of the cause of beatification.


The Light of Mother Teresa's Darkness
Father Kolodiejchuk on Unity With Jesus

ROME, SEPT. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Feeling or not feeling love, Mother Teresa of Calcutta knew that she was united with Jesus, for her mind was fixed on him and him alone.

The founder of the Missionaries of Charity expressed this in a letter written to a spiritual director, now published with many other letters in a volume titled "Come Be My Light," edited and presented by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Kolodiejchuk, a Missionary of Charity priest and the postulator for the cause of canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, discusses his new book and the interior life Mother Teresa kept hidden from the world.

Q: The extraordinary interior life of Mother Teresa was discovered after her death. Aside from her spiritual directors, how was this life, especially her suffering of spiritual darkness, kept from all who knew her?

Father Kolodiejchuk: No one had any idea of her interior life because her spiritual directors held onto these letters. The Jesuits have some, some were at the archbishop's house, and Father Joseph Neuner, another spiritual director, had some.

These letters were discovered when we went looking for the documents for the cause.

When she was alive, Mother Teresa asked that her biographical information not be shared.

She asked Archbishop Ferdinand Perier of Calcutta not to tell another bishop about how things had begun. She said, "Please don't give him anything from the beginning, because once people come to know the beginning, like the locutions, then the focus would be on me and not on Jesus."

She kept saying, "God's work. This is God's work."

Even the closest sisters had no idea of her interior life. Many would have thought that she would have had a great intimacy with God to keep her going in light of the difficulties of the order and the material poverty she suffered.

Q: The book discusses Mother's secret vow that she made early in her vocation, where she promised not to refuse God anything on pain of mortal sin. What role did this play in her life?

Father Kolodiejchuk: Mother Teresa made this vow, in 1942, to never refuse God anything.

Her inspiration letters from Jesus soon followed. In one of them, if not both of them, Jesus says, picking up on her vow, "Wilt thou refuse to do this for me?"

So the vow is the background to her vocation. Then you see in the inspiration letters where Jesus makes her call clear.

She then pushes forward because she knows what Jesus wants. She is motivated by thought of his longing and his pain because the poor don't know him, so they don't want him.

This was one of the pillars that kept her going through the trials of the darkness. Because of her certainty of her call and this vow in one of the letters she says, "I was at the point of breaking and then I remembered the vow, and that picked me up."

Q: There has been a lot of discussion about Mother Teresa's "dark night." It is described in your book as a "martyrdom of desire." This element, her thirsting for God, has largely been missed. Can you describe this?

Father Kolodiejchuk: A good book to read to understand some of these things is Father Thomas Dubay's "Fire Within."

In Father Dubay's book, he speaks of the real pain of loss and a pain of longing, with the pain of longing being more painful.

As Father Dubay explains, in the path to authentic union with God, there is the purgative stage called the dark night, after this a soul then goes to a stage of ecstasy and true union with God.

The purgative stage for Mother Teresa seems to have been during her time of formation at Loretto.

At the time of her profession, she said her companion was most often the darkness. The kind of letters that you read there, in the dark night, are typical letters you would read of someone in the dark night.

Father Celeste Van Exem, her spiritual director at the time, said that maybe in 1946 or 1945 she was already close to ecstasy.

After that, there is a reference to when the inspirations and locutions came, when the difficulty against faith stopped.

Later she wrote to Father Neuner, explaining: "And then you know how it worked out. And there, as if our Lord just gave himself to me to the full. The sweetness and consolation and union of those 6 months passed but too soon."

So, Mother Teresa had six months of intense union, after the locutions and ecstasy. She was already in the real transforming union. At this point, the darkness returned.

But now, however, the darkness she experienced was within that union with God -- so it wasn't that she had the union and then lost it. She lost the consolation of the union and alternated between the pain of loss and a deep longing, a real thirst.

As Father Dubay said, "At times the contemplation is delightful, and at other times it is a strong thirsting for him." But in Mother Teresa's case, apart from one month in 1958, she did not have this consolation of union.

There is one letter in which she said: "No Father, I am not alone, I have His darkness, I have His pain, I have a terrible longing for God. To love and not to be loved, I know I have Jesus in the unbroken union, for my mind is fixed on him and him alone."

Her experience of darkness within union is very rare even among the saints because for most, the end is union without it.

Her suffering, then, to use the Dominican theologian Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's term, is reparatory, much more for the sins of others, not purificatory, for her own sins. She is united to Jesus in enough faith and love to share in his experience in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.

Mother Teresa made the comment that the suffering in the Garden was worse than the suffering on the cross. And now we understand where that was coming from, because she understood Jesus' longing for souls.

The important thing is that it is union, and as Carol Zaleski pointed out in her article in First Things, this kind of trial is a new kind of trial. It is a modern kind of experience for the saints over the last 100 years or so, to suffer the feeling that one does not have any faith, and that religion is not true.

Q: The name of the book, "Come Be My Light," was a request Jesus made to Mother Teresa. How did her redemptive suffering for others in such extreme darkness connect with her particular charism?

Father Kolodiejchuk: During the 1950s, Mother surrendered and accepted the darkness. Father Neuner [one of her spiritual directors] helped her to understand it by linking the darkness with her charism, of satiating Jesus' thirst.

She used to say that the greatest poverty was to feel unloved, unwanted, uncared for, and that's exactly what she was experiencing in her relationship with Jesus.

Her reparatory suffering, or suffering for others, was part of her living her charism for the poorest of the poor.

So for her, the suffering was not only to identify with the physical and material poverty, but even on the interior level, she identified with the unloved, the lonely, the rejected.

She gave up her own interior light for those living in darkness, saying, "I know this is only feelings."

In one letter to Jesus, she wrote: "Jesus hear My prayer -- if this pleases You -- If my pain and suffering -- my darkness and separation gives You a drop of Consolation -- My own Jesus do with me as You wish -- as long as You wish without a single glance at my feelings and Pain.

"I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of Your heart. Don't mind my feelings -- Don't mind even, my pain.

"If my separation from You, brings others to You and in their love and company -- you find joy and pleasure -- why Jesus, I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer -- not only now, but for all eternity, if this was possible."

In a letter to her sisters, she makes the charism of the order more explicit, saying: "My dear children, without suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption -- Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death.

"All that He has taken upon Himself, and has carried it in the darkest night. Only by being one with us He has redeemed up.

"We are allowed to do the same: All the desolation of Poor people, not only their Material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed and we must have our share in it, pray thus when you find it hard -- 'I wish to live in this world which is far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them -- to take upon me something of their suffering.'"

And that captures what I consider her mission statement: "If I ever become a Saint -- I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from Heaven -- to [light] the light of those in darkness on earth…"

This is how she understood her darkness. A lot of the things she said make more sense and have a much deeper meaning now that we know these things.

Q: So what do you say to those who call her experience a crisis of faith, that she didn't really believe in God, or somehow imply that her darkness was a sign of psychological instability?

Father Kolodiejchuk: It wasn't a crisis of faith, or that she lacked faith, but that she had a trial of faith where she experienced the feeling that she did not believe in God.

This trial required a lot of human maturity, otherwise she wouldn't have been able to do it. She would have become unbalanced.

As Father Garrigou-Lagrange said, it is possible to have seemingly contradictory feelings at the same time.

It is possible to have "objective Christian joy," as Carol Zaleski called it, while at the same time going through the trial or feeling of having no faith.

There are not two people here, but one person with feelings on different levels.

We can really be living the cross in someway -- it is painful, and it hurts, and just because we can spiritualize it does not take way the pain, but one can be joyful because one is living with Jesus. And that is not false.

This is how and why Mother lived a life so full of joy.

Q: As the postulator of her cause for canonization, when do you think we might be able to call her St. Teresa of Calcutta?

Father Kolodiejchuk: We need one more miracle -- we have looked at a few, but none has been clear enough. There was one for beatification but we are waiting for the second.

Perhaps God has been waiting for the book to come out first, because people knew that Mother Teresa was holy but because of her ordinariness and simplicity of expression, they did not have an understanding of how holy.

I heard about two priests talking the other day. One said he was never a big fan of Mother Teresa because he thought she was just pious, devout, and did nice, admirable works, but then when he heard about her interior life, it changed everything for him.

Now we have more of an idea how developed she was spiritually, and now something of her deeper characteristics are being revealed.

Once the miracle comes in, it could take a couple of years, although the Pope could do it faster if he wanted to.

Q: What has happened to the order since Mother's death?

Father Kolodiejchuk: The order has grown by almost 1,000 sisters, from around 3,850 at her death to 4,800 today, and we've added over 150 houses in 14 more countries.

God's work goes on.


Mother Teresa Persevered Through Doubt
A Light in the 21st Century's "Dark Night"

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, AUG. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- As a respected Boston lawyer once remarked of recent biographies, "It's tough times for the dead." A case in point was the cover of last week's Time magazine. Splashed across the front page ran the headline "The Secret Life of Mother Teresa," accompanied by the gloomiest picture you ever saw of the saintly nun.

With its sensationalist title, Time magazine not only descended to the level of tabloid journalism, but betrayed a woeful ignorance of the meaning of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's spiritual journey.

Capitulating to the fad of finding the sordid behind the glitter, where titles like "Britney's Breakdown" or "Lindsay in Crisis" are guaranteed to boost sales, the article itself feeds into the mentality that things are never as pretty as they seem. In our age of masking our own shortcomings by pointing out the flaws in others, it suggests that Mother Teresa's joyous love of the poor hid a darker, almost sinister side.

Recent interest in the extraordinary founder of the Missionaries of Charity stemmed from the recently published book "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light." Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator for the cause of canonization of the saintly nun who died in 1997, compiled her letters and writings, including a number that revealed Teresa's spiritual trials.

By releasing these documents, Father Kolodiejchuk sought to grant readers a window into the intimate spiritual life of Mother Teresa, and to offer inspiration and hope by recounting her challenges in following Christ.

Instead, some have twisted her doubts about her faith, which she confided in letters to her spiritual director, into an indictment of her sincerity and personal holiness. Time author David Van Biema writes, "Perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain."

These terms relate Mother Teresa's life to that of a comic actor, suggesting that her professional persona and her private self were separate. Yet Teresa did more than just smile for cameras; she demonstrated joyous love, through her every action, gesture and expression.

The predatory glee with which news services leapt upon word of Mother Teresa's "dark night of the soul" resembled the same relish with which they report celebrity arrests. Questions such as, "Can she still be made a saint?" demonstrated an utter lack of knowledge regarding the Church's idea of sanctity while attempting to sow division by casting doubts on her holiness.

As a side note, Mother Teresa of Calcutta is blessed, which means that she is officially recognized by the Church as being in heaven. When she becomes a saint, worldwide devotion to Mother Teresa will be permitted, i.e. church dedication, invocation during the liturgy etc.

A different standard

The standards of the media are not those of saints. While Teresa herself feared falling into a sort of spiritual hypocrisy, the fact was that she, like many saints, possessed an especially keen sensitivity to how she fell short of Christ's example.

Celebrated atheists leapt to recruit the nun to their cause. Christopher Hitchens, who penned a vicious biography of Mother Teresa, was quoted extensively in the article. Seizing the opportunity to reach millions, Hitchens eagerly made his bid to turn Teresa into a poster child for nihilism.

Time also consulted psychologists to posthumously analyze Mother Teresa from her letters. It seems strange that so many people who do not believe in the soul felt themselves qualified to probe that of Mother Teresa's.

Although many have already rushed to quell these sparks, Mother Teresa obviously needs no defense. Happily situated in heaven along with other doubters like, well, St. Thomas, she is probably beseeching Jesus with her characteristic compassion to forgive Hitchens and the others "for they know not what they do."

Paradoxically, the divisive aspect of the stories has done what many Church synods couldn't. Liberal and traditional Catholics have joined forces to correct the record and to recognize Mother Teresa as an example for all people who suffer spiritual loneliness.

Her doubts and suffering, far from being a source of shame for those who love and admire this great woman, should make us proud to discover that she is an even greater hero than we thought.

For anyone seriously interested in the cause of Teresa, her spiritual difficulties come as no surprise. They were made known after her beatification in 2003. Discussing the subject at Roman dinner tables at the time, people spoke with awe of Mother Teresa's exceptional perseverance in the face of what would have crumbled anyone less attuned to God's grace.

Mother Teresa's experiences are not scandal, but a mirror of our own lonely age. While people today try to dispel feelings of loneliness with analysts, medications or pop spirituality, Teresa embraced her loneliness and clung to her faith in Jesus, which, though often devoid of feelings, was solid and profound. What many have failed to notice, in fact, is that a good number of her expressions of solitude are addressed to Jesus himself.

"Feeling it"

Carole Zaleski in "First Things" wrote that Teresa converted "her feeling of abandonment by God into an act of abandonment to God."

In many ways, her own sense of marginalization from God helped Mother Teresa to recognize loneliness in others. She proclaimed that there was "more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread." She realized that rejection and abandonment was not only the province of lepers, but present even in the inner life of those who appear to be successful and privileged.

How many times have we gone to Mass, not "feeling it," as modern speak would put it. Our lips moving, our gestures mechanical, but we remain distant from the reality of God and his love for us. In that emptiness, temptation raises its head, suggesting that rather than practice this "hypocrisy," we should forego Mass and go out for a round of golf instead.

Mother Teresa lived her doubts, not for an hour on Sunday, but every day as she tended the poor and dying in utter, relentless squalor. Her example reaches across from Christians to non-Christians.

Benedict XVI, as Father Joseph Ratzinger, made the interesting point in his 1963 "Introduction to Christianity" that "both the believer and the unbeliever share each in his own way, doubt and belief." That led him to notice that doubt could be a possible "avenue of communication" between the two.

Time and time again, saints show us that when they suffer, the solution is to look outside oneself, not further within. St. Alfonso Liguori and St. John of the Cross both overcame their own troubles by focusing on their calling. As one religious sister acutely observed, when Teresa couldn't find Jesus in her prayer life, she found him in the faces of her fellow human beings.

Teresa eventually came to give a meaning to her trials. She saw them as a privilege, the gift of sharing in Christ's loneliness on the cross.

In his film "The Passion," Mel Gibson painted a wrenching image of Christ's agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Amid oppressive darkness, the sight of Jesus, abandoned by his apostles, struggling to continue with his mission, confronts viewers with the sense of desolation that accompanied his sacrifice.

Saints like Blessed Teresa, who faced loneliness in their self-sacrifice, experienced a unique sharing in the mystery of Christ's passion. Like the purest gold, they have been forged in hotter fires.

Particularly in our era that gives more weight to feelings than facts and to sensation rather than sense, Mother Teresa teaches the world to persevere through doubt, pain and loneliness. In the dark spiritual night of the 21st-century, Mother Teresa of Calcutta's example is a shining beacon to us all.


Mother Teresa's Dark Night Unique, Says Preacher
Father Cantalamessa Calls Her Saint of the Media Age

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta's dark night of the soul kept her from being a victim of the media age and exalting herself, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said this in an interview with Vatican Radio, commenting on previously unpublished letters from Mother Teresa, now made public in Doubleday's book "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light," edited by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of the cause of Mother Teresa's canonization.

In one of her letters, Mother Teresa wrote: "There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God -- so deep that it is painful -- a suffering continual -- and yet not wanted by God -- repulsed -- empty -- no faith -- no love -- no zeal. Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing -- to me it looks like an empty place."

Father Cantalamessa explained that the fact that Mother Teresa suffered deeply from her feeling of the absence of God affirms that it was a positive phenomenon. Atheists, he contended, are not afflicted by God's absence but, "for Mother Teresa, this was the most terrible test that she could have experienced."

He further clarified that "it is the presence-absence of God: God is present but one does not experience his presence."


Father Cantalamessa contended that Mother Teresa's spiritual suffering makes her even greater.

He said: "The fact that Mother Teresa was able to remain for hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, as many eye-witnesses have testified, as if enraptured … if one thinks about the condition she was in at that moment, that is martyrdom!

"Because of this, for me, the figure of Mother Teresa is even greater; it does not diminish her."

The Capuchin priest further lauded Mother Teresa's ability to keep her spiritual pain hidden within her. "Maybe, this was done in expiation for the widespread atheism in today's world," he said, adding that she lived her experience of the absence of God "in a positive way -- with faith, with God."

Not scandalous

Father Cantalamessa affirmed that Mother Teresa's dark night should not scandalize or surprise anyone. The "dark night," he said, "is something well-known in the Christian tradition; maybe new and unheard of in the way Mother Teresa experienced it."

He added: "While 'the dark night of the spirit' of St. John of the Cross is a generally preparatory period for that definitive one called 'unitive,' for Mother Teresa it seems that it was one stable state, from a certain point in her life, when she began this great work of charity, until the end.

"In my view, the fact of this prolongation of the 'night' has meaning for us today. I believe that Mother Teresa is the saint of the media age, because this 'night of the spirit' protected her from being a victim of the media, namely from exalting herself.

"In fact, she used to say that when she received great awards and praise from the media, she did not feel anything because of this interior emptiness."


The Georgia Martyrs:
Heroic Witnesses to the Sanctity of Marriage

by Paul Thigpen

Ask about old Spanish missions in America, and most people will think of the adobe churches from the late eighteenth century that span the coast of California. Yet these missions, however historic and celebrated, were by no means the first of their kind in what is now the United States. A full two centuries before Bl. Junipero Serra preached to the Native Americans along the West Coast, his brother Franciscan friars from Spain were spreading the Gospel in what are now the southeastern states.

Their mission base was a Spanish settlement on the Florida peninsula, St. Augustine — the oldest still-inhabited city in our nation, founded in 1565. It was here in La Florida, as the Spanish called the colony, that the Christian faith first took root in the lands that today form the United States. Here were the first Mass, the first construction of a church, the first baptisms, and the first Christian conversions in what is now our nation.

Long before the founding of the first permanent English colony in America — Jamestown, Virginia, celebrating this year its four-hundredth anniversary and longer still before the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock (1620), Jesuit and then Franciscan missionaries established missions in what are now Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. They labored with remarkable courage and devotion to evangelize native peoples of the region, and tens of thousands were baptized, catechized, and provided the sacraments.

In the late sixteenth century, six of the Spanish Franciscans ministered to the people called Guale who lived along what is now the Georgia coast. Their names were Pedro de Corpa, Blas Rodriguez, Miguel de Afton, Antonio de Badajoz, Francisco de Verascola, and Francisco de Avila. All but de Avila were murdered on September 14, 16, and 17 in 1597.

Only One Wife

Life in the American mission field was harsh. These men left behind the comforts of home in Spain to live as the natives did, in huts made of tree trunks, branches, and mud, thatched with palmetto fronds. Agriculture was primitive, yielding at best a few humble garden items to supplement a diet of gathered acorns, local shellfish and wild game from the forest.

Basic items of clothing and even liturgical vestments were sometimes lacking. The men were tormented throughout much of the year by excessive heat, a blazing sun, and the mosquitoes, ticks, and tiny biting sand gnats that are the scourge of the Georgia coast. Worse yet, the closest Spanish soldiers were far away in St. Augustine, so the friars had no protection from natives who might turn hostile.

Add to all these the great challenges of bringing the Gospel to a people of a different tongue and culture who had no knowledge of much that the Spaniards had been raised to take for granted. All in all, it was perhaps near-miraculous that they did in fact meet with success and began bringing new converts into the fold.

Among the difficulties faced by the missionaries, perhaps the greatest was that of sharing Christ's teaching on marriage — that marriage is a lifetime union of one man and one woman — with a people whose culture allowed polygamy. This teaching comes to us from Christ himself, so the missionaries neither could nor would change it. The practice of the missionaries was not to admit an adult male Guale to baptism unless he first promised to live in a permanent marriage with no more than one wife.

A Broken Promise

Death came to the five martyrs after a baptized Guale named Juanillo, living in one of the missions, broke his promise and took a second wife. It fell to Fray Pedro in the mission at Tolomato to admonish Juanillo to live the Christian faith in which he was baptized. In this he was seconded by Fray Blas in the nearby mission at Tupiqui (near modern Eulonia, Georgia).

Juanillo left the mission in anger to recruit natives from the interior to rid the Guale territory of the "troublesome" friars. Under cover of darkness on a Saturday night, the war party crept into the mission compound and waited for dawn. When Fray Pedro was about to leave his cabin to celebrate morning Mass, the war party broke in and slew the missionary with a blow of the macana, the Guale version of the tomahawk. It was Sunday, September 14: the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

With Christian morality thrown aside, a licentious celebration ensued, during which Fray Pedro's severed head was displayed on a pike at the mission landing. The body was left to decay in the sun for several days and then buried in an unmarked grave so that it would never be recovered.

One Final Sermon

The war party now proceeded to Tupiqui and seized Fray Blas. During the two days he was held prisoner, he was permitted to celebrate Mass and to preach his last sermon. He said:

    My sons, for me it is not difficult to die. Even if you do not cause it, the death of this body is inevitable. We must be ready at all times, for we, all of us, have to die someday. But what does pain me is that the Evil One has persuaded you to do this offensive thing against your God and Creator. It is a further source of deep grief to me that you are unmindful of what we missionaries have done for you in teaching you the way to eternal life and happiness. (qtd. in Luis Geronimo de Ore, The Martyrs of Florida [1513 – 1516])

Fray Blas distributed his personal things among his flock and then, bound by ropes, watched the profaning of the sacred images, vestments, and vessels by the war party. On September 16, he was clubbed to death. After his body was left exposed for several days, a faithful Christian buried it in the woods, where it was found later by a detachment of Spanish infantry sent from St. Augustine to investigate the deaths.

A Brave Local Chief

Meanwhile, the war band sent word to the local chief (or mico) on St. Catherines Island to kill the two friars stationed there, Fray Miguel, the priest, and Fray Antonio, the lay brother who was his co-worker and interpreter. The chief refused and instead informed Fray Antonio, offering a canoe and rowers to take the friars to safety at the heavily Christian San Pedro (now Cumberland) Island. Antonio did not believe the warning, or perhaps he simply would not flee the crown of martyrdom.

On September 17, the war band arrived on St. Catherines, and the friars knew their fate. The mico boldly told them he would do the missionaries no harm, and he even offered the assassins all he owned if they would let the friars go free. But the offer was refused.

Fray Miguel offered Mass. It was the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, and the Gospel reading of the day contained the words of the Lord Jesus: "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 16:25).

For four hours the friars gave themselves to prayer, awaiting the crown of martyrdom. Antonio was the first to receive the blow of the macana, and then Miguel. Their mutilated bodies were left to rot in the sun until crudely buried by faithful Christians at the foot of the great mission cross that Fray Miguel had erected. Later the relics were gathered and taken to the central friary at St. Augustine, now the National Guard Armory, known as "St. Francis Barracks."

The Last to Die

While the other murders were occurring, Fray Francisco was returning by canoe from St. Augustine to his mission, probably on what is now St. Simon's Island (though perhaps at another location). On some unknown date before the end of September, he arrived home with the supplies needed for Mass and for the ongoing construction of the mission, and with gifts for his Guale flock.

The details of his reception are told succinctly by a chronicler: "They waited for him, and when he disembarked, two natives took him in their arms, while the others came and killed him with blows from the macana. Then they buried him" (Captivity narrative of Fr. Francisco de Avila, qtd. in Ore, The Martyrs, 94). His Franciscan capuche, or hood, and his sombrero were later recovered from the Guales who were wearing them, but his body was never found.

News of the terrible events soon spread throughout the Spanish missions of La Florida. A few weeks later Friar Pedro Fernandez de Chozas wrote to the Spanish governor at St. Augustine: "How lonely they must have been, Senor General, these little lambs, at the moment of martyrdom" (Letter of Fr. Pedro Fernandez de Chozas to Gozalo Mendez de Canzo, Oct. 4, 1597).

The Cause of Canonization

The heroic death of these five Servants of God was recognized from the beginning. An official Franciscan report to his Majesty Philip III on October 16, 1612, bears witness:

    Though [the natives did not kill them because of doctrine, it is certain that they slew them because of the Law of God they were teaching them and because of our moral precepts — so contrary to their way of life and their customs. Specifically they slew them because we would not consent that any married Christian should have more than one wife . . . This is the reason which the Indians gave and, recognizing their sin, this day cite for their slaying of the friars. It is a recognized fact in this land that since the death of these blessed religious the native people have been turning more docile and peaceful, attaining their present state. It is the pious belief that these blessed ones are in God's presence, interceding for the conversion of this land. (Archivo General de Indias, qtd. in Ore, 94)

Martyrologies, chronicles, and histories continued to recall the heroic deaths of the Georgia martyrs. But only in the 1950s did the Franciscans begin in earnest the movement for canonization. On February 22, 1984, the Bishop of Savannah, Raymond W. Lessard, officially opened the Cause of Beatification. Work on the cause continues with the endorsement and encouragement of the present Bishop, J. Kevin Boland.

After 23 years, the Diocesan Inquiry — which is the first stage of the canonization process — has at last come to a close. The inquiry was the informative phase of the cause, whose main purpose was to gather information related to the life, deeds, martyrdom, and enduring reputation of sanctity of the missionaries.

The official Acts of the Process run nearly 500 pages, each one carefully notarized to ensure their authenticity. This official document was hand-carried to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome in late March 2007 by Fr. Conrad Harkins, OFM, the vice-postulator of the cause. There the Congregation, and ultimately Pope Benedict XVI, will make the final judgment concerning the genuineness of their martyrdom.

If that ruling is favorable, they will need no miracle to be beatified — that is, declared "Blessed." But full canonization — which would result in their designation as "saints" — is a still further process, during which the Church would look for a single miracle in confirmation of their holiness.

We Need their Example Today

Why is it so important that the heroism of these missionaries be recognized now? Today many American Catholics remain timid about sharing their faith with others, even when talking with people who are not hostile to the Church. At the same time, certain cultural, legal, and political developments exert increasing pressure on Catholics to remain silent about urgent moral issues. In these circumstances, the Georgia martyrs have much to teach us about the necessity of living the Gospel, sharing it generously, and defending it vigorously, without compromise, even when such faithfulness is costly.

In particular, marriage and the family are suffering a sustained attack in our society. We hear increasingly strident demands to redefine matrimony by legalizing, not just same-sex unions, but polygamy as well. The Georgia martyrs inspire us to reaffirm the moral truths about marriage they died to defend.

The heroic missions and courageous deaths of these five daring witnesses to the faith are not yet widely known. But the time has come for their story to be told, their faith imitated, their help sought. The martyrs' sacrifice teaches us that some truths are worth dying for. We need their example and their intercession now more than ever.

Profiles of the Martyrs

    * Pedro de Corpa was born in a tiny village in central Spain in the diocese of Madrid-Alcala, probably around 1560. A Franciscan priest of the province of Castile, he was known as a skilled preacher and confessor when he came to Spanish Florida in 1587. After serving for a short time near St. Augustine, he was sent north to the mission at the important Guale village of Tolomato, near modern Darien, Georgia. A contemporary described Fray Pedro this way: "Since he was a wise and holy man, the love of God burned in his heart, and by means of prayer, abstinence, and self-discipline he gave good example to the Indians of the West whom he strove to convert."

    * Blas de Rodriguez was born in the Spanish town of Cuacos, probably in the 1550s. He had joined the Franciscan Province of St. Gabriel in the strict Alcantaran branch of the order. Ordained to the priesthood in the 1580s, Fray Blas labored in Spain for several years and received the title of confessor. In 1590, he volunteered for Florida.

    * Antonio de Badajoz was a Franciscan lay brother born in La Albuera near Badajoz. Like Fray Blas, he was a member of the strict Alcantaran reform. He came with Fray Pedro de Corpa to Florida in 1587, learned the language of the Guale well, and served as interpreter for Fray Miguel de Anon. He was also instructed by the priests how to evangelize the native people.

    * Fray Miguel de Anon was in charge of the mission on St. Catherines Island. He had arrived in La Florida only two years before. His birthplace is uncertain, but some evidence suggests that he was of noble origin. Like Pedro, he was a member of the Franciscan province of Castile and ordained to the priesthood in Spain. When Miguel came to America, the Spanish colonists in Havana sought his services. But he ultimately declined their invitation, convinced that God was calling him to Florida.

    * Francisco de Verascola was born on February 13, 1564, at Gordejuela into a relatively prosperous Basque family. He joined the Cantabrian Franciscan province, and after his ordination he served for a few years in the region of Vizcaya before volunteering to be sent to Florida. Soon after his arrival in 1595, Francisco was made a kind of bodyguard for a Spanish official on a reconnaissance expedition into the interior. He was chosen for this role because of his great physical stature and strength, which earned him the nickname "the Cantabrian Giant." His size and athletic prowess also made him popular with the Guale youth, who invited him to join them in sports such as spear-throwing, wrestling, and a game similar to soccer.

Support the Cause

To support the cause of the martyrs' canonization, join the Friends of the Georgia Martyrs, an association whose mission is to spread the story of the martyrs, pray for their canonization, share testimonies of answered prayer, and otherwise promote the advancement of the cause.

Members receive literature about the martyrs, including pamphlets, prayer cards, and occasional issues of the association newsletter, The Palmetto, which provides historical information about these Servants of God and updates about the progress of their cause. Members commit themselves to pray for the cause, to share the heroic story of the martyrs with others, and to report any extraordinary favors they believe they have received through the martyrs' intercession.

To join, e-mail name, address, and phone number to georgiamartyrs@comcast.net, or mail a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to The Stella Maris Center for Faith and Culture, P.O. Box 30157, Savannah, GA 31410-0157.

For More Information

    * www.georgiamartyrs.org
    * www.PaulThigpen.com
    * David Arias, Spanish Cross in Georgia (University Press of America, 1994)
    * Michael V Gannon, The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida, 1513-1870 (University Press of Florida, 1992 ed.)
    * Paul E. Hoffmann, A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient: The American Southeast During the Sixteenth Century (Louisiana State University Press, rev. ed., 2004)
    * Jerald T. Milanich, Laboring in the Fields of the Lord: Spanish Missions and Southeastern Indians (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999)
    * Luis Geronimo de Ore, The Martyrs of Florida (1513-1516), Maynard J. Geiger, trans. (J. E Wagner, 1937)

Paul Thigpen is editor of The Catholic Answer magazine and founding director of The Stella Maris Center for Faith and Culture in Savannah, Georgia. He is also coordinator of the Friends of the Georgia Martyrs. Visit his website at www.PaulThigpen.com.


Hildebrand Gregori a Step Closer to Canonization
Cardinal Ruini Praises Untiring Apostle

ROME, JULY 17, 2007 - When Benedictines converted Europe, they did it through activity, unity and constant prayer, following the example of Jesus, wrote Abbot Hildebrand Gregori.

On July 3, the 15-year diocesan phase in the process of canonization for Abbot Gregori (1894-1985), founder of the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ, was completed.

In an address at a ceremony marking the end of the process, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, said that Abbot Gregori, born in Poggio Ginolfo, Italy, "lived and actualized with rigorous fidelity and powerful sensibility the Benedictine charism of 'ora et labora.'"

He was a "contemplative monk and untiring apostle in responding to the needs of his time," Cardinal Ruini explained.

After World War II, the cardinal continued, "his heart was troubled by the sight of so many children who were orphans or abandoned because of the war."

"Before even having an idea about how to assist them, house them, give them instruction and a Christian and human formation; before even being able to think about where he could find the means for work of such dimensions, he began to welcome these children into the monastery," Cardinal Ruini continued.

Abbot Gregori prepared the "structures of assistance and instruments of education and formation absolutely ahead of his time," the 76-year-old cardinal explained.

The Holy Face

On Aug. 15, 1950, Abbot Gregory started the "Prayerful Sodality" which in December, 1977, became the Pontifical Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face, that today has 14 communities in Italy, one in Poland, one in Romania, two in India, and one in Congo.

Abbot Gregori directed his spiritual daughters to the "charism of reparation," understood as an act of love against the "sin of social injustice," in reference to the Holy Face of Christ.

Cardinal Ruini explained that according to Abbot Gregori, it is Christ "that must be recognized and seen in the poor and needy," and "the faces of Christ are also the faces of man, above all of the man who suffers materially, psychically, morally, and spiritually."


A Forgotten Saint
Remembering St. Petronilla's Legacy

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, JUNE 7, 2007 (Zenit.org ).- Most visitors to St. Peter's Basilica wonder why the candles on the altars are never lit. Early morning Mass attendees of course know that all the candles on the side altars are lit every morning from 7 to 8:30 a.m. as the individual Eucharistic celebrations are taking place.

But as the last taper is extinguished, the altars fall dark, except the one that will be used for the regular morning Masses. But on feast days of saints venerated in St. Peter's, the altar dedicated to the saint is adorned with flowers and lit candles, standing out among all the others.

Sometimes the honoree is a well-known saint, such as St. Gregory the Great or St. Joseph, but often these little celebrations allow visitors to reacquaint themselves with long-forgotten saints and realize how important they are to Christian history and culture.

On May 31, St. Peter's paid homage to what is today a somewhat obscure saint, St. Petronilla, but closer study reveals that some of the finest art in the basilica was dedicated to her altar.

St. Petronilla lived in Rome and was probably martyred in the first century during the early Christian persecutions. Her grave, near that of Sts. Nereo and Achilleo in the catacomb of Domitilla, was one of the most venerated tombs in the city up through the seventh century, when the catacombs were finally abandoned.

As early as the fourth century, Petronilla was already an artistic subject. A fresco in an underground crypt from 356 represents the saint assisting a woman, Veneranda, into heaven. But this was only the beginning of Petronilla's rewarding association with the arts.

The remains of Petronilla, in a white marble sarcophagus, were transferred in 757 to the old St. Peter's Basilica built by Constantine. The saint was laid to rest in a former imperial mausoleum situated next to the church, which was consecrated as the Chapel of Petronilla and annexed to the Basilica.

The circular building, which can be seen in old drawings of the ancient church, became the French chapel of St. Peter's, as Petronilla became patroness of relations between the Pope and the first Holy Roman Emperors.

The inscription on the tomb, "of the golden Petronilla, the sweetest daughter," the distinctiveness of her elegant mausoleum, and the translation of her relics to St. Peter's gave rise to the medieval legend that the Roman martyr was the daughter of St. Peter.

The charming tale surrounding the identity of Petronilla recounted that Peter's beautiful daughter attracted the eye of the pagan son of a high-ranking Roman official, and to protect Petronilla from unwanted advances, Peter and his daughter prayed for her to be rendered too ill to be considered for marriage.

The ruse worked for a short time, but finally the young man realized he had been duped and denounced Petronilla as a Christian. Peter prayed to have his daughter spared a harrowing martyrdom and Petronilla died in her sleep.

This story, while adding romance and famous names, nonetheless demoted Petronilla from her high status of martyr to virgin. The artwork dedicated to her, however, went from a hasty catacomb fresco to one of the greatest treasures of the basilica.

In 1498, French Cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas wanted to commemorate the upcoming Jubilee Year of 1500 with a new work of art for the Petronilla chapel where he planned to be buried. He approached a relatively unknown, 23-year-old Florentine sculptor named Michelangelo Buonarroti, and asked him to sculpt a statue of the Pietà. The rest is history.

St. Petronilla still ranked high as a virgin martyr in Cesare Baronio's Martyrology of the post Counter-Reformation era (ending in the 16th century). Antonio Bosio's exploration of the early Christian sites ensured that Petronilla had enough clout to retain a chapel dedicated to her in the new basilica of St. Peter completed in 1612.

The Pietà was briefly placed back in her chapel, which is along the right-hand aisle against the apsidal wall of the basilica. It was soon moved to its present position, and a new work of art was commissioned for Petronilla.

Francesco Barbieri, nicknamed Guercino, star pupil of the 17th-century Carracci academy of Bologna, and Baroque painter par excellence, was hired to paint the enormous oil on canvas of "The Raising of St. Petronilla."

The original is kept today in the Capitoline Museums, but the mosaic copy in St. Peter's faithfully re-creates the effect of the landmark work.

This astonishing work, standing 25 feet high, drew on the medieval legend of Petronilla and represents Peter on the lower half of the canvas lowering his daughter in the tomb while the upper half shows Petronilla, adorned in beautiful silks and velvets being welcomed into heaven by Christ.

The brilliant blues and rich reds catch the viewer's eye from afar and impart a sense of preciousness to the work, but the most surprising effect can only be seen by those attending Mass. As Peter grasps the ropes to lower his daughter's body into the grave, the corpse of Petronilla seems to hover above the altar. From the lowest border of the work only two outstretched hands reaching upward can be seen.

One might think that the hands belong to a gravedigger ready to receive the body and lay it in the ground, but those hands also recall the supplication of Veneranda, who relied on Petronilla's intercession for her salvation. The medieval tale blends with the ancient martyrdom.

St. Petronilla's life in both history and art recall that the examples of the saints are more than just pretty pictures to be admired in church, but also indications of how we too can be part of the great communion of the elect in heaven.


Church to Proclaim 2 Saints, 320 Blessed
127 Are Martyrs From the Spanish Civil War

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of the decrees that clear the way for two canonizations and 320 beatifications.

The Vatican made the announcement Friday after the Pope received in audience Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

The Holy Father approved the decrees that allow for the canonization of Poor Clare Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception (1910-1946) of India, and laywoman Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran (1833-1869) of Ecuador.

Also recognized were the miracles and martyrdom of 320 candidates for beatification, and the "heroic virtue" of seven candidates who now await the recognition of a miracle for their beatification.

Martyrdom was recognized for 127 religious killed during the Spanish Civil War: Augustinian priest Avellino Rodriguez Alonso and 97 companions of the same order, along with six diocesan clergy, and Emmanuela of the Heart of Jesus and 22 companions of the Institute of Adorers of the Most Holy Sacrament and of Charity.

Jesuit priest Peter Kibe Kasui and 187 companions, killed in Japan in 1600, were also recognized as martyrs.

Martyrdom was attributed as well to Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian peasant who was guillotined in Berlin in 1943 for having refused any collaboration with the Nazis. He was 36, a husband and a father of three.

A theologian and philosopher of the first half of the 19th century, Father Antonio Rosmini, will be beatified. Father Rosmini was the founder of the Institute of Charity and the Sisters of Providence.


Diocesan Priest

Founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine, M.U.S.E.U.M.

George Preca was born in Valletta, Malta, on Feb. 12, 1880, to Vincenzo and Natalina Ceravolo. He was baptized in the Church of Our Lady of Porto Salvo, Valletta, on Feb. 17.

In 1888 the Preca family moved to nearby Hamrun. George received his confirmation and his first Communion in the Church of St Cajetan. When he was 17 years old, George was met one of his Lyceum professors, Father Ercole Mompalao, who told him: "Preca, when you grow up, people who revere God will befriend you and you them. You will find your good fortune through them and they through you." After his studies at the Lyceum, George entered the seminary of Malta with the aim of becoming a priest.

His confessor, Father Aloysius Galea, died on April 8, 1905. Preca recounted how Father Galea appeared to him a few days later and told him: "God has chosen you to teach his people." Preca was enthused with this idea. He wrote a rule in Latin which he wanted to send to Pope Pius X for approval. He envisaged groups of seven permanent deacons in every parish who, with the help of lay auxiliaries, would be responsible for the formation of the people of God.

It was around this time (1905-1906) that Preca met a group of young people at Hamrun and invited them to start attending his spiritual conferences. He set his eye on their leader, Eugenio Borg, and started explaining the Gospel of John to him. (Later on, Eugenio Borg became the first superior-general of the Societas Doctrinae Christianae and was renowned for his holiness when he died in 1967.)

A few months before his ordination to the priesthood, Preca became ill and almost died. Through the intercession of St. Joseph, he survived, but as a consequence of the illness his left lung was permanently impaired. He was ordained a priest on Dec. 22, 1906, by Bishop Pietro Pace, and he celebrated his first Mass at the St. Cajetan Parish church in Hamrun on Christmas Day.

For a number of weeks after ordination Father Preca would not venture out of home except to say Mass, after which he would retire to a small room on the roof and remain there all day in meditation and contemplation. Toward the end of January 1907, he called the same group of young people and invited them for a spiritual conference on at the Ta' Nuzzo Church at Hamrun.

The little group subsequently rented a small place and met there for the first time on March 7, 1907. This marks the beginning of the Society of Christian Doctrine: a group of lay people leading an exemplary life, well formed in the principles of the Catholic faith and sent to teach the faith to the people.

At first, Father Preca called his society Societas Papidum et Papidissarum (Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pope). The rundown place where the first members met was jokingly referred to as the "museum." The nickname soon became the name of the group itself and it stuck. The founder desided to make MUSEUM an acronym for what the group would receive as a name: Magister Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus! (Teacher, O that the whole world would follow the Gospel!).

The female branch of the society was inaugurated in 1910 with the help of Giannina Cutajar, who later became the first superior-general of that branch.

It was around 1910 that Father Preca had a very powerful mystical experience which he always referred to as "the extraordinary vision of the Child Jesus." One morning, he was passing in the vicinity of the Marsa Cross when he suddenly saw a 12-year-old boy pushing a low cart with a bag full of manure. The boy turned to Father Preca and ordered him imperiously: "Lend me a hand!"

The moment Father Preca put his hand on the cart, he felt an extraordinary spiritual sweetness and he never could remember where they went or what happened to the young boy. He later understood that the boy was Jesus and that the Lord was asking him and his followers to help him with nurturing the Lord's field and vineyard with sound doctrine and formation.

The MUSEUM developed into a group of lay people who dedicate themselves to the apostolate of catechesis, lead a simple evangelical lifestyle, commit themselves to a life of prayer using short prayers or meditations at regular intervals during the day ("The Museum Watch") and teach catechesis to the young for an hour every day, which is then followed by a group meeting for personal permanent formation ("The Assignment").

The society had its difficult moments. In 1909, Father Preca was ordered to close his centers. Brokenhearted but without hesitation, he started following orders until the parish priests themselves protested with the ecclesiastical authorities and the ban was revoked by Vicar General Salvatore Grech.

During 1914-1915, a number of daily newspapers carried articles and letters denigrating the new society. Father Preca ordered his members to take a vow or promise of meekness, gladly forgiving anybody who poked fun at them and taught them "to love the contempt" they suffered and not to let it trouble them unduly.

In 1916, Bishop Mauro Caruana ordered an inquiry concerning the society. After many humiliations for the founder and his close followers, the Curia issued a favorable report. Although some changes were required, the way was open for definitive ecclesiastical approval. Bishop Caruana canonically established the Society of Christian Doctrine on April 12, 1932.

Father George Preca strived to spread the values and teaching of the Gospel in the Maltese Islands. He wrote a great number of books on dogma, morals and spirituality in Maltese. He also published numerous booklets with prayers for the private use of his members and for popular devotion. He was undoubtedly a great apostle of the Word of God, especially of the Gospel which he used to call "The Voice of the Beloved."

He would encourage his followers and the public in general to memorize sentences and phrases from the Gospel and his charismatic preaching constantly referred to parables and stories from Scripture and the life of the saints. He zealously defended the honor due only to God and persuasively illustrated how ugly sin was. He never shied away from openly preaching about death, judgment, hell and heaven. Utterly convinced of God's justice, he nevertheless movingly proclaimed the Lord's infinite mercy.

People flocked to him for advice or a word of encouragement. They trusted in his intercession and many still recount stories of healings wrought by God through Father Preca's prayers. He was endowed with many supernatural gifts, including the knowledge of hearts and the future. He was nonetheless a priest of great humility, goodness, meekness and generosity. He was truly a holy pastor of the people of God.

Dun Gorg, as the Maltese know him, is well known for his constant efforts to promote devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation. From 1917, he propagated devotion for the text from the Gospel of John: "Verbum Dei caro factum est!" (John 1:14). He wanted the members to wear a badge with these words.

On Christmas Eve 1921, the society organized the first "Demonstration in Honor of Baby Jesus" in the towns and villages of Malta and Gozo. This event has since become a typical aspect of Christmas celebrations on the islands. Father Preca wanted every child who attended catechism classes to take a small crib or statue of the Baby Jesus home for Christmas.

The holy priest learned to trust in the maternal protection of Our Lady, especially during the difficult moments of the society. He was enrolled as a Carmelite tertiary on July 21, 1918, and at his profession in September 1919, he chose the name of Father Franco.

Children attending the societies' centers are still given the scapular. Dun Gorg also nurtured a filial devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel; he promoted use of the Miraculous Medal and in fact wanted the Church of the society's motherhouse to be dedicated to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. In 1957, he suggested the use of five "mysteries of light" for the private recitation of the rosary.

On May 19, 1951, he blessed the foundation stone of the St. Michael School at Santa Venera, and in 1952 he sent the first members to start the society in Australia. Today it is also found in England, Albania, Sudan, Kenya and Peru.

On Oct. 2, 1952, Pope Pius XII named Dun Gorg as Privy Chamberlain with the title of monsignor. Father Preca was mortified. He kept the title for six years until the Pope passed away in 1958.

In 1955, Father Preca blessed the foundation stone of the Sacred Family Institute at Zabbar which later housed the members living in common who had been staying at Zebbug ever since their establishment in 1918.

After a long and very active life in the service of the Gospel and of the Christian formation of the people of God, Dun Gorg Preca died on July 26, 1962, at his house in Malta. He was buried in the crypt of the Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at Blata l-Bajda which soon became a venue for constant pilgrimages.

Father George Preca was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Malta on May 9, 2001. His liturgical feast is celebrated on that day.


Biography of Charles of St. Andrew

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is an adapted version of a biography of Father Charles of St. Andrew (1821-1893), which was published by the Holy See. Benedict XVI will canonize the priest on Sunday.

* * *

Father Charles of St. Andrew, known in secular life as John Andrew Houben, was born on Dec. 11, 1821, in Munstergeleen, in the diocese of Ruremond, Holland, the fourth of 11 children.

He was baptized the same day with the name John Andrew. He received his first Communion on April 26, 1835, and the sacrament of confirmation on June 28 in the same year.

He began his formal education in Sittard and then in Broeksittard. In 1840 he had to interrupt his studies to enter the military. It was during this latter period that he first heard about the Congregation of the Passion.

At the end of his military service he completed his studies and requested to be admitted to the congregation. He was received by Blessed Dominic Barberi, Passionist, and he entered the novitiate in the Belgium city of Ere, near Tournai on Nov. 5, 1845.

In December of that same year he was vested with the Passionist religious habit and was given the name of Charles of St. Andrew. Having completed the canonical year of novitiate, he professed first vows on Dec. 10, 1850. At the conclusion of his studies, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Labis, the ordinary of Tournai.

Immediately he was sent to England where the Passionists had founded three monasteries and it was here that, for a period of time, he undertook the ministry of vice master of novices in the monastery of Broadway. He also did parochial ministry in the Parish of St. Wilfred and neighboring areas until 1856 when he was transferred to the newly established monastery of Mount Argus, on the outskirts of Dublin.

Blessed Charles Houben lived almost the remainder of his life in this retreat and was greatly loved by the Irish people to point that they referred to him -- a native of Holland -- as Father Charles of Mount Argus. He was a pious priest, outstanding in exercising obedience, poverty, humility and simplicity and to an even greater degree, devotion to the Passion of the Lord.

Due to his poor mastery of English, he was never a formal preacher and he never preached missions. Rather he successfully dedicated himself to spiritual direction, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation.

The fame of his virtue was such that crowds of people would gather at the monastery to seek his blessing. There are also numerous testimonies to the miraculous cures that he worked, to the extent that even during his lifetime he was known as a miracle worker.

Precisely because of this fame that extended throughout all of Great Britain as well as in America and Australia, in 1866, to give him time to rest, he was transferred to England where he lived for a time in the communities at Broadway, Sutton and London. There he ministered as usual and there too, inside and outside the monastery, he was sought by the faithful, both Catholics and non-Catholics.

He returned to Dublin in 1874 where he remained until his death on Jan. 5, 1893.

During his funeral, there was proof of the popular devotion that had surrounded him throughout his life. A newspaper of the time reported: "Never before has the memory of any man sparked an explosion of religious sentiment and profound veneration as that which we observed in the presence of the mortal remains of Father Charles."

The superior of the monastery wrote to his family: "The people have already declared him a saint."

The cause of his beatification and canonization was introduced on Nov. 13, 1935, and on Oct. 16, 1988, Pope John Paul II proceeded with the beatification.

The miracle that led to his canonization was obtained through his intercession on behalf of Adolf Dormans of Munstergeleen, the birthplace of the blessed.

The diocesan inquiry "super miro" was also undertaken in the Diocese of Roermond, Holland, from Nov. 6, 2002, until Feb. 19, 2003, at which time the validity of the miracle was recognized by a decree from the Congregation for Saints' Causes on Nov. 7, 2003.

The medical consultation board was convoked on Nov. 24, 2005, and following the investigation of the matter, the members unanimously expressed that the cure of Dormans of "perforated, gangrenous appendicitis with generalized peritonitis that was multi-organically compromising and included extenuating and prolonged agony" was "not scientifically explainable."

The theologian consultors, in the particular congress of Feb. 21, 2006, and the Ordinary Congregation of Cardinals and Bishops of Dec. 12, 2006, also gave their unanimous approval of the supernatural aspect of the said healing.

The decree concerning the miracle was given in the presence of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI last Dec. 21.


Mother Marie Eugenie

Sometimes the Holy Spirit works in strange and fascinating ways.

In the early 1800s, a French girl named Marie-Eugénie Milleret grew up in a family that had no interest in religion or Jesus Christ but was passionate about politics and social justice. They deplored the injustices of a class system and the misery brought on by the rise of industrialization. For them, however, there was no connection between these concerns and Catholicism, the traditional religion of the people. They found hope in the cry of the French Revolution for liberty, equality and fraternity.

When she was fifteen, Marie Eugénie’s parents separated and she moved to Paris with her mother, only to see her mother die of cholera shortly afterwards. Her father then sent her to live with  relatives whose great interest proved to be money and    pleasure. Alone, far from her brother who had been her constant companion, Eugénie wondered about the meaning of life and love. She had lost everything except her fervor for social and political questions and the desire to do something good for others.

Her father next sent Eugénie to live with very Catholic cousins in Paris. He wanted her to take her place in society like other young women of her age by marrying. Marie Eugenie found the cousins’ piety narrow and stifling and, while she had no real objection to marriage, she rejected all suitors.

One day, her cousins invited her to the cathedral to hear a Lenten sermon preached by a priest famous for his eloquence and influence with youth. His way of speaking of Christ and the Church led to her conversion. She discovered that the ideals of justice and liberty, equality and fraternity are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ who is the universal and   definitive Liberator, and that “the Church possesses the secret of doing good here on earth.” While there will always be suffering and difficulties, “God wills to establish a social order in which no human would have to suffer from the oppression of any others.” [Letter 1843]

Less than a year later, hearing her confession and recognizing that Marie Eugénie had intelligence and a passion that could make a difference in society, a priest asked to see her afterward. He convinced her that the religious life and education were her vocation.

Marie Eugénie prepared herself by study and prayer and, at twenty-two, founded the Religious of the Assumption with four other young women. Her life and her work spanned most of the nineteenth century and quickly spread internationally. She and the sisters taught that our faith in Jesus impels us to get involved in contemporary social issues and that all action should flow from a life of love and prayer.


Biography of Blessed Marie-Eugénie of Jesus
To Be Canonized on Sunday

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is an adapted version of a biography of Blessed Marie-Eugénie of Jesus (1817-1898), which was published by the Holy See. Benedict XVI will canonize the woman religious on Sunday.

* * *


Anne-Eugénie Milleret was born in 1817 in Metz after Napoleon's complete defeat and the restoration of the monarchy. She belonged to a nonbelieving and financially comfortable family and it seemed unlikely that she would trace a new spiritual path across the Church of France.

Her father, a follower of Voltaire and a liberal, was making his fortune in the banking world and in politics. Anne-Eugénie's mother provided the sensitive daughter with an education, which strengthened her character and gave her a strong sense of duty. Family life developed her intellectual curiosity and a romantic spirit, an interest in social questions and a broad worldview.

Like her contemporary, George Sand, Anne-Eugénie went to Mass on feast days and received the sacraments of initiation, as was the custom, but without any real commitment. However, her first Communion was a great mystical experience that foretold the secret of her future. She did not grasp its prophetic meaning until much later, when she recognized it as her path toward total belonging to Jesus Christ and the Church.

Her youth was happy but not without suffering. She was affected when still a child by the death of an elder brother and a baby sister. Her health was delicate and a fall from a horse left serious consequences. Anne-Eugénie was mature for her age and learned how to hide her feelings and to face up to events.

Later, after a prosperous period for her father, she experienced the failure of his banks, the misunderstanding and eventual separation of her parents and the loss of all security. She had to leave her family home and go to Paris while Louis, closest to her in age and faithful companion, went to live with their father. Anne-Eugénie went to Paris with the mother she adored, only to see her die from cholera after a few hours of illness, leaving her alone at the age of 15 in a society that was worldly and superficial. Searching in anguish and almost desperate for the truth, she arrived at her conversion thirsty for the Absolute and open to the Transcendent.

When she was 19, Anne-Eugénie attended the Lenten Conferences at Notre Dame in Paris, preached by the young Abbé Lacordaire, already well-known for his talent as orator.

Lacordaire was a former disciple of Lamennais -- haunted by the vision of a renewed Church with a special place in the world. He understood his time and wanted to change it. He understood young people, their questions and their desires, their idealism and their ignorance of both Christ and the Church.

His words touched Anne-Eugénie's heart, answered her many questions, and aroused her generosity. Anne-Eugénie envisaged Christ as the universal liberator and his kingdom on earth established as a peaceful and just society.

"I was truly converted," she wrote, "and I was seized by a longing to devote all my strength or rather all my weakness to the Church which, from that moment, I saw as alone holding the key to the knowledge and achievement of all that is good."

Just at this time, another preacher, also a former disciple of Lamennais, appeared on the scene. In the confessional, Father Combalot recognized that he had encountered a chosen soul who was designated to be the foundress of the congregation he had dreamed of for a long time. He persuaded Anne-Eugénie to undertake his work by insisting that this congregation was willed by God who had chosen her to establish it. He convinced her that only by education could she evangelize minds, make families truly Christian, and thus transform the society of her time. Anne-Eugénie accepted the project as God's will for her and allowed herself to be guided by the Abbé Combalot.

At 22, Marie Anne-Eugénie became foundress of the Religious of the Assumption, dedicated to consecrate their whole life and strength to extending the Kingdom of Christ in themselves and in the world. In 1839, Anne-Eugénie, with two other young women, began a life of prayer and study in a flat at rue Ferou near the church of St. Sulpice in Paris. In 1841, under the patronage of Madame de Chateaubriand, Lacordaire, Montalembert and their friends, the sisters opened their first school. In a relatively short time there were 16 sisters of four nationalities in the community.

Marie Anne-Eugénie and the first sisters wanted to link the ancient and the new -- to unite the past treasures of the Church's spirituality and wisdom with a type of religious life and education able to satisfy the demands of modern minds. It was a matter of respecting the values of the period and at the same time, making the Gospel values penetrate the rising culture of a new industrial and scientific era. The spirituality of the congregation, centered on Christ and the incarnation, was both deeply contemplative and dedicated to apostolic action. It was a life given to the search for God and the love and service of others.

Marie Anne-Eugénie's long life covered almost the whole of the 19th century. She loved her times passionately and took an active part in their history. Progressively, she channeled all her energy and gifts in tending and extending the congregation, which became her life work.

God gave her sisters and many friends. One of the first sisters was Irish, a mystic and her intimate friend whom she called at the end of her life, "half of myself." Kate O'Neill, called Mother Thérèse Emmanuel in religion, is considered as a co-foundress.

Father Emmanuel d'Alzon, who became Marie Anne-Eugénie's spiritual director soon after the foundation, was a father, brother or friend according to the seasons. In 1845, he founded the Augustinians of the Assumption and the two founders helped each other in a multitude of ways over a period of 40 years. Both had a gift for friendship and they inspired many lay people to work with them and the Church. Together, as they followed Christ and labored with him, the religious and laity traced the path of the Assumption and took their place in the great cloud of witnesses.

In the last years of her life, Mother Marie Anne-Eugénie experienced a progressive physical weakening, which she lived in silence and humility -- a life totally centered on Christ. She received the Eucharist for the last time on March 9, 1898, and on March 10, she passed over to the Lord. She was beatified by Pope Paul VI on Feb. 9, 1975, in Rome.

Today, the Religious of the Assumption are present in 34 countries -- eight in Europe, five in Asia, 10 in America and 11 in Africa. Almost 1,200 sisters form 170 communities throughout the world.

The Lay Assumption -- Assumption Together -- made up of Friends of the Assumption and Communities or Fraternities of the Assumption, are numerous: Thousands of Friends and hundreds of Lay Assumption are committed to live according to the Way of Life.


Process Under Way for North Korean Martyrs
Died During the Regime of Kim Il-sung

SEOUL, South Korea, MAY 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The process for the beatification of 36 North Koreans martyred during the 1949-'52 Stalinist regime of Kim Il-sung has opened.

The announcement was made Thursday by the Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey in South Korea, which exercises ecclesial jurisdiction over the North Korean Abbacy of Tokwon.

According to Abbot Simon Petro Ri Hyeong-u, apostolic administrator of the Territorial Abbacy of Tokwon, "The community of Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey is full of aspiration to honor the witness of faith shown by our predecessors."

The initiative also has a political value, according to www.AsiaNews.it. Until now, the Seoul government has exerted its influence to avoid the commemoration of these martyrs in order not to provoke a diplomatic incident with the present regime in the North, led by Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung's son.

The process is for the beatification of Benedictine Abbot Bishop Boniface Sauer, Benedictine Father Benedict Kim and companions.

These men, according to Sabas Lee Seong-geun, vice postulator for the cause, "all died in the North Korean communist death camps during that terrible wave of anti-Catholic persecution after the communists came to power. We remember them together because in some way they are all linked to the Tokwon Abbey."

Since the end of the civil war in 1953, the three local ecclesiastical jurisdictions and the whole Catholic community in North Korea have been wiped out by the Stalinist regime. Not a single local priest has been left alive and all foreign clergymen have been expelled, AsiaNews said.

There are neither resident priests nor ecclesial structures. According to Vatican sources, Catholics in North Korea number 800, far fewer than the 3,000 recently acknowledged by the government.


Archbishop Romero - a saint for the 21st century

I met Monseñor Romero a few days after he took office as Archbishop on February 22nd, 1977. I had not attended his installation because I did not feel honest about being there, since he was not the archbishop that I, like many others, had hoped for.

The first time we met was purely by chance but it left me with an unforgettable memory. We physically bumped into each other as he was leaving and I was going into the seminary. Of course I said hello to him and he answered me with a single word  ayúdeme (Spanish for "help me")  something that he'd not only said to me but to everyone who met him. I was impressed by his humility, a trait that always distinguished him. Many times he would publicly or privately ask forgiveness for mistakes he had made.

His death three years later was not an ordinary death. It was the death of a saint, of a prophet and of a true Christian. He was a martyr for the faith and the magisterium of the Church. He died because he believed in God: he died for the Gospel, for the people in whom he saw Christ and because he was faithful to the Church's teachings. He knew how to maintain a dual loyalty in his life loyalty to God and to the human person which must be the defining criterion of every authentic Christian.

Remembering him twenty seven years later, means making him come alive again among us: not only to admire him but to follow the example of his life. It also means remembering many others in our country along with him: rural people, teachers, labour leaders, priests and religious an entire people that was massacred and crucified.


I recall Monseñor Romero telling me once "It is so striking that in his teachings Jesus had the poor in mind in a preferential way. In two of his speeches, the Sermon on the Mount and at Nazareth, he refers to the poor and to those who suffer". That is how the Lord begins his public life, keeping in mind the poor multitudes that he cured and fed. The disabled, the blind, the lepers and the needy were always in his company. Does this not then say something to his Church and to its Shepherds?

Monseñor Romero absorbed this completely: I don't know how many bishops in the world would have done what he did on one occasion when he was the bishop of a rural diocese before coming to San Salvador. When he learned that miserably paid labourers in the coffee harvest had been sleeping outdoors in a local park after finishing their work, he threw open the doors of his bishop's residence to give them a roof over their heads. He had learned this from Jesus. The prime teacher for our Christian life. One day while preaching in his homily he said:

"Inside the heart of every man there is something like a small intimate cell to which God comes down for a private conversation. And it is there where man decides his own destiny, his own role in the world. We live too much outside of ourselves. Very few people really look inside themselves, and that's why there are so many problemsIf all of us who are burdened by so many problems were to go into that little cell right now, and from there, hear the Lord's voice speaking to us in our conscience, how much could each of us do to improve the environment, society and the family we live in? (July 10, 1977)

I had several opportunities to become aware of his great prayerful spirit, of his soul rooted in God. In December 1979, Cardinal Lorscheider of Brazil and an important man from the Salvadorean government were visiting him, and I was also present. They were conversing among themselves, and at one point, Archbishop Romero excused himself and left the room. The minutes passed by and he did not return.

It occurred to me that the visitors had not come to see me but to see him, and, after a few minutes, I also excused myself and went to look for him. I went to his rooms, but he wasn't there: I looked in the visiting room and he wasn't there either. I looked out into the small garden of the hospital and I couldn't find him. I decided to go back to the meeting and it suddenly occurred to me to look in the chapel. And there, inside, was the Archbishop, kneeling in the third pew before the Blessed Sacrament which was exposed there. I approached him and said, "Monseñor, the gentlemen are waiting for you". "Yes, I'll be right there". My understanding is that he had gone to the Lord to consult him about how to respond to the Cardinal and the government representative, and that he never said or did anything without first consulting God.

After his assassination delegations would arrive from various countries that admired Archbishop Romero very much. Some asked if it was true that he had been manipulated, either by a group of priests, or by the left, or by some Jesuits. And I would answer, yes, it is true. He was manipulated  but manipulated only by God, who did with him as He pleased.

To follow Christ is, of course, to be one with him. But as we know, spirituality means having a spirit of prayer and the compassion of Jesus when he fed the hungry and when he said that there is no greater love than the love shown by the one who gives his life for his friends. And Monseñor Romero also had Jesus' spirit because he prayed deeply and shared the suffering of the hungry, abused and murdered multitudes. That is how he learned from the teachings of Jesus.

Another illustration of his prayerful spirit happened when I accompanied him to Rome, when he made his visit to Pope Paul the Sixth in March 1977. He went to explain the situation in the archdiocese on the occasion of the single Mass that was celebrated for the burial of Father Rutilio Grande. He had been Archbishop for just over a month. When we arrived in Rome it was 8.30 in the morning: we had been flying the whole night with no sleep at all. We went to the Priests' House, close to the Vatican. I went to my room, unpacked and I was looking at my bed, looking forward to some rest. Suddenly someone knocked at my door. I opened it and there was Monseñor Romero. He said to me: "Would you like to go for a walk?" "Yes, Monseñor", I said. We left the house and we went directly to St Peter's Basilica, went down through the central nave and the first thing he did was to kneel before the confessional altar of St Peter and the other Popes. I was kneeling too. After about seven minutes I stood up and saw him praying with such deep devotion, that I said to myself: "This is a man to follow, because he is following God". On Wednesday, March 30th, he was received by the Pope and Monseñor Romero explained to him how he was trying to put into practice the Gospel and the Second Vatican Council, the conference of Medellin and what Pope Paul VI himself had proposed in Populorum Progressio. He felt encouraged by the Pope's words: "Take courage, go ahead, you are the one in charge".


The archdiocese was living through a "paschal hour", Monseñor Romero wrote. In his pastoral work, Archbishop Romero was trying to bring into being what the Pope and the Latin American bishops had urged at their meeting in Medellin in Colombia. "That the Church in Latin America should be manifest, in an increasingly clear manner, as truly poor, missionary and paschal; separate from all temporal power and courageously committed to the liberation of each and every person."

I deeply believe he was faithful and free. Being faithful and free is not an easy thing. But he was faithful to God and faithful to the people. That is the double fidelity of the people of the Church. He loved God with such intensity and saw things and events with the eyes of God. Not always do we see with the eyes of God.

I believe he died for being faithful to the Gospel and to the teachings of the Church in social matters. He is a martyr to these social teachings. If the Church in its documents didn't speak the way it does, he would never have felt all the support that he found in them.

And he was faithful to the human person that the Gospel and the church have placed as the high point of God's creation, in His image and likeness. And he clearly saw that in his country of El Salvador, people did not look like God and people were not treated as if they were His image. That oppressed his soul and he couldn't bear it inside, unlike others who know how to store in silence even the greatest infamies. The more we keep quiet the more "prudent" we are. We have made prudence the queen of the cardinal virtues, and justice and fortitude are subordinated to it. And that is why Monseñor also felt free, because Jesus told us: "If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples: then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free". And he was able to discover the truth about the people in his country.

In addition to the Fathers of the Church's first seven centuries, who decisively defended the poor in their writings, Monseñor Romero was familiar with the systematisation of the Church's social doctrine, including social encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII and Quadragesimo Anno of Pope Pius XI. Later, the Second Vatican Council and the documents of the Pope and the Latin American bishops from Medellin and Puebla gave necessary support to his pastoral work.

One day I was visiting him in his rooms. He had a book in his hands. "Read this" he said to me, and I read: "Do you want to honour the body of Christ? Don't ignore Him then, when you find him naked in the poor. Do not honour him in the temple with clothes of silk if, on your way out, you abandon him in his cold nakedness. Because the same one who said: "This is my body", and with his words made real what he said, also stated: "Every time you did not do this to one of these little ones, you did not do it to me." () Is it good to decorate Christ's table with vessels of gold if the same Christ is dying of hunger? First, feed the hungry and then, with what is left over, you may decorate Christ's table.

After I had read it, Monseñor said to me: "It is from St John Chrysostom, from the fourth century. He was canonised. He is a saint. The Church needs saints like him", he said. And Monseñor Romero became one of those saints. He loved God and he loved the people, particularly the poor.

I would argue that if Archbishop Romero had not felt the great support of these social documents he would have felt less equipped to develop the enormous work in defence of the poor which he carried out in his pastoral ministry. When he was named auxiliary bishop in 1970, the motto that he chose for his episcopate was "Sentire cum Ecclesia", which means: to feel with the Church, to be at one with the Church.

To be at one with the Church meant three things to him. First, it meant continuous closeness through constant and fervent prayer. He confessed that in God he found the strength to keep on going. Second, it meant decisive love and service to others, whatever the consequences, including offering his life on God's altar for the people that he loved and defended until his death. Third, for him it meant filial fidelity to the teachings that emanated from the Church.

In his homily on July 2, 1978, he said: "It is easy to talk about social doctrine, but it is difficult to put it into practice". Here he was undoubtedly referring to the difference between Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis. We Catholics accept the Gospel: we all accept the Second Vatican Council and the different documents of the Church's teachings. Yet, it is one thing to accept them theoretically and place them on the shelves in our libraries, and another, very different thing, to say that if the Gospel and the magisterium tell me certain things about poverty, injustice and human dignity, I am going to make them my own and preach about them  and that I will denounce injustice and defend the poor. It was the Second Vatican Council that said, "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well" (Gaudium et Spes, Part 1). Monseñor Romero took this to heart; he looked at the reality of his people and said to himself: "If the Gospel is asking this of me, I will apply it to the reality of misery, injustices and poverty of my people."

He always kept in mind the Church's teachings, summed up in Vatican II, in the Medellin and Puebla documents and in Evangelii Nuntiandi. Nevertheless, he ran into big difficulties in Rome because of his attitude.

So, on November 11th 1979, he said: "I want to assure all of you, and I ask for your prayers to remain faithful to this promise, that I will not abandon my people, but instead will face, with them, all of the risks that my ministry demands."

Monseñor Romero was always ready to listen  He listened to God, to the Church's teachings, and to the people  especially to the poorest. He listened to God, the main source of his inspiration and his life, to the Church, so as always to keep in mind its teachings, and to the people, who were the reason for his service.

Reflecting on how he listened to people, I remember an occasion when he called all the best minds of the Archdiocese together for a consultation. Among those present were pastoral specialists, ethicists, theologians and canon lawyers. Each one gave his opinion on what he was asked about, and Monseñor Romero paid attention and took notes. After the nearly-two hour meeting was over, he was walking down the steps from the place where the meeting had been held. A person was there, who looked like a beggar, and the Archbishop approached him. I thought he was going to give the man something, but to my surprise, he asked him the very same question that he had posed to the expert people at the meeting. That is how he listened to people, in whom he also saw the Church. This, for him, was the Church of the street.

A letter he wrote on June 24th, 1978, to Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio. Then Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, in Rome, clearly defines his thinking and actions as Archbishop. He wrote: "I have tried to proclaim the true faith without detaching it from life, to offer the rich treasure of the Church, in its entirety, to everyone, and to firmly maintain the Church's unity. For many years my motto has been "To be at one with the Church", "to feel with the Church", and it will remain so always. I have often said to myself: how hard it is to try to be completely faithful to what the Church proclaims in its Magisterium, and how easy, on the other hand, to forget or leave aside certain aspects. The former brings much suffering with it; the latter brings a great deal of security and peace, and an absence of problems. The former provokes accusations and contempt; the latter, praise and very promising human advancements. But this confirms for me what the magisterium, through the Council, says to the Bishops: "Teach the Christian doctrine in a manner that takes into account the needs of the times, that responds to the needs and problems which most concern men and women, and look also to that same doctrine to teach the faithful themselves to defend and propagate it. In teaching it, show the Church's maternal concern for all humankind, faithful or not, and consecrate particular care to the poor, to whom the Lord sent you to give the Good News."

This document seems very important to me, because it allows us to make the connection between Monseñor Romero's death and the Gospel. In it he speaks of the faith, but of a faith that must not be separated from daily life. He speaks of the Church's teachings, but also of the need to take account of it in its entirety. He speaks of unity and recalls what has always been his life's motto: "To be at one with the Church".

Monseñor would later be more explicit about his adherence to the teachings of the Church, saying two things in particular: How difficult it is to be completely faithful to what the Church proclaims in so many documents justice, the poor, and human rights and how this is difficult because it brings great suffering. He proved this personally, as the target of accusations, contempt and slander, and finally, with the offering of his own life in martyrdom while celebrating the Eucharist.

In the Bible, (in Amos Chapter three, verse seven), the prophet says: "indeed, the Lord God does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants, the prophets". It is affirmed here that God reveals his secrets to the prophet. Hence, the reference to "nothing" in Amos means no "event, situation or reality". Everyone sees events and situations. Yet most people tend to look at the events from the outside, at their appearance. The prophet, on the other hand, penetrates the outside and reaches the deep centre that holds its secret and meaning. In other words, he sees God's plan to be carried out in events.

Why do most of us fail to see what the prophet sees? Because generally, events come wrapped in a dense layer of ideas and interpretations that prevail in any given system. Those who benefit from a certain system impose these ideas and interpretations and they don't seek change, because change would diminish or put an end to their privileges. People who are dominated by the system have no way of knowing and understanding reality, since those who maintain the system tend to present reality according to their own interpretation of it. And so, the system is perpetuated without question. The prophet simply refuses to accept the manipulated version of reality. In the face of situations and events, he is suspicious of prevailing interpretations, he analyses reality in depth, discovering what God wants to reveal to us through these events.

It is said of Archbishop Romero that he changed drastically with the murder of Father Rutilio Grande, and that his conversion happened less than one month after he became Archbishop. I don't believe that this is so. I believe that Monseñor Romero was someone who always, throughout his life, sought conversion. It was something similar to what Mark tells us about when Jesus cured a blind man. When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked: "Do you see anything?" Looking up the blind man replied: "I see people who look like trees, walking". Then Jesus laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly, his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly" (Mark 8:22-25). Monseñor Romero also began to see gradually, as he discovered more about the Gospel and the painful situation of the people. All of these changed him. He never spoke of himself in terms of conversion; he spoke of evolution. For this reason he wrote: "readiness to change. He who fails to change will not gain the Kingdom." This is why he adds: "When we escape from reality, we escape from God."

In the course of history, three bishops have been murdered in their Churches. The first, St Stanislaus of Krakow in Poland, was assassinated for calling attention to the King's personal sins  that is, for defending morality. The second was St Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was assassinated for defending the Church's rights and liberties. The third, Archbishop Romero, supported by the Gospels and the Church's teachings, was assassinated for defending the poor. The first two Bishops have been canonised.

Finally, I want to quote from Archbishop Romero's homily of July 2nd, 1978, in which he said: "I have once again confirmed that I will die, God willing, faithful to the successor of Peter. It is easy to preach teachings in theory. Following the Church's teachings in theory is very easy. But when it becomes a question of living out these saving teachings, of embodying them and making them real in the history of the suffering people like our own, that is when conflicts arise. Not that I have been unfaithful never! On the contrary, I feel that today I am more faithful than ever because I experience the test, the suffering and the deep happiness of proclaiming (and not only in words and with lip service) a doctrine that I have always believed in and loved. I am trying to bring it to life for the community the Lord has entrusted to me. And I beg of you, dear brothers and sisters, that if we are really to be Catholics, followers of a true and therefore, very difficult, Gospel, if we really want to honour the word of Christ's followers, that we must not be afraid of bringing forth blood, life, truth and history from this doctrine. Taken from the pages of the Gospels, it is made current by the doctrine of the Councils and the Popes who try to live the vicissitudes of their time as true Pastors." (July 2nd, 1978)

Monseñor Romero brought forth blood, life, truth and history from what the Church taught him. He died faithful to God, faithful to the human person and faithful to the Church's teachings. For this reason I believe, I affirm, and I maintain that he was a martyr for the Gospel and the Church's teachings and for the love of the poor.


In one of his meetings with a group of priests, Archbishop Romero asked one of them to keep a record or a diary of what was happening in the Church and in the country. A month later, during the following meeting, he asked the priest to whom he had entrusted the diary, how it was going. The priest answered, saying: Monseñor, I'm a bit disorganised and I haven't started it yet. Monseñor hit the table and said: "With the Church no-one can be disorganised". Months passed by and no-one heard anything more about the diary. When Monseñor Romero died, we went to his room, and to our great surprise, we found that on May 31st, 1978, he had started a diary that he had dictated every day onto a tape recorder, without saying a word to anybody about it. Several editions of his diary have been published in Spanish and it has been translated into English, French, Italian and Portuguese. So, one person's failure is the reason that we now have this treasure. There is no way that one can learn the essence of Monseñor Romero without reading his diary.

I am remembering on purpose this matter about his diary, just to make you see that the first entry in it was about the protection of human rights. On that first day it says, literally: "The most important meeting today was one we had with lawyers and law students we had brought together to explain to them the difficulties that the Church is facing and to ask them for legal help with so many cases of abuse of human rights".

For Monseñor Romero, human rights were also divine rights. Men and women created in God's image and likeness should be respected because they are human beings and God's creatures. "I have to go around picking up corpses", he said one day, in the middle of terror and a period of great upheaval in the country. And looking at himself in the face of all that pain, he commented: "The Archbishop has to be where the suffering is."

Monseñor Romero was, in fact, the first human rights ombudsman in the history of El Salvador and its people. He was an ombudsman who knew how to combine the ethics and truth of the Gospel with legal defence and public denunciation. He was an ombudsman who sought, within the limited legal framework available, some means of promoting democracy and one who always made use of solidarity and justice in his ministry of accompaniment of his people.

In acting as he did, Monseñor Romero bound the vast majority of Salvadoreans together in the cause of human rights. No one before him had been able to do this in El Salvador. Nor has anyone since him done it as effectively as he did during those tumultuous years preceding the outbreak of war.

In the history of humankind, Monseñor Romero holds a place among the great defenders of human rights, both for his theory and for his practice. His influence is Salvadorean, Central American, and global. While he was alive his voice was heard around the world, and his Sunday homilies, proclaimed from the Cathedral of San Salvador, turned him into an international paradigm for the promotion and defence of human rights. Each Sunday he would spend more than an hour on theological themes, interpreting the readings from that week's liturgy and delivering a message of reconciliation to a society bloodied and divided by violence. He would then dedicate as much time as was needed to narrate the most important events that had taken place that week. In that "spoken Sunday newspaper" he reported what the national media  controlled and censored by an authoritarian and repressive State  could not report.

Many of the events that Oscar Romero revealed in his homilies were grave human rights violations directed against the poorest Salvadoreans. That an Archbishop would publicly relate these deeds, often in great detail, resulted in something unprecedented. It was the response of a humanist, a democrat and a Christian. And, of course, there were very few who dared to make such a public response in the dangerous El Salvador of those years.

Monseñor Romero's emphasis on denouncing human rights violations had a massive impact on the national community and awoke the interest of the international community, especially those organisations which specialised in the defence, promotion and protection of human rights. In 1978, the International Federation of Human Rights arrived in El Salvador, drawn by Monseñor Romero's denunciations. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights visited El Salvador in 1979, attracted by the voice of Monseñor Romero. Amnesty International chose El Salvador as the destination for its first large-scale mission to Central America because of Monseñor Romero. From Geneva the International Commission of Jurists, dedicated to promoting the rule of law and justice throughout the world, visited El Salvador to listen to the Archbishop. A congressional delegation from the United States made its first investigation of human rights violations, motivated by the courageous words proclaimed each Sunday by Monseñor Romero from the Cathedral. Also, from Geneva, the protestant Churches and other Christian denominations united in the World Council of Churches encouraged its Commission for International Concerns to accompany Archbishop Romero in his work. Shortly before his assassination, the British Parliament presented Monseñor Romero as its nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In closing, I wish to recall what he wrote in his last spiritual retreat, thirty days before dying: "Another fear of mine is with regard to the risks to my life. It is difficult to accept a violent death that, in these circumstances, is most possible Father Azcue (Romero's confessor) has encouraged me, telling me that my disposition should be to give my life for God whatever my end might be. The grace of God will see me through unknown circumstances. He has assisted the martyrs and, if necessary, I will feel Him near me when I take my last breath. But what is more important than the moment of death is to give Him my whole life, to live for Him".

Two weeks before his death, in an interview with the Mexican magazine Excelsior, he said: "I have frequently been threatened with death. I should tell you that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without Resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadorean people. I tell you this without any boasting, with the greatest humilityAs a pastor, I am obliged by Divine order to give my life for those whom I love, that is, for all Salvadoreans, even those who will kill me. If they succeed in their threats, from now I already obey God. I offer my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador.Martyrdom is a grace of God I do not believe I deserve. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my blood be the seed of liberation and a sign that hope will soon be a reality. My death, if it is accepted by God, will be for the liberation of my people and a testimony of hope in the future. You could say, if they should kill me, that I forgive and bless those who do it".

This is the man who loved God beyond everything, who loved the suffering people and who offered his life for the love of God and for the human person. He was a prophet, a martyr and a saint for this 21st Century.

Monseñor Ricardo Urios, former secretary to Archbishop Romero gave this talk in Westminster, Roehampton and Aylesford recently.

Source: Romero Trust

© Independent Catholic News LONDON - 22 May 2007


Pope says pick a saint

The Holy See has adopted new rules that allow national bishops' conferences to propose saints from under-represented countries for inclusion on the Church's universal calendar - but competition is stiff for the few remaining available dates.

Catholic News reports that the General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, is so packed that more selectivity is needed, according to new norms and a commentary published in the official bulletin of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

Pope Benedict has approved the stricter guidelines for determining which saints will be remembered with mandatory feast days on the basis of recommendations from the congregation, the commentary said.

"A saint can be inserted in the general calendar because of the significant and universal importance of his or her spiritual message and effectiveness as an example for a broad category of members of the church," the norms say.

According to the new norms, special consideration will also be given to saints from countries not already represented in the general calendar and from underrepresented categories, such as laypeople, married couples and parents.

But ten years should have passed since the canonization ceremony to ensure ongoing, widespread devotion.

The process for adding a candidate is begin with a two-thirds favorable vote from the bishops' conference where the saint was born, lived or died. In addition, the congregation will ask the opinion of at least three other bishops' conferences on different continents.

"The numerous beatifications and canonizations celebrated in the past few years by the supreme pontiff have underlined concretely the multiple manifestations of holiness in the church," the commentary said.

But, it said, hundreds of new saints also has meant greater competition for the limited free dates on the universal calendar, dates used to remember saints with a local importance and to keep the tradition of remembering Mary on Saturdays not already dedicated to an obligatory feast.

The year does not have enough days to include all the saints in the universal calendar, particularly when Sundays and holy days are subtracted.

"It will be difficult in the future to make further additions if certain criteria are not rigorously applied," the norms conclude.


Pope's Address at Canonization of 1st Brazilian
"His Immense Charity Knew No Bounds"

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the canonization Mass of Blessed Antônio de Sant'Ana Galvão (1739-1822), the first Brazilian to be proclaimed a saint.

* * *

My Venerable Brothers in the College of Cardinals,
Archbishop Scherer of São Paulo,
Bishops of Brazil and Latin America,
Distinguished Authorities,
Sisters and Brothers in Christ!

I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips (Psalms 32:2)

1. Let us rejoice in the Lord, on this day when we contemplate another marvel of God, who in his admirable providence allows us to taste a trace of his presence in this act of self-giving Love that is the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.

Yes, we cannot fail to praise our God. Let all of us praise him, peoples of Brazil and America, let us sing to the Lord of his wonders, because he has done great things for us. Today, Divine Wisdom allows us to gather around his altar with praise and thanksgiving for the grace granted to us in the canonization of Frei Antônio de Sant'Ana Galvão.

I would like to express my thanks for the affectionate words spoken on behalf of all of you by the Archbishop of São Paulo. I thank each one of you for your presence here, whether you come from this great city or from other cities and nations. I rejoice that, through the communications media, my words and expressions of affection can enter every house and every heart. Be sure of this: the Pope loves you, and he loves you because Jesus Christ loves you.

In this solemn eucharistic celebration, we have listened to the Gospel in which Jesus exultantly proclaims: "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes" (Matthew 11:25). I am glad that the elevation to the altars of Frei Galvão will always remain framed in the liturgy that the Church presents to us today.

I greet with affection all the Franciscan community, and especially the Conceptionist Sisters who, from the Monastery of Light, from the capital of the State of São Paulo, spread the spirituality and the charism of the first Brazilian to be raised to the glory of the altars.

2. Let us give thanks to God for the lasting benefits obtained through the powerful evangelizing influence that the Holy Spirit impressed upon so many souls through Frei Galvão. The Franciscan charism, lived out in the spirit of the Gospel, has borne significant fruits through his witness as an ardent adorer of the Eucharist, as a prudent and wise guide of the souls who sought his counsel, and as a man with a great devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, whose "son and perpetual servant" he considered himself to be.

God comes towards us, "he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path" (Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est," 17). He reveals himself through his word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. The life of the Church, therefore, is essentially eucharistic. In his loving providence, the Lord has left us a visible sign of his presence.

When we contemplate the Lord at Mass, raised up by the priest after the consecration of the bread and wine, or when we devoutly adore him exposed in the monstrance, we renew our faith with profound humility, as Frei Galvão did in "laus perennis", in a constant attitude of adoration. The Holy Eucharist contains all the spiritual wealth of the Church, that is to say Christ himself, our Passover, the living bread come down from heaven, given life by the Holy Spirit and in turn life-giving because it is the source of Life for mankind. This mysterious and ineffable manifestation of God's love for humanity occupies a privileged place in the heart of Christians. They must come to know the faith of the Church through her ordained ministers, through the exemplary manner in which they carry out the prescribed rites that always point to the eucharistic liturgy as the centre of the entire task of evangelization. The faithful, in their turn, must seek to receive and to venerate the Most Holy Sacrament with piety and devotion, eager to welcome the Lord Jesus with faith, and having recourse, whenever necessary, to the sacrament of reconciliation so as to purify the soul from every grave sin.

3. The significance of Frei Galvão's example lies in his willingness to be of service to the people whenever he was asked. He was renowned as a counsellor, he was a bringer of peace to souls and families, and a dispenser of charity especially towards the poor and the sick. He was greatly sought out as a confessor, because he was zealous, wise and prudent. It is characteristic of those who truly love that they do not want the Beloved to be offended; the conversion of sinners was therefore the great passion of our saint. Sister Helena Maria, the first religious sister destined to belong to the Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, witnessed to what Frei Galvão had said to her: "Pray that the Lord our God will raise sinners with his mighty arm from the wretched depths of the sins in which they find themselves." May this insightful admonition serve as a stimulus to us to recognize in the Divine Mercy the path towards reconciliation with God and our neighbour, for the peace of our consciences.

4. United with the Lord in the supreme communion of the Eucharist and reconciled with him and our neighbour, we will thus become bearers of that peace which the world cannot give. Will the men and women of this world be able to find peace if they are not aware of the need to be reconciled with God, with their neighbour and with themselves? Highly significant in this regard are the words written by the Assembly of the Senate of São Paulo to the Minister Provincial of the Franciscans at the end of the eighteenth century, describing Frei Galvão as a "man of peace and charity". What does the Lord ask of us? "Love one another as I have loved you." But immediately afterwards he adds: "Go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (cf. John 15:12,16). And what fruit does he ask of us, if not that of knowing how to love, drawing inspiration from the example of the Saint of Guaratinguetá?

The renown of his immense charity knew no bounds. People from all over the country went to Frei Galvão, who offered a fatherly welcome to everyone. Among those who came to implore his help were the poor and the sick in body and spirit.

Jesus opens his heart and reveals to us the core of his entire saving message: "No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). He himself loved even to the extent of giving his life for us on the Cross. The action of the Church and of Christians in society must have this same inspiration. Pastoral initiatives for the building up of society, if directed towards the good of the poor and the sick, bear within themselves this divine seal. The Lord counts on us and calls us his friends, because it is only to those we love in this way that we are capable of giving the life offered by Jesus through his grace.

As we know, the Fifth General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate will take as its fundamental theme: "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our Peoples may have Life in Him". How can we fail to see, then, the need to listen with renewed fervour to God's call, so as to be able to respond generously to the challenges facing the Church in Brazil and in Latin America?

5. "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest", says the Lord in the Gospel (Matthew 11:28). This is the final recommendation that he makes to us. How can we fail to recognize here God's fatherly and at the same time motherly care towards all his children? Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, stands particularly close to us at this moment. Frei Galvão prophetically affirmed the truth of the Immaculate Conception. She, the Tota Pulchra, the Virgin Most Pure, who conceived in her womb the Redeemer of mankind and was preserved from all stain of original sin, wishes to be the definitive seal of our encounter with God our Saviour. There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady.

In fact, the saint that we are celebrating gave himself irrevocably to the Mother of Jesus from his youth, desiring to belong to her for ever and he chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother and Protector of his spiritual daughters.

My dearest friends, what a fine example Frei Galvão has left for us to follow! There is a phrase included in the formula of his consecration which sounds remarkably contemporary to us, who live in an age so full of hedonism: "Take away my life before I offend your blessed Son, my Lord!" They are strong words, the words of an impassioned soul, words that should be part of the normal life of every Christian, whether consecrated or not, and they enkindle a desire for fidelity to God in married couples as well as in the unmarried. The world needs transparent lives, clear souls, pure minds that refuse to be perceived as mere objects of pleasure. It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage.

In our day, Our Lady has been given to us as the best defence against the evils that afflict modern life; Marian devotion is the sure guarantee of her maternal protection and safeguard in the hour of temptation. And what an unfailing support is this mysterious presence of the Virgin Most Pure, when we invoke the protection and the help of the Senhora Aparecida! Let us place in her most holy hands the lives of priests and consecrated laypersons, seminarians and all who are called to religious life.

6. My dear friends, allow me to finish by recalling the Vigil of Prayer at Marienfeld in Germany: in the presence of a multitude of young people, I spoke of the saints of our epoch as true reformers. And I added: "Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world" (Homily, 25 August 2005). This is the invitation that I address to all of you today, from the first to the last, in this Eucharist without frontiers. God said: "Be holy, as I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44). Let us give thanks to God the Father, to God the Son, to God the Holy Spirit from whom, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we receive all the blessings of heaven; from whom we receive this gift which, together with faith, is the greatest grace that can be bestowed upon a creature: the firm desire to attain the fullness of charity, in the conviction that holiness is not only possible but also necessary for every person in his or her own state of life, so as to reveal to the world the true face of Christ, our friend! Amen!


SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI greeted the Brazilian woman who attributes the birth of her son to the intercession of Blessed Antônio de Sant'Anna Galvão.

Sandra Grossi de Almeida, 37, and her son Enzo, 8, were present today as the Pope canonized the priest. Enzo also received his first Communion from the Holy Father.

More than 1 million people attended the open-air Mass on the airfield of Campo de Marte Airport in São Paulo.

The woman gave birth to her son in 1999 after having taken "Father Galvão's pills," tiny rice-paper pills prepared by Sisters of the Monastery of Light. Each pill, taken by people seeking cures for their illnesses, is inscribed with a prayer.

Grossi de Almeida had a uterine malformation that should have made it impossible for her to carry a child for more than four months.

Her case was recognized as "scientifically inexplicable" by the team of medical experts on Jan. 18, 2006, during the process of canonization of Father Galvão (1739-1822).

Grossi de Almeida said before her encounter with the Benedict XVI: "I believe that I will be so excited that I will just barely be able to thank him for approving the canonization of Father Galvão here in Brazil, a gift for me and all Brazilians."

Before becoming pregnant with Enzo, she had suffered three miscarriages from a genetic problem known as a bicornuate uterus -- also known as a heart-shaped uterus.


"Gynecologists told me to be realistic; that they would do everything medically possible to help me but they told me I would most likely miscarry again," said Grossi de Almeida in the official Web page of the Pope's visit to Brazil.

It was then that a family friend spoke to the expectant mother of Father Galvão's pills, which she decided to take.

Grossi de Almeida said that the hemorrhaging stopped on the first night of the novena: "That was a sign that I could believe in the power of Father Galvão even more, and in his intercession."

In the fifth month of pregnancy the doctors said that the baby was too big, and that she was at risk for a miscarriage. "It was then that I prayed again to Father Galvão," she recalled.

The doctors performed a Caesarean section at 32 weeks of pregnancy without any complications. "The doctors said it was impossible, but not for God," she said.

Enzo suffered from a serious lung problem at birth, a common cause of death for premature babies, but after his mother prayed again to Father Galvão, the baby was taken off the respirator the next day.

Asked about Father Galvão, Enzo said: "It is thanks to him that I was born."


Pope to Canonize 1st Brazilian-Born Saint

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 9, 2007- Brazil's first native-born saint will be canonized in his home country by Benedict XVI.

Canonizations normally take place in Rome, but the Holy Father will make an exception Friday and canonize Blessed Antonio Santa'Ana Galvão in São Paulo.

News of the canonization was received with great joy in Brazil, reported Archbishop Odilo Scherer of São Paulo, president of the country's episcopal conference.

Father Galvão, who was born in 1739, "wanted to be Jesuit but ended up a Franciscan," explained the archbishop.

He continued: "In São Paulo, he was devoted to the prayer, intense work, preaching, and charity. He was a true 'man of God' endeavoring to help people to be closer to God.

"Always welcoming people, he gave special attention to the poor, the sick and the afflicted."

Father Galvão founded Santa Clara's convent, in Sorocaba, at a time Marquês de Pombal's law imposed enormous restrictions on the Church and its building initiatives.

Father Galvão "helped to build Luz Monastery in São Paulo, where still today the nuns of the religious congregation he founded live," remarked Archbishop Scherer.

Father Galvão died in 1822, the year of the independence of Brazil. His grave, a place of devotion, is at the Luz Monastery, in São Paulo.


Despite Suffering, Nun Sang of God's Mercy
Sister Maria Rosa Pellesi Beatified in Rimini

RIMINI, Italy, MAY 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Suffering from tuberculosis, Sister Maria Rosa of Jesus asked God for the ability to sing of his mercy and to be heard.

Sister Maria Rosa was beatified April 29 in Rimini. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes and Benedict XVI's delegate for the occasion, presided over the rite.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins reflected in his homily on the invitation of Sister Maria Rosa to hope and "to not let ourselves be tied down by our limitations."

Like her, we must pray that Jesus uses each one of us "to build upon the wreckage" of human weakness, [to be] that "masterpiece that" God "has had in his mind for all eternity," exhorted the cardinal.

Her life

Born Bruna Pellesi on Nov. 10, 1917, near Modena in northern Italy, she was the youngest of nine children. Her parents were farmers with a strong Catholic faith.

The postulator of her cause of beatification, Father Florio Tessari, in an interview with Vatican Radio, said, "When she was a young girl she was vivacious and loved to dress well."

"She was one of the most beautiful girls in town," he added, and she "was filled with a desire to love and be loved."

When she was 17, she dated a young man but "left him because her heart was beating for another. Christ became her only love," Father Tessari explained.

Bruna Pellesi entered the convent of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Christ when she was 23, making her final profession two years later, taking the name of Sister Maria Rosa of Jesus.

At the age of 26 she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was hospitalized by the sickness for 27 years.

Her treatment included extracting liquid from her lungs five times a day. The postulator said she never complained.

Father Tessari recalled that when Sister Maria Rosa was near death, in 1972, she said in a whisper: "I say this now, all that matters is loving the Lord. I am happy because I die in love and I am happy because I love everyone."


 Jerome Lejeune  Saintly scientist   
Written by Carolyn Moynihan  

Thursday, 26 April 2007

The Frenchman who discovered trisomy 21 was heroically professional when he insisted it could be cured.

Jerome Lejeune Is there any field of medical science trendier than genetics? Stem cell research might cap it, but genetics is far better established and has plenty of runs on the board. Both, given their practitioners' propensity to test the ethical limits of medicine, seem unlikely fields in which a person might earn a reputation for sanctity. Yet, that is what the late Jerome Lejeune did in the course of his career as one of the fathers of modern genetics. In 2004, ten years after his premature death from cancer, and in response to popular demand, the Vatican called for the process which could see the French doctor declared a saint to be opened. Earlier this month, Paris Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois launched the process for his beatification.

Lejeune's scientific and spiritual fame centres on his 40-year commitment to finding a cure for Down's syndrome (for pedantic reasons now known as "Down syndrome" in North America and elsewhere). At the very beginning of his medical career in the 1950s he found himself drawn to the young, mentally handicapped children, so often segregated in institutions and denied treatment which could have relieved associated health problems. He also felt deeply for the parents who learned that they had given birth to a "Mongol" child ("Mongolian idiocy" was the cruel technical term for the condition) and who fell under suspicion of breeding racial degeneracy. In earlier decades Down's sufferers had been targets of the eugenics movement.

Fellow feeling for these innocent outcasts turned the young Parisian doctor into a research scientist, his mind and heart set on solving the mystery of their condition and relieving their suffering. He would not accept that his profession could turn its back on one whole group of people. Already some scientists speculated that Down's was caused by a fault in the chromosomes. Following this lead and using the new technique of karyotyping he discovered, in 1958, that a patient with Down's had an extra chromosome at the 21st pair. The genetic diagnosis known as Trisomy 21 was born, establishing the first ever link between mental disability and a chromosome disorder -- and heralding a new era in genetics.

It was a discovery of incalculable importance to people with the condition and their families -- if only at first from a symbolic point of view. The embarrassing and misleading term "mongolism" was gradually retired (although it still crops up) and the term Down's adopted after John Langdon Down who first described the syndrome.

But Lejeune's contribution went beyond the scientific into the realm of what we might call "public relations" as he sought to open people's eyes to the human dignity of those affected by the syndrome and their claim on our love and effort. With his trademark combination of precise observation, moral insight and poetry he once wrote:

  "With their slightly slanting eyes, their little nose in a round face and their unfinished features, trisomic children are more child-like than other children. All children have short hands and short fingers; theirs are shorter. Their entire anatomy is more rounded, without any asperities or stiffness. Their ligaments, their muscles, are so supple that it adds a tender languor to their way of being. And this sweetness extends to their character: they are communicative and affectionate, they have a special charm which is easier to cherish than to describe. This is not to say that Trisomy 21 is a desirable condition. It is an implacable disease which deprives the child of that most precious gift handed down to us through genetic heredity: the full power of rational thought. This combination of a tragic chromosomic error and a naturally endearing nature, immediately shows what medicine is all about: hatred of disease and love of the diseased."

For that testimony alone, one feels, he should be canonised.

Indeed, he is as likely to be recognised by the Church as much for his verbal defence of the human being -- in whatever condition -- as for his scientific work, since the one quickly became as necessary as the other. As he and colleagues turned his surgery at the Necker Hospital for Sick Children (Paris) into one of the largest cytogenetics centres in the world, studying more than 30,000 chromosomic cases and treating more than 9000 patients with genetically-linked intellectual disabilities, the medical profession became involved in a great betrayal, using the new science for prenatal diagnosis leading to abortion. By the 1990s as many as 90 per cent of Down's syndrome babies in Britain were deliberately aborted. Since 2003 every pregnant woman in Britain is offered a screening test whose main purpose is to make abortion possible.

This trend was a source of tremendous anguish for Lejeune and drove him to defend his patients publicly from what he called "chromosomic racism". This put him in demand as a speaker and expert witness for the pro-life movement -- adding to his already enormous workload of teaching, research and clinical work -- but led to his being ostracised by many of his peers. "Medicine has become mad," he said, "when it attacks the patient instead of fighting the disease. We must be on the patient's side, always." Fighting on two fronts his life must have become a kind of martyrdom -- albeit one marked by joy and good humour -- shared by his staunch wife and five children.

(In her biography of her father, La Vie est un bonheur (life is happiness) Clara Lejeune Gaymard recounts how every summer when the children were young Lejeune would pack the family into the car and drive them to Denmark -- where his wife's family lived -- for a long holiday. Then he would drive back to the heat of Paris to do research which he had no time for while teaching.)

Lejeune was convinced that a cure for Down's syndrome was possible and that it would open the way to a cure for all the other genetic diseases. "It is obvious that we'll find a way," he said. "The intellectual effort is much simpler than putting a man on the moon." And, "The patients are waiting for me, I have to find the answer." However, although he laboured to the last weeks of his life -- exploring the use of folate therapy, for example -- he died in April 1994 without achieving his mission, and feeling that he was "abandoning them".

Jerome Lejeune received many awards and honours during his life -- including warm recognition within the Catholic Church and in particular from Pope John Paul II, who was a personal friend -- but he would have traded them all, no doubt, for support from his profession for his great mission of finding a cure for genetic diseases. Even today the Paris-based Jerome Lejeune Foundation struggles to awaken greater interest in research on Trisomy 21.

It would console the saintly scientist, however, that there seems to be a sort of grassroots rebellion brewing against the culture of death that has stifled the lives of countless thousands of Down's babies prenatally. Articulate middle class parents, who tend to have their children later and to that extent run a greater risk of Down's, have been speaking up in the media about their disabled children. A fine example appeared in the London Times last year, a testimony by the paper's chief sports writer to the joy he has had from his second son, who has Down's.

The writer, Simon Barnes, is at pains to make it clear he is "not a saint", just a dad who enjoys life and takes it as it comes -- including in the form of an intellectually impaired son, whom he has found it quite natural to love. While respecting his sensibilities about "sainthood" one should perhaps warn him that sanctity could still sneak up on him. After all, Jerome Lejeune did no more than love the children in front of him in a perfectly natural way -- as a man, a father and a professional.

There is much more to say about the geneticist who could be a saint. But this much can be said with confidence: that his profession was never in greater need of the ideals he represents and a model for living them than it is now.

Carolyn Moynihan is Deputy Editor of MercatorNet.


Cardinal Van Thuân's Cause to Begin

ROME, APRIL 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân's beatification process is about to begin, some five years after the Vietnamese prelate's death.

Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi made the announcement when presenting a book by Cardinal Camillo Ruini entitled "God's Truth and Man's Truth: Benedict XVI and the Great Questions of Our Time."

The book is being published as a part of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory's "Journals" series.

Bishop Crepaldi explained: "The book urged me to link the theme of truth -- of God's and man's -- to which Cardinal Ruini's book is dedicated; and the theme of hope, so dear to the departed Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân and at the core of his spirituality and his exemplary living of human and Christian life."

The prelate, who worked with the cardinal and who is president of the Van Thuân Observatory, explained how "truth and hope have deep ties. The intelligence of faith leads me to the firm conviction that truth, in surrendering or uncovering itself, reveals a vocation and therefore brings about hope."


Bishop Crepaldi underlined the connection between the theme of the book and the Vietnamese cardinal, saying that it "is made even more immediate and meaningful by the fact that this year we will be remembering the fifth anniversary of his death, which occurred on Sept. 16, 2002, and the cause for his beatification is starting."

Nguyen Van Thuân was ordained a priest in 1953 and appointed bishop of Nha Trang in 1967.

In 1975, Pope Paul VI named him coadjutor archbishop of Saigon (today's Ho Chi Minh City).

After the defeat of South Vietnam, he was detained for 13 years in a Communist re-education camp. Nine of those years he spent in solitary confinement.

In 1988 he was liberated and forced into exile. Pope John Paul II welcomed him to Vatican City and entrusted him with responsibilities in the Roman Curia, naming him president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

In March 2000, Archbishop Van Thuân preached the spiritual exercises attended by John Paul II and the Roman Curia, sharing many of his spiritual experiences in prison. "The Testimony of Hope" was published as a collection of his meditations.

He was made cardinal in February 2001 and died the following year at the age of 74.


A "Priest of Divine Mercy" Beatified
Father Luigi Boccardo (1861-1936)

TURIN, Italy, APRIL 17, 2007 - Father Luigi Boccardo, known as an apostle of merciful love, was proclaimed blessed in his native city of Turin.

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, presided over the beatification Mass, held Sunday in the Church of the Holy Face. Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin, concelebrated.

Luigi Boccardo was born Aug. 9, 1861, the seventh of nine children.

He was ordained a priest in 1884, and served as assistant pastor to his brother and godfather, Father Giovanni Maria Boccardo, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998.

Father Luigi then served as vice rector and spiritual director at the Consolata College for young priests, and as a theology professor at the diocesan seminary.

The priest also spent hours hearing confessions at the Shrine of the Consolata and visiting prisoners.

Father Luigi became the superior general of the Poor Sisters of San Gaetano, founded by his brother, after Father Giovanni Maria died in 1913.

In 1919, Father Luigi became director of an institute for the blind. In that time he built the Shrine to Jesus Christ, King and Priest.

In 1932, he founded the Order of Sisters of Christ the King, a contemplative branch of the order founded by his brother.

He died June 9, 1936.

A priest

Mother Teresa Ponsi, superior general of the Poor Sisters of San Gaetano, spoke of the newly beatified to Vatican Radio: "His charism as educator and founder was to reveal the merciful love of Jesus, priest and king, to his brothers, especially in the education of the clergy ... and in the spiritual direction of so many that approached him in the confessional."

Father Luigi "could be defined as 'a priest, always a priest,'" the superior general added. "For him, to be a priest was the most marvelous adventure."

Mother Ponsi added that the priest and founder was a "teacher and guide for the young clergy, confessor and spiritual guide for all types of people."

She added that he was a "priest of divine mercy," and that he "disseminated this in great abundance."

Mother Ponsi continued: "A contemplative and an apostle, he had an knowledge of delicate charity in understanding that even blind people can live a religious life, because before God no impediments exist with respect to who, by his grace, is called to consecrate their life to him."

"Because of all this, Blessed Luigi Boccardo is an example and a motivation in the coherent search for holiness," and a "witness of charity," she added.

Cardinal Poletto wrote in the diocesan paper: "The event of two brothers, priests in our diocese, being declared blessed by the Church, is an extraordinary grace."


Samurai on way to beatification, Cardinal believes

A number of samurai who chose non-violence in spite of their fighting skills are among 188 mostly lay Japanese martyrs expected to be beatified in November, according to Tokyo-born Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao.

UCA News reports that Japanese Cardinal Hamao, who previously headed the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, anticipates Pope Benedict XVI will soon approve a decree for the beatification of the martyrs, and he expects the ceremony will take place in Japan.

According to UCA News, Cardinal Hamao, 77, played a central role at a decisive meeting of 20 cardinals and archbishops at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to discuss the cause for the 188 martyrs.

The cardinal, the only Asian in attendance, presented a compelling case for their beatification, saying that "they were put to death not for political reasons, not because they were political opponents, but by reason of their Christian faith."

His discourse stressed that "though many were samurai and knew how to fight, they nevertheless chose the path of non-violent resistance, and that is also very significant for people today."

The cardinal said the Vatican officials responded favourably, and "voted unanimously in favour of their beatification."

The prelate is particularly pleased that the 188 martyrs will soon be beatified because it marks "the first time the Japanese bishops have promoted a cause."

He noted that Religious orders, not bishops, presented the several beatified and canonised martyrs that the Church in Japan already has.

According to Cardinal Hamao, it is "highly significant" that all 188 are Japanese and all but four are laypeople - mostly women but also many children.

In his view, the beatification will be important for all Japanese, not just Catholics, because it highlights the fact that "the right to believe in a religion is a fundamental human right."

At the time of the martyrs in the 17th century, "it was not so, and the government persecuted people for this."


Odoardo Focherini in Process of Beatification

CARPI, Italy, MARCH 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic journalist Odoardo Focherini saved more than 100 Jews before he died in a concentration camp during World War II, at the age of 37.

The Catholic Union of the Italian Press paid tribute to Focherini on Saturday, marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. The journalist was the administrative director of L'Avvenire d'Italia and president of the Italian segment of Catholic Action.

In a letter he dictated shortly before dying, he said: "I declare that I die in the most pure catholic, apostolic, Roman faith and in full submission to the will of God, offering my life as a holocaust for my diocese, Catholic Action, for the Pope and for the return of peace to the world."

Bishop Elio Tinti of Carpi, who opened the celebration, said: "He was a man who knew how to bring joy to the lives of many people, especially the 105 Jews he saved, but also to all those he met, offering a shining example of what it means to be a man of simplicity."

The prelate spoke of the journalist's deep love for his family, "his tender relationship with his beloved wife and his seven dear children -- deep ties that we see revealed in the marvelous letters that he wrote, but ties which did not impede him from living his life for others."

Bishop Tinti added: "With hope and devotion, we hope that the Church will soon be able to recognize him as a martyr. His life is truly a hymn of sanctity."

Focherini organized a network to move Jews out of Italy to safety in Switzerland. He was arrested for this on March 11, 1944. After stops in several prisons, he died from an infected leg wound on Dec. 27, 1944, in the Hersbruck concentration camp in Germany.

Father Claudio Pontiroli, vice postulator of his cause for beatification, reported: "We found more than 300 letters of condolences; in 62 of them Odoardo is spoken of as a martyr of charity. Celebrations for him were made, like for no other victim of the war."


Cardinal Baronio's Canonization Cause Revived

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, MARCH 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The virtue of patience is hard to come by in any day or age, but the extraordinary example of Cardinal Cesare Baronio should give us all heart.

Not only did he dedicate long hard hours to his studies and writing, and suffer the ceaseless practical jokes of St. Philip Neri, but additionally his cause for canonization has been stalled since 1745 when Pope Benedict XIV conferred on him the title of venerable.

But Cardinal Baronio's spirit of forbearance has paid off. This year, the 400th anniversary of his death, Cardinal Baronio's case has been reopened by the general attorney of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, known as the Oratorians.

"Peace and obedience" was the motto of this extraordinary man, and he lived both virtues throughout his life in such an exemplary manner that Pope John XXIII, an admirer of Cardinal Baronio's, took the same words and inverted them to become his own dictum.

While his contemporary St. Peter Canisius traveled to heretical hot spots to preach -- personifying the daring, brilliant charism of the Jesuits -- Cardinal Baronio embodied the nurturing nature of the Oratorians by remaining stably in his parish, and writing steadily as he tended to his flock.

Both men, however, gave a troubled world the tools to perceive the truth. St. Peter Canisius wrote the first catechism and Cardinal Baronio wrote 12 volumes of meticulously researched Church history.

Cesare Baronio was born near Naples in 1538 to a poor but noble family. At the age of 19 he came to Rome to study law at the Rome University and found lodgings in Piazza Farnese around the corner from the Church of San Gerolamo della Carità where Father Philip Neri lived.

The young student was soon introduced to his saintly neighbor and, attracted by the great magnet of Father Neri's holiness, he started to frequent the oratory.

Father Neri recognized the immense potential in Baronio and took an interest in his formation. Although Baronio's natural inclination lent toward subjects such as death and final judgment, Father Neri called him back to the here and now by setting him to study Church history.

Baronio knew he was called to the priesthood, but wanted to join one of the new orders such as the Jesuits or Theatines, and to live among his brothers in the priesthood. After much discernment, however, he was ordained a secular priest in 1564.

He took up his ministry in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, the Florentine national church in Rome in the care of Father Neri. Together with two other priests, they were the nucleus of the congregation of the Oratorians which was officially established in 1575.

Every day Father Baronio went from preaching and hearing confessions at San Giovanni to tending the sick and moribund at the hospital of Santo Spirito, and then returned home to cook for community of the Oratorians.

When he realized that the kitchen duty was always left for him, Father Baronio's patience and good humor came to the fore and he inscribed above his oven "Caesar Baronius coquus perpetuus," "Cesare Baronio, cook in perpetuity."

Father Neri saw the many honors conferred on Father Baronio as a danger to his humility, and so the future saint would play tricks on the young priest to keep him from becoming too proud of his accomplishments.

Father Neri once told Father Baronio to sing Psalm 51 "Miserere" at a wedding, although it was reserved for Good Friday or funerals. The startled guests looked at Father Baronio with disgust, but he took the lesson to heart, and always remained gentle and unassuming.

While Pope Gregory XIII was reforming the Julian calendar in 1580 to fashion the Gregorian version still in use today, he set Father Baronio to reorganize the liturgical calendar, entrusting him with the task of revising the stories of the saints and martyrs. The Roman Martyrology has undergone numerous additions and alterations (the latest version was released in 2004). Father Baronio's careful work forms the basis of this beloved and useful book.

During the writing of the martyrology, Father Baronio's passion for relics grew, and he was one of the first people to come running when the Catacombs of St. Priscilla was rediscovered in 1578.

He was elevated to cardinal in 1596. Although he was very poor, he took great pains to care for his titular church, St. Nereo and Achilleo. He even obtained the return of their relics which had been transferred to the Church of St. Hadrian.

A scholar without intellectual arrogance, a cardinal who performed the humblest tasks for his fellow priests, a man inclined to solitude who spent most of his day caring for others, Cardinal Cesare Baronio offers a resonant example for our own time.

To revive the memory and commemorate his great scholarly contributions, the Oratory has organized a year of special Masses with various members of the College of Cardinals, symposiums, concerts and conferences. Not bad for the humble house chef.


Edith Stein's Conversion Was No Coincidence
It Started Before Reading St. Teresa of Avila

ROME, FEB. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A new compilation of Edith Stein's completed works presents evidence that her conversion was influenced by more than just her reading of St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography.

Stein (1891-1942) was a Jewish philosopher and convert to Catholicism, who became a Carmelite and was later martyred at Auschwitz.

The story of her conversion up till now had been attributed to mere happenstance as she unwittingly stumbled upon the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. Devouring the book overnight, she decided to convert to Catholicism when she finished it at dawn.

During the presentation of the complete works of Stein at the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome, Father Ulrich Dobhan, a German Carmelite and expert on Stein who supervised the German edition of her works, presented his own findings about Stein's conversion. From his research, he believes that Stein already knew of the existence of St. Teresa of Avila's book and sought it out.

"During the summer semester of 1918, during Husserl's lectures at the University of Freiberg on the subject of Rudolf Otto's book, 'Das Heilige,' Edith probably read Teresa of Avila's name because it's mentioned in that book," Father Dobhan explained to ZENIT.

Later, on May 24 or 25, 1921, at the house of Anne Reinach and her sister-in-law Pauline, in Goettingen, Germany, Stein chose the autobiographical volume: "Life of St. Teresa of Avila" from their library.

The reading of St. Teresa's book was decisive in tipping Stein toward Catholicism instead of Protestantism, but Father Dobhan wants to clarify that "here we are not talking about the step from atheism to Christianity."

"The exclamation of 'This is the Truth!' that is generally put in the mouth of Stein upon reading the autobiography of the saint, does not correspond to what she said, nor does it reflect Stein's spiritual process," Father Dobhan clarified.

Stein's inquiry into Christianity had been maturing over time. As a philosopher, she was profoundly influenced by the work of Max Scheler during his Catholic period and the heroic witness of Anne Reinach, widow of fellow philosopher Adolf Reinach, who fell in the war in November 1917.

While not the sole source of her conversion, the book did lead to her decision to become a Carmelite, where upon entering she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was canonized by Pope John Paul II in October 1998, and made a co-patroness of Europe in October 1999.


Cause for Cardinal Pironio's Beatification Continues
Co-founder of World Youth Day Is Remembered

ROME, FEB. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A Mass for the co-founder of World Youth Day, Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, was celebrated as work for the cause of his beatification continues.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, presided over the Mass on Tuesday at the Regina Apostolorum university to remember Cardinal Pironio.

The event marked a "day of study" of Cardinal Pironio's life and work as part of the beatification process.

Eduardo Pironio was born in Argentina in 1920 and ordained a priest in 1943. He served as bishop of Mar del Plata, secretary and president of the Latin American bishops' council, prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Cardinal Pironio also shared a great spiritual closeness with Sister Lucia, the visionary of Fatima. He died in Rome on Feb. 5, 1998, and the process of his beatification was initiated in June 2006.

Cardinal Bertone told those present that Cardinal Pironio was a "man of God" who "irradiated God's holiness in the Church."

"His life leaves us with an icon of a holy, generous and ardent minister of Christ," affirmed the secretary of state. "He made of his own existence an act of love for God and for his brothers and sisters; an act of love sustained by unwavering faith and joyful hope."

Cardinal Bertone concluded with the hope "that the Church will recognize his holiness and offer him as a model for living."


Saint Gianna: A Model For Mothers
 Helen Hull Hitchcock

The Foreword from  Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero

"A woman of exceptional love, an outstanding wife and mother, she gave witness in her daily life to the demanding values of the Gospel." In his homily on the occasion of her beatification, April 24, 1994, Pope John Paul II proposed Gianna Beretta Molla as a model for all mothers: "By holding up this woman as an exemplar of Christian perfection, we would like to extol all those high-spirited mothers of families who give themselves completely to their family, who suffer in giving birth, who are prepared for every labor and every kind of sacrifice, so that the best they have can be given to others."

In canonizing Gianna Beretta Molla this spring, the Church officially recognized the extraordinary sanctity of a woman who chose to live an ordinary life-as a professional and, later, as a wife and mother. Though she had once considered entering a religious order, instead she practiced medicine (receiving her medical degree in 1949, and her specialty in pediatrics in 1952). She devoted herself to caring for her patients, and her selflessness and dedication as a physician endeared her to the people. But it was not only her practice of medicine that influenced them. She regarded her profession as a mission through which she could aid and nurture both bodies and souls. The young doctor's devotion to her Catholic faith was well known in her community, and especially her instruction of young Catholic girls in their faith.

Gianna meditated long and prayerfully on God's will for her. "What is a vocation?" she wrote: "It is a gift from God-it comes from God Himself! Our concern, then, should be to know the will of God. We should enter onto the path that God wills for us, not by 'forcing the door', but when God wills and as God wills." [1] Gianna believed she was called to marriage and * family life, but she waited patiently for God's will to be revealed.

Gianna Beretta did not marry until she was thirty-three years old-to an engineer ten years her senior, Pietro Molla, whose sister had earlier been a patient of the young Dr. Beretta. Letters Gianna wrote during their year-long courtship reveal her deep commitment to this new vocation. The couple married in September 1955. Several days before their wedding, Gianna wrote to Pietro, reflecting on their vocation to marriage: "With God's help and blessing, we will do all we can to make our new family a little cenacle where Jesus will reign over all our affections, desires and actions.... We will be working with God in His creation; in this way we can give Him children who will love Him and serve Him."

Gianna's faith and her communion with Christ were profound, and from this grace she drew deeper understanding of the dedication and self-giving love that is fundamental to Christian marriage and family life.

After her marriage and even after she had children Gianna continued her medical practice, extending her gifts beyond her immediate family to the children of others, Three children, a son and two daughters, were born between 1956 and 1959, and Gianna had two miscarriages before conceiving another baby in 1961 Pietro and Gianna referred to their children as their "treasures".

In his own account of these years, Pietro Molla says that he did not object to Gianna's continuing her medical practice, because she was so deeply attached to her patients, though after she became pregnant with their fourth child, Pietro and Gianna had agreed that she would stop working outside the home after the baby was born.

Early in the pregnancy it was discovered that Gianna had a fibroma, a benign tumor, on her uterine wall. Surgery that would involve aborting the baby was suggested, but the Mollas instantly and firmly rejected this idea, and chose surgery that would remove only the tumor. Because of her medical knowledge, Gianna understood more fully than most the risks involved in this delicate surgery-both to her and to her unborn child. She insisted that the baby be protected at all costs.

The surgery successfully removed the fibroma, and the pregnancy continued, apparently normally, and the family made plans for the future in joy and hope. But all was not well, and a few days before the baby was born, Gianna realized it would be a difficult-possibly life-threatening delivery. She asked her husband to promise that if it were necessary to choose between saving her and saving the baby, he should choose the baby. "I insist", she said.

On Good Friday, Gianna entered the hospital. And a lovely, healthy baby daughter, Gianna Emanuela, was born the next day, April 21, 1962. But the mother had developed a fatal infection-septic peritonitis. (Modern antibiotics most likely would have saved her.) The inflammation caused immense suffering during her final week on earth. In the midst of her terrible pain, Gianna called to her own mother, Maria, who had died in 1942-and she prayed. As she lay dying, she repeated, "Jesus, I love you", over and over. Her agony ended on April 28–at home.

She was thirty-nine. The tiny infant, Gianna Emanuela, was exactly one week old.

The bereft Pietro was left to raise four very young children without their mother: Pierluigi, the eldest, was not yet six; Mariolina, four; Laura, nearly three; and of course the new baby. In this book are Pietro's own reflections on the difficult years that followed, and how the example of his wife's serene and joyous faith helped sustain him through his grief at Gianna's death; when their little daughter, Mariolina, died only two years later; and through all the ordinary difficulties of raising a family alone–with the added extraordinary challenges of raising children whose absent mother had already become a revered public figure.

Almost immediately upon her death a devotion to Gianna arose among those whose lives she had so deeply touched, and who knew her heroic devotion to her faith and her family.

Her "cause" was introduced formally in 1970. She was beatified April 24, 1994; and canonized on May 16, 2004–forty-two years after her death.

That her husband, now ninety-one, and three children attended her canonization ceremony is one of several historic "firsts" connected with her canonization. (Pierluigi, an engineer, is married; Laura is a political scientist; Gianna Emanuela is a physician who specializes in Alzheimer's disease.)

Gianna Beretta Molla is the first married laywoman to be declared a saint (though there are many sainted widows). She is also the first canonized woman physician–a professional woman who was also a "working mom" four decades ago, when this was unusual.

Her witness of abiding faith in Christ, and her example of generous, loving self-donation–wherever and however she was called to serve the Lord–provide particular inspiration for women of our time and in our culture, where conflicting demands and confusing signals are a daily part of our lives.

There is another aspect of this new saint's life that is worth pondering–and this book affords a glimpse of it. That is, the role of her family–the example of her parents -in her formation as a committed, active young Catholic. Her family was outstanding for its deep Christian faith, expressed not only in worship, in private prayer and family devotions, but in generously extending their gift of faith to others.

Her family's example of unselfish love set the direction of young Gianna's life. It gave her the firm foundation upon which, through the grace of God and her trusting acceptance of his will for her, she confidently built her life–a life that would shelter, nurture, guide, and inspire countless others. Gianna's plans for raising her own children in the faith was influenced by her own experiences growing up. Her understanding of motherhood came from her own mother. Even though her own children could not know her tender motherly presence while they were growing up, she interceded for them. At the very end of her life, as Gianna suffered mortal pain, she sought her mother's prayers. As we-especially mothers of young families–may now seek hers.

Saint Gianna, pray for us.

Helen Hull Hitchcock

Feast of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne | July 26, 2004

Martyr's Beatification Cause Moves Forward
Korean Layman Worked With Poor

SEOUL, South Korea, JAN. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The diocesan phase of the cause of beatification and canonization of John Song Hae-bung, a lay missionary martyred during the Korean War, has opened in the Diocese of Incheon.

The present cause is the first of a layman in the period following the Japanese colonial era, the Fides news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples reported Thursday.

The diocesan commission has been established which will guide this phase of the process, collecting the necessary testimony and documentation for the cause of beatification.

According to a biography published by Fides, John Song was the eldest of a Catholic family, and entered the seminary in 1944.

After Korea's liberation from Japanese occupation, he left his theological studies to dedicate himself to active missionary work. He opened schools and homes for orphans and the poor in the Diocese of Incheon.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, he was falsely accused of being a Communist. He was arrested and killed by a death squad, reported Fides.

Korea has over 10,000 Christian martyrs, killed in various persecutions over the centuries.

In 1984, in the first canonization ceremony held outside the Vatican, Pope John Paul II inscribed 103 martyrs of the Korean Church into the catalogue of saints.

In 2003, the Holy See approved the opening of the beatification process for Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions, tortured and killed for the faith in 1791, when Christianity had just reached Korea.



 VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, during a private audience with Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., president of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Pope authorized the congregation to promulgate the decrees concerning the following causes:


 - Blessed Szymon of Lipnica, Polish, priest of the Order of Friars Minor (1439-1482).

  - Blessed Antonio de Santa Ana (ne Antonio Galvao de Franca), Brazilian, priest of the Order of Alcantarine or Discalced Friars Minor, and founder of the Convent of Conceptionist Sisters (1739-1822).

  - Blessed Charles of St. Andrew (ne Johannes Andreas Houben), Dutch, priest of the Congregation of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1821-1893).

  - Blessed Marie Eugenie de Jesus (nee Anne-Eugenie Milleret de Brou), French, foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (1817-1898).

  - Venerable Servant of God Carlo Liviero, Italian, bishop of Citta di Castello and founder of the Congregation of Little Handmaidens of the Sacred Heart (1866-1932).

  - Venerable Servant of God Stanislaus of Jesus Mary (ne Jana Papczynski), Polish, priest and founder of the Congregation of Marian Clerics of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (1631-1701).

  - Venerable Servant of God Celina Chludzinska, Polish, widow and foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1833-1913).

  - Venerable Servant of God Marie Celine of the Presentation (nee Jeanne-Germaine Castang), French, nun of the Second Order of St. Francis (1878-1897).


  - Servants of God Manuel Gomez Gonzalez, Spanish, diocesan priest born in 1877, and Adilio Daronch, Brazilian, lay person born in 1908, both killed in Feijao Miudo, Brazil, in 1924.

  - Servant of God Albertina Berkenbrock, Brazilian, lay person born in 1919, killed in 1931.

  - Servant of God Eufrasio of the Baby Jesus (ne Eufrasio Barredo Fernandez), Spanish, born in 1897, priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1934.

  - Servants of God Lorenzo, Virgilio and 44 companions of the Institute of Brothers of the Marist Schools, Spanish, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Enrique Izquierdo Palacios and 13 companions, Spanish, of the Order of Friars Preachers, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Servants of God Ovidio Beltran, Hermenegildo Lorenzo, Luciano Pablo, Estanislao Victor and Lorenzo Santiago, Spanish, members of the Institute of Brothers of the Christian Schools, and Jose Maria Canovas Martinez, Spanish, parish helper, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Servants of God Maria del Carmen, Rosa and Magdalena Fradera Ferragutcasas, Spanish, religious of the Congregation of Daughters of the Blessed and Immaculate Heart of Mary, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Servant of God Lindalva Justo de Oliviera, Brazilian, of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, born in 1953, killed in 1993 in Sao Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.


  - Servant of God Mamerto Esquiu, Argentinean (1826-1883), of the Order of Friars Minor, bishop of Cordoba, Argentina.

  - Servant of God Salvatore Micalizzi, Italian (1856-1937), professed priest of the Congregation of the Mission.

  - Servants of God Jose Olallo Valdes, Cuban (1820-1889), professed religious of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.

  - Servant of God Stefan Kaszap, Hungarian (1916-1935), novice of the Society of Jesus.


The Virtually Venerable Fulton J. Sheen by Charles F. Harvey

Has Archbishop Fulton Sheen been declared an American saint? Not exactly. In fact, not at all. At least not yet. Only now is the process of opening his cause for canonization begun. It would be presumptuous, then, to declare Sheen a saint-in-the-making. We aren't in a position to anticipate the Church's judgment and even though not everyone who is a saint by virtue of making it to heaven is declared a saint by the Church, we can't settle the question of "who's in" and "who's not" by our own lights. But we can say that Sheen certainly embodied two qualities that characterized many canonized American saints: zeal for personal sanctity and a drive to realize the unique possibilities for spreading the Gospel that America affords. -- Mark Brumley

On May 8, 1895, in El Paso, Illinois, a son born to Newton and Delia Sheen was given the name Peter. Yet, when it came time to enroll him in parochial school and his maternal grandfather (whose last name was Fulton) was asked the boy's name, he replied: "It's Fulton." The Confirmation name "John" completed the name that would become world-famous as one of the most vibrant spokesmen for the Church since the Protestant Reformation: Fulton J. Sheen.

Archbishop Sheen notes in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, that in Gaelic "Fulton" means "war" and "Sheen" means "peace." It is as though his very name foretold the kind of life he was to have: an uninterrupted warring against the powers of darkness to promote the peace of Christ's kingdom.

After high school, while attending St. Viator's College, the young Sheen took part in a national examination and won a scholarship entitling him to three years of university training with all expenses paid. His close friend, Fr. William J. Bergan, counseled him not to accept the prize, but, instead, to enter the seminary. He took his friend's advice, and after completing theological studies at St. Viator's and at St. Paul's Seminary in Minnesota, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 20, 1919.

Since he had excelled in his studies for the priesthood, he was selected to attend the Catholic University of America for advanced academic work. It was there that he earned his S.T.L. and J.C.B.

In September of 1921--just two years after ordination--he was off to the University of Louvain in Belgium where he took his Ph.D. in 1923. Offers of teaching positions at Columbia and at Oxford were declined in obedience to his bishop. Instead of a prestigious academic post, he would be an assistant pastor assigned to a parish where the streets had not even yet been paved.

Academic offers continued (an invitation to organize and head the philosophy department at the seminary in Detroit was especially attractive), but Sheen dedicated himself to the task at hand, immersing himself in the work of the parish.

Then, late in the summer of 1926, his bishop told him that he was to join the faculty at Catholic University. He remained on the faculty there for the next twenty-five years. So popular were his lectures that sometimes extra seats were brought in to accommodate the overflow.

Two years after his appointment to Catholic University, he began a parallel career: a long-time media presence as a Catholic spokesman and apologist on radio and, later, on television. After anchoring a series of religious broadcasts on radio, he was selected to host The Catholic Hour on NBC radio until he moved to TV. In 1952, Bishop Sheen (he had been named auxiliary bishop in New York under Cardinal Spellman in 1951) starred in the first religious television show in New York: Life Is Worth Living. That program (with his trademark "God love you") brought him instant recognition by the American TV-viewing public in the early-to-mid 1950s.

By 1954, his ratings were competitive with those of Mr. Television himself, Milton Berle. His popularity increasing, Sheen moved to ABC for a national hook-up. By 1956, his show was being broadcast on one-hundred eighty-seven stations in the U. S. and Canada. He said, "Little did I know in those days that it would be given to me through radio and television to address a greater audience in half an hour than Paul in all the years of his missionary life."

Athanasius Redux

If God raised up the great bishop Athanasius to fight Arianism in the fourth century, perhaps it is not too far afield to think that he raised up the great bishop Sheen to combat Communism in the twentieth. Sheen stressed the need for reason in dealing with Communism, which had continued to gain appeal in America since the 1920s. His prophetic program on Stalin's death, which was broadcast live a week before the Soviet ruler died, cemented Sheen's position as America's top Catholic anti-Communist. Some high-level party members called him "Public Enemy No. 1."

Contrary to some, Sheen was no intellectual featherweight, and he brought his formidable powers of intellection to bear on the problem of Communism, the better to refute it. He absorbed Marx, Lenin, and Stalin to prepare himself for the assaults he would sustain in his attack on their theories. He was a tremendous success. He converted or influenced a number of Communists and leftists in the heyday of American Communism, including Louis Budenz, Elizabeth T. Bently, Bella Dodd, and Heywood Broun.

One incident related in his autobiography is worth recounting here, revealing as it does the intensity of pro-Communist sentiment in America during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. According to Bishop Sheen's own account, "The foreign policy of the United States was considering lifting [sic] the embargo against sending arms to the Communists in Spain. In order to combat this movement, a meeting was held in Constitution Hall, Washington. The speakers were three: a former Spanish Ambassador, a young woman who had been in Spain and had fought against the Communists, and myself. Thousands were turned away from Constitution Hall. It is very likely that the meeting had something to do with breaking down the movement to send arms to the Communists."

Sheen used that episode to lead into an anecdote that reveals to us something about President Franklin Roosevelt that his apologists would prefer remain unspoken. Bishop Sheen recalled that the day after the meeting in Constitution Hall, he had a meeting with FDR. He went to ask for a political favor for an old friend who had lost his re-election bid to Congress. During the meeting, FDR took Sheen to task for something that he mistakenly thought the bishop had said at the Constitution Hall meeting. Sheen tried to disprove Roosevelt's allegation, but the President would not permit him to follow through. Next Roosevelt said: "You think you know a great deal about the Church's attitude toward Communism, don't you? I want to tell you that I am in touch with a great authority, and he tells me that the Church wants the Communists to win in Spain." Sheen answered: "Mr. President, I am not the least bit impressed with your authority." FDR: "I did not tell you who it was." The bishop checkmated Roosevelt with: "You are referring to Cardinal Mundelein, and I know that Cardinal Mundelein never made the statement you attributed to him."

Roosevelt had stuck his foot in his mouth; but Bishop Sheen wanted to conduct the business he came for in the first place. He said: "Mr. President, I came to see you about a position in Housing." FDR said: "Oh, Eddie voted for everything I wanted in Congress. He wants to be in Housing, does he not?" Sheen said that was correct. Roosevelt made a note on a pad and continued: "The moment you leave this office I will call Mrs. So-and-So [he mentioned the name of the woman who was in charge of Housing] and you call Eddie and tell him he has the job." When Sheen left the White House he called Eddie and said: "Eddie, I saw the President. I am sorry, you do not get the job." Eddie said: ""Is that what the President said after all I did for him?" Sheen said: "No, he said you would have it." Eddie never got the job. Needless to say, Bishop Sheen was a shrewd observer of the human heart.

Sheen also told a story that reveals the depth of pro-Soviet sympathy in America during his radio days. He said that because of his position on the USSR, his talks were closely monitored. If he "veered from the then-popular position of Russia being a democracy," a technician in the studio would cut him off. Once he submitted a manuscript for an upcoming broadcast that had the line, "Poland was crucified between two thieves--the Nazis and the Soviets." Sheen got a telegram from the Bishops' Conference asking him not to say that, because one of the thieves was, of course, the USSR. Never one to miss a beat, the bishop answered the telegram with: "How would it be to call Russia the 'good' thief?"

20th Century Missionary Giant

In 1950, Bishop Sheen was tapped to head the national office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He founded a magazine named Mission and published God Loves You, a weekly column in Catholic newspapers. Between 1950 and 1966, he irrigated the fields of the foreign missions with $200 million (a tremendous sum these days; how much more so then!).

In Treasure in Clay, Archbishop Sheen recounts some of his dealings with the foreign missions. For example, he tells the story of a missionary priest in Australia who labored in the desert there. The heat averaged 125 degrees, and the only kind of food he could carry was canned peaches, since everything else exploded in the desert heat. His "rectory" was his Volkswagen, which was eventually swept away in a flood. Bishop Sheen wrote him a check for a new VW. In his capacity as national head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, his decisions benefited the mission efforts in New Guinea, Borneo, Pacific Islands, China, Africa, Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, and countless other locales.

Prodigious author

Archbishop Sheen, known primarily for his oratorical skills, was, nonetheless, a superb prose stylist. (He wrote more than sixty books!) And he gave full exercise to both of these talents in defending and promoting the Church. His many works include such gems as God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Preface to Religion, Three to Get Married, The Divine Romance, Peace of Soul, Life Is Worth Living, The Seven Last Words, The Way of the Cross, This Is the Mass, The Power of Love, The Divine Verdict, The Armor of God, Way To Inner Peace, God Loves You, Thinking Life Through, and Thoughts For Daily Living.

Consummate Churchman

In 1966, Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of Rochester, New York, where he served for four years before stepping down at age seventy-four. He was named titular Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales) in 1969.

His quicksilver wit and golden smile softened the patrician bearing that would quickly stiffen in defense of Christ's Church and the honor of His Bride. And he had a marvelous sense of humor: Pope Paul VI once reportedly told him that he would have a high place in heaven. "Is that an infallible statement?" he grinned.

His high-caliber intellect (steeped as it was in the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas), the magnitude of his writing and speaking skills, his shrewd sense of theater, and his unflagging love for Christ's Church combined to produce the most colorful and effective Catholic apologist in twentieth century America.

Humble priest

By his own account, each day of his priestly life included a continuous hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. This daily prayer and mediation and his deep devotion to the Blessed Mother formed the spine of his fidelity to his priestly vocation and the foundation for the holiness to which he aspired.

Some two months before his death, he met the visiting John Paul II, who embraced him warmly and told him: "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church." Archbishop Sheen died in New York City on December 9, 1979.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2001 issue of Catholic Dossier magazine.

Archbishop Sheen books and videos available through Ignatius Press:

• Treasure in Clay
• Life Is Worth Living
• The Priest Is Not His Own
• The World's First Love
• Through the Year with Fulton Sheen
• Fulton Sheen: Good Friday (VHS)
• Bishop Fulton J. Sheen: His Irish Wit and Wisdom (VHS)
• Fulton Sheen: His Last Words (VHS)
• Bishop Sheen on Angels (VHS)
• Sheen Gems (VHS)
• Retreat with Fulton Sheen (DVD)
• Fulton Sheen Mission Rosary (CD)
• Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: A Prophet for Our Time (VHS)
• Fulton Sheen: His Last Words (DVD)

• The Hour That Makes My Day | Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen | From Treasure in Clay
• On Advent and Eternity | Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen | From Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

Charles F. Harvey worked at Ignatius Press from 1998 until his death in February 2003. He became the full-time managing editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review in 2001. He had previously worked for Catholic Answers, the San Diego diocesan Office of Social Ministry, and St. Joseph Communications.


John XXIII, Minus the Myths
Interview With Pope's Great-Nephew Marco Roncalli

ROME, NOV. 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The life of Pope Blessed John XXIII is still the focus of intense debate and numerous clichés which distort his intellectual and spiritual figure.

To clarify the matter, a book has just been published in Italian by Marco Roncalli, entitled "Giovanni XXIII -- Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Una vita nella storia" (John XXIII -- Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli: A Life in History), published by Mondadori.

The author is John XXIII's great-nephew, who, among other things, has been the editor of the correspondence (1933-1962) between Loris Francesco Capovilla, Giuseppe De Luca and Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, published this year by Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

The new biography of John XXIII was to be presented today in Bergamo, Italy, by Archbishop Loris Capovilla, who was John XXIII's secretary, and by Monsignor Gianni Carzaniga, president of the Giovanni XXIII Foundation.

To understand better the figure of John XXIII, ZENIT interviewed his great-nephew, Marco Roncalli.

Q: What are the clichés that you hope to refute on the human and spiritual history of the beloved Pope John XXIII?

Roncalli: I would say they are many. They stand out clearly if one revises carefully all the Roncalli sources, especially those that are unpublished.

I am thinking of certain youthful notebooks, agendas or diaries, some collected letters and collections of homilies. But I'm also referring to documentation relative to his figure, which has appeared in several archives and was known by few specialists in the most recent congresses.

And we can start with those of long ago. Let us think of the spent cliché of a peasant Roncalli, virtually the receiver of an ancestral wisdom. It is true that his roots are important, also his family.

But let's not forget that he entered the seminary while still a child and that was his new family. The seminary formed the man, and the man of the Church.

In sum, Roncalli's social extraction is not a secondary fact -- though common to most of the Italian northern clergy at the beginning of the 20th century: From this extraction a certain tenacity and constancy are derived, joined to a strong practical sense and respect for the times necessary in each cycle […], all elements of his character.

And from this stems also a certain harmony between nature and the supernatural, a way of living in the present, looking at the future with unconditional confidence in God's providence.

However, I repeat, the cliché of Roncalli as an exclusive product of a peasant culture -- or of the country boy who became Pope who does not forget the "least," as if Roncalli's roots alone "sic et simpliciter" could explain everything to us -- does not stand on its own.

Instead, beginning with the years of the seminary, without breaking or attenuating the bond with his own and his land, the awareness soon matures in him of being a member of the universal Church. Once elected Pope, he said immediately that the world was his family.

Another cliché is that of a simple Roncalli, whereas whoever studies his life has before him a complex figure -- but a figure in which culture has had an important role: studies, meetings with writers, philosophers, theologians, etc., in the course of his life.

Thus, exploring the archives, we come across a very young Roncalli who is, yes, the one known until now for the "Diary of a Soul," his spiritual compendium, but also a very sensitive seminarian, attentive to the widest cultural horizons of his time.

We see him at the dawn of the 20th century, very aware of the problematic relationship between tradition and renewal, of the need for the Church's progressive attention to new cultural realities.

Whoever, for example, leafs through one of his unpublished notebooks entitled "Ad Omnia," sees him wondering not only about the phenomenon of Modernism, a storm through which he also goes through, but also about Americanism: ecclesiological theories, his idea of the unavoidable confrontation between Christianity and modernity.

Another point: Pope John has often been depicted as a weak Pope, who suffered. Instead, if one wishes to weigh up his gestures in a correct manner, suffice it to read his agendas or diaries to realize how well he was able to move decisively.

Some biographers have said that John XXIII read at the last minute texts prepared by others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Several journal notes document whole days spent preparing an address in his own handwriting.

On June 28, 1962, for example, he wrote: "Day of the vigil of St. Peter: occupied entirely in preparing an address in St. Peter's after Vespers. It was a bit of an effort for me to write it, word by word as I do, and all by myself in these circumstances. But in the end, though I'm not always delighted with myself, I am happy to fulfill a function, and to transmit to the clergy and the faithful a sentiment that is entirely my own. I am Pope by the will of the Lord who is my good witness: But to be a parrot who repeats by heart others' thought and voice, truly mortifies me."

He certainly was born -- to use a slogan -- "to bless and not to condemn," but his humble and amiable being was not equivalent to being weak or accommodating.

He was certainly less decisive than his predecessor; however, he put meekness to one side when it became an alibi for others.

I am thinking of May 1962, when the so-called crisis of exegesis continued, and, seeing the inactivity of the commission with the same name -- to say nothing of the frictions with Cardinal Augustin Bea's work, ever more active in the Council's preparation -- he wrote a letter to Cardinal Eugène Tisserant which seems like an ultimatum: "Either the commission intends to move, work and provide, suggesting to the Holy Father measures appropriate to the needs of the present hour, or it is worthwhile for it to be dissolved and a higher authority provide 'in Domino' a reconstitution of this organism.

"However, it is absolutely necessary to remove the impression about uncertainties circulating here and there, which honor no one, of fears about clear positions that must be taken on the orientations of persons and schools. [...] It would be a motive of great consolation if with the preparation of the Ecumenical Council a biblical commission could be established of such resonance and dignity that it would become a point of attention and respect for all our separated brothers who, leaving the Catholic Church, took refuge as shelter and salvation under the shadows of the sacred Book, diversely read and interpreted."

This fact emerges also in relations with his collaborators. When someone did something he didn't like, while being careful to safeguard relations, he was not afraid to make his interlocutors understand his displeasure.

It happened especially with Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, but also with Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua. An example? The latter -- the day after the ministerial crisis of the winter of 1961, centered on Fanfani -- realized the Pope was colder toward him.

The reason? It became known that Dell'Acqua, the substitute of the Secretariat of State, had dined at Fanfani's home, and the family dinner became, thanks to the Curia's "telltale," a meeting for the definition of the government's team with the outstanding role of Dell'Acqua.

The substitute's quick clarification was the occasion to hear from the Pope words of dissociation from Italian political issues: "I was told something else and I'm sorry! We cannot be concerned with issues that correspond exclusively to the Italian state: We are not the ones who must intervene in this matter.…"

Examples with Ottaviani are more numerous. And so John XXIII intervened directly with Ottaviani when he was worried about the identity of the Holy Office, which was running the risk of being no longer, as he wrote in his diary, that "monastery of very strict cloister, left to its task, severe certainly, but most reserved in all that concerned the vigilance, custody and defense of the doctrine and precepts of the Lord," no longer the "Supreme Congregation of which the Pope is the true Superior" and "from whose authority all should depend and by right and in fact does depend, at least in the most important and significant matters" -- but rather the "bulwark" around which, even from the perspective of defending Christian values, ends up by engaging one in unimportant politics.

Also recently there has been talk of a naive Pope in the face of Khrushchev. We read what John XXIII wrote in his diary on September 20, 1961, commenting on the Soviet leader's speaking well of the Pope for the first time, after the papal radio-message of September 10.

This is his private comment: "In the afternoon on TV they reported the communication of Khrushchev, the despot of Russia, on my appeals to statesmen for peace: respectful, calm, comprehensible. I believe it is the first time that a Pope's invitatory words to peace were treated with respect. In regard to the sincerity of the intentions of one who is proud to profess himself an atheist and materialist, though he speak well of the Pope's word, to believe him is something else. Meanwhile, this is better than silence or contempt. 'Deus vertat monstra in bonum' [God converts monsters into something good]. It is enough?"

Q: What were the Pontiff's real expectations in regard to Vatican II?

Roncalli: In the last four chapters of the book, in fact, I concentrate on the Council. Based on new sources, I recount how this idea germinated, how it was received.

I follow the venture of Vatican II in the coming to light of the first idea, in the phase that preceded the preparation, in the preparation itself, in the beginning, also talking about a free confrontation -- what the Pope called the holy freedom of the children of God -- which the whole world witnessed.

And I reflect on the anxieties and consolations of the Pope who every day thought of the Council.

The Council was not his invention. It was a valuable instrument verified by history of the Church which he knew well. The instrument that would have enabled him to interpret -- in the line of tradition, but open to updating -- the role to which he had been called; an instrument that would have allowed him to make the Church advance on her path in step with the world, questioning the whole episcopate involved in the exercise of collegiality in an extensive "universal" reflection.

But let us go back to the beginning of it all: the idea of the Council. As he stated, it did not ripen within him "as the fruit of a prolonged meditation, but as the spontaneous flower of an unexpected spring."

Therefore, he applied to himself that rather familiar spiritual rule "of absolute simplicity in accepting divine inspirations, and prompt submission to the apostolic needs of the present time."

"In announcing the ecumenical Council, we have listened to an inspiration; we have considered its spontaneity, in the humility of our soul," he said in a message to the Venetian clergy.

It's true, he had the applause of the secretary of state, Domenico Tardini, as the latter's diary documents. And there are also the statements of Cardinal Ruffini and of others who maintain -- plausible fact -- that they suggested to the Pope the idea of a Council, an idea that, moreover, according to several unanimous and concordant statements, Roncalli had also expressed repeatedly during the years of delegation in Istanbul to Monsignor Righi, to Jacquin of the Institut Catholique of the Paris Nunciature, to Monsignor Bortignon of the Venetian Patriarchate, and also to his nephew Privato Roncalli, my father.

We should recall that the convocation of a Council had already been considered at least twice in the 20th century, by Pius XI in 1923 -- who then put it to one side awaiting a solution to the "Roman question" -- and by Pius XII -- to whom in fact Cardinals Ruffini and Ottaviani had written a memorandum enumerating the reasons for a convocation.

There were two outlines, held for a long time in strict secret, for the second of which Monsignor Francesco Borgoncini Duca -- a friend of Roncalli, who also might have spoken about it with him, but before 1954, the year when he died -- was appointed director general of all the preparatory works.

And this is not all. There were also other prelates in the past who had supported the idea of a Council for a long time as a "necessity" or "wish," such as Monsignor Celso Constantini, author of a lengthy dossier dated February 15, 1939, and reported under the title "The Council: On the Appropriateness of Convoking an Ecumenical Council."

A week after Constantini's reflections, Giovanni Papini wrote in Il Corriere della Sera: "We like to think that the new Pontiff will see to the reopening of the Vatican Council that was suspended on October 20, 1870. (...) Now that the independence and authority of a sovereign have been restored to the Pope, a resumption of the Council interrupted seventy years ago, will take place in a more moderate climate and would be welcomed with very great joy by Catholics worldwide."

And now we come to the central point: the meaning that John XXIII wished to give, at least in the focus, to "his" Council, something that at the beginning was not at all defined: that it should probably be more pastoral than dogmatic -- pastoral, however, but not in a reductive sense.

It should make room to evaluate everything. As Monsignor Dell'Acqua has attested, Pope Roncalli "never thought of opening and closing the Ecumenical Council. Whoever thinks this, is outside of the truth. Pope John told me repeatedly: 'What matters is to begin; the rest we leave to the Lord'; in how many other circumstances a Pope began a Council that was concluded by another Pope. It was not his intention, therefore, to speed things up."

When he announced it for the first time, take note, he wrote in his own writing on the text that he invited everyone to pray for "a good beginning, continuation and happy success of these intentions of hard work, for the light, edification and joy of the whole Christian people, as a kind and renewed invitation to our brethren of the separated Churches to take part with us in this encounter of grace and fraternity."

Moreover, the event of the Council convoked by John XXIII, in keeping with the preceding perspectives and being open to the breath of the Spirit, should manifest to the Church and the world the holy freedom of the children of God, in the sign of a less defensive general vision, […] more open to confidence, respect, to confrontation, to co-responsibility, to the "signs of the times."

Evaluated carefully, it was also a courageous choice. Conscious of his age, he could have remained tranquil between blessings and canonizations, ordinary activity and the writing of some document, leaving to his successors all the problems that cardinals and bishops put on his desk, and dismissing situations in continual evolution.

Instead, he did the opposite. He addressed everything and not on his own. It was his sensitivity, his historical studies: "A Council is necessary." He confided to his secretary a "biblical reason" to explain his idea: "Did Jesus ever speak to Peter on his own? No, the other disciples were always present."

Q: In what ways was Pope John XXIII prophetic?

Roncalli: Suffice it to read his October 11 address with which he opened the Second Vatican Council, a memorable text because of the breadth of its horizon and prophetic inspiration. Do you not perceive in him, in his essence, the force of a religion that unifies?

It was Pope John's prophetic task, however, to indicate the goal of peace: urgent, which cannot be delayed. ... Let us think of his encyclical testament, "Pacem in Terris."

He is the one who is writing -- speaking of himself in that text as "the vicar of Him whom the prophet announced as the Prince of Peace, [we] conceive of it as Our duty to devote all Our thoughts and care and energy to further this common good of all mankind. Yet peace is but an empty word, if it does not rest upon that order which Our hope prevailed upon Us to set forth in outline in this encyclical. It is an order that is founded on truth, built up on justice, nurtured and animated by charity, and brought into effect under the auspices of freedom."


Cardinal Bertone Comments on Blessed John XXIII
"I Want to Be Kind, Today and Always, to Everyone"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily given by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at the Mass celebrated in St. Peter's on Oct. 11, memorial of Blessed John XXIII.

* * *

Pope John XXIII's message is still extraordinarily timely today. His life, his discourses and his actions bring us to the heart of the faith and the heart of Christian commitment.

As we know, one of Pope John's most important decisions was to convoke the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which was inaugurated on Oct. 11, 1962, here in St. Peter's Basilica.

I was present -- indeed, by a fortunate circumstance, it was I who organized the distribution of the first council documents "sub peculiari secreto" to the council fathers -- and I remember how the day unfolded to its extraordinary conclusion in St. Peter's Square by moonlight.

We could recall a wealth of Pope John's teachings and episodes concerning him, but today I intend to focus on several thoughts which might be useful in our personal life and spiritual renewal.

The Church, in his view, has a motherly face: Her task is to keep "her arms open to receive everyone." She is a "home for one and all" that "desires to belong to everyone, and in particular she is the Church of the poor, like the village fountain," with no distinctions of race or religion.

The Church's holiness and human wisdom are expressed very clearly in what is called "the daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII":

1) Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

5) Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.

8) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

To conclude: here is an all-embracing resolution: "I want to be kind, today and always, to everyone."

In this way, we can put Pope John's hope for every Christian into practice: "Every believer in this world must be a spark of light, a core of love, life-giving leaven in the mass: and the more he is so, the more he will live, in his innermost depths, in communion with God."


John Bosco's Mother Is Decreed "Venerable"
Margaret Occhiena, Co-founder of Salesian Family

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes read a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Margaret Occhiena, mother of St. John Bosco, as well as her reputation for holiness.

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins read the decree Wednesday in the chapel of the Salesian community in the Vatican.

On hand were the rector major of the Salesians, Father Pascual Chávez; the postulator general, Father Enrico dal Cóvolo; the prefect of the Apostolic Vatican Library, Father Raffaele Farina; the director general of the Vatican Press, Father Elio Torrigiani; and the members of the religious community.

After the reading, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone came to offer his greetings and his blessing.

The Congregation for Saints' Causes, at the invitation of Benedict XVI, promulgated the decree Oct. 23.

At the end of the brief ceremony the rector major, Father Chávez, said: "This is a memorable day for the Salesian family which sees Mama Margaret take a further step toward the altars.

"It is an event the whole Salesian world has been waiting for and for which it has been preparing with many initiatives in honor of the mama of Don Bosco. We entrust ourselves to her so that she may intercede for the whole Salesian family and for the congregation as it prepares to celebrate the 26th General Chapter in 2008."


Margaret Occhiena was born on April 10, 1788, in Caprigli, Italy. She lived at home until she married Francis Bosco. Later she moved to Becchi.

After her husband's premature death, Margaret, 29, had to raise her family alone at a time of starvation.

She took care of her husband's mother and of the latter's son Anthony, while educating her own sons, Joseph and John.

She supported her son John in his journey toward the priesthood. At age 58, she left her little house of Colle and followed her son in his mission among the poor and abandoned boys of Turin.

There, for 10 years, mother and son united their lives in the beginnings of the Salesian Work. She was Don Bosco's first and principal cooperator. She contributed her maternal presence to the Preventive System. Thus she became the "co-founder" of the Salesian family.

Margaret was illiterate but full of a wisdom that helped so many street boys. "For her, God was first, so she consumed her life in the service of God, in poverty, prayer and sacrifice," explains a biography issued by the Salesians.

She died on Nov. 25, 1856, in Turin at age 68. A throng of boys, who wept for her as for a mother, accompanied her remains to the cemetery.


The Virtually Venerable Fulton J. Sheen | Charles F. Harvey

Has Archbishop Fulton Sheen been declared an American saint? Not exactly. In fact, not at all. At least not yet. Only now is the process of opening his cause for canonization begun. It would be presumptuous, then, to declare Sheen a saint-in-the-making. We aren't in a position to anticipate the Church's judgment and even though not everyone who is a saint by virtue of making it to heaven is declared a saint by the Church, we can't settle the question of "who's in" and "who's not" by our own lights. But we can say that Sheen certainly embodied two qualities that characterized many canonized American saints: zeal for personal sanctity and a drive to realize the unique possibilities for spreading the Gospel that America affords. -- Mark Brumley

On May 8, 1895, in El Paso, Illinois, a son born to Newton and Delia Sheen was given the name Peter. Yet, when it came time to enroll him in parochial school and his maternal grandfather (whose last name was Fulton) was asked the boy's name, he replied: "It's Fulton." The Confirmation name "John" completed the name that would become world-famous as one of the most vibrant spokesmen for the Church since the Protestant Reformation: Fulton J. Sheen.

Archbishop Sheen notes in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, that in Gaelic "Fulton" means "war" and "Sheen" means "peace." It is as though his very name foretold the kind of life he was to have: an uninterrupted warring against the powers of darkness to promote the peace of Christ's kingdom.

After high school, while attending St. Viator's College, the young Sheen took part in a national examination and won a scholarship entitling him to three years of university training with all expenses paid. His close friend, Fr. William J. Bergan, counseled him not to accept the prize, but, instead, to enter the seminary. He took his friend's advice, and after completing theological studies at St. Viator's and at St. Paul's Seminary in Minnesota, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 20, 1919.

Since he had excelled in his studies for the priesthood, he was selected to attend the Catholic University of America for advanced academic work. It was there that he earned his S.T.L. and J.C.B.

In September of 1921--just two years after ordination--he was off to the University of Louvain in Belgium where he took his Ph.D. in 1923. Offers of teaching positions at Columbia and at Oxford were declined in obedience to his bishop. Instead of a prestigious academic post, he would be an assistant pastor assigned to a parish where the streets had not even yet been paved.

Academic offers continued (an invitation to organize and head the philosophy department at the seminary in Detroit was especially attractive), but Sheen dedicated himself to the task at hand, immersing himself in the work of the parish.

Then, late in the summer of 1926, his bishop told him that he was to join the faculty at Catholic University. He remained on the faculty there for the next twenty-five years. So popular were his lectures that sometimes extra seats were brought in to accommodate the overflow.

Two years after his appointment to Catholic University, he began a parallel career: a long-time media presence as a Catholic spokesman and apologist on radio and, later, on television. After anchoring a series of religious broadcasts on radio, he was selected to host The Catholic Hour on NBC radio until he moved to TV. In 1952, Bishop Sheen (he had been named auxiliary bishop in New York under Cardinal Spellman in 1951) starred in the first religious television show in New York: Life Is Worth Living. That program (with his trademark "God love you") brought him instant recognition by the American TV-viewing public in the early-to-mid 1950s.

By 1954, his ratings were competitive with those of Mr. Television himself, Milton Berle. His popularity increasing, Sheen moved to ABC for a national hook-up. By 1956, his show was being broadcast on one-hundred eighty-seven stations in the U. S. and Canada. He said, "Little did I know in those days that it would be given to me through radio and television to address a greater audience in half an hour than Paul in all the years of his missionary life."

Athanasius Redux

If God raised up the great bishop Athanasius to fight Arianism in the fourth century, perhaps it is not too far afield to think that he raised up the great bishop Sheen to combat Communism in the twentieth. Sheen stressed the need for reason in dealing with Communism, which had continued to gain appeal in America since the 1920s. His prophetic program on Stalin's death, which was broadcast live a week before the Soviet ruler died, cemented Sheen's position as America's top Catholic anti-Communist. Some high-level party members called him "Public Enemy No. 1."

Contrary to some, Sheen was no intellectual featherweight, and he brought his formidable powers of intellection to bear on the problem of Communism, the better to refute it. He absorbed Marx, Lenin, and Stalin to prepare himself for the assaults he would sustain in his attack on their theories. He was a tremendous success. He converted or influenced a number of Communists and leftists in the heyday of American Communism, including Louis Budenz, Elizabeth T. Bently, Bella Dodd, and Heywood Broun.

One incident related in his autobiography is worth recounting here, revealing as it does the intensity of pro-Communist sentiment in America during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. According to Bishop Sheen's own account, "The foreign policy of the United States was considering lifting [sic] the embargo against sending arms to the Communists in Spain. In order to combat this movement, a meeting was held in Constitution Hall, Washington. The speakers were three: a former Spanish Ambassador, a young woman who had been in Spain and had fought against the Communists, and myself. Thousands were turned away from Constitution Hall. It is very likely that the meeting had something to do with breaking down the movement to send arms to the Communists."

Sheen used that episode to lead into an anecdote that reveals to us something about President Franklin Roosevelt that his apologists would prefer remain unspoken. Bishop Sheen recalled that the day after the meeting in Constitution Hall, he had a meeting with FDR. He went to ask for a political favor for an old friend who had lost his re-election bid to Congress. During the meeting, FDR took Sheen to task for something that he mistakenly thought the bishop had said at the Constitution Hall meeting. Sheen tried to disprove Roosevelt's allegation, but the President would not permit him to follow through. Next Roosevelt said: "You think you know a great deal about the Church's attitude toward Communism, don't you? I want to tell you that I am in touch with a great authority, and he tells me that the Church wants the Communists to win in Spain." Sheen answered: "Mr. President, I am not the least bit impressed with your authority." FDR: "I did not tell you who it was." The bishop checkmated Roosevelt with: "You are referring to Cardinal Mundelein, and I know that Cardinal Mundelein never made the statement you attributed to him."

Roosevelt had stuck his foot in his mouth; but Bishop Sheen wanted to conduct the business he came for in the first place. He said: "Mr. President, I came to see you about a position in Housing." FDR said: "Oh, Eddie voted for everything I wanted in Congress. He wants to be in Housing, does he not?" Sheen said that was correct. Roosevelt made a note on a pad and continued: "The moment you leave this office I will call Mrs. So-and-So [he mentioned the name of the woman who was in charge of Housing] and you call Eddie and tell him he has the job." When Sheen left the White House he called Eddie and said: "Eddie, I saw the President. I am sorry, you do not get the job." Eddie said: ""Is that what the President said after all I did for him?" Sheen said: "No, he said you would have it." Eddie never got the job. Needless to say, Bishop Sheen was a shrewd observer of the human heart.

Sheen also told a story that reveals the depth of pro-Soviet sympathy in America during his radio days. He said that because of his position on the USSR, his talks were closely monitored. If he "veered from the then-popular position of Russia being a democracy," a technician in the studio would cut him off. Once he submitted a manuscript for an upcoming broadcast that had the line, "Poland was crucified between two thieves--the Nazis and the Soviets." Sheen got a telegram from the Bishops' Conference asking him not to say that, because one of the thieves was, of course, the USSR. Never one to miss a beat, the bishop answered the telegram with: "How would it be to call Russia the 'good' thief?"

20th Century Missionary Giant

In 1950, Bishop Sheen was tapped to head the national office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He founded a magazine named Mission and published God Loves You, a weekly column in Catholic newspapers. Between 1950 and 1966, he irrigated the fields of the foreign missions with $200 million (a tremendous sum these days; how much more so then!).

In Treasure in Clay, Archbishop Sheen recounts some of his dealings with the foreign missions. For example, he tells the story of a missionary priest in Australia who labored in the desert there. The heat averaged 125 degrees, and the only kind of food he could carry was canned peaches, since everything else exploded in the desert heat. His "rectory" was his Volkswagen, which was eventually swept away in a flood. Bishop Sheen wrote him a check for a new VW. In his capacity as national head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, his decisions benefited the mission efforts in New Guinea, Borneo, Pacific Islands, China, Africa, Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, and countless other locales.

Prodigious author

Archbishop Sheen, known primarily for his oratorical skills, was, nonetheless, a superb prose stylist. (He wrote more than sixty books!) And he gave full exercise to both of these talents in defending and promoting the Church. His many works include such gems as God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Preface to Religion, Three to Get Married, The Divine Romance, Peace of Soul, Life Is Worth Living, The Seven Last Words, The Way of the Cross, This Is the Mass, The Power of Love, The Divine Verdict, The Armor of God, Way To Inner Peace, God Loves You, Thinking Life Through, and Thoughts For Daily Living.

Consummate Churchman

In 1966, Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of Rochester, New York, where he served for four years before stepping down at age seventy-four. He was named titular Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales) in 1969.

His quicksilver wit and golden smile softened the patrician bearing that would quickly stiffen in defense of Christ's Church and the honor of His Bride. And he had a marvelous sense of humor: Pope Paul VI once reportedly told him that he would have a high place in heaven. "Is that an infallible statement?" he grinned.

His high-caliber intellect (steeped as it was in the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas), the magnitude of his writing and speaking skills, his shrewd sense of theater, and his unflagging love for Christ's Church combined to produce the most colorful and effective Catholic apologist in twentieth century America.

Humble priest

By his own account, each day of his priestly life included a continuous hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. This daily prayer and mediation and his deep devotion to the Blessed Mother formed the spine of his fidelity to his priestly vocation and the foundation for the holiness to which he aspired.

Some two months before his death, he met the visiting John Paul II, who embraced him warmly and told him: "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church." Archbishop Sheen died in New York City on December 9, 1979.


Holiness Is Simplicity: Father Mariano de la Mata (1905-1983)

Interview With a Blessed's Contemporary

SAO PAULO, Brazil, NOV. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Mariano de la Mata is an example to the Church not because of his great works, but because of his simple and virtuous life, says the vice postulator of his cause for canonization.

Father Miguel Lucas, who lived with the Spanish priest in the Augustinian community in Brazil, says in this interview with ZENIT that his companion is an example for all to see that sanctity is reached by living the little things in life well.

Father Mariano de la Mata (1905-1983) was beatified Sunday in the Cathedral of Sao Paulo, during a ceremony presided over by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Q: Who was Father Mariano de la Mata?

Father Lucas: A Spanish Augustinian priest. He was born in 1905 and came to Brazil in 1931; he died in Sao Paulo in 1983. He was a man of charity for the poor and spiritual director of the St. Rita of Cassia charity workshops, which are dedicated to making clothes for the poor. During Father Mariano's life, there were about 9,000 women members.

Father Mariano always visited the four hospitals that existed within Sao Paulo's Parish of St. Augustine. He liked children very much, and was always surrounded by them and had sweets in his pockets to give them.

He was a friend to his students. He made a friend of each student. He loved nature. He looked after plants as if they were patients. He cultivated many flower pots in the terrace of St. Augustine School.

Q: What led to the start of his process of beatification?

Father Lucas: Since Father Mariano's death, his reputation for holiness spread rapidly. God has granted many graces through his intercession. When, in 1977, my superior in Brazil and I went to ask Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns to open Father Mariano's process of beatification, he replied: "This man deserves to be a saint; this one does."

Q: You lived together with Father Mariano. Did you think he would reach the glory of the altar?

Father Lucas: No. First because there was no blessed or saint in Brazil. And second, because he isn't outstanding for great works. It's true that everything he did, he did well. He practiced all the virtues to a higher degree than normal. He was always dedicated to the poor, the sick, to prayer. This makes us think that sanctity is within our reach.

Q: Can you illustrate how he lived the virtues?

Father Lucas: When he was in the sacristy of St. Augustine Church he was visited by the poor. He would put his hands on their shoulders, which were sometimes dirty or wounded, and talk with them. He always gave them some money.

His assiduous visitors left the church happier because of Father Mariano's embrace, than for the pennies he gave them. On cold winter nights, Father Mariano would go down with blankets to the school's square to cover the poor who slept there.

Another story about Father Mariano is that, despite his impaired vision, he would go by car all day through the streets of Sao Paulo to visit the premises of the St. Rita of Cassia charity workshops.

When he arrived late for a meal, some friend would say: "Father Mariano, the meal is almost over." He would reply: "The meal can wait, but not the sick; many times they do not wait."

Father Mariano also enjoyed sports. He himself had a soccer team in the school, of which he was director, and played with the youths. There is even a photograph of him with the school's soccer team and several trophies his team won.

Q: What message has Father Mariano left the Church in Brazil and in the world?

Father Lucas: With his life and testimony, Father Mariano is telling us that holiness continues to apply today in the Christian life and is always possible.

Above all, he is a saint who gives credit to the fact that the building of the kingdom of God is also done on the city streets and in the little acts of every day.

Father Mariano's life challenges all of us. He is a saint of today for the life of today.


Benedict XVI Canonizes 4 Saints
Says They Invested in Heaven

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Saints gain heaven by trusting in the word of God, said Benedict XVI on proclaiming the sanctity of a bishop, a priest and two women religious.

"Their names will be remembered forever," he said today at the canonization Mass of the four saints in St. Peter's Square.

Rafael Guízar Valencia (1878-1938) was born in Cotija de la Paz, in the Mexican state of Michoacan, the fourth of 11 children.

His evangelizing work was often impeded by the political situation in Mexico.

During the religious persecution of the 1920s, he was exiled in the United States, Guatemala and Cuba, where he continued his missionary work.

Many miracles were attributed to him in his lifetime. He died on June 6, 1938.

"Imitating Christ," the Holy Father said during the homily of the more than two-hour celebration in St. Peter's Square, St. Guízar Valencia "gave up his properties and never accepted gifts from the powerful, or gave them away immediately."

"That is why he received a 'hundredfold' and was able to help the poor, even amid relentless 'persecutions,'" (cf. Mark 10:30) added the Pontiff.

His heroic charity earned him the name "bishop of the poor,'" the Pope said to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square, including some 10,000 Mexicans.

Benedict XVI said that "in his priestly and later episcopal ministry, he was a tireless preacher of popular missions, the most appropriate way to evangelize people then, using his 'Catechism of Christian Doctrine,'" he said in reference to the book which became the manual of faith for several generations of Mexicans.

The Bishop of Rome added that one of the bishop's priorities was "the formation of priests," the reason why he "reconstructed the seminary, which he considered 'the apple of his eye.'"

"That is why he used to exclaim: 'A bishop might not have a miter, a staff or even a cathedral, but he can never be without a seminary, because the future of his diocese depends on it,'" the Pope said.

The Holy Father continued: "May the example of St. Rafael Guízar Valencia be a call to brother bishops and priests to consider as essential in pastoral programs, in addition to the spirit of poverty and to evangelization, the fomenting of priestly and religious vocations, and their formation according to the heart of Christ."

Mother Theodore Guérin
(1798-1856), founder of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in the United States.

The French religious entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in 1823, and devoted herself to the work of teaching in schools.

In 1839 she was asked by her superiors to move to the United States to become the head of a new community in Indiana.

"After their long journey over land and sea, the group of six sisters arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. There they found a simple log-cabin chapel in the heart of the forest," said the Pope today at the canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued: "They knelt down before the Blessed Sacrament and gave thanks, asking God's guidance upon the new foundation.

"With great trust in divine providence, Mother Theodore overcame many challenges and persevered in the work that the Lord had called her to do."

"By the time of her death in 1856, the sisters were running schools and orphanages throughout the state of Indiana," said the Pontiff.

Benedict XVI quoted the 19th-century nun: "How much good has been accomplished by the sisters of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods! How much more good they will be able to do if they remain faithful to their holy vocation!"

At the end of the canonization, when reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father prayed in French that St. Theodore will encourage "us to live the faith and to witness before our contemporaries, paying ever more attention to little ones and to the most abandoned in society."

Italian Father Filippo Smaldone
(1848-1923), known as the apostle of those who can't hear or speak.

St. Filippo Smaldone was a "priest of great heart," said the Holy Father during today's canonization Mass, which could be followed in sign language on large screens in St. Peter's Square.

"[N]ourished by constant prayer and Eucharistic adoration, he was above all a witness and servant of charity, manifested eminently in service to the poor, in particular deaf-mutes, to whom he was completely dedicated," said the Pope.

The saint founded the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, which has convents in Italy, Brazil, Moldavia, Paraguay and Rwanda.

"St. Filippo Smaldone saw the image of God reflected in deaf-mutes, and he used to repeat that, just as we prostrate ourselves before the Blessed Sacrament, so we should kneel before a deaf-mute."

Sister Rose Venerini
(1656-1728), founder of the first public school for women in Italy.

St. Venerini  "was not content to give the girls a good education," said the Holy Father during today's canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square, "but was concerned to give them a complete formation, with firm references in the doctrinal teaching of the Church."

"Her apostolic style still continues to characterize the life of the Religious Teachers Venerini, which she founded," said the Pope.

The Pontiff added: "And how timely and important also for present-day society is the service they carry out in the field of education, especially in the formation of women!"


Mother Theodore Guerin

 An Indiana nun once banished from her congregation by a bishop will be proclaimed a saint on Sunday, providing a model of virtuous life to America's Roman Catholics — even if they find themselves at odds with church leaders.

Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin as the first new U.S. saint in six years, a span marked in this country by the scandal over the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The pontiff also will canonize a Mexican bishop and two Italians who founded religious orders.

The celebration of a new saint offers a respite from the lawsuits and settlements that have dominated much of the discussion of the U.S. church in recent years, and Guerin's life story can inspire those struggling in their own faith, said members of the religious order she founded, the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

"The bishop here in Vincennes was impossible to work with, yet she always kept her faith. She held on to it," said Sister Marcia Speth, one of the order's leaders. "In that way, she witnesses to us how to be today in an imperfect, flawed, sinful church."

Guerin led a group of six French nuns who arrived in Indiana on Oct. 22, 1840, to establish a community in the woods outside Terre Haute. She and Vincennes Bishop Celestin de la Hailandiere struggled over control of the fledgling order, and he dismissed Guerin from her vows, threatened her with excommunication and banished her for a time from St. Mary-of-the-Woods. She did not return until after his resignation in 1847.

In that way, she is like many saints who found themselves bucking church authorities while alive, only to be acclaimed as saints after their deaths, said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and the author of the 2001 book "Lives of the Saints."

"So many leading figures who had tussles with their bishop or other high-ranking ecclesiastical officials were later rehabilitated. History remembers them, but not the officials who gave them a difficult time," McBrien said. "I dare say that Mother Guerin, as a soon-to-be-canonized saint, will achieve an elevated status that will forever elude the bishop who dismissed her."

When Guerin and fellow sisters stepped off the stagecoach at St. Mary-of-the Woods, only a simple church in a dense forest awaited them. They boarded with a local family until acquiring a small cabin that was so cold their bread froze. They faced anti-Catholic prejudice in frontier western Indiana.

Guerin raised money and built an academy for girls billed as the oldest Roman Catholic college for women in the U.S. It's known today as St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. The sisters also founded schools across Indiana. Today the order has 465 sisters, with 10 women currently in formation to become nuns.

Guerin, who died in 1856 at the age of 57, remains a role model for women at the college, said Samantha Dumm, a 19-year-old sophomore from Morgantown, Ind., who is traveling with other students to the
Vatican for Sunday's canonization.

"She wants us to be strong women, stand up for ourselves and make our own way in life," Dumm said.

Guerin will become the eighth U.S. saint and the first one canonized since Sister Katherine Drexel in October 2000.

A little more than a year after Drexel's canonization, the scandal over the sex abuse by Catholic priests erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston and spread across the country. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements have been paid out, and bishops' popularity has waned, despite reform measures.

Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, who promoted Guerin's cause for sainthood for the order, said she hopes the canonization will refocus the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics alike on holiness.

"I think every time it happens, it is an impetus for the rest of us," Tighe said. "God did not create just some people to be special. We are all on earth on a faith journey to heaven."


Cause Opens for Native Bangladeshi Prelate
Archbishop Ganguly on Track for Beatification

DHAKA, Bangladesh, SEPT. 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The diocesan phase opened for the process of beatification of the first native archbishop of Bangladesh, Theotonius Amal Ganguly.

The solemn Mass to mark the occasion Sept. 2 was reported by Vatican Radio, which also explained that it is a historic event for the country, whose population of 147 million includes 280,000 Catholics.

About 3,000 people were on hand for the Mass, including Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, the apostolic nuncio, and Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka.

In 1960 Pope John XXIII appointed Father Ganguly the first native bishop of the then territory of East Pakistan, making him auxiliary of Dhaka.

Five years later, Pope Paul VI appointed him coadjutor archbishop of the same place, eventually becoming archbishop at the age of 47. Four years later, after separation from the rest of the Pakistani territory, the country was named Bangladesh. The prelate died at age 57 from a heart attack.

In his homily, Archbishop Costa mentioned that many lay people, both young and old, asked him to initiate his predecessor's process of beatification.

The prelate made this request to Benedict XVI last March.

"We will pray that God will grant a good outcome to this cause," Archbishop Costa told the thousands of faithful present. "Each one of you will receive a photo of the Servant of God and a prayer. Please pray it in every home and parish."

At the end of the ceremony, the faithful went in great numbers to pray at Archbishop's Ganguly's tomb in the Archbishop's Residence.


Beatification for Hungarian nun executed for saving Jews

In the first beatification to take place in Hungary since that of St Stephen nearly 1000 years ago, Sara Salkahazi, a nun honoured by Jewish organisations for saving the lives of dozens of Jews during World War II, is to be declared Blessed in Budapest later this month.

Sara Salkahazi, who was recognised in 1972 by Yad Vashem, was killed by the Arrow Cross - the Hungarian allies of the Nazis - on 27 December 1944 for hiding Jews in a Budapest building used by her religious order, the Sisters of Social Service, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Salkahazi was taken along with several other occupants of the home and shot, their bodies falling into the Danube River and never recovered.

The beatification rite will take place 17 September at St Stephen's (St Istvan's) Basilica, Budapest and will be the first beatification to take place in the country since the beatification of St Stephen himself who was beatified in 1083 along with his son, St Imre, and St Gellert, an Italian bishop who had a key role in converting Hungarians to Christianity.

"Sara Salkahazi heroically exercised her love of humanity stemming from her Christian faith," said Budapest Cardinal Peter Erdo, who will celebrate the beatification mass. "This is for what she gave her life."

Salkahazi was born in the city of Kassa in 1899, at the time in Hungary but now known as Kosice and part of Slovakia.

Changes introduced by Pope Benedict again allow beatification rites to be held around the world, instead of only in the Vatican, as was the norm for centuries.

Church officials also highlighted Salkahazi's modest middle-class roots, saying she will be first Hungarian to be beatified who is not royalty or a member of the country's aristocracy, the Post added.

Before taking her religious vows in 1930, Salkahazi worked as a bookbinder, journalist and newspaper editor.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Knesset. Since its inception, Yad Vashem has been entrusted with documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust period, preserving the memory and story of each of the six million victims, and imparting the legacy of the Holocaust for generations to come through its archives, library, school, museums and recognition of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Interview With Cardinal Peter Erdo
primate of Hungary, before the beatification.

Q: Of what importance is this event?

Cardinal Erdo: First I wish to say that the last canonization that took place in Hungary was in 1083, at a time when there was still no technical distinction between beatification and canonization. Therefore, it is correct to say that it is the first beatification that is effected in Hungary.

Above all it is a great joy, not only for Catholic believers but for the whole society: a completely extraordinary event. And it is also very important that all this is happening in the year of Hungary's jubilees, in a year that the Hungarian episcopal conference has declared a year of prayer for the spiritual renewal of the Magyar nation. Above all it is the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution.

What does this beatification mean for us in the city of Budapest? It means that a woman of today, of the 20th century, let us say an ordinary woman, that is, not aristocratic or of the royal household, can live the Christian ideal and also be shown to all the people as an example of Christian life.

The blessed and saints are, on one hand, our patrons who intercede for us and, on the other, they are always examples of Christian life and this example must be current, palpable for people today.

Hungarians have relatively few canonized saints, also because our administrative strength, to carry out these processes, was somewhat lacking in our very agitated history.

Therefore, it is an extraordinary joy that John Paul II already beatified three Hungarians and now Benedict XVI has permitted the beatification of Sister Sara Salkahazi, who was a martyr and died in Budapest, in this city which has existed under this name only since 1873, because before, Buda and Pest were two different cities.

The patron saint of our city is St. Gerard Sagredo of Venice, who was an Italian bishop. After St. Stephen's death, [St. Gerard] was thrown into the Danube from the mountain that now bears his name. His statute raises the cross over the city of Budapest. His martyrdom was closely linked to the Danube's waters.

And now we celebrate the beatification of a saintly woman of the 20th century, who also suffered martyrdom and whose martyrdom is also related to the waters of the Danube.

She was shot on the Danube, with many people of Jewish origin, because she was a martyr of Christian charity. She gave her life for her neighbors. She hid many persecuted people in her convent, and when this fact was discovered at the end of 1944 she was arrested and then, together with the women she was hiding, was shot on the Danube.

Later, eyewitnesses of this event were found who stated how she died. She made the sign of the cross in the last moment of her life; therefore, fully conscious, she wished to give witness of the way that a true Christian must behave in such tragic situations.

Q: In the history of the Church, including during difficult periods, some charismatic personalities have appeared as compasses in the storm. What role did Sister Sara play in the tormented period in which she lived?

Cardinal Erdo: Above all, Sister Sara was a very modern woman. A journalist in the city of Kosice, which belonged to Hungary when it was born and later formed part of Czechoslovakia, she wrote for several newspapers and later she also wrote plays and her writings are full of human sensibility but also full of Christian thought.

Through her intellectual activity, she was open to a vocation and decided to dedicate her life to the service of her neighbor. That is why she entered the Society of the Social Sisters, which was a new congregation of that time and which was engaged above all in service to the poor and the sick.

In regard to the poor, Sister Sara discovered the extreme need of women in the society of that time; women who were obliged to work even though they had a family, who often lived in utter dependence and poverty.

She also organized several houses for women in situations of crisis. Thus, a Christian feminism characterized the thought of this religious and also the house in Budapest where she was a superior at the end of her life.

Initially it was a house for women workers and in this house they later hid many women of Jewish origin. This was not an isolated action of Sister Sara but also organized centrally by her whole congregation.

It was Margit Slachta, superior general of the congregation, who wrote that in each house of her Society, persecuted women were hidden; yet more than that, when students were in boarding schools, they were sent home to have enough room for persecuted women.

Hungarian laws at that time exempted people of Jewish origin from the juridical consequences of their origin if they were members of a religious congregation, or if they were priests or clerics of a Christian church.

Because of this, for example, in the city of Cluj, in present-day Romania, which also belonged to Hungary, this Society had a large house, where not a few young women were dressed as religious to save their lives. So, we have many testimonies of this kind.

We have other information also that in another house of the Society in Budapest, until the last moment of Nazism, there were many people hidden, also men, naturally not as religious, but, for example, in compartments under the house's roof and other such things.

In fact, after her death, no other religious was killed, either by the Nazis or the Communists who arrived later. It was a truly moving story already at that time, but a story about which, under Communism, relatively little was said; hence the cause of beatification could only be initiated after the change of the system.

Q: Saints and blessed leave us an ideal testament and a strong example to follow in which the Catholic community should be inspired in life and in daily difficulties. Sister Sara's testimony is an up-to-date message for us all. In what way can we propose her exemplary life in the contemporary context of irresponsibility and relativism?

Cardinal Erdo: By presenting the details of her life, because in at least 10 places she worked for the poor: for example, in Ukraine of the Carpathians, where also at that time there were enormous social problems and poverty.

Then, we can present her as a person who fought for her vocation, a person who was very determined to follow the will of God, once she recognized it.

All those who knew her say she was a severe and strong personality, even though she knew how to joke, but who never wished to give up when she had recognized something as the will of God.

This clarity of decision could be a great example for people today who have great difficulty in deciding, in finding their vocation, their spouse, or their life's profession.

She is also a great example of Christian attitude that helps others without calculation, without taking her own interests into account and who looks with open eyes at the social situation of the people, of the city where she lives and who is aware of the needs of people who live around her, because today we are often very isolated and do not even realize the misery in which some of those close to us live.

Hence, there is a very strong alienation in present-day society and we as Christians must pull down this wall of alienation. We must open our eyes and also our hearts to those who have some kind of need, which might have to do with health, or be material, psychological, spiritual or social in people who are oppressed or persecuted.

Today's world is full of such situations; hence, the testimony of this religious is, sadly, of great present importance.

Q: What was her charism? How can you describe her spirituality?

Cardinal Erdo: Her life was inscribed harmoniously in her congregation; hence, social service to the human person.

Today the great systems of social welfare, of health, if they work, do not function as before, including in the Western world; this is one issue.

Another issue is that the loans given by these systems are generally material loans and not directly personal, so that the systems are de-personalized, while the help that these religious tried to give was always a most personal help which did not just calculate the quantity of foods distributed but tried to be in personal contact with the needy. This too, in my opinion, is a very timely aspect of Christian spirituality.

Q: Her motto was: "Ecce ego, mitte me!" (Here I am. Send me!). How can this motto be interpreted and applied in the contemporary world?

Cardinal Erdo: All of us are obliged to seek the will of God in general, if we want the objective norms of human behavior that are already written in our hearts and nature.

But we are also obliged to seek the concrete will of God: his plan for our person, hence, our vocation.

Surely it cannot be impossible to find this vocation. God does not call us to hide himself but he calls us to meet us; therefore, we must believe with much optimism in the fact that it is possible to know the will of God also in the concrete situations of our lives.

When Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us the whole truth that he taught and would make us recall all the teachings of Jesus Christ, we have no illusions, we do not think that the Holy Spirit works a miracle with our memory, but instead points out to us in each concrete situation what Jesus Christ wants, what his teaching means for us in that specific situation -- hence, [...] baptism, which also implies the Holy Spirit as gift of God, and, in a special way, confirmation, which gives us this indelible sign of the Holy Spirit, the capacity to hear the voice of the Spirit which points out to us what God wills, what he expects from us in the specific circumstances of each day.

There are traditional and current phrases of Christian life, such as the examen of conscience every day, or a good resolution every morning looking ahead, foreseeing how the day will go, which will certainly be full of stress and agitation, and we try to foresee what the greatest temptations of the day will be which are predictable or perhaps what occasions there are to do good.

Therefore, if we have a small project for the day, no doubt at night, in our examen of conscience, we can ask ourselves if, with the grace of God, we have been able to accomplish the project. Or, if there were sins, we can ask for God's forgiveness and begin again with our eyes open wider.

If we succeed in learning this attitude of attention to the Holy Spirit, it will become increasingly easier. And this promptness is called virtue in the theological sense of the word.

Q: What has impressed you personally of the figure of Sister Sara?

Cardinal Erdo: I still know personally ladies who were rescued by Sister Sara or other religious of her congregation. For me, her figure was always a figure of the stories of the ancestors, if we want a realistic reading.

It is a proof that the saints are not persons who are remote from us, from daily life, from our possibilities; rather, they are people like ourselves who simply -- even in the trivial circumstances of daily life -- succeed in following God's will consistently. And this promptness of the person then receives God's blessing.

And through our simple actions, miracles take place, events that later shake a whole generation and that leave their mark for a long time, including on the conscience of an entire city or a whole nation.


Blessed Bartolo Longo

The Feast of the Assumption was Aug. 15, and to mark the occasion thousands of pilgrims gathered at the Sanctuary of the Holy Rosary of Pompei, one of the world's most famous Marian shrines. Among other things, the pilgrims celebrated the 100th anniversary of the gift of the shrine to the Holy See in 1906 by Blessed Bartolo Longo, its founder and a tireless advocate of the dogma of Mary's Assumption.

Beatifying Longo in 1980, John Paul II called him the "Man of Mary."

If every saint (and near-saint) has an interesting story, some are more interesting than others, and Longo's may be close to the most interesting of all. He holds the singular distinction that he was once a priest -- but not of the Catholic church, or even of the Christian God.

Improbably, Longo was a priest of Satan.

He grew up in a Catholic household, but fell in with a different crowd when he went to Naples for law school. Attracted to the 19th century "Spiritist" movement, he began attending séances, and eventually became involved in a Satanic cult. He was formally made a priest, and regularly conducted Black Masses and other Satanic rituals for the better part of a decade.

Eventually, however, Longo came under the influence of a Dominican who brought him back to Catholicism. Longo became a lay member of the Dominicans' Third Order, taking the name "Brother Rosary."

Longo organized a petition drive for world peace from 1896 to 1900, collecting more than four million signatures in dozens of countries. For his efforts, he was nominated for the 1902 Noble Peace Prize.

At the same time, Longo also led a petition drive supporting the dogma of Mary's Assumption. More than 120 bishops signed, and the petition was given to Pope Leo XIII. Some questioned the idea of a layperson meddling in theology, but Leo declared that the Holy Spirit can speak through any of the baptized.

Longo did not live to see the proclamation of the Assumption by Pius XII on Nov. 1, 1950. Forty years later, however, John Paul acknowledged him as the father of "the promotional movement of the definition of the dogma."

The moral of this story? If a former Satanist can become the architect of an infallible papal declaration, maybe there's hope for us all.


John Paul I's Cause Expected to Advance
Diocesan Phase Might End in November

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The vice postulator of the cause for the beatification of Pope John Paul I announced that the diocesan phase of the process could end this year.

The announcement, reported on Vatican Radio, was made public on the occasion of the presentation of the celebrations for the 28th anniversary of the election to the papacy of the patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Albino Luciani. The celebrations will be held Aug. 26.

Speaking of John Paul I's birthplace, Canale d'Agordo, the vice postulator, Monsignor Giorgio Lise, revealed that "170 witnesses have been heard in 190 sessions; there are some missing in Rome and Vittorio Veneto. Therefore, the diocesan phase is drawing to a close and, in November, on the patronal feast of St. Martin, on the 11th of that month, it might well be concluded."

According to the vice postulator, the focus has been on the purported miracle that occurred in Puglia, in southern Italy. A man says he was cured of a tumor after praying to God for the grace through the Pontiff's intercession.

The diocesan phase of the cause began in Belluno in 2003. Once the diocesan phase is concluded, the cause will be taken up by the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Albino Luciani, born on Oct. 17, 1912, was elected Pope on the second day of the conclave, on Aug. 26, 1978. He died a month later.


Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross | Edith Stein | August 9th

August 9th is the Feast Day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who was martyred on that day in 1942 in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Fr. Charles P. Connor, in Classic Catholic Converts, writes:
The story of the Jewish Carmelite Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, known in the world as Edith Stein, presents us with one of the more brilliant converts to come to the Faith in [the twentieth] century; it also places us in close contact with a horrendous tragedy of the modern world, the Holocaust.
Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Germany on October 12, 1891, the youngest of eleven children. In 1913 she began studies at the University of Göttingen in Germany. She soon became a student of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and was later attracted to the work of Max Scheler, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism in 1920. A chance reading of the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila revealed to her the God of love she had long denied. She entered the Church in 1922.

For eight years Edith lived with the Dominicans, teaching at Saint Magdelene's, which was a training institute for teachers. She wrote:

Initially, when I was baptized on New Year's Day, 1922, I thought of it as a preparation in the Order. But a few months later, when I saw my mother for the first time after the baptism, I realized that she couldn't handle another blow for the present. Not that it would have killed her—but I couldn't have held myself responsible for the embitterment it would have caused.
In fact, after her conversion Edith continued to attend synagogue with her mother. Meanwhile, she continued to grow and impress as a philospher. In 1925 she met the Jesuit Erich Pryzwara, a philosopher who would have a tremendous influence on Hans Urs von Balthasar. Pryzwara encouraged Edith to study and translate St. Thomas Aquinas; she eventually wrote a work comparing Usserl with Aquinas.

In 1933 Edith entered the religious life with the Carmel of Cologne, Germany. She fell in love with the person and writing of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She wrote:

My impression was, that this was a life which had been absolutely transformed by the love of God, down to the last detail. I simply can't imagine anything greater. I would like to see this attitude incorporated as much as possible into my own life and the lives of those who are dear to me.
After taking her first vows, Edith was known as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She continued to write, Fr. Connor notes, "continually developing the theme that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are in fact one and the same sacrifice. From her religious background, she knew the importance of sacrificial prayer for Old Testament prophets." She wrote of how Jesus' sacrifice as the Incarnate God-man was the final, perfect sacrifice that replaced all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Because of the rise of Nazi power, Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also converted to Catholicism, moved to Holland in 1938. On August 2, 1942, Edith and her sister were taken from the convent by two S.S. officers. She was martyred seven days later. Fr. Connor writes: "On October 11, 1998, fifty-six years, two months, and two days after her death at Auschwitz, Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II."

Ferdinand Holböck writes in New Saints and Blesseds of the Catholic Church : 1984-1987 (Volume 2)
The Church now presents Sister Teresa Benedicta a Croce to us as a blessed martyr, as an example of a heroic follower of Christ, for us to honour and to emulate. Let us open ourselves up for her message to us as a woman of the spirit and of the mind, who saw in the science of the cross the acme of all wisdom, as a great daughter of the Jewish people, and as a believing Christian in the midst of millions of innocent fellow men made martyrs. She saw the inexorable approach of the cross. She did not flee in fear. Instead, she embraced it in Christian hope with final love and sacrifice and in the mystery of Easter even welcomed it with the salutation,"ave crux spes unica". As Cardinal Höffner said in his recent pastoral letter, "Edith Stein is a gift, an invocation and a promise for our time. May she be an intercessor with God for us and for our people and for all people."

Edith Stein: A Biography
by Waltraud Herbstrith

A powerful and moving story of the remarkable Jewish woman who converted to Catholicism, became a nun, achieved remarkable success in the male-dominated world of German philosophy, and was sent to a Nazi death camp when she refused to deny her Jewish heritage.

Waltraud Herbstrith has fashioned a warm, memorable portrait of this woman who, as Jesuit philosopher Jan Nota points out in the introduction, "discovered in Christ the meaning of human existence and suffering ... Edith Stein was one of those Christians who lived out of a hope transcending optimism and pessimism." Hers is a voice that speaks powerfully to all of us today, and a life that stands as testimony to the profoundest values of human existence, the significance of the individual, and the truths of faith that can reconcile Christian and Jew, philosophy and religion, oppressor and oppressed to heal a troubled world.


St. Benedict
Whittaker Chambers | From Saints For Now, edited by Clare Boothe Luce

Queen Victoria left this world almost at the moment that I chanced to enter it. Her memory, when I was old enough to identify it, fell thinly across my earliest childhood. People still spoke of  "the Queen", as if in all history there had been only one and everybody must know at once that Queen Victoria was meant. Somewhat later, I sensed that her going had stirred a deep-set uneasiness, as if with her a part of the mainland of human experience had sunk into the sea and no one quite knew what further subsidences and commotions to expect. Yet, in those far off days, no one ever chanted to me that grim line of the Queen's favorite poet:
And the great aeon sinks in blood:
though I was not very old when I had the "Death of Arthur" read to me in full, and, after the depressingly long glories of the winter moon, I noted with relief that
The new sun rose, bringing the new year.
With the rest of my generation, I grew in that sun's illusory light. For the historical skies of my boyhood were only in frequently troubled, chiefly by a triad of figures powerful and unpredictable enough to thrill from time to time the nerve of reality. They were, of course, in America, Theodore Roosevelt; in England, King Edward VII; and, on the continent of Europe, bestriding it like a self-inflated colossus, the German Kaiser. Each had a characteristic motif; too, like a Wagnerian hero: a little repetitive phrase that set the historic mood or forecast that each, for good or ill, was about to vault again upon the world stage, to give some new tingling turn to the plot. Thus, from the heart of Europe, would come characteristic variations on the Bismarckian theme of Blut und Eisen. In America, rose blithe shouts of "Bully! It's bully!" While Edwardian England had reversed the plea in which Swinburne exhorted Walt Whitman to "send but a song oversea to us", and both shores of the Atlantic rocked to the surge and thunder of Tarara-boom-de-ay.

Long before I had the slightest notion what the barbaric sounds might mean, as language or destiny, I listened fascinated to people chanting:
A Brussels carpet on the floor:
An elevator at the door:
Tarara-boom-de-ay; Tarara-boom-de-ay!
It was not only because of its gayness that it embedded it self in my memory. For what others found gay, I found indefinably ominous, as fixing a tone, a touch of dissolution that, even as a sensitive child, I could not possibly have explained to myself or anybody else. But one day, much later, the echo of Tarara-boom-de-ay fused itself unexpectedly with something that would seem to have nothing to do with it--a more or less random remark by one of my college instructors in Contemporary Civilization. Contemporary Civilization, a course required for all freshmen at Columbia College, was taught by several young men whom I remember chiefly as rather lugubrious--disillusioned veterans of the First World War, and a conscientious objector who had refused to take part in it. One day, the objector, staring at some point far beyond the backs of our heads, observed that "the world is entering upon a new Dark Ages."

It was one of the few things that I carried away from Contemporary Civilization, required for all freshmen. And it was not so much the meaning of the words, which I was far too unfledged to understand, as the toneless despondency with which they were uttered that struck me. That, and their acceptance of the Dark Ages as something relevant, and possibly recurrent in history.

For under the sunlit skies of my boyhood, the Dark Ages were seldom mentioned: if at all, chiefly by way of contrast to the light of our progress. For the voice of that time was, at least as it reached me, wholly incapable of the irony with which, little more than a decade later, Jean de Bosschére would ask: "Qui se leva pour dire que nous ne sommes pas en plein jour?"

The Dark Ages were inexcusable and rather disreputable--a bad time when the machine of civilization in its matchless climb to the twentieth century had sheared a whole rank of king-pins and landed mankind in a centuries-long ditch. At best, it was a time when monks sat in unsanitary cells with a human skull before them, and copied and recopied, for lack of more fruitful employment, the tattered records of a dead antiquity. That was the Dark Ages at best, which, as anybody could see, was not far from the worst.

If a bright boy, leafing through history, asked: "How did the Dark Ages come about?" he might be told that "Rome fell!"--as if a curtain simply dropped. Boys of ten or twelve, even if bright, are seldom bright enough to say to themselves: "Surely, Rome did not fall in a day." If a boy had asked: "But were there no great figures in the Dark Ages, like Teddy Roosevelt, King Edward, and the Kaiser?" he might well have been suspected of something like an unhealthy interest in the habits and habitats of spiders. If he had persisted and asked: "But isn't it clear that the Dark Ages are of a piece with our age of light, that our civilization is by origin Catholic, that, in fact, we cannot understand what we have become without under standing what we came from?" he would have been suspected of something much worse than priggery--a distressing turn to popery.

I was no such bright boy (or youth). I reached young man hood serene in the knowledge that, between the failed light of antiquity and the buzzing incandescence of our own time, there had intervened a thousand years of darkness from which the spirit of man had begun to liberate itself (intellectually) first in the riotous luminosity of the Renaissance, in Human ism, in the eighteenth century, and at last (politically) in the French Revolution. For the dividing line between the Dark Ages is not fast, and they were easily lumped together.

To be sure, even before Queen Victoria died, the pre Raphaelites had popularized certain stage properties of the Middle Ages. And on the Continent there had been Novalis, to mention only one name (but no one in my boyhood mentioned Novalis). There had been Huysmans (we knew Huys mans, but his name was touched with decadence). There was a fad of the Gothic and figures like Viollet-le-Duc: while an obscure American, Henry Adams, was even then composing Mont St. Michel and Chartres, and inditing certain thoughts on the Virgin and the Dynamo that would echo briefly above the clink of their swizzle sticks in the patter of my generation.

I was in my twenties, a young intellectual savage in college with thousands of others, before the fact slowly dawned upon me that, for a youth always under the spell of history, the his tory I knew was practically no history at all. It consisted of two disjointed parts--the history of Greece and Rome, with side trips to Egypt and the Fertile Crescent: and a history of the last four hundred years of Europe and America. Of what lay in between, what joined the parts and gave them continuity, and the pulse of life and breath of spirit, my ignorance was darker than any Dark Age. Less by intelligence than by the kind of sixth sense which makes us aware of objects ahead in the dark, I divined that a main land mass of the history of Western civilization loomed hidden beyond my sight.
I turned to medieval history. But the distinguished teachers who first guided me into the Dark Ages seemed, even to my blindness, not too sure of their own way. They knew facts, more facts than I would ever know. Yet in their understanding of the facts something was missing, something that would enable them to feel that the life of the times they were exploring was of one tissue with the life of ours, that neither could be divided from the other, without an arterial tearing, that neither could be understood without the other. Their exposition, even of so obvious a problem as the causes for the fall of the Roman West left me with a sense of climbing railless stairs above a chasm at night. Rome fell, I learned, because of the barbarian hordes and a series of great barbarian leaders. H. G. Wells would presently startle me with the information that the hordes had been comparative handfuls among the populations they conquered, while, somewhat later, I would come to believe that the barbarian leaders were scarcely more barbarian than the Romans, that many of them were disaffected officials of the Roman state and their conduct was not so much that of invaders as what we should now call Fifth Columnists.

Or I was taught that Rome's collapse was due in part to the disrepair of the Roman roads and the breakdown of communications. Or the resurgence of the Pontine marshes and the high incidence of malaria at Rome. Or that the conquest of the East had introduced alien and indigestible masses into the Empire, and corrupted Rome, and so it fell. But even a collegiate savage could scarcely fail to note that it was precisely the corrupt Eastern half of the Empire that survived as a political unit, and, for another eight hundred years, stood against the vigorous East, and was the bulwark of the fallen West.

There were other facts and factors. My ignorance could question them only so far, and then not their reality for the most part, but their power to explain by themselves an event so complex and so thunderous as the crash of a civilization. Some more subtle dissolvent, I sensed, must also have been, undivined, at work. I thought I had caught a hint of it in Salvianus' moritur et ridet: "The Roman Empire is luxurious, but it is filled with misery. It is dying but it laughs--moritur et ridet." But Salvian, we learned with a deflecting smile, was an extremist, though, in the hindsight of disaster, his foresight would scarcely seem overstated. What interested me was that men had smiled complacently at Salvian's words when he spoke them, and men still smiled at them complacently a thousand years later--the same kind of men, I was beginning to suspect, upon, I also suspected, a similar turning point of history.

In any case, for me it was too late. What the missing some thing was in the crisis of Rome I was not to learn in classrooms. The crisis of civilization in my own time had caught me in its undertow and soon swept me far beyond that earlier Dark Ages. Not until it had cast me back upon its rocks, by grace a defeated fugitive from its forces, would I again find peace or pause to seek to determine what, if anything, that mortal experience had taught me about the history of our own time, or any other.

This century was half gone, and with it more than half my life, that at that moment seemed all but to have ended in an ordeal with which my name is linked, when someone, seeking only to comfort me, once more directed my eyes to that point in the past from which, some thirty years before, I had abruptly taken them. Anne Ford, my friend of many years standing, sent me from the Monastery of Gethsemani a little silver medal, blessed in my family's name and mine, by Father Louis--Thomas Merton of The Seven-Storey Mountain, who, as a later student, had sat in the same college classrooms, listening to some of the same instructors I had known. On the medal was an image of St. Benedict.

I found myself asking who St. Benedict had been. I knew that he had founded a monastic order, which bore his name, and that for it he had written a famous Rule. I knew that he had uttered a precept that I had taken for my own: Laborare est orare--to labor is to pray. I had once written a little news story about plans for the restoration of his monastery of Monte Cassino after its destruction in the World War of 1939. What I had written had presumably been read at least by one hundred thousand people (so much for journalism in our time). But a seeker after knowledge at any age, certainly one fifty years old, must begin by confessing that he probably knew less about St. Benedict than many a pupil in parochial school. Nor, had I asked a dozen friends, regarded as highly intelligent by themselves and the world, could one of them have told me much more about St. Benedict than I knew myself. The fact that such ignorance could exist, could be taken as a matter of course, was more stunning than the abyss of ignorance itself.

For the briefest prying must reveal that, simply in terms of history, leaving aside for a moment his sanctity, St. Benedict was a colossal figure on a scale of importance in shaping the civilization of the West against which few subsequent figures could measure. And of those who might measure in terms of historic force, almost none could measure in terms of good achieved.

Nor was St. Benedict an isolated peak. He was only one among ranges of human height that reached away from him in time in both directions, past and future, but of which, with one or two obvious exceptions, one was as ignorant as of Benedict: St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII).

Clearly, a cleft cut across the body of Christendom itself, and raised an overwhelming question: What, in fact, was the civilization of the West? If it was Christendom, why had it turned its back on half its roots and meanings and become cheerfully ignorant of those who had embodied them? If it was not Christendom, what was it? And what were those values that it claimed to assert against the forces of active evil that beset it in the greatest crisis of history since the fall of Rome? Did the failure of the Western World to know what it was lie at the root of its spiritual despondency, its intellectual confusion, its moral chaos, the dissolving bonds of faith and loyalty within itself, its swift political decline in barely four decades from hegemony of the world to a demoralized rump of Europe little larger than it had been in the crash of the Roman West, and an America still disputing the nature of the crisis, its gravity, whether it existed at all, or what to do about it?

Answers to such questions could not be extemporized. At the moment, a baffled seeker could do little more than grope for St. Benedict's hand and pray in all humbleness to be led over the traces of the saint's progress to the end that he might be, if not more knowledgeable, at least less nakedly ignorant. The biographical facts were synoptic enough and chiefly to be found in the Dialogues of Pope St. Gregory the Great or inferred between the lines of St. Benedict's Rule.

Benedict had been born, toward the end of the fifth century, of good family in the sturdy countryside of Nursia, which lay close enough to Rome to catch the tremors of its sack, in 410, by Alaric's West Goths (the first time in eight hundred years that the city had fallen) and the shock of its sack by the Vandals, who, in 455 completed the material and human havoc that the West Goths had begun. To a Rome darkened by such disasters, Benedict had been sent to school as a boy of fourteen or fifteen. There he was shaken by the corrupt customs of his schoolmates, it is said. But we may surely conjecture that he was touched, too, like sensitive minds in our own day, by a sense of brooding, indefinable disaster, of doom still incomplete, for the Dark Ages were scarcely more than begun.

The boy fled from Rome, or, as we might say, ran away from school, and settled with a loose-knit congregation about thirty miles from the city. There he performed his first miracle. When, as a result, men called him good, he fled again. For, though he was a boy, he was clearly old enough to fear the world, especially when it praises. This time he fled into the desert wilderness near Subiaco, where for three years he lived alone in a cave. To those who presently found him, he seemed more like a wild creature than a man. Those were the years of the saint's conquest of his flesh, his purgation, illumination, and perhaps his prayerful union with God. They must also have been the years when he plumbed all the perils of solitary austerities and the hermit life, by suffering them.

At any rate, the saint left Subiaco to enter on his first experience in governing a community of monks. He returned to Subiaco, and, in twelve years, organized twelve Benedictine communities. His days were filled with devotion and with labor and touched with miracles. But again human factors threatened failure. St. Benedict with a few companions withdrew to Monte Cassino, some eighty miles southeast of Rome. There he overthrew an ancient altar of Apollo (for paganism was still rooted in the countryside), and there he raised his own altar. On those heights, he organized his community, ruled his monks, performed new miracles, distilled his holy experience in his Holy Rule. There he died at a date which is in dispute, but was probably about 547, when the campaigns of the Eastern Roman Empire to recover Italy from the East Goths had so permanently devastated the Peninsula that the irruption of the Lombards into the ruins brought a new horror rather than any novelty in havoc.

Against that night and that ruin, like a man patiently lighting a wick in a tempest, St. Benedict set his Rule. There had been other monastic Rules before--St. Pachomius' and St. Basil's, for example. St. Benedict called his the Holy Rule, setting it down and setting it apart from all others, with a consciousness of its singular authority that has led some biographers to speculate whether he had not been prompted by the Holy See to write it. Perhaps it is permissible to hazard that his authority need have proceeded from nothing more than that unwavering confidence which commonly sustains genius.

What was there in this little book that changed the world? To us, at first glance, it seems prosaic enough, even fairly obvious. That, indeed, is the heart of its inspiration. In an age of pillar saints and furiously competing athletes of the spirit, when men plunged by thousands into the desert, in a lunge toward God, and in revulsion from man, St. Benedict's Rule brought a saving and creative sanity. Its temper was that of moderation as against excesses of zeal, of fruitful labor as against austerities pushed to the point of fruitlessness, of discipline as against enthusiasm, of continence of spirit and conduct as against in continence.

It has been said (by T. F. Lindsay in his sensitive and searching St. Benedict) that, in a shattered society, the Holy Rule, to those who submitted to its mild but strict sway, restored the discipline and power of Roman family life.

I venture that it did something else as well. For those who obeyed it, it ended three great alienations of the spirit whose action, I suspect, touched on that missing something which my instructors failed to find among the causes of the fall of Rome. The same alienations, I further suspect, can be seen at their work of dissolution among ourselves, and are perhaps among the little noticed reasons why men turn to Communism. They are: the alienation of the spirit of man from traditional authority; his alienation from the idea of traditional order; and a crippling alienation that he feels at the point where civilization has deprived him of the joy of simple productive labor.

These alienations St. Benedict fused into a new surge of the human spirit by directing the frustrations that informed them into the disciplined service of God. At the touch of his mild inspiration, the bones of a new order stirred and clothed themselves with life, drawing to itself much of what was best and most vigorous among the ruins of man and his work in the Dark Ages, and conserving and shaping its energy for that unparalleled outburst of mind and spirit in the Middle Ages. For about the Benedictine monasteries what we, having casually lost the Christian East, now casually call the West, once before regrouped and saved itself.

So bald a summary can do little more than indicate the dimensions of the Benedictine achievement and plead for its constant re-examination. Seldom has the need been greater. For we sense, in the year 1952, that we may stand closer to the year 410 than at any other time in the centuries since. If that statement seems as extreme as any of Salvian's, three hundred million Russians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, East Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, and all the Christian Balkans, would tell you that it is not--would tell you if they could lift their voices through the night of the new Dark Ages that have fallen on them. For them the year 410 has already come.

Whittaker Chambers (April 1, 1901 - July 9, 1961) was an American writer, editor, and famous defector from the American Communist Party. He is best known for his testimony about the espionage of Alger Hiss, detailed in his book Witness, published in 1952.


A Study In Faithful Obedience |

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers | New Foreword to From Slave to Priest

Sister Caroline Hemesath's powerful narrative of Father Augustine Tolton's life is a poignant reminder that with God all things are possible. This welcome new edition, reacquaints us with the first black American priest of the United States and chronicles the profound struggle for equality and acceptance faced by black Catholics in the postbellum era. Confronted with a succession of seemingly indomitable challenges (a narrow escape from slavery, his father's death, abject poverty, exclusion from American seminaries), Father Tolton's fervent desire to study Catholicism, his intense longing for the priesthood and his mother's loving support were the wellsprings from which he drew the strength to persevere.

Father Tolton knew that unconditional trust in God meant that he must become completely vulnerable before the God who made him. Father Tolton reveled in the folly of divine abandonment, confidently exposing the deepest parts of his soul before God who gave him the strength to exercise his priestly ministry under the weighty yoke of racism. He was a beacon of hope to black Catholics in the nineteenth century who were trying to find a home in the American Church. Father Tolton, in his abiding faith and selfless charity, was the instrument through which God's love shone brightly. The resplendent chorus, "I have come ... not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (Jn 6:38) echoed majestically throughout Father Tolton's brief life.

Despite the oppressive hardships placed upon Father Tolton by a culture firmly rooted in the arid soil of hatred and malevolence, God brought him out of the heart of darkness and used him as an instrument of grace. Father Tolton was a tireless messenger of the Gospel and "was not afraid to go into the deep South, where racial hatreds had reached a high pitch and where segregation was decreed by harsh laws." Despite the novelty of being the only black priest in an all-white clergy, the gifted Father Tolton was able effectively to convey the richness, beauty and truth of the Catholic faith, which penetrated even the hardest hearts ("Wherever he went, he was respected and honored").

When we look beneath the surface of our national life, we see that the septic undercurrent of racism flows largely unabated. Racism is alive and well, and is intricately woven into the fabric of American culture. But unlike the 1950s and '60s, where racism was overt, extreme, and statutorily institutionalized, the structure of racism today is more subtle and covert, exhibiting itself through outward manifestations of a now unconscious and tacit philosophy of dehumanization.

Since the 1960s and '70s, many black Catholics, in response to racism in the Church, have turned to and been heavily influenced by liberation theology, a Christian belief in the transcendent as a vehicle for social liberation. Liberation theology does not ask what the Church is, but rather what it means to be the Church in the context of liberating the poor and oppressed. As such, the Church's primary mission is to challenge oppression and identify herself with the poor. For liberation theology, the Magisterium (that is, the teaching authority of the Church) is part of the oppressive class by definition since, in this view, it does not participate in the class struggle. Ultimately, in this "liberation" version of Catholicism, faith is subordinate to political ideology, and the Church becomes an instrumental good rather than remaining an intrinsic good and the necessary means of salvation.

Father Tolton, a former slave become Catholic priest, knew well that the basis for any authentic theology of liberation must include the truth about Jesus, the Church and man's dignity. He endured years of frustration, humiliation, and rejection in a country boasting openness to religious freedom and tolerance. Despite the fact that slaves were "free", they were far from liberated. In Father Tolton's own words: "We are only a class-a class of dehumanized, brutalized, depersonalized beings." The nation failed the "freedom" litmus test rooted in its own Declaration of Independence, while the Catholic Church in America failed to live up to the tenets of her own creed and gospel by not recognizing that genuine liberation means freedom from the bondage of iniquity and sin.

With the assistance and support of several very persistent and undaunted priests, Father Tolton was finally accepted by the Catholic Church--in Rome! He thrived in the Eternal City where his priestly vocation was nurtured and where his gifts and talents were recognized, prompting even the prefect of the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide to note what the American Church failed to appreciate: "Father Tolton is a good priest, reliable, worthy, and capable. You will discover that he is deeply spiritual and dedicated." For his part, Father Tolton acknowledged the great gift of his Catholic faith and, despite bitter trials and turmoil, remained faithful to the teachings of the Church. He was a visionary who saw far beyond race and politics, looking inward-into the heart of the Church herself. He taught, "The Catholic Church deplores a double slavery--that of the mind and that of the body. She endeavors to free us of both .... She is the Church for our people."

The life of Father Tolton is a study in faithful obedience. When the Vatican assigned Father Tolton to serve as a missionary priest in the United States, where he was "a slave, an outcast, a hated black", he obeyed in faith. His was not the faith of blind obedience, like that of an automaton or domesticated animal, but a spirit of faith that, as a child of our Heavenly Father--in complete humility and generosity--he continually strove to discern and fulfill the will of God under the loving guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. It is precisely duc et altum--into the void, the unknown--that Father Tolton received his mission to be a fisher of men.

The greatest legacy of Father Augustine Tolton does not lie in the fact that lie was a pioneer, the first black American priest in the United States. Yes, he was that-but lie was so much more! Father Tolton loved and served the Lord with great fervor and intensity. He knew that God's love is so immense, its power so limitless, its embrace so tender and intimate, that Love Himself brings forth life. Father Tolton was a living testimony to God's creative, life-giving work.

Father Tolton serves as a role model for those who seek to be configured more perfectly to Christ. Amid great persecution, Father Tolton showed us that being configured to Christ means emptying ourselves so that God can fill us; it means exposing the weakest parts of who we are so that God can make us strong; it means becoming blind to the ways of this world so that Christ can lead us; it means dying to ourselves so that we can rise with Christ. I pray that everyone who reads this biography will be inspired by Father Augustine Tolton, who, guided by the Holy Spirit, became a living example of what it means to be fully alive in our Catholic faith.

-- Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
Portland, Oregon
Holy Thursday, 2006

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, and the founder of Aurem Cordis, an apostolate dedicated "to promote the truth and beauty of the gospel by encouraging others to submit themselves freely to the life-giving love of the Trinity and to become living witnesses to that love in the world." Deacon Burke-Sivers gives talks around the country on spirituality, family life, lay vocations, and other topics, and has appeared on "Catholic Answers Live", EWTN, and many local television and radio programs. He has a BA in economics from Notre Dame and an MTS from the University of Dallas. He, his wife Colleen, and their four children live in Portland, Oregon.


Process for Beatification of Cardinal Pironio Opens
Phase Begins in Rome for Argentina-born Prelate

ROME, JUNE 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Pope's Vicar for Rome opened the diocesan phase of the process of beatification of Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who helped John Paul II launch World Youth Days.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar, on Friday described the three characteristics of the faith of the Argentine cardinal: God the Father, the Virgin Mary and the cross.

The vicar for Rome explained that these three loves gave Cardinal Pironio the courage not to draw back, not even when he received death threats in his country.

The opening of the diocesan phase took place in Rome because that was the diocese in which the Cardinal Pironio lived during his last years, and where he died on Feb. 5, 1998.

Eduardo Pironio, born on Dec. 3, 1920, played an important part in Church history in the last quarter of the 20th century.

John Paul II appointed him president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on April 8, 1984, and in that Vatican dicastery, he became the Pontiff's right-hand man in his pastoral work with youth worldwide.

Before, Cardinal Pironio had been prefect of the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life, the dicastery which oversees more than 1 million religious and consecrated persons in the world. He was spiritually close to Sister Lucia, the visionary of Fatima.

Pope Paul VI elevated him to cardinal in May 1976 after having worked for many years in the Latin American bishops' council, first as secretary and later as president.

In Argentina, he was bishop of Mar del Plata, in the province of Buenos Aires. He was the youngest of an Italian immigrant family of 22 children.


Sister Sara Salkahazi Helped Jews

BUDAPEST, Hungary, JUNE 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Sister Sara Salkahazi, a nun shot to death for sheltering Jews in Hungary during World War II, will be beatified in Budapest this fall.

Bishop Andras Veres, secretary of the Hungarian bishops' conference, said on Thursday that the beatification will be conducted by Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Hungarian episcopal conference, on Sept. 17 in St. Stephen's Basilica.

In April, Benedict XVI signed a decree on Sister Salkahazi's martyrdom, a document paving the way for her beatification.

A member of the Sisters of Social Service, a charity organization helping the poor, the woman religious was a journalist, a writer and a cultural activist. She helped to shelter hundreds of Jews, including many women and children, in a convent in the final months of the war.

She was reported to the authorities, and henchmen of the ruling fascist Arrow Cross Party drove her and the people she had sheltered to the banks of the Danube River and shot them on Dec. 27, 1944.

The Sisters of Social Service saved more than 1,000 lives during the war.

Cardinal Erdo, the primate of Hungary, said in reaction to the Pope's decision: "I believe that in the year of the nation's spiritual renewal, the Holy Father could not give a more beautiful gift to the Church, and also to the whole of Hungarian society."


Italian Priest, Father Mose Tovine, to Be Beatified in Bresica

BRESCIA, Italy, JUNE 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Mosè Tovini, an Italian priest who was passionate about the catechism, will be beatified in Bresica this fall.

The beatification will take place on Sept. 17 in the city's cathedral.

In December, Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for Sainthood Causes to publish a decree of acknowledgment of a miracle due to Father Tovini's intercession, which opened the door to his beatification.

The miracle attributed to Father Tovini is the cure of an Italian priest, Father Giovanni Flocchini, a former pastor of Comero.

Father Tovini (1877-1930), a priest of the Diocese of Brescia, was a professor at the Brescia Seminary, teaching mathematics, philosophy, sociology, apologetics and dogmatic theology.


Father Eustaquio Van Lieshout

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, JUNE 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Dutch-born Father Eustaquio Van Lieshout, beatified in Brazil, was presented as a model of contemplation as well as apostolic action and dedication to souls.

Last Thursday, on the solemnity of Corpus Christi, 70,000 faithful attended the beatification of this missionary of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

During the beatification Mass, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, read at Benedict XVI's behest the apostolic letter with which the Pope inscribed the servant of God, Father Van Lieshout, in the list of the blessed.

The cardinal stressed the importance of Father Van Lieshout's "social message." He was a man who was greatly concerned about "the poor, the afflicted, all those who suffered and children," the Vatican prefect noted.

According to Cardinal Saraiva Martins, ceremonies such as this represent a stimulus so that the faithful have as reference people whom the Church considers models of humility and humanity.

Some 50 bishops and 60 priests attended the ceremony, in addition to the crowd that gathered in Belo Horizonte's Mineiro stadium.

Also present were some 30 members of the new blessed's family, who traveled for the occasion from the Netherlands, as well as Father Gonxalo Belem, 82, whose miraculous cure of cancer of the larynx four decades ago opened the doors to the beatification.

Inspired by biography

Van Lieshout was born in Aarle-Rixtel, in the Netherlands, on Nov. 3, 1890. He was baptized the same day and given the name Humberto. He was the eighth of 11 siblings in a farming family, explains the biographical note issued by the Vatican Information Service.

It was the reading of the biography of Blessed Father Damien de Veuster, the Belgium-born apostle of lepers, which led Van Lieshout to enter the same Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. During his novitiate, he took the name Eustaquio.

He was ordained a priest in 1919 and carried out his pastoral ministry in his country until 1924. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro the following year.

For 18 years, he worked as a missionary in Brazil. In April 1942 he became parish priest of St. Dominc's in Belo Horizonte, where he died on Aug. 30, 1943.

In 1949, his remains were translated from the cemetery to his last parish.

Last Oct. 19, Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of the decree recognizing the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Dutch missionary, which opened the doors to his beatification.


Fr. Eustaquio Van Lieshout (1890-1943)

VATICAN CITY, JUN 14, 2006 (VIS) - At 4 p.m. tomorrow, in the Mineirao Stadium of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside at a Eucharistic concelebration during which, by order of Benedict XVI, he will read out the Apostolic Letter in which the Holy Father proclaims as Blessed, Servant of God Fr. Eustaquio Van Lieshout.

   Fr. Eustaquio Van Lieshout was born in Aarle-Rixtel, Netherlands, on November 3, 1890, the eighth of eleven children, and baptized the same day with the name of Humberto. He came from a very Catholic rural family. After reading the biography of the Belgian Blessed, Fr. Damian de Veuster of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, he decided to join the same order. During his noviciate, he took the name of Eustaquio. He was ordained a priest in 1919, and exercised the pastoral ministry in his own country until 1924.
  He arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1925, and for the next 18 years worked as a missionary in Brazil. In April 1942, he took over the parish of Santo Domingo in Belo Horizonte, where a few months later, on August 30, 1943, he died.
  In 1949, his mortal remains were transferred to his last parish, which is dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

   On December 19, 2005 Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of a decree concerning a miracle attributed to the intercession of Fr. Eustaquio.


88 Japanese Martyrs Closer to Beatification

TOKYO, JUNE 12, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for Sainthood Causes has approved the cause of beatification for 188 Japanese martyrs of the 17th century.

The Catholic bishops' conference of Japan confirmed the announcement in a communiqué.

Father Fuyuki Hirabayashi, secretary of the episcopal commission in charge of the cause, said the beatification ceremony will most likely take place some time after May 2007.

Bishop Jun-ichi Nomura of Nagoya, president of the bishops' conference in Japan, Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu, and Father Hirabayashi visited the Vatican in January to submit a petition signed by all the members of episcopal conference.

Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, retired archbishop of Tokyo, also personally presented a petition with the same request to Benedict XVI. The next step will be the Pope's signature and promulgation of the decree of beatification.

The beatification "will be an extraordinary event for the Church in Japan," the Fides news agency said.

The news agency said the beatification of Peter Kassui Kibe and 187 other martyrs "will bring enthusiasm, immense joy and spiritual consolation to the little flock of Catholic faithful in the country of the rising sun."

Already recognized among Japan's martyrs are Paul Miki and companions.


Chinese Diocese Remembers Its Martyrs
Looks Back, and Ahead, at 150th Anniversary

ROME, JUNE 11, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Chinese Diocese of Cangzhou helped to stimulate the Catholic community's missionary effort, said diocesan representatives.

Bishop Joseph Li Liangui of Cangzhou, in the province of Hebei, opened the anniversary ceremonies last month, reported Eglises d'Asie, an agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris.

A key event took place in the Catholic cemetery of Xianxian, where a small monument was recently erected in memory of the diocese's founders. Buried in the cemetery are five French bishops, a Chinese bishop and many Chinese priests and foreign missionaries.

All their tombs were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976.

Using the cathedral's paschal candle to light a 2-meter torch, the bishop appealed to priests and faithful to continue the missionary endeavor undertaken in the region more than 150 years ago.

In a pastoral letter last January, Bishop Li, 44, a prelate accepted by both Rome and Beijing, invited the diocesan faithful to prepare for this jubilee.


The French missionaries who "brought to this land the seeds of light and truth" founded the diocese in 1856.

"Today, the hour has come to write new pages of the history of our diocese," wrote the bishop. "Animated by an unbreakable spirit, we have inherited from our predecessors the seed of the Good News."

Accompanied by saints' relics, including those of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for five months the torch will go from parish to parish, symbolizing the light of Christ spread throughout the region. The torch will be returned to the cathedral Oct. 15.

In early October, an assembly will be held of representatives of the diocese, culminating with the baptism of 150 catechumens, and, on Oct. 12-13, a university colloquium will take place on evangelization.

Known for its numerous priestly and religious vocations, the Diocese of Cangzhou has more than 200 parishes and 75,000 faithful.

The bishop is assisted by some 100 priests and 227 women religious. About 80 seminarians are studying in the diocese's intermediate seminary, before attending the regional seminary of Shijiazhuang.

The Holy See established the diocese in 1856, splitting the Catholic mission of Tcheli in three territories. The southeastern Vicariate of Tcheli was entrusted to the French Jesuits and, in 1924, it took the name Vicariate of Xianxian.

Elevated to the rank of diocese in 1946, Xianxian was renamed Cangzhou in 1981.

Fourteen of China's 120 martyrs, canonized in Rome in October 2000, were from the Diocese of Xianxian during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Four priests and 5,153 faithful died as a result of the rebellion directed against the Western presence in China.


Cause Advancing for 2 Poles Slain in Peru
Diocesan Inquiry Nears End for Conventual Franciscans

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 31, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Michael Tomaszek and Father Zbigniew Strzalkowski, both of Krakow, were on mission in the Peruvian Andes when they were killed by Maoist terrorists 15 years ago.

On June 5, 1995, the fourth anniversary of their death, the Congregation for Sainthood Causes authorized the opening of their process of beatification as martyrs of the faith.

The following year, inquiries were made in Krakow to obtain information about the infancy, formation and first years in ministry of these Polish Servants of God.

Now, the diocesan inquiry is nearing completion, stated the Communications Office of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals.

After completing their theological studies at the Conventual Franciscan Major Seminary in Krakow and obtaining a master's degree in Spanish, the two religious left to go on mission in the Andes with another Conventual Franciscan, Father Jaroslaw Wysoczanski.

They carried out their "difficult ministry," as the order noted, in a poor parish of Pariacoto and in many surrounding villages of the area.


The country in which they were missionaries was one of the top world producers of coca, destined to become cocaine and yield huge "profits for drug dealers" and a "miserable income for farmers," the order noted.

The northern areas of the Andes, where the Franciscan religious were working, at the time had an intense coca leaf trade.

In the early 1990s, the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorist group "controlled the region, guaranteeing safety and prosperity for the drug traders and taking advantage of the fear and ignorance of the local people," the communiqué stated.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 22, 1991, there were a record 1,638 violent deaths in the country.

In this environment, the action of the Church -- a more incisive catechesis, the opening of centers for Christian activities and the training of lay leaders -- "represented a threat and a danger," the Conventual Franciscan order said. As a result, violence increased against foreign missionaries and lay people.

One of Shining Path's numerous leaflets read: "With the Bible and the Cross they are trying to stop the advance of revolution."

Imbued with a mixture of Maoism and nationalism, full of hatred for "exploiters," the terrorists were also willing to kill poor farmers who opposed their plans or were suspected of collaborating with the government or army.

Father Strzalkowski and Father Tomaszek arrived in Pariacoto in 1990. They helped leave the imprint of their Franciscan charism in their mission, reflected in humility, poverty, prayer, affability, commitment to the good and tenacity in community life, the order said.

Last Mass

On the afternoon of Aug. 9, 1991, Father Strzalkowski, 32, and Father Tomaszek, 30, celebrated their last Mass.

The terrorists knocked at the friary door. The two priests were dragged outside, loaded on a jeep and taken to the village center. A make-shift "trial" was held. The religious were clear in expressing their evangelizing mission.

Taken in the jeep to the mountains, the two religious were pushed out of the vehicle and made to lie on the road with their hands tied behind their back with their death sentence written on a bloodstained piece of cardboard: "This is the way the lackeys of imperialism die." They were shot.

"The area where the missionaries intended to have a place of retreat for the local people," wrote the order, "became the scene of their martyrdom."


Verbum Dei Founder Gets Papal Greeting
Father Jaime Bonet Turns 80

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent a message of congratulations on the 80th birthday of Father Jaime Bonet, founder of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity.

The Pope's message, issued by the Vatican on May 18, was read by the fraternity's president, Isabel Maria Fornari, during the thanksgiving Mass that Father Bonet celebrated May 21 in the church of the Verbum Dei Theological Institute in Madrid, Spain.

The Holy Father conferred his apostolic blessing on the founder and invoked an "abundance of divine graces and the maternal protection of the Holy Virgin Mary."

Pope John Paul II gave his consent to the declaration of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity as a unique fraternity of consecrated life, which was ratified by the Holy See with a decree of papal approval in April 2000.

Preaching academies

Jaime Bonet was born in Alqueria Blanca, Spain. While still a seminarian, he organized a school or "preaching academy" to give sound preparation for engaging in the ministry of the Word.

Later, Father Bonet was noted for his preaching of the spiritual exercises. In the 1960s, the growth of groups wishing to prepare for preaching led him to create "apostolic schools" or schools of evangelization with youths who, in the measure they were formed, became leaven in many other parishes.

In 1963 a group of girls belonging to the schools of evangelization asked Father Bonet about the possibility of consecrating themselves completely to the life of evangelization that he inspired with his preaching.

This first such group, called Diocesan Missionaries of the Word of God, were dedicated "to prayer and the ministry of the Word." They received their approval from the bishop of Mallorca in October 1963.

As the fruit of Father Bonet's preaching, groups of youth and some diocesan priests adopted this form of life. And, in 1969, two priests were given permission by the bishop to be incorporated in Verbum Dei.

On Wednesday, Father Jaime Bonet will celebrate 50 years of priesthood.

Verbum Dei is present in 35 countries. It has about 1,000 consecrated persons and 35,000 disciples.


New Portuguese Blessed Put Kids First
Mother Rita Beloved of Jesus (1848-1913)

VISEU, Portugal, MAY 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The plight of children in the 21st century makes newly-beatified Mother Rita Beloved of Jesus an important figure, says Cardinal José Saraiva Martins.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, said this Sunday when he presided over the rite of beatification of the Portuguese founder, in Viseu, her birthplace.

The "characteristic point" of the Portuguese religious' holiness "was the maternal and charitable care of poor and abandoned children, for whom she heroically gave her life," Cardinal Saraiva Martins said.

Rita Lopes de Almeida was born on March 5, 1848. In 1880 she laid the bases for her institute with the opening of a school for poor girls.

She would later found the Institute of Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Mother Rita's work extended to several localities and she was able to surmount the existing difficult political conditions by moving to Brazil. She died on Jan. 6, 1913.

Trying times

A native of the same region as the new blessed, Cardinal Saraiva Martins recalled on Vatican Radio the circumstances of the time in which Mother Rita was born: "a time, socially and religiously, of notable wounds between the civil authorities and the Church."

He continued: "At the beginning of the 19th century, given the political vicissitudes and the consequent suppression of the religious orders, the Church in Portugal wrote very lofty pages of martyrdom, to the point of undergoing the desert of exodus, as happened to Mother Rita's spiritual daughters, precisely in 1913, as she was going to the house of the Father."

She "literally gave her life" for poor and abandoned children, the cardinal said. "There is no greater love."

The Vatican official added: "In the wake of the material and moral destructions of World War II, the Servant of God Pius XII cried out several times in his messages: 'Save the children, who are the future of society.'

"More than 70 years earlier, in a similar climate of riots and destruction, Blessed Rita placed poor and abandoned children at the center of her attention."

"Her spiritual daughters received and developed this commission, gathering up, at the same time, the solidity and simplicity of Mother Rita's pedagogical intuitions and her concrete contribution to the literacy" of the people of Portugal and Brazil, the cardinal said.

"Still today she is the loving mother of thousands of children in Europe, Africa and Latin America," he added.

Love of rosary

"Mother Rita could not give us a more timely message, given that the daily news reports again present to us the grief of murdered and rejected children, offended in their modesty and innocence, sold, enslaved or prematurely trained for war," lamented the cardinal.

In his homily, quoted by the Ecclesia agency, Cardinal Saraiva Martins highlighted the new blessed's Marian devotion, "with her particular predilection for the rosary," which anticipated in a certain way all that would come with the "message of Our Lady to the three little shepherds of Fatima," just four years after the woman religious' death.

"In love" with Jesus, from whom she drew her apostolic zeal, Mother Rita also left a "very important" message, because "she struggled with all her might for the liberation of women from all forms of slavery," Cardinal Saraiva Martins said.

"The future of a country, of the whole of society, depends on education, above all of children and youth," he added. "This is Mother Rita's great and precious teaching."


Letter to Session of Congregation for Sainthood Causes
"The Last Word Is Given to Theology"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI recently sent to the participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.

* * *

To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins
Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

On the occasion of the plenary assembly of this Congregation for the Causes of Saints, I would like to address my cordial greetings to you, Your Eminence, which I gladly extend to the cardinals, archbishops and bishops who are taking part in the meeting. I likewise greet the secretary, the undersecretary, the consultors and medical experts, the postulators and all the members of this dicastery.

Together with my greeting, I also express my sentiments of appreciation and gratitude for this congregation's service to the Church in promoting the causes of saints, who "are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love," as I wrote in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (No. 40).

This is why from the outset the Church has held their commemoration and worship in great honor, dedicating down the centuries ever more vigilant attention to the procedures that lead the servants of God to the honors of the altar.

In fact, the causes of saints are "major causes," both because of the nobility of the subject treated and their effect on the life of the People of God. In light of this reality, my Predecessors often intervened with special legislative measures to improve the examination and celebration of their causes. In 1588, Sixtus V willed the Sacred Congregation for Rites to be established for this purpose.

Then how can we forget the provident legislation of Urban VIII, the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the norms of Pius XI for ancient causes, the "motu proprio" "Sanctitas Clarior" and Paul VI's apostolic constitution "Sacra Rituum Congregatio"?

My Predecessor Benedict XIV, rightly considered "the master" of the causes of saints, deserves a grateful mention. More recently, in 1983, beloved John Paul II promulgated the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," followed in the same year by the publication of the "Normae Servandae in Inquisitionibus ab Episcopis Faciendis in Causis Sanctorum" [Norms to be Observed in Inquiries made by Bishops in the Causes of Saints].

More than 20 years' experience has prompted this congregation to draft an appropriate "Instruction for the Process of the Diocesan Inquiry in the Causes of Saints."

This document is addressed primarily to diocesan bishops and its preparation constitutes the first item on the agenda of your plenary meeting. Its intention is to facilitate the faithful application of the "Normae Servandae" cited, in order to ensure the seriousness of the investigations carried out in diocesan inquiries into the virtue of servants of God and in cases claiming martyrdom or possible miracles.

The evidence for the causes is collected and studied with supreme care and with a diligent search for the historic truth through testimonies and documentary proof "omnino plenae," for they have no other aim than the glory of God and the spiritual good of the Church and of all who are in search of the Gospel truth and perfection.

The diocesan pastors, deciding "coram Deo" on which causes deserve to be initiated, will first of all evaluate whether the candidates to the honors of the altar truly enjoy a firm and widespread fame of holiness and miracles or martyrdom. This fame, which the Code of Canon Law of 1917 stipulates should be "spontanea, non arte aut diligentia procurata, orta ab honestis et gravibus personis, continua, in dies aucta et vigens in praesenti apud maiorem partem populi" (Canon 2050 §2), is a sign of God who points out to the Church those who deserve to be set on the lamp stand to "give light to all in the house" (cf. Matthew 5:15).

It is clear that it will not be possible to introduce a cause of beatification or canonization if proven holiness does not exist, even if the person concerned was distinguished for conformity with the Gospel and special ecclesial and social merits.

The second theme that your plenary assembly is treating is "the miracle in the causes of saints." It is well known that since ancient times, the process for arriving at canonization passes through the proof of virtues and miracles, attributed to the intercession of the candidate to the honors of the altar.

As well as reassuring us that the servant of God lives in heaven in communion with God, miracles constitute the divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by the ecclesiastical authority on his/her virtuous life. I hope that the plenary meeting will be able to examine this subject in greater depth in the light of the Tradition of the Church, of present-day theology and of the most reliable scientific discoveries.

It should not be forgotten that in the examination of events claimed to be miraculous the competence of scholars and theologians converges, although the last word is given to theology, the only discipline that can give a miracle an interpretation of faith.

This is why the process of saints' causes moves from the scientific evaluation of the medical council or technical experts to a theological examination by the consultors and later by the cardinals and bishops. Moreover, it should be clearly borne in mind that the uninterrupted practice of the Church establishes the need for a physical miracle, since a moral miracle does not suffice.

Martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit

The third subject reflected upon at the plenary meeting concerns martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit and an attribute of the Church in every epoch (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 42). The Venerable Pontiff John Paul II, in his apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," noted that since the Church has once again become the Church of martyrs, "as far as possible, their witness should not be lost" (No. 37).

The martyrs of the past and those of our time gave and give life ("effusio sanguinis") freely and consciously in a supreme act of love, witnessing to their faithfulness to Christ, to the Gospel and to the Church. If the motive that impels them to martyrdom remains unchanged, since Christ is their source and their model, then what has changed are the cultural contexts of martyrdom and the strategies "ex parte persecutoris" that more and more seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature.

It is of course necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim. It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the "odium Fidei" [hatred of the faith] of the persecutor. If this element is lacking there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church. The concept of "martyrdom" as applied to the saints and blessed martyrs should be understood, in conformity with Benedict XIV's teaching, as "voluntaria mortis perpessio sive tolerantia propter Fidem Christi, vel alium virtutis actum in Deum relatum" ("De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione," Prato 1839-1841, Book III, chapter 11, 1). This is the constant teaching of the Church.

The subjects being examined at your plenary meeting are of indisputable interest and the reflections, with the possible suggestions that may arise, will make a valuable contribution to the achievement of the objectives indicated by John Paul II in the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," in which he says: "Most recent experience, finally, has shown us the appropriateness of revising further the manner of instructing causes and of so structuring the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that We might meet the needs of experts and the desires of Our Brother Bishops, who have often called for a simpler process while maintaining the soundness of the investigation in matters of such great import.

"In light of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council on collegiality, We also think that the Bishops themselves should be more closely associated with the Holy See in dealing with the Causes of Saints."

To be consistent with these instructions, elected to the Chair of Peter, I was glad to act on the widespread desire that greater emphasis be placed in their celebration on the essential difference between beatification and canonization, and that the particular Churches be more visibly involved in Rites of Beatification on the understanding that the Roman Pontiff alone is competent to declare a devotion to a servant of God.

Your Eminence, I thank you for this congregation's service to the Church and, while I wish those who are taking part in the work of the plenary meeting every success through the intercession of all the saints and of the Queen of the saints, I invoke upon each one the light of the Holy Spirit. For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer as I cordially bless you all.

From the Vatican, April 24, 2006



Tanzanian President's Cause Is Under Way

ROME, MAY 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The cause of beatification for Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, considered one of Africa's "fathers of the nation," is under way.

Nyerere was president of the Tanganyika African National Union and, after independence, the first president of Tanzania.

The Catholic Information Service for Africa has confirmed that the diocesan phase of the process of Nyerere's beatification has been completed.

Nyerere (1922-1999) became president in 1961, and through the Arusha Declaration of 1967 introduced a national policy of self-reliance based on a socialist model of cooperative village farms.

Critics blame his Ujamaa system for the country's past economic woes. He voluntarily relinquished power in 1985.

Bishop Justin Samba of Nyerere's home Diocese of Musoma is directing the cause of beatification, while Father Wojciech Koscielniak is the postulator and Maryknoll Father Ed Hayes the vice postulator.

Father John Civille of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, who has written a book on Nyerere, and Fathers Laurenti Magesa and Philbert Rwehumbiza are the theological censors involved in the process.

More information is available from Father Andrzej Madry, of the Musoma Diocese communications office, at madry@juasun.net.


Mexico's Rafael Guízar Valencia

VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Among the latest people in line to be canonized as saints is Bishop Rafael Guízar Valencia, a standout evangelizer in Mexico at the time of its religious persecution last century.

Last Friday Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Rafael, who was bishop of Veracruz.

Rafael Guízar Valencia (1878-1938) was born in Cotija de la Paz, in the state of Michoacan, the fourth of 11 children. His brother Antonio became archbishop of Chihuahua.

Rafael Guízar received his priestly ordination at age 23 in Zamora in June 1901. He was in charge of spiritual direction in the Zamora seminary, where he taught dogmatic theology.

He was soon appointed apostolic missionary by Pope Leo XIII, and evangelized the villages he visited, basing his teaching on a simple catechism that Father Guízar wrote.

At the time of the Mexican revolution of 1910, he dedicated himself in particular to the dying and their families. In 1913, he carried out mission work among soldiers in Mexico City, Puebla and Morelos.

Disguised as a vendor of trinkets, and sometimes under a hail of bullets, he attended to the dying, imparted sacramental absolution and often gave them viaticum, which he carried concealed to avoid detection as a priest.


In July 1919, he was in Havana when he received the news that Pope Benedict XV appointed him bishop of Veracruz.

On Nov. 30, 1919, he received episcopal consecration in the Cuban capital by the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Tito Trocchi.

Among his works, Bishop Guízar revived the diocesan seminary, establishing it in Xalapa, moving it later to Mexico City, when anti-clerical forces confiscated the Church's buildings.

During the religious persecution of the 1920s, he was exiled in the United States, Guatemala and Cuba, where he continued his missionary work.

Later he returned. But under the government of Plutarco Elías Calles he had to travel to Mexico City with many of his seminarians and asked the priests of Veracruz to continue their services in anonymity.

Bishop Guízar succeeded in keeping the seminary open. The authorities sought him and he was again forced to leave the country. He went to the United States, Cuba, Guatemala and Colombia.

On May 7, 1929, President Portes Gil stated his willingness to dialogue with the bishops. On hearing the news, Bishop Guízar returned to his homeland, to his diocese and to his seminary.

That May 24 he wrote a letter to all the faithful asking for prayers for a speedy peaceful arrangement between the Church and state. The arrangement, though provisional, was made public on June 22, 1929.

Death sentence

In 1931, the governor of Veracruz, Adalberto Tejeda, imposed a law limiting the number of priests to one for every 100,000 inhabitants -- 13 priests for the entire state of Veracruz. This forced Bishop Guízar to flee his diocese a third time. This time he went to Puebla and Mexico City.

He returned later despite a death sentence passed against him. After a painful illness, he died in a house next to his seminary in Mexico City.

He was beatified Jan. 29, 1995, by Pope John Paul II.

One of the future saint's sisters, María, was the mother of Maura Degollado Guízar, whose son Father Marcial Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi movement.

In a book-length interview, "Christ Is My Life," Father Maciel recalled his great-uncle: "I remember that on one occasion he invited me to accompany him to Mexico City's Alameda. He was carrying an accordion which he played very well, but I didn't know for what he would use it. We arrived at this place, which was very crowded and he took out his accordion and began to play popular songs.

"People gathered around him. When there was a sufficiently large number, he put the accordion aside and began to preach Christ. I don't know if he did so to teach me a lesson. I think it flowed from his soul and it was obvious that he really enjoyed talking about Christ to others."


2 Priests Beatified in Milan
Father Luigi Monza and Monsignor Luigi Biraghi

MILAN, Italy, APRIL 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Milan's cathedral was the setting, for the first time since 1662, for the rite of beatification of two priests and founders.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, presided over the beatification ceremony of Father Luigi Monza and Monsignor Luigi Biraghi.

"We have great need to have many blessed and saints, so that their example of life will denounce the evil present in us, but above all so that it will awaken and strengthen the drive toward the authentic good," the cardinal said in the homily.

Also present was the papal legate, Cardinal Joséé Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, who read the formula of beatification in the Pope's name.

"With our apostolic authority, we grant that the venerable servants of God, Luigi Biraghi and Luigi Monza, be called henceforth blessed and that their feast be celebrated in places and according to the rules established by law: every year, on May 28 for Luigi Biraghi and on Sept. 28 for Luigi Monza," said Cardinal Saraiva Martins.

Father Monza (1898-1954) founded the Little Apostles, a community of consecrated women that seeks to bring to society the charity of the early Christians.

"Our Family," an institution that looks after handicapped children in several countries worldwide, is a product of the Little Apostles.

Monsignor Biraghi (1801-1879) was doctor of the Ambrosian Library and undertook intense charitable works and support of mission countries.

In 1838 he founded the Sisters of St. Marcellina, dedicated in numerous countries to the cultural and moral education of young people, and to the missions.


"Apostle of the Untouchables" Beatified
Father Augustine Thevarparampil

RAMAPUAN, India, APRIL 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Augustine Thevarparampil, known as the apostle of the untouchables, was beatified in Ramapuan, India.

Cardinal Varkev Vithayathil, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, presided at the beatification ceremony today in the name of Benedict XVI.

Here is a biography of Father Thevarparampil, adapted from a Holy See document.

* * *

Everybody knew him as Kunjachan which, in the Malayalam language of India, means "little priest."

Father Augustine Thevarparampil was very short, but was a giant in announcing Christ among the dalit, the outcasts.

Born in Ramapuram, in the Diocese of Palai, Kerala, on April 1, 1891, Augustine entered the seminary after completing his studies in public schools.

He was ordained a priest at age 33, on Dec. 17, 1921, by Servant of God Mar Tommaso Kurialacherry. (Mar in the Syrian Oriental Churches is a title of respect used to address bishops.)

In 1923 Kunjachan was sent as vice parish priest to Kadanad, in the Church of St. Sebastian. His pastoral service in this place did not last long. Ill-health forced him to return to his native village in 1926.

During his convalescence, he became aware of the miserable living conditions of the "untouchables," those belonging to the lowest caste of the Indian society. Gandhi used to call them Harijan -- "the people of God."

Father Augustine decided to devote his life to the evangelization and human betterment of the poorest of his society.

The priest rose at 4 each morning. After celebrating Mass, he and a catechist used to go and visit the families in the villages. He took care of the dalits in his parish, as well as all those he could materially reach.

He used to call "child" anybody who needed help. He offered assistance and comfort, tried to solve disputes and took care of the sick. Some used to avoid him and hide from him.

His short height was a blessing because he could go in and out, without any difficulty, of the poor village huts. Kunjachan was a friend to the children; he always carries some sweets for them. The children enjoyed his company tremendously.

Father Augustine spent his entire life in simplicity, living like the poor to whom he had devoted his existence.
His will begins: "I possess neither land nor money, and I owe no one anything. I want my funeral to be a very simple one."

A man of great spirituality, he used to pray continuously even during his frequent traveling. He was always patient and understanding with the outcasts. He knew how to overcome mistrust.

During his priesthood days among the dalits he personally baptized almost 6,000 people. And he was known as the "apostle of the untouchables."

After celebrating 50 years of priesthood, he died on Oct. 16, 1973, at age 82.

He wished to be buried among his beloved children, in the barren land, but the parishioners demanded that he be laid to rest in the church, at the foot of the altar of St. Augustine, patron of the community.

Ever since then his tomb has been the destination of thousands of pilgrims every year. Solemn celebrations are held especially on Oct. 16 to commemorate his death.


Legacy of Slain Monks of Tibhirine Recounted by Priest Who Was in Ill-fated Monastery
Last Testament of Victim Prior Blesses Murderers

TIBHIRINE, Algeria, MARCH 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A friend of the prior of the Trappist monks of Tibhirine is trying to stir interest in the spiritual legacy of those men who were murdered a decade ago.

On the night of March 26-27, 1996, some 20 gunmen invaded the Monastery of Notre Dame of Atlas in Tibhirine and kidnapped its seven Trappist monks, of French nationality.

A month later, Djamel Zitouni, leader of the Armed Islamic Groups, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and proposed an exchange of prisoners to France.

The following month, a second communiquéé from the group announced: "We have slit the monks' throats." The killings reportedly took place May 21, 1996; their bodies were found nine days later.

Father Thierry Becker, of the Algerian diocese of Oran, was a guest of the monastery the night that the Muslim fundamentalists abducted Father Christian de Chergéé, the prior, and the other six Trappists.

In recent statements to the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Father Becker asserted that he is recounting the legacy of the monks of Tibhirine.

Theirs was "a message of poverty, of abandonment in the hands of God and men, of sharing in all the fragility, vulnerability and condition of forgiven sinners, in the conviction that only by being disarmed will we be able to meet Islam and discover in Muslims a part of the total face of Christ," the priest said.

Father Becker is no stranger to strife in Algeria. He was vicar general in Oran when on Aug. 1, 1996, his own bishop, Pierre Lucien Claverie, 58, was killed along with an Algerian friend, Mohammed Pouchikhi. The Dominican prelate, born in Algeria, had dedicated his life to dialogue between Muslims and Christians. He had such a deep knowledge of Islam that he was often consulted on the subject by Muslims themselves.

A welcoming in truth

"Precisely the desire to welcome one another in truth, brought us together 10 year ago in Tibhirine," said Father Becker. "The meeting 'Ribat es-Salam,' Bond of Peace, was being held in those days, a group of Islamic-Christian dialogue which was oriented to share respective spiritual riches through prayer, silence…….

"The Ribat still exists; it has not given up the challenge of communion with the spiritual depth of Islam. Thus we make our own the spiritual testimony of Father Christian de Chergéé, whose monastic choice matured after an Algerian friend saved his life during the war of liberation, while that friend, a Muslim of profound spirituality, was killed in reprisal."

Father Becker continued: "'We are worshippers in the midst of a nation of worshippers,' the Prior used to say to his brothers in community, all of whom had decided to stay in Tibhirine even when violence was at its height.

"In the course of the decades, the monastery stripped itself of its riches, donated almost all of its land to the state, and shared its large garden with the neighboring village. The monks chose poverty, also in the sense of total abandonment to the will of God and of men.

"And great trust was born with the local people, so much so that 10 years after the events, nothing has disappeared from the monastery, everything has been respected. But the future of that holy place is in the hands of the Algerians."


The spiritual legacy of the monks also has caught the eye of a member of the International Theological Commission.

Archbishop Bruno Forte, who participated in a Vatican-organized videoconference on "Martyrdom and the New Martyrs," quoted the "spiritual testament" of the Trappist prior. He described it as a "splendid example of how martyrdom is the crowning of a whole life of faith and love of Christ and his Church."

The text of the testament follows.

* * *

Testament of Dom Christian de Chergéé
(opened on Pentecost Sunday, May 26, 1996)

Facing a GOODBYE ...

If it should happen one day -- and it could be today -- that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country.

I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

I would ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?

I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood.

I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems to prevail so terribly in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.

I should like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.

I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this.

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder.

It would be too high a price to pay for what will perhaps be called, the "grace of martyrdom" to owe it to an Algerian, whoever he might be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.

I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately.

I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters.

It is too easy to soothe one's conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists.

For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: it is a body and a soul.

I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it.

I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel which I learned at my mother's knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers.

Obviously, my death will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naive or idealistic:
"Let him tell us now what he thinks of his ideals!"

But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free.

This is what I shall be able to do, God willing: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him His children of Islam just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.

For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything.

In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families -- you are the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing:

Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a "GOD BLESS" for you, too, because in God's face I see yours.

May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.

Algiers, 1st December 1993
Tibhirine, 1st January 1994

Christian +


Elisha of St. Clement (1901-1927)

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Elisha of St. Clement of the Order of Discalced Carmelites will be beatified this Saturday during a Mass in the cathedral of Bari, Italy.

Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari-Bitonto will preside, according to the announcement from the Holy See's office of liturgical celebrations.

Below is a biography of the religious, written by the Discalced Carmelite Order. It is adapted here.

* * *

The new blessed was born in Bari, on Jan. 17, 1901, the third child of Joseph and Pasqua Fracasso. Four days later she was baptized in the Church of St. James by her uncle, Father Charles Fracasso, chaplain at the cemetery, and given the name Theodora. She was confirmed in 1903.

Her family then lived in St. Mark's Square and were supported by what the father earned as a master painter and decorator. Around 1929, after many sacrifices, he opened a shop for the sale of paint. Her mother was always busy with work in the home.

They were both good practicing Christians and had in all nine children; four died in infancy. The five remaining children were Prudence, Anne, Theodora Domenica and Nicola.

In 1905 the family moved to Via Piccinni, to a house with a little garden, in which, the little Theodora, aged 4 or 5, said she saw a beautiful Lady in a dream, who moved among the rows of blooming lilies, then suddenly disappeared in a beam of light.

Later her mother explained to her the possible significance of the vision and Theodora promised that she would become a nun when she grew up.

Theodora was sent to a nursery school run by the Stigmata Sisters, and continued her studies until third grade. On May 8, 1911, after making a long preparation, she received her first holy Communion. The night before she dreamed of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus who predicted to her: "You will be a nun like me." Later she attended a work shop for sewing and embroidery near the same institute.

Theodora entered the Association of the Blessed Imelda Lambertini, a Dominican nun with a special devotion to the Eucharist.

Afterward she joined the "Angelic Army" of St. Thomas Aquinas. She met with her friends from time to time in the dormitory where they would meditate and pray together, read the Gospel, "The Eternal Maxims," "The Imitation of Christ," the "Fifteen Saturdays of Our Lady," the lives of the saints and, in particular, the autobiography of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus.

Third Order

Her behavior and the good influence she had on her companions did not go unnoticed. In the meantime Theodora's vague religious vocation was becoming clearer thanks to the advice of Dominican Father Peter Fiorillo, her spiritual director.

He introduced her to the Third Order Dominicans, who accepted her as a novice on April 20, 1914. She took the name Agnes, and made her profession on May 14, 1915, with a special dispensation because of her young age.

During the war years, 1915-1918, Theodora found numerous occasions to increase her apostolic work, as a catechist and helper.

Toward the end of 1917, Theodora decided to seek advice from a Jesuit, Father Sergio Di Gioia. He became her new confessor. About a year later he decided to direct her, together with her friend Clare Bellomo, the future Sister Diomira of Divine Love, to the Carmel of St. Joseph, Via De Rossi, in Bari. They went there together for the first time in December 1918.
1919 was a year of intense spiritual activity, as, under the guidance of Father Di Gioia, she prepared to enter the convent.

She entered the community on April 8, 1920, and took the habit that Nov. 24, taking the name Sister Elisha of St. Clement.

She made her first simple vows on Dec. 4, 1921. Besides St. Teresa of Jesus, she took as her guide Théérèèse of the Child Jesus, following the "little way of spiritual childhood where I felt," she affirmed, "called by the Lord." She made her solemn profession Feb. 11, 1925.

Her journey, from the beginning, was not easy. Already in the first months of the novitiate she had to face not a few difficulties.

Severe superior

The real problem arose after Mother Prioress Angelica Lamberti in the spring of 1923, appointed Sister Elisha to be in charge of the embroidery machine in the girls boarding school attached to the Carmel.

The head mistress, Sister Columba of the Blessed Sacrament, was of an authoritarian disposition, severe and with little understanding of others. She refused to see the goodness and gentleness with which Sister Elisha treated her pupils, and, so, after two years, had her removed from her post.

Always observant of the rule and community acts, Sister Elisha passed much of her day in her cell, dedicating her time to the embroidery that was given her. The mother prioress continued to esteem her greatly, and, in 1927, appointed her sacristan.

During her painful trial, Father Elias of St. Ambrose, the procurator general of the Discalced Carmelite Order, was a great comfort. He had first come to know of her in 1922, on the occasion of a visit to St. Joseph's Carmel. The young Carmelite kept up an exchange of letters with him from which she drew great benefit.

In January 1927 Sister Elisha was struck down and weakened by influenza. She started to suffer from frequent headaches, but did not complain.

When, on Dec. 21, Sister Elisha also began to have a violent fever and other disturbances, the community assumed it was just one of her usual illnesses, but each day her situation caused more concern.

On Dec. 24 a doctor came to see her. Even though he diagnosed possible meningitis or encephalitis, he did not consider the clinical situation particularly serious. Only on the following morning were two doctors called to her bedside. At that point they declared that her condition was irreversible.

Sister Elisha of St. Clement died at noon on Christmas Day 1927. She had predicted: "I will die on a feast day."


Life of Father Michael McGivney
By Catherine Smibert

ROME, MARCH 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- You could call it an American success story, with a Catholic twist.

A new book, "Parish Priest," tells the life of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's fraternal benefit society.

It is about a meek yet strong leadership. It shows how one priest, by helping his parishioners, changed the face of the Church in his own country and beyond.

A co-author of the work, Julie Fenster, was in Rome for a book-signing held at the North American College last Tuesday.

Fenster talked about her subject, Father McGivney (1852-1890).

"There's always going to be prejudice in any age and anywhere," she said, "and the way this parish priest chose to deal with his very anti-Catholic surroundings of the mid-late 1800s is inspiring."

Fenster isn't your typical biographer of saintly folks. Actually she's a historian who tends to specialize in American heritage, presenting often-untold stories of pioneers and heroes. But, there was something about Father McGivney that put him in this category for her and her co-author, historian David Brinkley.

"Father McGivney wasn't negative but positive, and felt that Catholic values coincided with fundamental American ones," Fenster contended.

"One of the ways he proved that, was through the founding of the Knights of Columbus which gave Catholic men a spiritual support system and drew them into their Church even more," she said. "But it could also put a pragmatic yet deeply spiritual face on Catholicism for a lot of mainstream Americans so they could see and understand how crucial family life is to Catholics."

Her co-author Brinkley agrees: "Father McGivney served as a sort of John the Baptist of the modern insurance movement."

Also on hand at the book-signing was the postulator for the cause of Father McGivney's beatification, Dominican Father Gabriel O'Donnell. He said the backgrounds of the authors strengthen the book.

"Though it has not been written in any way to promote Catholicism or the priesthood, it does just that and more effectively," Father O'Donnell said. "The authors, as credible historians, can say things about the Church that are more objective and won't risk sounding self-promoting."

Fenster observed how Father McGivney promoted the American dream to his faithful in a less conventional way: "Moving beyond the influences of kings, generals, etc., Father McGivney was different because he led from the back.

"He wasn't a ferocious leader who swung his arms around, but one whose idea of being a leader was to live the Christian life -- to be mild in his personal relationships with other people. If we look at successful businesspeople we see these are qualities that translate even into our times."

It's through this leadership, and a vision of the family as the building block of society, that have brought the current count of members of his benevolent order to 1.7 million. It’’s also what attracted the around 175 diocesan seminarians present for the book-signing.

"The book focuses on a very humble priest who was never swayed or tempted toward apathy," Fenster said. "And our goal through this event is to turn that focus to those studying for the priesthood as if to honor them through this book and to respect what they have the potential to be."

Nick Schneider, a seminarian from North Dakota, said he was impressed and enlightened by the presentation.

"Anyone who has a great zeal for the faith and is familiar with our social climate is always a great example for us," he told me afterward. "It's important for us studying in Rome and for all American Catholics to know more about exceptional characters in the history of the Church in our nation."

Father O'Donnell, the postulator, commented on the daily e-mails from people who learn about Father McGivney: "They say they feel that though he is a model figure, he's reachable and ever present."

The diocesan phase of Father McGivney's cause has been completed. The Congregation for Sainthood Causes is now reviewing his case.

Father O'Donnell called Father McGivney "a remarkable example of what makes a good parish priest at a difficult time. And there was a deep spirituality there that is a witness to the whole world, to families and certainly to priests and seminarians."


Father Andrea Santoro

ROME, FEB. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Jewish-Italian Fund planted a tree in Jerusalem in memory of Father Andrea Santoro, the missionary who was killed in Turkey on Feb. 5.

The initiative was promoted by Emmanuele Pacifici, a member of the Jewish Community of Rome and president of the Friends of Yad Vashem Association. He contacted the Jewish-Italian Fund and wrote a letter of solidarity to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome.

Pacifici told ZENIT that he "felt immense grief" for what happened to Father Santoro, who was killed while he was praying.

Pacifici's own father, the chief rabbi of Genoa, has been seized while praying, and then tortured and deported to Auschwitz, from where he never returned.

As a child, Pacifici was saved from Nazi persecution thanks to the help of the nuns of St. Martha in Settignano, Florence.

He explained that in Jewish religious tradition a tree symbolizes life. Since 1962 a tree is planted in the Avenue of Righteous Gentiles, near Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, in memory of those who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination and who have been declared "Righteous among the Nations."


Remembering a Missionary Killed in Turkey
Note of Cardinal Sepe in Memory of Father Andrea Santoro

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the note of Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in memory of Father Andrea Santoro, the Italian missionary who was killed in Turkey on Feb. 5.

The text, adapted here, was published by Fides, the dicastery's news agency.

* * *

"Unless the grain of wheat which falls to the ground dies, it remains alone; if it dies, it produces much fruit" (John 12:24). This Gospel verse, we learn from those around him, was often on the lips of Father Andrea Santoro. Almost like a program for life, to be kept continually in mind, or, considering his death, a forewarning, an announcement that his life offered for the cause of the Gospel would not be fruitless.

Father Andrea was neither unprepared nor imprudent: He had studied and had become very familiar with the culture and environment in which he chose to live, he was aware that an extreme act such as the one which killed him was not to be excluded.

He loved God profoundly and with the same intensity he loved all those whom the Lord placed on his path in Rome and in Turkey. Besides, there is an unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor: "One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether …… love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God and closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God" (cfr. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 16).

All missionaries know they may be called to sacrifice their life for the cause of the Gospel. However, a violent death is not something accidental which must be simply taken into account, it is the supreme offering of self.

Missionaries put their lives in the hands of the Lord with full awareness and with love, knowing that should their blood be shed it will not be in vain, it will be nourishment and source of life for the local community and indeed for the whole Church.

Reverend Andrea was a missionary sent by the Diocese of Rome, the Church bathed in the blood of Sts. Peter and Paul and built on the sacrifice of a host of other martyrs. He went to the origins of the Church, to the place where the good news of the Gospel first began to spread, thanks to the work of St. Paul.

As a Christian who received the faith from that part of the world, he wanted to return there to give the faith in his turn. Reverend Andrea went to Turkey not to proselytize or to try to impose a change on the situation and society: His mission was one of presence, a presence of prayer and of concern for the material and spiritual poverty around him; he was absorbed in love for God and for every brother and sister with whom he came into contact.

"Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor," the Holy Father Benedict XVI writes in his first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (cfr. No. 15). "The concept of neighbor is now universalized, yet it remains concrete ... it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding _expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now" (ibid.).

The Father called Reverend Andrea home on the Lord's day, just after Mass when he had renewed the sacrifice of Christ's death and resurrection [……], as he was saying his prayers in the church entrusted to his care.

The profound, intimate, spiritual communion the priest was experiencing at that moment has now become fullness of life in the eternal embrace of God. His blood has been added to that of the host of other missionary martyrs who died while on mission in many different parts of the world and on many different frontiers: Many of them remain unknown, unknown their names and unknown their burial places.

But in the eyes of God their death was precious and the whole Church is indebted to them for their witness of faith, love and courage. Reverend Andrea was a Fidei Donum priest (gift of faith) sent on mission to Turkey by the Diocese of Rome. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the "Fidei Donum" encyclical written by Pope Pius XII who instituted this form of missionary service, let us pray that the blood shed by this priest may irrigate the soil of our local Churches, flow abundantly in the hearts of priests and men and women religious, pour into our young people and enflame them with love and readiness for mission.

As we return the mortal body of Reverend Andrea to the earth while waiting for the glorious day of resurrection and unending joy, we pray to the Lord "that the sacrifice of his life may promote the cause of dialogue among religions and peace among peoples" (Benedict XVI, General Audience, Feb. 8, 2006), certain that -- when and how the Lord alone wills and knows -- the Church and the world will reap abundant fruits from this little seed now buried in the earth.


Pope Hears Support for Beatification of Mafia Victim
Palermo Prelate Extols Example of Father Giuseppe Puglisi

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- In a private audience with Benedict XVI, the archbishop of Palermo supported the cause of beatification of a diocesan priest who was murdered by the Mafia.

Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, prelate of the Sicilian capital, recalled the "heroic witness" of Father Giuseppe Puglisi, who was gunned down Sept. 15, 1993, outside his church.

The Archdiocese of Palermo on Monday disclosed the content of the cardinal's audience with the Pope, held three days earlier.

Cardinal De Giorgi expressed to the Holy Father "the greetings of the Church of Palermo" and thanked him "for the interest he has shown in it since the start of his pontificate," states the note.

"The archbishop made particular reference to this pastoral interest of the Pope, reminding him of the heroic testimony of the Servant of God, Giuseppe Puglisi," it adds. The priest was killed by the Sicilian Mafia on his 56th birthday.

Father Puglisi was "guilty" of being concerned for the children of Palermo's Brancaccio neighborhood. His concern conflicted with Mafia interests and cost him his life. A film has been made of the priest's life.

"As he already did during the conclave," the statement of the Archdiocese of Palermo says, Cardinal De Giorgi "emphasized to the Pope that Father Puglisi was killed because, as priest, he educated the children and young people evangelically, in respect for legality and thus removed them from the seductions of the Mafia."

Well known

The note states that the cardinal stressed how Father Puglisi's witness is already known beyond Italy's borders.

It "constitutes an exemplary point of reference both for priests as well as faithful in the struggle against evil and the promotion of good," the statement says.

"The Holy Father followed with great interest the exposition of the cardinal, who expressed the expectation of a favorable result of the process of beatification for martyrdom, under examination by the Congregation for Sainthood Causes," states the communiquéé.

Benedict XVI assured the cardinal that "the witness of this priest is very important to him."

Recognition of the martyrdom would open the doors of Father Puglisi's beatification without the need to verify a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Pontiff Praises St. John Bosco as "Teacher of Life"


St. John Bosco   VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).-
Benedict XVI extolled the example of St. John Bosco as a "teacher of life" for young people.

The Holy Father referred to the famed priest and educator (1815-1888) at the end of today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

"See in him, dear young people, an authentic teacher of life and holiness," the Pope said, a day after the liturgical memorial of the Italian saint.

Addressing the sick in attendance at the audience, Benedict XVI encouraged them to learn "from your spiritual experience to trust the crucified Christ in all circumstances."

He also addressed the newlyweds present, who arrived in their wedding clothes. The Holy Father urged that they take recourse to St. John Bosco's intercession, "that he may help you to assume with generosity your mission of spouses."

The saint, who founded the Salesian Society, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, and the Pious Union of Salesian Cooperators, dedicated his life to the education of the poor in Turin, Italy.

Antonio Rosmini: A Thinker Vindicated
Defenders Hoping to Start Cause of Beatification

ROME, NOV. 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A 19th-century priest whose writings were once condemned by the Holy Office is now a possible candidate for beatification.

The process of beatification might begin for Antonio Rosmini Serbati (1797-1855), a profound thinker. Some of his works were condemned because of erroneous interpretations promoted by a few of his followers.

Ordained a priest in 1821, he went on in 1830 to found the Institute of Charity, a religious congregation recognized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Despite his absolute fidelity to Pope Pius IX, in 1849 the ecclesiastical authorities placed two of Father Rosmini's works on the Index of banned books. Condemned later with the doctrinal decree "Post Obitum" were 40 of his propositions, taken especially from posthumous works and others published in his lifetime.

It was not until July 1, 2001, that a note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by the then prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, removed every shadow doubt about Father Rosmini.

Genuine posture

Father Vito Nardin, provincial superior of the Italian Rosminians from 1997 to 2003, said in statements to ZENIT that he believes the cause of beatification of Father Rosmini might begin before July, to mark the 150th anniversary of his death.

Explaining why the Vatican's doctrinal congregation lifted the ban on Father Rosmini's writings, Father Nardin explained that "the serious and rigorous scientific publications demonstrate that the interpretations contrary to the faith do not correspond with Rosmini's genuine posture."

The conclusion, he said, is that "the reasons for concern and prudence and the doctrinal difficulties which determined the promulgation of the 'Post Obitum' decree of condemnation of the Forty Propositions, taken from Antonio Rosmini's works, can be considered surmounted."

"The condemnation continues to be valid for those who read them outside the context of Rosmini, …… with a meaning contrary to the Catholic faith and doctrine," clarified the priest.

Papal praise

In his encyclical "Fides et Ratio," Pope John Paul II presented Rosmini as one of the thinkers who effected a fruitful encounter between philosophic learning and the Word of God.

"In words that are comprehensible to all it can be expressed thus: 'The accused has not committed the deed,'" said Father Nardin.

He also noted the "humility" of Father Rosmini, which "led him to accept condemnations and bans."


José Luis Sánchez: A Congregation's Inspiration
Interview With Legion of Christ Founder Father Marcial Maciel

ROME, NOV. 20, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Among those who witnessed the 1928 martyrdom of a now-beatified teen-ager in Mexico was a friend who went on to found the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.

Marcial Maciel was only 7 years old when he saw the execution of his 14-year-old friend Joséé Luis Sáánchez del Ríío. Joséé Luis was among 13 martyrs beatified today in Guadalajara, Mexico.

José Luis had joined the Cristeros, a large group of Mexican Catholics who rose against the religious persecution of the government of Plutarco Elíías Calles.

Q: You were a witness of Joséé Sáánchez del Ríío's martyrdom in Mexico. After almost 80 years, what do you remember of those moments? How did you meet Joséé?

Father Maciel: Joséé Luis -- as we, his friends, called him -- was from Sahuayo, Michoacan, a village not far from Cotija, my native village.

My maternal grandmother, Maura Guíízar Valencia, had her home there, and we often went to visit her. I was six years younger than Joséé Luis. He liked to organize games for the children. He would speak to us of Jesus. I remember that he took me to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He was very good.

When the religious persecution began, he wanted to join the Cristeros to defend the faith. He asked for permission several times, and in the end was received.

In February 1928 -- I was 7 years old, almost 8 -- I was in Sahuayo when we learned that Joséé Luis had been arrested and had been locked in the parish's baptistery.

One of the windows looked out on the street and from there we could hear him sing: "To heaven, to heaven, to heaven I want to go," while awaiting his sentence. The federals were using the parish as a prison, and also as a corral. Rafael Picazo, who controlled the village of Sahuayo, put as a condition to release him that he deny his faith before Picazo himself and his soldiers.

We all heard about this, and we were very worried and in a tremendously emotional and sad state. We, his friends, met together to pray for him. We cried a lot, asking the Most Holy Virgin that he not be killed but, at the same time, that he not renounce his faith. In fact, Joséé Luis wanted no part in [renouncing the faith].

And at the end of two days we learned, in the afternoon, that he had been taken to the Refuge inn. That night they cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk barefoot to the cemetery, which was several blocks away.

We -- a few relatives, friends, village acquaintances -- followed him from a distance. I remember the stains of blood left by his footsteps. He went with his hands bound behind his back and I remember the federals pushing him, insulting him and demanding that he stop crying out "Hail to Christ the King!" And his answer was always to cry: "Hail to Christ the King and Holy Mary of Guadalupe!"

We were only allowed to go to the cemetery's wall. They put him next to the grave. They say he was stabbed several times and that they kept insisting that he renounce his faith, but he answered: "Hail to Christ the King and Holy Mary of Guadalupe!" His father wasn't with us. He wasn't there. And they asked him mockingly: "What do you want your father to be told?" He answered: "That we will see each other in heaven."

Finally they shot him in the temple. I heard the shot that put an end to his life. You can imagine the profound impression this made on us, especially the children.

I have a very beautiful, profound memory of this friend of mine who gave his life for Christ; he has always been for me a testimony of what authentic love of Christ means. I also remember him with some nostalgia, because I would say to Our Lord: "Why did you choose him to be a martyr and leave me behind?"

Q: How did that testimony of martyrdom influence you in your personal life and in the work you would later undertake to found the Legionaries of Christ and the lay movement Regnum Christi?

Father Maciel: As I said, Joséé Luis' martyrdom left a profound, indelible mark on me. His death contributed to root in me the certainty that faith is worth more than life. It spoke to me of the eternal value of a life totally given for love of Christ, it stirred in me a longing for eternity ... but it was not only Joséé Luis.

In my village of Cotija, during the Cristero war, we often saw those who were hung in the square or witnessed the shooting of Cristeros who died crying out, "Hail to Christ the King!" They were leaving behind, perhaps, a family, children, a mother -- how many mothers encouraged their children not to renege on their faith!

I witnessed the martyrdom of Antonio Ibarra, a musician from by village, of Leonardo and several others. I still have engraved in my mind some of those faces and scenes, especially when they took Antonio down from the gallows and placed him in the arms and lap of his mother, Isabel Ibarra. And it was all kinds of people who were martyred in many villages of Mexico: children, youths and adults, men and women, rich and poor, priests and lay faithful.

I think the testimony of martyrdom of so many Christians, who preferred to shed their blood before betraying Jesus Christ, influenced my own life very much and my mission as founder, as it was a testimony that, so to speak, made one live the heroic faith of the early Christians.

That testimony helped me to understand that, to be coherent, a Christian life must be fully committed to Jesus Christ. A half-baked Christianity, of compromises, which "lights a candle to God and another to the devil," as the popular saying says, is not Christianity.

I would have liked to have given my life, as Joséé Luis Sáánchez did, as hundreds of thousands of Cristero martyrs did; but I understood that God was asking another kind of martyrdom of me, that of living the Gospel to its ultimate consequences. And it is this, in the end, that is behind the foundation of the Legion of Christ and of the Regnum Christ Movement: to help other people also to commit themselves to know, live and transmit the love of Jesus Christ.

When the time came to choose the name for the congregation that the Holy Spirit was inspiring me to found, I thought of several names in my mind, but the memory of the testimony of the Cristeros was an element that helped me to understand that the name that would best express our mission was that of Legionaries of Christ -- men who join the struggle for the Kingdom of Christ without keeping anything for themselves, men who are prepared to give their lives.

Q: José was killed and the Cristero movement he supported failed. Was it a futile death?

Father Maciel: In 1929 the Cristeros lay down their arms in obedience to the order of Pope Pius XI. The political authorities of the time did not keep their agreements with the Church and with the Cristeros, and many disarmed Cristeros afterward were killed.

It all ended in nothing. It seemed a failure. But as Tertullian said: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians."

On his first trip to Mexico in 1979, the first of his trips as a pilgrim around the world, John Paul II witnessed the enthusiasm and life of the faith that is breathed in Mexico, undoubtedly watered by the blood of the martyrs.

A martyrdom not only is never a futile death, but rather is a fruitful and redeeming death.

It is the death of the disciple who associates himself to his Master's cross, and who with him offers his life for the salvation of many men, including his own executioners.

Like Jesus, [the martyr's] death seems immediately a failure, but he is a luminous witness of the resurrection and of eternal life over death.

I have been able to witness several times that since Joséé Luis' death until today, many visit his tomb, take flowers to him, light candles, and pause there to pray, praying for his intercession.

As Jesus said: "God is not God of the dead, but of the living." When we pray to the saints, we know we are speaking with people who are alive, who have triumphed definitively and have reached happiness with God, toward which we journey during this life and to which we are all called.

Q: At 15 years, is a boy capable of giving his life for Christ? Can a 15-year-old boy know his vocation clearly?

Father Maciel: You ask me if a 15-year-old adolescent is capable of giving his life for Christ. The very context of this interview, Joséé Luis Sáánchez del Ríío's martyrdom, a boy of 14 years, is in itself an answer.

In your second question you establish a beautiful relationship, which encloses a great truth. Martyrdom is a call from God to give the whole of one's life for Christ in a few minutes. A vocation is also a call to give the whole of one's life for Christ, but day by day, minute by minute.

We must not forget that it is God who calls, and he chooses the moment to do so. God is the sower who deposits the seed.

He can awaken a priestly vocation in the heart of a child, as in that of a youth, as in that of an adult; when he sees the opportune moment. He knows how to find the way to make them feel clearly in their interior his invitation to follow him.

Of course, as happens with every process of maturation, in the life of a child and of a youth, the seed must grow in time, and the call will be studied and will have time to be pondered and verified.

The path toward the priesthood or consecrated life goes through different stages of formation, and the Church will admit those who are apt.

What is important is to be able to offer these children and adolescents who feel God's call in their interior at an early age, a space of freedom and a propitious environment, a "good earth," sun, water and air so that the seed can sprout in its time; this is what we try to do in the vocational centers of the Legion and of the Regnum Christi.

This was also my personal experience: I received the call to the priesthood at 14 years of age; I left my home for the seminary at 15 years; I have never doubted my vocation; I have been and am fully happy in my priesthood and I am already 85 ...

Q: Do you know that the founder of another religious congregation which arose in Mexico was also a witness of this martyrdom?

Father Maciel: I suppose you are referring to Father Enrique Amezcua Medina, founder of the priestly Confraternity of the Laborers of the Kingdom of Christ. He is from Colima.

I cannot tell you if he was a witness of the martyrdom, I rather think not, but I do believe that he owes his priestly vocation to Joséé Luis Sáánchez, whom he met in 1927, at the height of the Cristero war.

He said that when he was 9 years old, when he approached Joséé to get to know him, Joséé hugged the flag of Christ the King against his chest and spoke with much fervor about the Most Holy Virgin to a discouraged Cristero youth.

Father Enrique ... the boy Enrique, approached him and said he wanted to be like him, a soldier of Christ the King. Joséé smiled at him and said he was still too young, but that what he had to do was to pray much for him and for all the Cristeros.

Father Enrique recalled how he fixed his gaze on him and said: Perhaps God will want you to be a priest. And if one day you become a priest, you will be able to do many things that neither I nor we can do. So, don't fret.

They made a pact to always pray for one another, and they sealed it with a handshake. And Joséé Luis said good-bye to him: "Now, until God wills, see you soon, or in heaven ..."
Q: For what do you pray to Joséé Luis?

Father Maciel: For what I always pray: that he obtain from God the grace for all of us to be faithful to our faith and to our unconditional love of Christ until death. I entrust to him all children and adolescents.

I think that, as he was for me, Joséé will be for all of them an excellent model of friendship with Christ and of Christian faithfulness and coherence.


Message of the Mexican Martyrs
Interview With Father Luis Orozco, Author

ROME, NOV. 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The 13 Mexicans martyrs of the 1920s religious persecution who will be beatified next Sunday, help to explain the flowering of the Church in that country, says a scholar.

Legionary Father Luis Alfonso Orozco, a professor of theology at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, has published a book on the subject, "Martyrdom in Mexico During the Religious Persecution."

The priest, who gave an interview to ZENIT, says that the blood of these martyrs made possible the maturation of the Church in Mexico in the 20th century.

Q: Are they martyrs of the Cristero war of 1926-1929, or martyrs of the religious persecution which that conflict sparked? Is there a difference?

Father Orozco: A martyr is one who gives his life for confessing his faith. The circumstances of martyrdom are very varied.

Specifically, in Mexico, it was the lot of these people -- who were priests, farmers and youths, like Joséé Luis Sáánchez del Ríío, killed at 14 -- to live in circumstances that were particularly complex as were those that sparked the religious persecution.

The Church, in her theological and historical judgment, does not raise them to the altar because they participated in the "Cristiada," but because they confessed their faith in Christ.

Q: How important are these 13 beatifications? Is there some general characteristic that unites the new Mexican blessed?

Father Orozco: They are the third group of martyrs of the "Cristiada" raised to the altar. The essential characteristic of this group is that the majority of the blessed are lay people. An interesting heterogeneous group, but in these 13 blessed is reflected the variety and the richness of martyrdom in the Church.

Q: What importance does the martyrs' message have for our time?

Father Orozco: The Christian people are called to confess their faith in Jesus, but not all Christians are called to be martyrs. Martyrdom is a gift given to us by God.

Pope John Paul II said that in these times Christians might not be asked for the testimony of blood but for the testimony of fidelity: to be faithful to the given word, to commitments assumed, to public witness of what we are.

Whoever is faithful to Christ in these difficult times is in a certain sense also a martyr.

Q: Is the blood of martyrs useful to people?
Father Orozco: In my particular case, one of the motivations that induced me to carry on with my research on martyrdom in Mexico during the religious persecution, is the immortal phrase of Tertullian, who, around the third century A.D., said: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christian life."

It has been confirmed in the course of the history of the Church that, precisely, wherever there was a persecution, wherever there were martyrs who shed their blood in different circumstances, those places, those particular Churches afterward grew and flourished.

It is as if God, in his providence, has a very outstanding place reserved for the martyrs. And, of course, for peoples who have given martyrs to the universal Church.

Q: Their blood is not shed in vain?

Father Orozco: Their testimony does not fall into the void. That generous blood is united, in a certain way, to the blood of Christ shed on the cross, with which he redeemed the human race.

The blood of martyrs shed in all ages, contributes -- with its part -- to the work of redemption initiated by Christ.

In Mexico, in the 20th century, the Mexican Church reached its maturity, precisely because of the blood of these martyrs. The popular faith and family unity experienced in Mexico is also its consequence.

There is no doubt that the faith of the Mexican people has emerged strengthened from the events of martyrdom.


A Mexican Gandhi Nears Beatification
Anacleto Gonzáález Flores, Symbol of 1920s Martyrdom

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, NOV. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Thirteen Mexicans martyred during the religious persecution of the 1920s will be beatified in Guadalajara next Sunday according to Benedict XVI's new guidelines.

Among the martyrs who died during the so-called Cristero war of 1926-1929, the most outstanding is Anacleto González Flores.

He was a lay leader who was very active from 1915 until the year of his martyrdom, 1927, at the hands of the federal army commanded by Mexican President Plutarco Elíías Calles.

González Flores founded the Popular Union, better known as the "U," a movement that included labor, women and farmers. It promoted catechesis and actively opposed the local and federal governments in their measures to suppress religious freedom.

Because of his option for pacifism and nonviolence during the Cristero war, González Flores was known as the "Mexican Gandhi."

Married and the father of two, "Master Cleto," as he was known, was born in Tepatitlan, in the state of Jalisco, in July 1888.

He came from humble origins. The son of an alcoholic weaver, he did various jobs until he received his law degree at 33 in 1921. Before that, he had been a seminarian and postulant in the seminaries of San Juan de los Lagos and Guadalajara.


In 1914, when all churches were closed on the order of Joséé Guadalupe Zuno, governor of Jalisco, González Flores organized the Popular Union and founded the newspaper Gladium, "sword" in Latin, a word with which he already dreamed of martyrdom.

Confrontations between the government and Catholics started in July 1918, to which González Flores responded with the philosophy of "peaceful resistance."

He was arrested in 1919 for his social, political and religious ideals. Three years later he coordinated the first Catholic Labor Congress in Guadalajara and organized the National Catholic Labor Conference that spread throughout the country.

In May 1925 the National League in Defense of Religious Freedom was founded in Mexico City. It favored recourse to arms, but González Flores disagreed, and insisted on moral strength to win the battle.

Militants arrived in the capital in 1926 with an ultimatum for the Popular Union, which obliged him to enter the National League. The armed movement began the following year, which Gonzáález Flores accepted with regret.

Taken prisoner

General Jesús Ferreira decided to put an end to the Popular Union by taking the "Master" prisoner. González Flores was arrested on March 31, 1927, and martyred the following day. His executioners hanged him by his thumbs and then, at bayonet point, kept torturing him to disclose the whereabouts of the archbishop of Guadalajara and other leaders of the Cristero Revolution.

Finally, the steel blade fatally pierced his heart. At the same time, his companions in the struggle and martyrdom were shot in the courtyard of the same prison.

The "Master" asked to be killed after his companions, so as to be able to console them.

Before dying, González Flores told the general in charge: "I forgive you from my heart; we will soon meet before the divine tribunal, the same judge who will judge me will judge you; then you will have an intercessor in me with God."

González Flores' process of beatification was opened officially and solemnly on Oct. 15, 1994, in the Shrine of Guadalupe, in Guadalajara, where his mortal remains rest. Many faithful flock there to venerate his memory.


Maria Pia Mastena: Saw Jesus in the Sick and Poor
Founder of the Sisters of the Holy Face to Be Beatified

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See issued a biography of Maria Pia Mastena (1881-1951), founder of the Sisters of the Holy Face, who will be beatified Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica. An adapted excerpt of the biography appears below.

* * *

Maria Pia Mastena was born in Bovolone in the Italian province of Verona on Dec. 7, 1881.

Her parents were exemplary Christians and very fervent in the practice of the faith and in works of charity. Of their four children, the last, Tarcisio, entered the Capuchin Franciscans, and he too died with a reputation for sanctity.

The future blessed received her first Communion on March 19, 1891, with great fervor, and on this occasion she made a private vow of perpetual chastity. On Aug. 27, 1891, she received the sacrament of confirmation. During her adolescence she was assiduous at religious functions and at parish activities, especially as a catechist.

Shortly afterward she sensed a calling to religious life, and she pursued this ideal that was characterized by a strong Eucharistic devotion and devotion to the Holy Face. She requested to enter religious life at age 14, but she was only accepted as a postulant in 1901 in the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Verona.

With the permission of her superiors, on April 11, 1903, she made "a private vow to be a victim soul."

She was vested with the religious habit on Sept. 29, 1902, and on Oct. 24, 1904, she professed vows of religious life and received the name Sister Passitea Maria of the Child Jesus.

The blessed lived this phase of her life with particular spiritual intensity and she would also recall that it was a time of grace and blessing. The fervor which she experienced in the institute would be an inspiration for her to take a vow to seek perfection in all things.

She was a teacher in various places in the Veneto region, in particular for more than 19 years in Miane, where she dedicated herself to an intense apostolate to students of every age, infirmity and disability.

With the authorization of her superiors and the "nulla osta" of the Holy See, on April 15, 1927, she entered the Cistercian monastery of Veglie, to fulfill a deep desire for the contemplative life.

On Nov. 15, 1927, with the encouragement of the bishop of Vittorio Veneto, she left the monastery, resumed teaching and proceeded toward the foundation of a new religious institute called the Sisters of the Holy Face. It was canonically recognized on Dec. 8, 1936, and, after great suffering, it was recognized as a congregation of pontifical right on Dec. 10, 1947.

The entire apostolic ministry that followed was dedicated to the establishment and the expansion of the congregation, through promoting new initiatives for the poor, the suffering and the sick.

The blessed entrusted to the institute the mission to "engender, restore, and rediscover the image of the gentle Jesus in souls."

She died in Rome on June 28, 1951.


Maria Crocifissa Curcio: Her Life
Founder of Carmelite Missionary Sisters to Be Beatified

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See issued a biography of Maria Crocifissa Curcio (1877-1957), founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Théérèèse of the Child Jesus, who will be beatified Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica. An adapted excerpt of the biography appears below.

* * *

Maria Crocifissa Curcio, founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, was born in Ispica, Sicily, in the Diocese of Noto, on Jan. 30, 1877. Her parents were Salvatore Curcio and Concetta Franzòò.

The seventh of 10 siblings, she spent her childhood in a highly cultural and social home environment, in which she quickly exhibited lively intelligence and a pleasant personality. Strong-willed and determined, in her early teens she developed a strong tendency toward piety, with specific attention toward the weak and marginalized.

At home she was raised under the strict moral guidelines. But according to the customs of the era, her father did not permit her to study beyond grade six.

This deprivation cost her greatly. However, eager to learn, she drew comfort from the many books in the family library, where she found a copy of the "Life of St. Teresa of Jesus." The impact of this saint enabled her to come to know and love the Carmel, and so she began her "study of celestial things."

In 1890, at age 13, she succeeded, not without difficulty, in enrolling in the Carmelite Third Order. Because of her regular attendance at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and her deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who "had captured her heart since childhood" by assigning her the mission of "making the Carmel reflourish," her knowledge of Carmelite spirituality made her understand the divine plans in store for her.

She desired to share the ideal of a Missionary Carmel, which unites the contemplative dimension with that of a specifically apostolic dimension. So she began an initial experience of community life with a few fellow members of the Third Order in a small apartment in her ancestral home, which her siblings had bequeathed to her.

She then transferred to Modica, where she was entrusted with the management of the "Carmela Polara" conservatory for the acceptance and assistance of young females who were orphans or in any way needy. Maria had the firm resolution to turning them into "worthy women who would be useful to themselves and to society."

After several years of trials and hardships in the vain attempt to see this undertaking of hers in some way supported and officially recognized by the local ecclesiastic authorities, she finally managed to obtain the support and agreement of her missionary ideal in Father Lorenzo Van Den Eerenbeemt, a Carmelite Father of the Ancient Order.

On May 17, 1925, she came to Rome for the canonization of St. Théérèèse of the Child Jesus, and the next day, accompanied by Father Lorenzo, she visited Santa Marinella, a small town on the Latium coast north of Rome. She was struck by the natural beauty of this region, but also by the extreme poverty of a great number of this town's inhabitants. It was here that she finally realized that she had reached her landing place.

Having obtained an oral permission "of experiment" from the bishop of the Diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, Cardinal Antonio Vico, on July 3, 1925, she definitively settled in Santa Marinella. On July 16, 1926, she received the decree of affiliation of her small community with the Carmelite order.

In 1930, after many sufferings, her small nucleus obtained the recognition of the Church. Cardinal Tommaso Pio Boggiani, ordinary of the Diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, established the Congregation of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Théérèèse of the Child Jesus as an institute of diocesan rights.

"To bring souls to God" is the objective that brought to life the numerous openings of educational and charitable institutions in Italy and abroad. For this reason Maria urged her daughters to bring a Christian point of view to families.

She was able to achieve her missionary yearning in 1947 when she sent the first sisters to Brazil with the mandate to "never forget the poor."

With her entire life marked by poor health and diabetes, which she forced herself to always accept with strength and a serene adhesion to the will of God, she passed the last years of her life in illness, continuing to pray and to give of herself to her sisters, to whom she offered a precious example of virtues.

She intensely cultivated the union of love with Christ in the Eucharist by giving all of herself to make amends "for the immense number of souls who do not know and do not love God." She urged her sisters to "love with holiness the treasures with which the Divine Goodness entrusts you; the souls of the youth, the hope of the future."


The hidden life of Charles de Foucauld
An explorer, monk and priest who did nothing by half-measures:  by KATE WHITE

Charles de Foucauld lived a remarkable life of adventure, deprivation and devotion. He was a man of extremes, an aristocratic bon vivant whose conversion to Christianity led him to embrace a life of radical solitude and prayer. He was killed in 1916 by a group of rebels in the Algerian desert where he had lived in the midst of a Berber tribe for 10 years, drawn to serve the poor and the forsaken.

Foucauld, who will be beatified in Rome Nov. 13, was inspired by the “hidden life” of Jesus in Nazareth and hoped that other disciples of Jesus would be as well. He championed a life for religious that would not only be found in enclosed communities, monasteries or convents but lived among ordinary people.
He hoped lay missionaries would come to the southern part of Algeria. He envisioned Christians who would participate in the local economy and live a Christian life among a Muslim population. All this in the early 1900s.

The Muslim holy man who said of Foucauld, “He has given his time to the Eternal,” did not say, “He has given his life” but rather “his time.” To give one’’s time is a very concrete, demanding experience. To give one’’s life seems more abstract. During many hours of adoration in front of the Eucharist, Foucauld had images of the role of the church. Missionaries should live among the poor and be witnesses to the life of Christ. They should not necessarily preach the Gospel with words, but live the joy and simplicity and poverty of a life like that of Jesus.

He thought the liturgy should be celebrated in the language of the people of the country where it was being celebrated. Foucauld wanted the Catholic worship of God to be open and understandable to nonbelievers.
His belief in the real presence in the Eucharist was so strong that he felt the presence of Christ in the Eucharist had a spiritual effect on the persons around it. He believed the real presence held the world together.

Those who were influenced or inspired by Foucauld include Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Jacques Maritain and John Howard Griffin, author of Black Like Me. “This man, he’s like an addiction. He’s contagious,” said Fr. Lennie Tighe, a Boston priest who is a member of Jesus Caritas, a fraternity of diocesan priests inspired by the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld. It, like the many Foucauld-inspired lay fraternities, emphasizes solitude, simplicity, a spirit of adoration and “a love of the desert, of withdrawal from time to time,” said Fr. Tighe.

For some, Foucauld’s appeal lies in his nonconformism. For others, the purity and intensity of his calling and the human struggles he experienced in his life attract them. Certainly, he was a man of paradoxes. The Web site for Jesus Caritas describes Foucauld in these words: “While longing to establish a community, he never had a member. He was a human being: attractive and enigmatic, a product of his time yet classically mysterious.”

He inherited a fortune

Charles de Foucauld was born Sept. 15, 1858, into a noble family in Strasbourg, France. During the summer, his extended family would meet in the country home of his parents. Charles’’ parents died while he was still a child, and he inherited a large fortune. Aside from his sister, his closest family relationship was with Marie Moitessier, a first cousin nine years older, whose quiet faith would later greatly influence him.

Charles de Foucauld was excessive in whatever he did. As a young army officer at the Military Academy of Saumur, he was known for a great consumption of the best foie gras and the best champagne. He became almost obese. As a young army officer assigned to duty in the French department of Algeria, he made a liaison with a young woman, “Mimi,” whom he brought to all the gatherings of officers and their wives. This was the 1880s and the French army was known for its strong Catholic traditional opinions. The wives of the officers “were not amused” by the presence of Charles’ mistress.

When Charles’ superior officers requested that he not bring the lady to all the social functions, he refused to conform, resigned from the army and with Mimi returned to France. In 1881, back in France and living in Evian, he read in a newspaper that the army division of which he was a member in Algeria had been attacked by a rebellious tribe and had taken serious casualties. Immediately he left for Algeria and rejoined his division to fight in the Sahara. In fighting the Arab tribes, he came to respect his adversaries and set out to learn Arabic. This led to studying the Quran and then the Bible. He was struck by the great sense of hospitality found in even the poorest Muslim homes. His spirit became immersed in the vast spaces of the desert. In their unlimited horizons, he saw an icon of eternity.

Charles was not the first Frenchman to grow to respect the Muslim faith. Several young Frenchmen, including Ernest Psichari, the grandchild of Renan, were converted back to their childhood faith through the experience of adoration by the Muslims in the desert. But while Charles was moved by the sight of a Muslim stopping in the desert to spread a rug and bow to the presence of the Almighty, he remained an agnostic. God, if he existed, was unknowable In 1882, Charles resigned from the army. Shortly afterward, he decided to go on an exploratory mission in the region of the Sahara that was along Morocco’s Algerian border. Morocco, at that time, did not allow Europeans to enter its borders. Charles joined a caravan of Eastern European and Middle Eastern Jews traveling through Algeria and Morocco. He was exceptionally gifted in foreign languages and managed to pass as an itinerant rabbi fleeing persecution in Russia. He took notes on the geography of the area and upon his return to Paris published his findings.

Another exploratory expedition, in 1885-86, took him to the oases in South Algeria and Tunisia. French soldiers were posted in the Algerian Sahara, and Charles ascribed to their presence a “peacekeeping” mission. Before the French army took control of the area, it was common for the villages in the desert oases to be raided by traveling tribes on horseback. It was so common that people in the oases felt discouraged from storing water, planting crops, building permanent dirt houses or undertaking other long-term plans. In his caravan trip to Algeria and Morocco, Charles saw up close the local population and their relationship with the French military. He thought the military could and should bring the benefits of the French republic to the desert dwellers and should put an end to intertribal warfare. Later when he lived in the Sahara, he worked to stop the practice of slavery among the nomadic tribes.

In 1886 back in Paris, Charles took an apartment near his cousin Marie Moitessier, now married and the vicomtesse Olivier de Bondy, and prepared his conferences on the topography of the Sahara near and inside Morocco. The Eiffel Tower was being built in Paris, but Charles was worlds away in his mind studying Arabic and the Muslim faith. “Mimi” seems to have disappeared from the picture.
‘God, if you exist ……’

He was frequently in the home of his cousin, a devout Roman Catholic who never mentioned his excesses but hoped he would return to the faith of his childhood and incorporated him into her family. Her confessor was l’Abbé Henri Huvelin, a popular diocesan priest assigned to the church of St. Augustine in Paris. Not yet 30, he found the question of “faith” was much on his mind. According to a biography by Jean François Six, Foucauld would visit churches and silently pray, “God, if you exist, let me know it.” One October day in 1886 he went to see l’Abbé Huvelin in the confessional at the church of St. Augustine. Charles said he wanted to talk about “the faith” and the priest answered, “Why don’’t you begin with a good confession?” Charles converted to faith in Christ at that instant. It reminds one of the conversion of Paul Claudel, the French poet, playwright and diplomat, who said that one Christmas day, as he was standing by a pillar in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, faith came to him in a flash.

Charles would later remark, “My religious vocation dates from the same hour as my faith: God is so great.” Three events shaped his vocation. The first was a sermon by l’Abbé Huvelin in which he said that Jesus took the last place. Foucauld wanted to be with Jesus in the last place. With a friend, he visited a Trappist monastery and happened to see a monk who had an old mended habit. The monk looked like a beggar and Charles decided he wanted to be that poor. The third was a visit to the Holy Land beginning at the end of November 1888 and ending in February 1889. His visit to Nazareth brought him a great desire to live as Jesus lived, hidden, a workman, without prestige or power.

Prayer, poverty, solitude

In 1890, Foucauld entered the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Snows in France. At the insistence of l’’Abbéé Huvelin, he had waited three years before entering. Almost from the beginning, he struggled to fulfill his own sense of religious calling. He fought frequently with his superiors, who wanted him to become a priest, while Foucauld wanted to return to the desert to be a hermit. He longed to live a life of prayer, poverty and solitude, to triumph over his own feelings of laziness and half-heartedness. He wished for self-abnegation, even abjection, in his desire to imitate the life of Jesus.

Six months after he entered Our Lady of the Snows, Foucauld, at his request, moved to a poorer monastery in Syria, then part of the Ottoman Empire. The monastery employed over a dozen laborers, and Foucauld was in put in charge of the workers who were building a road. Foucauld was uneasy with this; he felt he had not become a monk to give orders to others. He wanted “the last place” and began dreaming of a new community of persons living with and among the poor. He remarked, “Jesus lived by the work of his hands. He did not live on donations, offerings or the work of foreign workers to whom he gave orders.”

In Syria, Foucauld drafted his initial rule for a religious community. As he saw it, no past worldly status of a monk should influence his place in the community. He did not want some monks to be priests and others to do manual labor. He believed that monks should not own property but should live from day to day as simply as possible. The diet was to be meager, based on that of the local people. He sent his rule to his spiritual confessor. Concerned that the rule was too demanding, even frightening in its severity, l’Abbé Huvelin replied, “Live as a poor person …… as abjectly as you like, but I beg of you, don’’t write a rule for others.”

In 1897 Foucauld moved to the Holy Land to live as a servant to the cloistered Poor Clares in Nazareth. He lived in a tool hut in the back of the garden and was in charge of running the community’s errands in town. He did odd jobs, carpentry and masonry, dug in the garden and studied the Bible. He organized each hour of the day, praying, writing in his diary, eating the minimum possible, working, reading the Gospel, and back to praying. He would spend all night in the chapel in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Shortly before his move to Nazareth, the Ottoman Turks had massacred some 140,000 Armenians in 1895. Foucauld was deeply affected by the slaughter. He regretted not being a priest who could comfort the Armenians and minister to them in their own language. In Nazareth he began to think seriously of becoming a missionary and priest.

On June 9, 1901, Charles de Foucauld was ordained a priest and went to the Sahara near Morocco to live as a “hermit missionary” among non-Christians. He still dreamed of being joined by a small community that would live with him in the desert. He revised his rule, which was nonetheless still severe. He wrote that he would demand three things of his companions: that they be ready to have their heads cut off, to die of starvation and to obey him “in spite of his worthlessness.”

For the next 15 years he lived as a missionary hermit, settling first near a French military base and later in a Touareg village in the southern part of the Sahara. The Touareg were a Berber people, and Foucauld prepared the first dictionary and grammar of the Touareg language, translated the four Gospels into Touareg and undertook a translation of Touareg poetry. He divided his time between prayer, intellectual work and visits from the Touareg. All the time, he longed for manual work.

In a way he was not hidden at all like Jesus of Nazareth but was a focal point for the community. He gave as little time as possible to eating and sleeping -- to the point of becoming ill with scurvy. (This is the man who once had enjoyed the best foie gras and champagne.) The local people respected his life of poverty, prayer and hospitality. Foucauld made no attempt to convert them. Foucauld said once, “It would make as much sense to start by preaching the news of Jesus to the Muslims here as it would for a Muslim preacher to go to a town in Brittany [a Catholic stronghold in France].”

In 1916, Fr. Charles de Foucauld was shot by a band of robbers during an anti-French uprising. He was alone when he died, but within a decade of his death a biography had spread word of him and over time Foucauld’’s life and writings came to inspire others to follow in his path of prayer, adoration of the Eucharist, love of the desert and radical simplicity.

Today 19 different movements exist throughout the world of lay people, priests and religious following Foucauld’s instructions to live simply among the poor, to do the same kind of work as their neighbors do and to live the Gospel faith not so much by word as by example. Initially, most of the members of the religious communities inspired by Foucauld worked in factories or as manual laborers. These days members of the Little Brothers of Jesus or the Little Sisters of Jesus do many kinds of work, for religious specialization is the antithesis of what Foucauld thought important -- that is, humble, fraternal love for Jesus and for others. Foucauld’s originality lay in recognizing that it is not necessary to teach others, to cure them or to improve them; it is only necessary to live among them, sharing the human condition and being present to them in love.

Kate White lived in France for 20 years where she worked at the House of Ananias, a center for the catechumenate in Paris. (November 11, 2005)


Eurosia Fabris

Eurosia Fabris was born in Quinto Vicentino, an agricultural area, near Vicenza, on Sept. 27, 1866. Her parents, Luigi and Maria Fabris, were farmers.

At the age of 4, Eurosia moved with her family to Marola, a village in the municipality of Torri di Quartesolo. She lived there for the rest of her life. She attended only the first two years of elementary school between 1872 and 1874 because even at such a young age, she was forced to help her parents with farm work and her mother in particular with the household chores.

It was enough, however, for her to learn to read and write with the help of the Scriptures or religious books such as a catechism.

Besides her domestic tasks, she helped her mother in her work as a dressmaker, a practice which Eurosia would also take on later. Even as a child, she was rich in virtue and spirituality, always careful in providing for the needs of her family.

She was 12 when she made her first Communion. From then on, she received the Eucharist on all religious feasts, since at that time daily Communion was not the practice.

Eurosia joined the Association of the Daughters of Mary in the parish church of Marola, and was faithful in participating in their devotions. She diligently observed the practices of the group which helped increase in her a love for Mary. In Marola, she lived within sight of the shrine of the Madonna of Monte Berico.

Her favorite devotions were to the Holy Spirit, the infant Jesus, the cross of Christ, the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the souls in the purgatory. She was an apostle of good will in her family, among her friends, and in her parish, where she taught catechism to the children and sewing to the girls who came to her home.

By age 18, Eurosia was dedicated, pious and hardworking. These virtues, along with her pleasant personality, did not go unobserved and several young men proposed marriage to her, though she did not feel called to accept.

In 1885, Rosina, as she was called by her family, was affected by a tragic event. A young married woman near her home died, leaving three very young daughters. The first of them died shortly after her mother. The other two girls, Chiara Angela and Italia, were only 20 months and 2 months old, respectively. The father of these girls was away, living with his uncle and a grandfather who suffered from a chronic disease. They were three very different men, always quarrelling among themselves.

For six months, every morning, Rosina would go to care for the children and take care of their home. Later, following the advice of her relatives and that of the parish priest, and after praying about this turn of events, she decided to marry.

Rosina was joined in marriage to a man named Carlo Barban, well aware of the sacrifices that married life would hold for her in the future. She accepted this fact as the will of God who she now felt was calling her through these two babies to embrace a new mission. The parish priest would often comment: "This was a true act of heroic charity toward others."

The marriage was celebrated on the fifth of May 1886 and, in addition to the two orphaned babies, was blessed with nine other children. Her home was always opened to other children as well. Among them were Mansueto Mazzuco, who became a member of the Order of Friars Minor, taking the name Brother Giorgio.

To all these children, "Mamma Rosa," as she was called since her marriage, offered affection and care, sacrificing her own needs to provide for them a solid Christian formation. From 1918 to 1921, three of her sons were ordained priests, two for the diocesan clergy and one as a Franciscan (Father Bernardino), who would become her first biographer.

Once married, she embraced her marital obligations, always showing the greatest love and respect for her husband and becoming his confidant and adviser. She had a tender love for all her children. She was a hard worker who fulfilled her duties.

Mamma Rosa lived an intense life of prayer, which was evident by her great devotion to God love's, to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like the strong woman in Scripture, she became a treasure to her family.

She knew how to balance the family budget and at the same time exercised great charity toward the poor, sharing her daily bread also with them. She cared for the sick and gave them continuous assistance, showing heroic strength during the final illness of her husband Carlo, who died in 1930.

Mamma Rosa became a member of the Franciscan Third Order, known today as the Secular Franciscans. She faithfully attended all their meetings, but above all tried to live the true Franciscan spirit of poverty and joy in her home, in the midst of her daily work and prayer.

She had a gentle manner with everyone and praised God as the Creator and source of all good and the giver of all hope.

Mamma Rosa's family home was an ideal Christian community where her children were taught to pray, to obey, to respect the will of God, and to practice Christian virtues. In her vocation as a Christian mother, Mamma Rosa sacrificed herself day by day. She died on Jan. 8, 1932, and was buried in the church of Marola.

The canonical process of beatification and canonization was initiated last Feb. 3, at the diocesan curia of Padova, after getting passed several difficulties and misunderstandings among juridical persons trying to promote the cause.

Mamma Rosa was a model of holiness in what should be the daily life of a Catholic family. Her three sons who became priests were encouraged in their vocation by her example of holiness. She was proclaimed venerable on July 7, 2003, by Pope John Paul II for her heroic and singular virtues.


Maria Laura Mainetti

Cause Opens for Religious Slain in Satanic Rite
Sister Maria Laura Mainetti Murdered by 3 Teen-age Girls

CHIAVENNA, Italy, NOV. 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The cause of beatification has opened for Sister Maria Laura Mainetti, a 60-year-old religious murdered by three girls during a Satanic rite in 2000.

Bishop Alessandro Maggiolini of Como solemnly opened the process in Chiavenna on Oct. 23.

"After the time of sorrow and mourning, now is the moment of joy and light," said Monsignor Ambrogio Balatti, archpriest of Chiavenna San Lorenzo, as reported by the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Sister Laura, as she was known, was stabbed 18 times on the night of June 6-7, 2000, after being taken to a dark alley by two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old.

Monsignor Balatti said: "The three hapless girls could find no better excuse to attract Sister Laura, than to convince her that one of them was expecting a child, that she had been rejected by her family and boyfriend, and that she didn't know what to do or where to go.

"It makes me angry when they say that Sister Laura was naive. She took every precaution, but so did the girls. They were able to set up an astute and diabolic plan."

"Saw them lost"

"How could Sister Laura, whose birth cost her mother her life, who died a few days after her birth, refuse to help that young girl who said she was a mother?" the monsignor asked.

Sister Laura had "a special predilection for young people," whom she "considered the real poor of today: She saw them lost, without points of reference, exposed to the risk of the existential void."

Under interrogation, the accused said they killed the nun to "dispel the boredom of a life that was always the same in the small city," said Monsignor Balatti.

Officials soon learned that the trio initially wanted to sacrifice a priest in their Satanic rite -- and their first choice for a victim was Monsignor Balatti.
"At that time, interest in Satanism and occultism had become a fad," said the archpriest. "Even dress, music and some books contributed to the spread of such a tendency.

"Many young people followed more than anything out of a desire to call attention, to defy the rules. It found fertile ground in some because they were angry with God, perhaps because of personal problems, because of family troubles."

"Forgive them"

During the cause's opening ceremony, some of Sister Laura's thoughts were read out: "My life belongs to you, Jesus," "Lord, take also the little I have and the misery I am."

The killers themselves admitted that when she was dying, Sister Laura found the strength to pray for them, saying: "Lord, forgive them."

Bishop Maggiolini said: "I am certain that all this will reflect positively also on the three girls: Sister Laura's is a light that will help them grow and mature."

Sister Laura, who was baptized Teresina, was born in Colico, Italy, on Aug. 20, 1939. At the time of her death she was superior of the Community of Daughters of the Cross, in the Mary Immaculate Institute of Chiavenna.

A foundation and a series of charitable and pro-life services have been established in her memory. Several denominational centers in Italy and Africa have been named after the murdered religious.


Chiara Barillà

Speaking of beloved Italian Catholic women, Rome suffered a loss in late October with the death of Sr. Teresilla, a well-known figure locally for her ministry in prisons, bringing comfort to inmates from all social classes and all walks of life. She became famous for the role she played in transmitting a "secret diary" from a former member of the Red Brigades, containing insight into the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, to the Italian president at the time, Francesco Cossiga. Shortly thereafter, the former Red Brigade member received an amnesty after 11 years in prison and began working in a church-run social service center in Calabria.

Her death as the result of an automobile accident on Oct. 24 was a deep shock to many Italian Catholics.
Sr. Teresilla, whose birth name was Chiara Barillàà and who belonged to a community known as the Serve di Maria Riparatrice, was taking part in an annual candlelight Marian procession at the time she died. The procession begins on a Saturday evening and continues until Sunday dawn, ending at the Sanctuary of Divino Amore on the outskirts of the city. The route winds through a number of narrow, dimly lit streets, and just at the end of this year's procession, a car came around a corner and struck Sr. Teresilla. She died on the spot at the age of 61.

Sr. Teresilla was remembered as a driven but deeply compassionate woman who smiled upon presidents and prisoners alike. "Hers was a form of pure volunteerism, not linked to any organization," said Fr. Sandro Spriano, chaplain of Rome's sprawling Rebibbia prison. "She did everything possible for the reinsertion of detainees in society, finding work for them in businesses and social agencies. She followed them even after they left prison, but anonymously, because she didn't like to be in the limelight."


Martyr of Spanish Civil War to Be Beatified
Maríía de los Ángeles Ginard Martí

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Maríía de los Ángeles Ginard Martí, a martyr who died amid the religious persecution unleashed by the Spanish Civil War, will be beatified this week.

Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles died in Madrid on Aug. 26, 1936. On Saturday, Cardinal Joséé Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, will preside at the beatification Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

At Benedict XVI's request, the cardinal will read the apostolic letter with which the Pope will inscribe among the blessed of the Church, the Servant of God, "virgin and martyr," and seven other martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

The Vatican's office of liturgical celebrations confirmed the news. In a statement it noted that those to be beatified, "sustained by the Bread of Life and strengthened by the Word of God, faced the good fight of the faith and now participate in the glory of Christ the King, Master and Shepherd."

The third of nine siblings, Maríía de los ÁÁngeles Ginard Martíí was born in Lluchmayor, in the Balearic Islands, on April 3, 1894. She was a professed religious of the Congregation of Sisters Zealous of Eucharistic Worship.

Killed by a group of republican militiamen who previously had destroyed the congregation's convent in the Dehesa de la Villa, in the Spanish capital, her remains were found in a common grave. They now rest in the cemetery of the congregation's present convent in Madrid, according to the archdiocese's Digital Analysis service.

Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, published a pastoral letter for the beatification. He called it a celebration that "impels us to live the faith in such a way that we can communicate it to our contemporaries, especially the youngest," according to the archdiocesan press office.

Centered on Eucharist

Maríía de los ÁÁngeles Ginard Martíí felt drawn to the religious life around the time of her first Communion, which took place on April 14, 1905, explains a biography by the Holy See.

In her youth she had to work to help her family financially, noted Cardinal Rouco.

"But she rose early every day to participate in the Eucharist," he said, "and her work did not prevent her from reciting the rosary, visiting the Blessed Sacrament and spending long periods of adoration in the church of the Sisters Zealous of Eucharistic Worship." She entered the congregation in 1921.

Between 1926 and 1929 "she lived and worked …… in the house of the Sisters in Madrid where, sent by her superiors, she returned in 1932 and spent the four years prior to her death," the cardinal recalled.

The Holy See's biography noted: "When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles was in Madrid. Events prior to the war were alarming for the Church and its members. The religious persecution manifested itself openly with the burning of churches and convents and threats to priests, religious and Catholic faithful.

"In these circumstances, Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles was grieved by the destruction and threats embarked upon by the persecutors 'out of hatred for the faith,' for everything related to God and the Church. In her adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament she prayed for a solution to these problems and, firm in the faith, offered her life in martyrdom, if it was God's will, for the triumph of Christ."


Having sought refuge on July 20, 1936, together with the religious of her community, in the home of friends, "on the afternoon of Aug. 25, 1936, denounced by a porter of the dwelling where she had been received, she was seized," wrote Cardinal Rouco in his letter.

Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles saved the life of a married woman who had also been detained when she said: "I am the only nun here." Incarcerated, she was shot at sunset on Aug. 26 in the Dehesa de la Villa in Madrid.

The diocesan phase of her process of canonization opened in Madrid in April 1987; it closed in March 1990. On April 19, 2004, Pope John Paul II approved the publication of the decree on martyrdom for her beatification.


Newman's Papal Influence; Jesuit Agency's Milestone
New Book Focuses on British Cardinal

By Catherine Smibert

ROME, OCT. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- He is a figure whose work and persona have inspired innumerable pursuits of truth, and now he might have a greater impact still.

Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) has inspired a wealth of studies, publications and organizations -- and even influenced our current Pope, according to a new book represented at the English College last week.

"Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman" was presented to an audience of Curia members, journalists and pontifical university students during an upright English, yet relaxed Roman affair.

The glossy book is filled with select writings from both Church figures and other leading English clergy, and is edited by longtime religious commentator Peter Jennings.

Produced in only six months (from the time of the papal election), Jennings' book clearly presents Benedict XVI's keen interest in this convert from Anglicanism which dates back to his seminary days.

Declared venerable in 1991 for heroic virtues, the cardinal's effect on the current Holy Father is recognized throughout the writings in the new book.

These include introductory addresses given by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the symposium "John Henry Newman, Lover of Truth," to his address on conscience and truth, presented at a bishops workshop in Texas.

Jennings told me how he tried to enhance the in-depth chronology of Newman's life by using previously unpublished pictures like that of Newman in his role as founder of the English Oratory of St. Philip Neri, from the archives of the Birmingham Oratory.

"Having been baptized in the Oratory and now being the press secretary for the archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, I’’ve had the great fortune of working more directly with the Oratory Fathers and thus, the postulator for the cause" of canonization, Jennings said.

The postulator is the provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Father Paul Chavasse. He told me he thinks the book will encourage a resurgence in Newman's popularity.

"In the passing years there has been a steady, increasing devotion to the cardinal on a world scale," Father Chavasse said, "but it was enormously encouraging for us to see the interest that was expressed by all attending the reception. Each expressed a desire for the cause to reach a happy conclusion as soon as it's practical."

That conclusion might be close at hand, he added.

"At the moment, we're investigating a possible miraculous cure through the intercession of Cardinal Newman in the Archdiocese of Boston," the priest said. "It was the healing of a 60-year-old permanent deacon who had suffered from a severe degenerative spinal disease which was threatening his mobility.

"Although there had been an operation, the surgeons were not at all convinced that he would be restored to health but, in fact, that's just what happened, he got out of bed and ... I read the medical reports in which one of the principal surgeons says: 'If you want an explanation for what has happened to you, I suggest you ask God.'"


Cause for Solidarity Chaplain Is Advancing, Says Official
Postulator Thinks Ceremony Could Occur in June

WARSAW, Poland, OCT. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The process of beatification for Father Jerzy Popieluszko might be concluded within a year, says the postulator of the cause.

The postulator, Father Tomasso Kaczmarek, has finished the "positio," or report, on the cause of martyrdom.

The 1,100-page volume describes both events in the life of Solidarity's chaplain, as well as evidence that "demonstrate that he was killed out of hatred of the Church and God," said the postulator.

He contended that the "positio" shows that "Father Jerzy died reconciled with God and that he accepted the sufferings and violent death he received in the spirit of Love."

According to the postulator, the beatification could take place in June 2006, during Benedict XVI's possible visit to Poland.

The "positio" will be handed to the relator, Father Hieronim Fokcinski, who represents the Congregation for Sainthood Causes. It will then be read by seven consultors. If their opinion is positive, the secretary of the Vatican congregation will prepare a report on the state of the cause, which the prefect will present to the Holy Father.

If the Pope accepts it, the decree of the heroic virtues will be read in the Consistory. In the case of a cause of martyrdom, in fact, this means that the Servant of God could be proclaimed blessed.

The postulator underlined that the date of beatification would depend on the work of the consultors, who he said will treat this as a "priority" cause.


Father Popieluszko, Solidarity's chaplain, was only 37 when he died. The Communist regime regarded him as a fanatic, an example of militant clericalism. Many Poles, however, considered him a wise and courageous pastor.

Father Popieluszko was kidnapped and killed on Oct. 19, 1984, by secret service agents, who beat him and threw him into the icy waters of the Vistula River. His body was found later in a lake at the Wloclawek dam, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Warsaw.

The priest's tomb, located in Warsaw next to the church where he celebrated Masses for the homeland, has drawn millions of pilgrims.


Joseph Bilczewski, Tireless Archbishop of Leopoli
Prelate to Be Canonized This Sunday

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Joseph Bilczewski (1860-1923), who will be canonized with four other blessed this Sunday by Benedict XVI.

* * *

Blessed Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski was born April 26, 1860, in Wilamowice near Kety, in the present-day Diocese of Bielsko Zywiec, then part of the Diocese of Krakow. Having finished elementary school at Wilamowice and Kety, he attended high school at Wadowice receiving his diploma in 1880.

On July 6, 1884, he was ordained a priest in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski. In 1886 he received a doctorate in theology from the University of Vienna. Following advanced studies in Rome and Paris he passed the qualifying exam at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. The following year he became professor of dogmatic theology at the John Casimir University of Leopoli.

He also served as dean of theology for a period of time prior to becoming rector of the university.

He dedicated himself to scientific work and, despite his young age, acquired fame as a learned man. His extraordinary intellectual and relational abilities were recognized by Franz Joseph, the emperor of Austria, who presented Monsignor Bilczewski to the Holy Father as a candidate for the vacant metropolitan See of Leopoli. Pope Leo XIII responded positively to the emperor's proposal and on Dec. 17, 1900, he named the 40-year-old monsignor archbishop of Leopoli of the Latin rite.

Given the complex social, economic, ethnic and religious situation, care for the large diocese required of the bishop a deep commitment and called for great moral effort and strong confidence in God. Archbishop Bilczewski became known for his goodness of heart, understanding, humility, piety, commitment to hard work and pastoral zeal.

Upon taking possession of the Archdiocese of Leopoli he spelled out clearly his pastoral plan, which can be summed up in the words "totally sacrifice oneself for the holy Church." Among other things he pointed out the need for the development of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and frequent reception of Communion.

A particular form of pastoral action of Archbishop Bilczewski were the pastoral letters and appeals addressed to the priests and the faithful of the archdiocese. In them he spoke of the problems of faith and morals of the time as well as of the most pressing issues of the social sphere. He also explained devotion to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart and the importance of religious and moral formation of children and youth in the family and in school.

He taught for the Church and for the Pope, and took care to cultivate many priestly vocations. He saw the priest as first and foremost a teacher of faith and an instrument of Christ, a father for the rich as well as for the poor. Taking the place of Christ on earth, the priest was to be the minister of the sacraments and for this reason his whole heart had to be dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist, in order to be able to nourish the people of God with the body of Christ.

He often exhorted the priests to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In his pastoral letter devoted to the Eucharist he invited the priests to participate in the priestly associations: the Association for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Association of Aid to Poor Catholic Churches, whose goal was to rejuvenate the zeal of the priests themselves.

He also dedicated a great deal of care to the preparation of children and to full participation in the Mass, desiring that every catechesis would lead children and youth to the Eucharist.

Archbishop Bilczewski promoted the construction of churches and chapels, schools and day-care centers. He developed teaching to help enable the growth in the instruction of the faithful. He materially and spiritually helped the more important works which were springing up in his archdiocese.

His holy life, filled with prayer, work and works of mercy led to his meriting great appreciation and respect on the part of those of various faiths, rites and nationalities present in the archdiocese. No religious or nationalistic conflicts arose during the tenure of his pastoral work. He was a proponent of unity, harmony and peace. On social issues he always stood on the side of the people and of the poor. He taught that the basis of social life had to be justice made perfect by Christian love.

During the First World War, he pointed out to the people the infinite love of God, capable of forgiving every type of sin and offense. He reminded them of the need to observe the commandments of God and particularly that of brotherly love.

During his 23 years of pastoral service he changed the face of the Archdiocese of Leopoli. Only his death on March 20, 1923, could end his vast pastoral action.

Wanting to rest among those for whom he was always father and protector, in accord with his desires, he was buried in Leopoli in the cemetery of Janow, known as the cemetery of the poor. Thanks to the efforts of the Archdiocese of Leopoli the process for his beatification and canonization was initiated. The first step was concluded on Dec. 17, 1997, with the declaration of the life of heroic virtue of Archbishop Bilczewski by Pope John Paul II.

In June 2001, the Congregation for Sainthood Causes recognized as miraculous the fact of the rapid lasting and unexplainable "quo ad modum" healing through the intercession of Archbishop Bilczewski of the third-degree burns of Marcin Gawlik, a 9-year-old boy, thus opening the way for his beatification.

The beatification took place in the Diocese of Leopoli on June 26, 2001, during John Paul II's apostolic visit to Ukraine.


Cure could speed Cardinal Newman's path to sainthood

A 'miracle cure' in Boston may help clear the way for the canonisation of John Henry Cardinal Newman, whose cause is promoted in a book launched in Rome on Monday night in the presence of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

The announcement was made by Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Cause for the beatification and canonisation of Cardinal Newman, at the launch of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman, a collection of writings edited by Peter Jennings and published by Family Publications, Oxford. The book was launched at the English College. Among those attending were the Archbishops of Westminster and Birmingham, the president of the Vatican's Council for Social Communications, Archbishop John P Foley; and leading Newman scholars.

Fr Chavasse told them: "A couple of years ago, we received reports at the Birmingham Oratory, of a cure which had taken place in Boston, in the United States of America, of a man, a deacon. I am not at liberty to give the name of this man, who had been suffering from severe spinal problems, and who has now recovered, as a result of the intercession of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman."
Fr Chavasse thanked Andrea Ambrosi, "a most active member of the College of Postulators, who is now involved most intimately in advancing the Cause to a new stage, and whose assistance at this time has become indispensable."

He said: "Postulators are not known for rushing, indeed, they cannot, given the caution needed before anyone can be certain that a presumed miraculous cure is just that. Time has to elapse, evidence has to be gathered and so forth. Well, time has elapsed, evidence has been gathered, and guided by the Avvocato Ambrosi's expert knowledge and, with the approval of the Archbishop of Boston, a tribunal opened there on 25 June this year to investigate this cure.

"Much work has been done and much remains to be done: the tribunal will not finish its work until the beginning of February next; the last session is scheduled for 6 to 7 February 2006. After that, all the evidence gathered comes to Rome and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints begins its meticulous work, examining the medical and theological aspects of it. If these processes end positively, undoubtedly a miracle will be announced and Cardinal Newman, the best-known English churchman of the nineteenth century, will be declared Blessed in the usual way."

Fr Chevasse ended: "I commend this whole matter to your prayers, that all will go well and that before too long has elapsed we will be able to be gathered together again to celebrate the happy conclusion of another stage of the great English Cardinal's journey to officially recognised Sainthood." Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman brings together talks, sermons and addresses given to commemorate a variety of anniversaries and events concerned with Cardinal Newman's life, as well as several important new contributions which highlight the relevance of the great Cardinal's life and teachings for the contemporary Church.

The book contains articles by Fr Chevasse as well as by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, whose chapter is entitled: "The Importance of Newman Today", said he had discovered Newman's writings on the development of Christian doctrine while studying for the priesthood in Rome. He had chosen as a dissertation topic Newman's concept of the laity.
Peter Jennings said he hoped the book would increase popular devotion to Cardinal Newman, "the best-known churchman of the nineteenth century."

The Birmingham launch of the book will take place on Friday 21 October at the Birmingham Oratory, Upper Cloister Hall, 12.30pm to 2pm. The Oxford Launch will take place on Friday 28 October at the Oxford Oratory, 4.30pm to 5.45pm. (Mass at 6pm.) Further information from http://www.familypublications.co.uk


Felix of Nicosia, a Humble Capuchin Friar
18th-Century Blessed to Be Canonized Sunday

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Felix of Nicosia (1715-1787), who will be canonized with four other blessed this Sunday by Benedict XVI.

* * *

Felix of Nicosia was born of the marriage between Filippo Amoroso and Carmela Pirro, in Nicosia, Sicily, on Nov. 5, 1715. He was baptized on the same day, and was given the names Philip James. His father, a shoemaker by trade, died Oct. 12, 1715, leaving his widow with three children.

The family was poor but very religious. As a young boy, Felix worked in the workshop of the shoemaker Giovanni Cavarelli, close to the Capuchin friary, and so he often had opportunities to visit the community, get to know the friars and admire their way of life. Like most Sicilian boys in those days, he never attended school. The more time he spent with the friars, the more strongly he felt drawn to their life: their joyful austerity, their liberating poverty, their penance and prayer, their charity and missionary spirit.

Vocation tested

At age 20 he asked the superior of the friary in Nicosia to speak for him to the father provincial of Messina so that he could be admitted to the order as a lay brother. Being illiterate, he could not be admitted as a cleric; the lay vocation was more suited to his humble, simple nature. His request was repeated for eight successive years, and each time was met with the answer no, but his desire was as strong as ever.

His was a mature vocation, well weighed and ardently longed for. Certainly it is surprising that, after so many refusals, he never tried to join another similar order. For him, being a man of God and being a Capuchin were one and the same.

In 1743, hearing that the provincial of Messina was visiting in Nicosia, Felix asked to see him. He then explained his cherished wish. At last, the provincial admitted him to the order and sent him to the friary at Mistretta for his novitiate year.

A Capuchin friar

On Oct. 10, 1743, he began his novitiate, taking the name of Brother Felix. For him, the novitiate was a particularly intense year, spent in the practice of the virtues.

All his biographers tell us that Brother Felix was distinguished for his flair for obedience, his angelic purity, his love of mortification and his truly seraphic patience. It was with these virtues that he made his profession on Oct. 10, 1744.

Streets of Nicosia

Immediately after profession his superiors, contrary to the custom, sent him to the friary of Nicosia. In fact it was not common practice to assign a young religious to his own home town, in case he might be distracted by relatives and acquaintances. But Brother Felix's detachment from earthly affections was such that the superiors considered that no harm would come to his spiritual growth.

He had already made his own the maxim of St. Francis, that a friar should live in the world as a pilgrim and a stranger, calling nothing on earth his own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.

He was given the job of collecting alms. Every day he would walk through the streets, knocking on the doors of the rich, inviting them to share their prosperity, and of the humble dwellings of the poor, offering them comfort in their daily necessities.

There was a tranquil serenity and discretion about him as he moved through the streets, going from house to house. He would always say "thank you" whenever he received something, and even when he was sent away roughly he would answer: "Let it be for the love of God."

Thirsting for Scripture

Brother Felix was unable to read and write, yet full of Christian doctrine. Whatever he could not learn by reading Scripture, he learned by heart. He made every effort to absorb the passages of Scripture and the edifying books that were read at table in the friary, and lost no opportunity to listen to the sermons in the churches of Nicosia.

Devotions and penances

He was devoted to the crucified Christ. Every Friday he used to contemplate the passion and death of Jesus. Each Friday in March he fasted on bread and water and knelt in choir with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, meditating before the crucifix.

He had a particular veneration for the Eucharist, spending hours in front of the tabernacle even after having endured the trials of every-day life. He showed tender devotion to the Mother of God.

Last days

Now relieved of all duties, and physically ill on account of his extreme penances and mortifications, he was always ready for any kind of service, especially for the sick brothers in the friary infirmary. The more his strength declined, the more intense was his concentration on God and his joyful, simple obedience.

At the end of May 1787 he was overtaken by a sudden, raging fever while working in the garden. His superior, Father Macario, ordered him under obedience to lie down. Brother Felix told the doctor who prescribed medicines for him that they were useless, because this was his "final illness." His earthly life ended at 2 a.m. on May 31, 1787.

He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on Feb. 12, 1888.


Alberto Hurtado, Servant of Chile's Poor
Biography of a Soon-to-Be-Canonized Jesuit 

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Among the five people to be canonized a saint this Sunday is Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga. Here is an excerpt from a biography issued by the Holy See.

* * *

Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga was born in Viñña del Mar, Chile, on Jan. 22, 1901. His father died when he was 4 years old. His mother had to sell, at a loss, their modest property in order to pay the family's debts.

As a further consequence, Alberto and his brother had to go to live with relatives and were often moved from one family to another. From an early age, therefore, he experienced what it meant to be poor, without a home and at the mercy of others.

He was given a scholarship to the Jesuit College in Santiago. Here he became a member of the Sodality of Our Lady and developed a lively interest in the poor, spending time with them in the most miserable neighborhoods every Sunday afternoon.

When he completed his secondary education in 1917, Alberto wanted to become a Jesuit, but he was advised to wait in order to take care of his mother and his younger brother. By working in the afternoons and evenings, he succeeded in supporting them; at the same time, he studied law at the Catholic University. In this period, he maintained his care for the poor and continued to visit them every Sunday. Obligatory military service interrupted his studies, but once he fulfilled this duty he went on to earn his degree early in August 1923.

On Aug. 14, 1923, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Chillan. In 1925 he went to Cordoba, Argentina, where he studied humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Spain to study philosophy and theology.

However, because of the suppression of the Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went on to Belgium and continued studying theology at Louvain. He was ordained a priest there on Aug. 24, 1933, and in 1935 obtained a doctorate in pedagogy and psychology.

After having completed his tertianship in Drongen, Belgium, he returned to Chile in January 1936. Here he began his activity as professor of religion at Colegio San Ignacio and of pedagogy at the Catholic University of Santiago.

He was entrusted with the Sodality of Our Lady for the students, and he involved them in teaching catechism to the poor. He frequently directed retreats and offered spiritual direction to many young men, accompanying several of them in their response to the priestly vocation and contributing to the formation of many Christian laymen.

In 1941 Father Hurtado published his most famous book: "Is Chile a Catholic Country?" The same year he was asked to assume the role of assistant for the Youth Movement of the Catholic Action, first within the Archdiocese of Santiago and then nationally. He performed these roles with a spirit of initiative, dedication and sacrifice.

In October 1944, while giving a retreat, he felt impelled to appeal to his audience to consider the many poor people of the city, especially the numerous street children in Santiago. This request evoked a ready and generous response. This was the beginning of the initiative for which Father Hurtado is especially well known: a form of charitable activity which provided not only housing but a homelike milieu for the homeless: "El Hogar de Cristo."

By means of contributions from benefactors and with the collaboration of committed laity, Father Hurtado opened the first house for children; this was followed by a house for women and then one for men. The houses multiplied and took on new dimensions; in some houses there were rehabilitation centers, in others trade-schools, and so on.

In 1945 Father Hurtado visited the United States to study the Boys Town movement and to consider how it could be adapted to his own country. The last six years of his life were dedicated to the development of various forms in which "El Hogar" could exist and function.

In 1947 Father Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association to promote a union movement inspired by the social teaching of the Church.

Between 1947 and 1950, Father Hurtado wrote three important works: on trade unions, on social humanism, and on the Christian social order. In 1951 he founded Mensaje, a well-known Jesuit periodical dedicated to explaining the doctrine of the Church.

Pancreatic cancer brought him, within a few months, to the end of his life. In the midst of pain, he was often heard to say, "I am content, Lord." He died on Aug. 18, 1952.

His apostolate had been an _expression of a personal love for Christ the Lord. It was characterized by a great love for poor and abandoned children, an enlightened zeal for the formation of the laity, and a lively sense of Christian social justice.

Father Hurtado was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 16, 1994.


Pope Gregory the Great

Perhaps this saint of almost 1,500 years ago seems a little too far away from us. He was from a wealthy Roman patrician family and didn't die the glorious and gruesome death of a martyr, so what is there to capture the imagination of the 21st century?

Plenty. The 14-year pontificate of Gregory the Great has many resounding messages for the Catholic world today.

"Magnus, magnus" we all heard during the funeral of John Paul II and many wondered at its meaning. The term "magnus" (the great) has not been used in a very long time, not since Pope Nicholas I died in 867. It is a popular acclamation, not a granted title, something that people use and it sticks. Johannus Paulus Magnus certainly sounds as if it will stand the test of time.

What earns this title is a pontificate of great theological and intellectual advances, brilliant navigation of the Church through dark times and troubled waters, and the genuine love of the flock.

When Gregory was unanimously elected Pope, he was living as monk in Rome. He had transformed his family palace on the Caelian Hill into a monastic community. Although often sent by his predecessor, Pope Pelagius II, on delicate and complicated diplomatic missions, Gregory's first and true love was the contemplative life. Upon election to the papacy, like John Paul II, Gregory had balance his mystical side with his active responsibilities as Pope.

Responsibilities that Pope Gregory took very seriously. He was the first Pope to refer to himself as "Servus servorum Dei," or Servant of the servants of God, a title that John Paul II used frequently of himself. He fortified Rome against the Lombards, gave his own lands to feed the starving population and sent out missionaries to evangelize new lands, especially England.

As our John Paul II was actor and poet, so Pope Gregory left a lasting artistic gift to the Church, Gregorian chant.

Pope Gregory's last years were spent in constant illness and physical pain, but according to biographer Paul the Deacon, "he never rested" and continued his ministry until he died a peaceful and happy death in 604. His ceaseless work and prayer for the souls in his care served as an example for all those who witnessed it.

Another significant link between St. Gregory and our present times can be found in St. Benedict. Although St. Benedict died in 547 when Gregory was still a child, the Pope admired the monastic founder and furthered Benedictine monasticism with every means at his disposal. In these days of renewed interest in Benedict and his teachings, Pope Gregory seems to have planted the seeds that we are reaping now.

The legacy of Pope Gregory the Great earned him the title of Father of the medieval Church. Maybe John Paul II will be known as the Father of the Church of the third millennium.


José Luis Sáánchez Gave His Life at 14
2 Founders Witnessed Execution

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, SEPT. 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The execution of José Luis Sáánchez del Ríío, a 14-year-old martyr who will be beatified this fall, was witnessed by two founders of ecclesial entities in the Church.

Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and Enrique Amezcua Medina, founder of the priestly confraternity of the Laborers of the Kingdom of Christ, both met the young martyr, and are able to recount years later the heroism he exhibited.

José Luis, of Sahuayo, in the state of Michoacan, joined the Cristeros, a large group of Mexican Catholics who rose against the religious persecution of the government of Plutarco Elíías Calles, a year before he was executed on Feb. 10, 1929.

A 7-year-old Marcial Maciel witnessed the martyrdom of his young friend.

José Luis "was captured by government forces, which wanted to give the civilian population that supported the Cristeros, an exemplary lesson," said Father Maciel in the book "Christ Is My Life."

"Under pain of death, they asked him to give up his faith in Christ. Joséé Luis refused to apostatize. His mother was overwhelmed by sorrow and anguish, but kept encouraging her son," he said.

"Then the skin of the soles of his feet was sheered off, and he was obliged to walk through the village towards the cemetery. He wept and moaned with pain, but would not give in."

"Hail to Christ the King!"

Father Maciel continued: "Every now and then they stopped and said: 'If you cry out "Death to Christ the King," we will spare your life. Say 'Death to Christ the King!' But he answered, 'Hail to Christ the King!'"

Father Maciel said that at the cemetery, "before shooting him, they asked him once more if he would deny his faith. He refused and was killed right then and there. He died crying out as many other Mexicans did: 'Hail to Christ the King!'

"These are indelible images of my memory and of the memory of the Mexican people, although often there is not much mention of it in the official history."

Father Medina, then 9 years old, said in the biography of the confraternity he founded that he considers providential his meeting with the young martyr.

He met the child-martyr of Sahuayo and asked him if he could follow him but, seeing that he was so young, the future martyr told him: "You will do things that I will not be able to do," which, eventually, led him to the priesthood.
The confraternity's seminary in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, has been named Christ the King Seminary, and the boarding school was called José Luis, in honor of the future Mexican blessed.

The remains of José Luis rest in the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Sahuayo.


Charles de Foucauld

Charles de Foucauld, a French Army officer who entered religious life and became a hermit, will be beatified Nov. 13 in St. Peter's Basilica, says the postulator of the cause.

Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1858, de Foucauld was orphaned at 6. After a brief military career, in 1883 he undertook an expedition in the Moroccan desert which won him the gold medal of the French Geographic Society. His religious conversion occurred in 1886. He went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1888.

Heart of the Sahara

After de Foucauld's experience as a Trappist in Syria and as a hermit in Nazareth, in 1901 he was ordained a priest. He studied Arabic and Hebrew. "He lived in poverty, contemplation and humility, witnessing fraternally to God's love among Christians, Jews and Muslims," said Cardinal Joséé Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, during the ceremony for the decree's promulgation.

"In order to imitate Jesus' hidden life in Nazareth, de Foucauld went to live in Tamanrasset, in the heart of the Sahara Desert," added the cardinal. De Foucauld wrote several books on the Tuaregs, members of a Berber people of the western and central Sahara, including a book of grammar and a French-Tuareg dictionary. He founded the Union of Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart that was committed to the evangelization of the Tuaregs.

On Dec. 1, 1916, at 58, de Foucauld was shot dead in the midst of a skirmish among Berbers of Hoggar.

Ten religious congregations and eight spiritual life associations have been inspired by his testimony and charism.

Bishop Who Defied Hitler to Be Beatified in October
According to Muenster Diocese

ROME, JULY 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal August von Galen, who dared to defy Hitler, will be beatified Oct. 9, according to the Muenster Diocese Web page.

The cardinal, who lived 1878-1946, would become the first German to be proclaimed blessed in Benedict XVI's pontificate, the page said.

In a letter addressed to Bishop Reinhard Lettmann and dated June 29, Benedict XVI announced von Galen's beatification for "this year."

The diocese stated that the beatification will be held in St. Peter's Basilica, with a papal decree to be read by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, who will preside over the ceremony. The beatification is taking place after a miracle occurred in December attributed to Cardinal von Galen.

While bishop of Muenster, during the Nazi regime, Clemens August von Galen spoke out in defense of the rights of the poor and the sick, protesting strongly against euthanasia, the confiscation of monasteries and convents, the persecution of Jews and the expulsion of religious.

To avoid uprisings resulting from Bishop von Galen's protests, Hitler gave orders on Aug. 3, 1941, to officially block the euthanasia program. Euthanasia continued, though on a much smaller scale.

During von Galen's process of beatification, it was discovered that Pope Pius XII read his homilies and presented him as a "hero" to German priests of Westphalia.


Salesian Pushes the Cause of Don Bosco's Mother
Meets With Pope at Vacation Residence

LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- When welcoming Benedict XVI to the chalet where he is spending vacation, the rector-major of the Salesians asked a special favor.

Father Pascual Chávez asked the Pope to speed up the beatification of Margaret Occhiena, the mother of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians.

The rector-major, who spoke in private Monday with the Holy Father in the Salesian-owned chalet, handed him documents and a letter from all Salesian bishops worldwide, in which they request the promulgation of the decree of heroism of "Mama Margaret's" virtues.

The Salesian family would like Margaret Occhiena to be declared venerable on the 150th anniversary of her death, reported the congregation's ANS news agency.

Benedict XVI responded that the holiness of Occhiena is so evident that there should be no need for the whole process, showing how familiar he was with her virtues, added the news service.

"We are following the stages of the regular procedure," replied Father Chávez. The "positio" stating the formal argument for beatification was handed in June 25, 2000, while the examination by the historical experts ended in a positive manner the following Oct. 3.

The Holy Father expressed the hope that the beatification might be possible in 2006, ANS reported.


Margaret Occhiena was born on April 1, 1788, in Capriglio, and remained there until her marriage to Francis Bosco.

After her husband's premature death, she had to take charge of her family, helping her husband's mother, and taking care of his son Anthony, and educating her sons Joseph and John.

When John was ordained a priest, she left her home to accompany him for 10 years on his mission among the poor and abandoned young people of Turin.

"Without knowing it, she became 'co-founder' of the Salesian Family," states a biography issued by the Salesians.

"Without knowing how to write, but full of wisdom which comes from on high, she helped many poor street boys, no one's children. She put God before anything else, giving herself for him in a life of poverty, prayer and sacrifice," adds a brief biography.

She died at age 68 in Turin, in 1856.


Edith Stein's Appeal to the Young
Superior of Discalced Carmelites on the Saint's Impact

ROME, JULY 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Edith Stein, the Carmelite saint and co-patroness of Europe, could be a very engaging figure for some of the 800,000 expected to attend World Youth Day next month in Germany.

That is the opinion of Father Luis Aróstegui Gamboa, superior general of the Discalced Carmelites. "The search for Truth of Edith Stein -- Teresa Benedicta of the Cross -- could be a stimulus for young people who will go to Cologne, where she lived in the Carmel," he told ZENIT.

"Edith Stein is a very different figure from Thérèse of Lisieux, also a Carmelite saint, who enthused young people at Paris' World Youth Day," Father Aróstegui said.

"In the same way," he added, "I think that there are some young people, perhaps not all, who might be attracted by Stein's figure, as she is modern and her biography is very interesting in the best sense of the term: Jewish, German, seeker, who lost her faith and found it."

The Carmelite religious died in Auschwitz in August 1942.

Into contemplation

"She accepted her death in the concentration camp as communion with the cross of Christ, for her people and for peace in the world," said the superior general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. "This is impressive."

"Edith Stein was a person who was very committed to her faith and an exceptional personality; she was called to give lectures and classes when this was unusual, and she defended woman's rights and dignity," he said.

"This faith and fidelity, but at the same time reflection with freedom and responsibility, might be very attractive to young people," Father Aróstegui added.

He continued: "Moreover, her continuity of life when she entered the Cologne Carmel is also very interesting, as it was not a rejection of the intellectual life but, on the contrary, an entering more intensely into contemplation, which isn't inaction. In fact, her superiors asked her to continue with her intellectual work and she did so, in union with the Church and the needs of the world.

"Above all, the fact that she was a seeker and integrated values in her life and thought, and her profundity in the faith are very good for the world of young people who will meet in her native Germany."


Testimonies Sought About Holiness of Cardinal Pironio
Argentine Helped to Plan World Youth Days

ROME, JUNE 28, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Diocese of Rome appealed for testimonies about the holiness of Cardinal Eduardo Pironio who, as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, planned the first World Youth Days.

An edict, published in today's Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano and signed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar for Rome, stated that, "with the passing of the years," the Argentine cardinal's "fame for holiness" has increased, so there has been a formal request "to begin the cause for beatification and canonization of the Servant of God."

Cardinal Pironio died Feb. 5, 1998, in Rome. He was 77.

The edict requests that "if any writing that has the Servant of God as author, [and] has not already been handed in to the postulation of the cause," it should be sent to the diocesan tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome. The edict noted that printed works have already been collected.

Those who wish to keep originals of the cardinal's writings may send authenticated copies.

The diocese also asks the faithful to communicate to the tribunal "all news from which may be gathered elements favorable or contrary to the fame for holiness of the Servant of God."

It was also established that the edict be published in the curia of La Plata, Argentina, and in that diocese's review.

Key posts

Eduardo Pironio was born Dec. 3, 1920. He played an important part in Church history during the last quarter of the 20th century.

He organized the World Youth Days from the time John Paul II appointed him president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in April 1984.

Prior to this appointment, the cardinal had been prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, which oversees the Church's religious and consecrated persons.

Pope Paul VI elevated Archbishop Pironio to cardinal on May 24, 1976, after he had worked for many years in the Latin American bishops' council, first as secretary and later as president. In Argentina, he was bishop of Mar del Plata.


3 Beatifications Delegated to Warsaw Cardinal
Includes Communist-Era Martyr

WARSAW, Poland, JUNE 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- At Benedict XVI's request, Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw will preside here over the closing Mass of a National Eucharistic Congress and the beatification of three Polish priests.

Among the future blessed is a martyr, Father Ladislaw Findysz. He was born in Kroscienko Nizne, in the then Diocese of Przemysl of the Latins, on Dec. 13, 1907.

As a parish priest in Nowy Zmigrod, in the present-day Diocese of Rzeszow, he carried out his mission during World War II. In 1963, under the Communist regime, he was imprisoned because of his pastoral ministry.

In prison, he was humiliated and mistreated. His health broken, he was released from prison but died a few months later, on Aug. 21, 1964.

Cardinal Glemp, the primate of Poland, will also preside at the beatification of Father Bornislaw Markiewicz, who was born in Pruchnik, near Przemysl, on July 13, 1842.

He was a parish priest and seminary professor. He entered the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco in Turin, Italy.

Returning to Poland, he worked primarily in the formation of poor and orphaned young people.

He founded the men's and women's congregations of St. Michael the Archangel. The congregations were approved after his death, which occurred in Miejsce Piastowe on Jan. 29, 1912. The two congregations have belonged to the Salesian Family for years.

Formator of youth

The third future blessed is Father Ignatius Klopotowski. He was born on July 20, 1866, in Korzeniowka.

He was committed to charitable works. As a parish priest in Warsaw, he founded the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto. He worked in the formation of young people, the rehabilitation of troubled girls, and the care of orphans and the elderly. He died in Warsaw on Sept. 7, 1931.

Pilsudski Square in Warsaw will be the setting of the solemn Mass. Pope John Paul II presided at a Mass there during his first pastoral visit to Poland in 1979; at the time it was called Victory Square.

Benedict XVI has revived a papal tradition of not presiding at beatifications, a practice that was interrupted in 1971 by Pope Paul VI, when beatifying Maximilian Kolbe. For his part, Pope John Paul II presided over the beatification of 1,330 Servants of God.


Process for "Righteous" Emmanuele Stablum Moves Ahead
Saved Jews in Italy During Nazi Occupation

ROME, JUNE 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The diocesan process has been concluded for the beatification of Emmanuele Stablum, a religious hailed by Israel as "Righteous among the Nations" for saving Jews from Nazi persecution.

"An angel," is how he was described by Tibor Schlosser, adviser of the Israeli Embassy, during the November 2001 ceremony in which Stablum was conferred the "Righteous" recognition posthumously by the Yad Vashem Institute of Jerusalem.

Born in Terzolas in 1895, Stablum wanted to be a priest, but the superiors of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception asked him to become a doctor first, in order to treat patients of the Dermatological Institute of the Immaculate Conception (IDI), a sanatorium in Rome.

After the Nazi occupation of Italy in September 1943, Brother Emmanuele Stablum, who at the time was director of IDI, decided to save 51 Jews, by hiding them in the institute.

He put cream on the Jews' faces, so that the police would think they were patients with dermatological problems.

When Stablum died, Italo Levi-Luxardo, a Jewish doctor, wrote that Stablum, in addition to helping Jews, hid officers who did not want to be allied with the German occupation, as well as fugitives from the Nazi purges.

Elio Toaff, the former chief rabbi of Rome, commented: "To speak of the Israeli community's recognition is too little in regard to the work of salvation undertaken by the IDI which, without taking into account the grave danger it was in by helping Jews, showed with deeds of solidarity its determination to oppose injustice and oppression."

Brother Stablum was assistant general and later vicar general of his religious congregation. He died in 1950, at age 55.

Today the IDI is considered one of the most prestigious medical centers in Italy for dermatological problems.


American, Spanish Missionary Women Beatified

Benedict XVI Resumes Tradition of Not Presiding at Ceremony

VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Two women missionaries, from the United States and Spain, are the first to be beatified during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.

American Marianne Cope (1838-1918) and Spanish Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus (1868-1940) were raised to the altars on Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica. Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, presided at the ceremony.

The Bishop of Rome has taken up on this occasion the Papal tradition of not presiding at beatifications, a practice that was interrupted in 1971 by Paul VI, when beatifying Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe.

Beginning in the Holy Year of 1975, Paul VI presided over beatifications until the end of his Pontificate. John Paul II continued in the steps of Paul VI, and presided over the beatification of 1,338 members of the Church.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins delivered his homily in Italian, Spanish and English, taking into account a numerous presence of American, Latin American and Spanish pilgrims.

He described Marianne Cope's life as "a wonderful work of divine grace."

An evangelizer of lepers in Molokai, she was the successor of the apostle of the lepers on the Hawaiian island, Blessed Father Damian De Veuster.

Born in Heppenheim, Germany, she was christened Barbara. She immigrated to New York in the United States when she was three-years old, and eventually became a U.S. citizen.

She belonged to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Syracuse, New York. She held several positions of responsibility, but gave her final testimony of charity working with the lepers in the secluded island community, where she died Aug. 9, 1918.

"Blessed Marianne loved those suffering from leprosy more than she loved her very self. She served them, educated them, and guided them with wisdom, love and strength. She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus," explained the cardinal.

"Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother. She drew strength from her faith, the Eucharist, her devotion to our blessed Mother, and from prayer. She did not seek earthly honors or approval. She wrote: 'I do not expect a high place in heaven. I will be very grateful to have a little corner where I can love God for all eternity,'" he stated.

The cardinal described Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus, co-founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary, dedicated to the evangelization of the Amazonian tribes, as "one of the great missionaries of the past century."

"She made frequent apostolic trips to Peru and Europe, and even went to China. She had the temper of an intrepid and tireless fighter, as well as a maternal tenderness capable of conquering hearts," he said.

Born Florentina Nicol Goñi in Tafalla, Spain, she eventually entered the congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Third Order of Huesca. She was a teacher and directress of the school adjacent to the convent.

At 45, she traveled as a missionary to Peru, where she helped Dominican Bishop Ramón Zubieta in the foundation of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary, of whom she was the first general superior. She died in Pamplona, Spain, Feb. 24, 1940.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins announced that Benedict XVI set the feast day of Marianne of Molokai on Jan. 23, and that of Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus on Feb. 24.


Blessed Elisabetta Hesselblad Hailed for Wartime Aid to Jews

Religious Founder Proclaimed "Righteous Among The Nations"

ROME, MAY 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Blessed Elisabetta Hesselblad, founder of the Order of Our Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget, was proclaimed "Righteous Among the Nations" for helping Jews in Rome during World War II.

The medal awarded to the Swede will be given on June 3 to her successor as general abbess of the Order, Mother Maria Tekla Famiglietti, by Shai Cohen, adviser of the Israeli Embassy.

The Yad Vashem remembrance authority in Israel, grants the title of Righteous Among the Nations to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The award ceremony in the Chancery Palace will be attended by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State; Walter Veltroni, mayor of Rome; Swedish ambassadors; and relatives of the blessed.

Mother Hesselblad, a Lutheran convert to Catholicism, founded the religious order in 1911. Today the order has spread to 16 countries. Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 9, 2000.

The religious lived in Rome during the German occupation of Italy. Her residence as general abbess of the order was St. Bridget's Convent in Piazza Farnese.

After moving because of the Nazi occupation, the Roman Jewish families Piperno and Sed decided to return to the Eternal City on Sept. 8, 1943, and sought refuge in St. Bridget's Convent.

Mother Hesselblad hid them and also took care that they not be compelled to attend Christian prayers.


An extraordinary Roman girl, Antionetta Meo.

Buried in the Church of the Holy Cross, she is recognized as a "servant of God," the first step toward sainthood.

Antonietta, or "Nennolina" as her family called her, was like most any little girl except for her precocious and deep love of Jesus. She was born on Dec. 15, 1930, and baptized on the feast of the Holy Innocents. The date of her baptism turned out to be a foreshadowing of her life. At age 5, she was diagnosed with cancer and at age 6 her leg was amputated. Shortly before her 7th birthday, she died.

What would appear to be a tragic story, takes on its joyous tone through the letters of Nennolina. Even as she was learning to write, her first letters were to Jesus.

One side of the room shows the possessions of any little girl. Dolls, tea sets, school dresses neatly arrayed seem normal enough until one notices the cane by Nennolina's Sunday coat and remembers the trauma she suffered.

The other side of the room documents the rich, intense and exemplary spiritual life of this little Christian soldier who was confirmed just before she died. The same little girl who asked God to "let me die before I commit a mortal sin."

Nennolina would put her letters under a statue of Jesus by her bed so "at night he could read them." The letters show her acceptance of suffering as a mark of Jesus' favor. "I am happy that Jesus sent me this difficulty, it means I am his beloved," she wrote.

Offering up her lost leg to God for lost souls, she begged Jesus to "give me many souls … to make them good so they can come to heaven with you."

The little suffering girl wrote 105 letters to Jesus and Mary, some in the awkward script of a young hand, some when she was too ill to write and dictated to her mother. In 1937, one letter found its way to Pope Pius XI.

It read, "Dear Jesus crucified, I love you so very much! I want to be with you on Calvary. Dear Jesus, give me the necessary strength to stand the pain which I offer to you for those who have sinned."

The next day, the Pope sent a legate to bring his apostolic blessing to Nennolina. Shortly after, she died.

Her example has not only provided much solace to those suffering but has also spurred conversions. Her age, however, has proved a difficulty on her path to sainthood. Her bravery, faith and deep love of Christ continues, nonetheless, to set an example for those many times her age.


Pope to Proclaim Cry of Abitene Martyrs
"We Cannot Live without Sunday!"

BARI, Italy, MAY 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- On his first trip outside the province of Rome, Benedict XVI will make known to the world the message left by the martyrs of Abitene: "We cannot live without Sunday."

The martyrs' message is the theme of the 24th Italian National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Bari May 21-29. The Pope will preside at the closing Mass, confirmed the Vatican.

Martyred in 303, the Christians lived in Abitene, a city of the Roman province called "Africa Proconsularis," today's Tunis. They were victims of Emperor Diocletian's persecution, initiated after years of relative calm.

The emperor ordered that "the sacred texts and holy testaments of the Lord and the divine Scriptures be found, so that they could be burnt; the Lord's basilicas were to be pulled down; and the celebration of sacred rites and holy reunions of the Lord were to be prohibited" (Acts of the Martyrs, I), explained the organizers of the eucharistic congress.

Disobeying the emperor's orders, a group of 49 Christians of Abitene (among them Senator Dativus, the priest Saturninus, the virgin Victoria, and the reader Emeritus) gathered weekly in one of their homes to celebrate Sunday Mass.

Taken by surprise during one of the meetings in Ottavio Felice's home, they were arrested and taken to Carthage to Proconsul Anulinus to be interrogated.

When the Proconsul asked them if they kept the Scriptures in their homes, the martyrs answered courageously that "they kept them in their hearts," revealing that they did not wish to separate faith from life.

"I implore you, Christ, hear me," "I thank you, O God," "I implore you, Christ, have mercy" were exclamations uttered by the martyrs during their torment. Along with their prayers they offered their lives and asked that their executioners be forgiven.

Among the testimonies, is that of Emeritus, who affirmed fearlessly that he received Christians for the celebration. The Proconsul asked him: "Why have you received Christians in your home, transgressing the imperial dispositions?"

"Sine dominico non possumus" ("We cannot live without Sunday"), answered Emeritus.

"The term 'dominicum' has a triple meaning. It indicates the Lord's day, but also refers to what constitutes its content -- his resurrection and presence in the eucharistic event," explained the congress' organizers.

The motive of martyrdom "must not be sought in the sole observance of a 'precept,'" as "in that period the Church had not yet established in a formal way the Sunday precept," noted Monsignor Vito Angiuli, pro-vicar of the Archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, in last Sunday's edition of the Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

"Deep down was the conviction that Sunday Mass is a constitutive element of one's Christian identity and that there is no Christian life without Sunday and without the Eucharist," he stressed.

This is clearly appreciated, he said, in the "commentary that the writer of the Acts of the Martyrs made to the question posed by the Proconsul to martyr Felice: 'I am not asking you if you are a Christian, but if you have taken part in the assembly or if you have a book of the Scriptures," he stressed.

"O foolish and ridiculous question of the judge!" states the commentary of the acts. "As if a Christian could be without the Sunday Eucharist, or the Sunday Eucharist could be celebrated without there being a Christian! Don't you know, Satan, that it is the Sunday Eucharist which makes the Christian and the Christian that makes the Sunday Eucharist, so that one cannot subsist without the other, and vice versa?"

"When you hear someone say 'Christian,' know that there is an assembly that celebrates the Lord; and when you hear someone say 'assembly,' know that a Christian is there," concludes the quotation.


book review by Edmund Campion

Life of Eileen O'Connor; Waterhole of Hope; Sacred Space
                                                                                                 by John Hosie

You may start getting ready for another Australian saint. The appearance of John Hosie's biography Eileen: The Life of Eileen O'Connor (Sydney: St Paul's $29.95) is a signal that the Brown Sisters have recharged their drive to see their co-founder canonised. It's a fascinating story. Church history is often an account of the quarrels of good people; but in its purest form it is a saga of the saints. Spilled from a pram at the age of three, Eileen O'Connor suffered an extreme curvature of the spine that kept her in pain and often in bed for much of her short life. Her twisted body refused to grow; all her life she was just over one metre in height. Eileen offered her suffering as a prayer for the missionary work of the church.

Then a real life missionary came into her life, Father Ted McGrath MSC, the local priest who brought her Holy Communion, and a spark ignited between them. They began to dream a great dream that would join them together for eternity. At the time - this was early in the 20th century - social services for the very poor were limited. There were hospitals such as St Vincent's where the poor could find a place but often the sick and disabled poor just stayed at home and rotted. But what if, Eileen and Father Ted dreamed, you could inspire some nurses to devote their lives to caring for the poor "and the poor only" in their own homes. And so, just as World War I was about to start, Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor came into being.

They were nurses, not nuns, wearing a washable white nurse's uniform with a brown hat and a brown cloak (St Joseph's colour) - so Sydneysiders called them the Brown Nurses and later the Brown Sisters. They lived in a home, not a convent, and the heart of their home was the invalid Eileen O'Connor whom they called their "little mother". She liked games and laughter and picnics and playing with her dog, Rags. She ate little but was addicted to tea, so that taking tea with her was always an occasion, almost Japanese in its rituals. Personally she was very close to her nurses, teaching them to pray and giving them points for daily meditation and keeping their hearts pure. When they left the home each morning, it was to serve Christ in the poor; and when they returned in the evening it was to Eileen's bedside, to discuss their work and to be encouraged by her.

That home of theirs, however, became a cause of heartbreak. Among their earliest supporters were a well-off brother and sister, the Gells. Father Edward Gell, parish priest of Ryde in Sydney, was a graduate of Propaganda Fide College, Rome, the training school for future bishops, so not easily spooked by church authorities (although he met his match when Norman Gilroy came to town - but that's another story). He and his sister Frances put up the money to buy a home for the nurses in Coogee, a seaside suburb. They put ownership in the names of Eileen and Father Ted. Hello? Father Ted was a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, a priest with a vow of poverty. Unlike Father Gell, an unvowed secular priest, he could not own property. Thus when an enforcer from head office came out to Australia to smarten up the Missionaries, he quickly got onto Father Ted's case. Take your name off those title deeds, he told Eileen's co-founder. No way, said the young priest. Well, then, off to Tasmania you go.

The story now becomes somewhat operatic. Father Ted does go to Tasmania but Eileen, thinking he might be losing his vocation, goes after him. Then they travel back to Sydney, where Father Gell invites them to join him on a Pacific cruise. On their return Father Ted is convicted of disobedience and the canonical crime of "flight with a woman" and he is expelled from the Missionaries. I'll appeal to Rome, he responds. Eileen says, I'll go with you - when they see me they'll know this "flight with a woman" business is absurd; I'm no sex object - as a later age might put it. Afterwards it all went pearshaped. Father Ted got back into the Missionaries all right, but he was exiled from Australia and posted to the United States. On her return to Sydney, Eileen was given the cold shoulder by church authorities and the Catholic gossip mill ground her small. She and Father Ted had a couple of furtive meetings - one notably in Bombay, whither she sailed from Sydney, Father Ted, by then a WWI military chaplain, coming from Basra in Iraq, or Mesopotamia as it was then called. Under these conditions the survival of the Brown Nurses may be thought providential.

They have been well served by historians. I first got to know their story when one of my students did an assignment on them 20 years ago. (Frank Jones, where are you?) He led me to a useful booklet by the fine MSC historian John F McMahon and I wrote about Eileen and Father Ted in a Jesuit magazine, collected in Great Australian Catholics. Next, in 1992, came a capacious book by Tom Boland, the Brisbane priest who has written good biographies of Archbishops Carr and Duig. He took the story through to Eileen's death, in 1921; the church's recognition of the Nurses as a religious congregation, in 1953; the return of Father Ted to the Home at Coogee, in 1969; and his death there at the age of 96. Now John Hosie has put another good biography alongside these. More information has emerged since Dr Boland wrote. It's a sensational story yet John Hosie does not sensationalise it. He is quite matter-of-fact about various supernatural manifestations - attacks by Satan, appearances by the Blessed Virgin Mary, the discovery that Eileen's body was incorrupt fifteen years after her death - manifestations a less temperate writer could not have resisted shouting about.

Church authority is a necessary part of Eileen O'Connor's story, as it is of another story, a quite different one, that I've been reading lately. A few kilometres outside the NSW provincial city of Goulburn there's a property which was once a Catholic orphanage and is now a "House of Prayer". It's mentioned in Michael McGirr's Bypass (see Online Catholics No 19) and when I was in Melbourne I found a book on it tucked into a bottom shelf and the Catholic Bookshop: Waterhole of Hope by Annie Patterson, published by Spectrum in Melbourne three years ago. (One of the problems of being an historian of the grassroots is that much of your source material can be evasive.) It's a big book, really two books; a ruminative memoir by the "founder", Sue Gordon Woods, and a parallel account of the House's first 25 years. A big book but a good one, especially if you come from a more structured environment for then it will give you a shake and maybe get you thinking about how your life has run. Through the quarter century there were three archbishops who had ultimate oversight of the House of Prayer, Thomas Vincent Cahill, Edward Bede Clancy and Francis Patrick Carroll - three very different individuals, each charged to make or delay difficult decisions that would impact on the life of the House. What struck me about this was the constant understanding and sympathy and - shall I say? - love Sue Gordon Walker and her companions showed towards their bishops. It's not the sort of thing that makes the news but nonetheless it's a reality of our story.

One of the things that puzzled me about the House of Prayer was how they actually prayed. Oh, they go off to Mass and make retreats and share biblical insights and meditate on the Bible and all that; but when I put the book down I found it difficult to imagine what prayer life in the House might be like. This line of thought was teasing me because, also in Melbourne, I'd met a woman called Michelle Anderson. She's started her own publishing house, led to it by her own need. An alumna of a Loreto school, she found herself seeking spiritual sustenance; and so discovered www.sacredspace.ie, the website run by the Irish Jesuits to meet the modern hunger for a prayer life that nourishes. Good stuff, she found. Coming from a background in publishing, her next thought was - BOOK: had anyone thought of turning this wonderful website into a book? And the answer was no. So we have Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2005 (Melbourne: Michelle Anderson Publishing: $24.95). It follows the church's liturgical year, which means that Page One is about to start. As I was looking at this, the postman brought the latest copy of Madonna, the Jesuit spirituality magazine and I found that they have seen it too. I'll borrow two of their sentences: "This is a book to help everyday prayer go more sweetly and to help you find unexpected space for God each day. It offers prayers for each day of the year, with reflections on prayer set within a standard weekly format, the gospel reading, and a few questions about the reading." Amen to that.


Young Politician and Engineer "of Charity” to be Beatified

Catholic Action's Alberto Marvelli Is on His Way to the Altar

VATICAN CITY, SEPT 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- When John Paul II beatifies Italian engineer Alberto Marvelli (1918-1946) of Catholic Action this Sunday, he will give the universal Church an exemplary figure for young people and politicians.

The characteristics of the future blessed were highlighted on Monday by Archbishop Angelo Comastri of Loreto, who described him as "a youth who made himself a saint as a youth." Marvelli "reminds us that youth is not the age of rashness, nor the age ... to waste time; it is not the age of whims and amusements," said the archbishop.

"Youth is the most beautiful time in which good can be done. St. Philip Neri said to the young people of his time: 'Lucky you, young people, who have so much time to do good!" Alberto Marvelli, whom John Paul II described as the "engineer of charity," understood "this well and reminds young people precisely of this truth," the archbishop added on Vatican Radio.

Marvelli was also "a young Christian involved in politics," where "he left a sign of cleanness, transparency, dignity, correctness, which is a great message for all politicians today. One can be in politics and be a saint, and this is a very great message that comes from the life of Alberto Marvelli," the prelate emphasized.

A native of Ferrara, Italy, he was born on March 21, 1918. Marvelli participated in the Salesian "Oratorio" and in Catholic Action, where his faith matured in a decisive option: "My program of life is summarized in one word: holiness," he said.

Of a strong and determined character, and a great lover of sports, especially cycling, Marvelli prayed, taught catechesis, and expressed apostolic zeal, charity, and serenity, according to the biography issued by the Holy See. He chose Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) as the model of his youth. Frassati was a member of Italian Catholic Action, beatified by John Paul II in 1990.

When Marvelli finished his university studies in mechanical engineering in 1941, he joined the army during World War II, a conflict he firmly condemned. He was discharged as three of his brothers were at the front. He then worked for a brief period for FIAT, Italian automobile company, in Turin.

Following the events that led to the fall of Fascism and the German occupation of Italy in 1943, Marvelli returned to his home in Rimini.

During the war he did much work for the poor and was very active in the post war reconstruction of his city.

At that time, the future blessed even went without shoes, giving his own to the needy. He would go on his bicycle to take food and spiritual solace to refugees in hiding, witnesses said during the beatification process.

Marvelli also rescued many young people from deportation during the German occupation. After the city was liberated on Sept. 23, 1945, he was only 26 and one of the advisers of the first junta of the liberation committee.

He was put in charge of housing in the city, and later reconstruction. At one point Marvelli wrote: "To serve is better than to be served. Jesus serves."

When political parties re-surfaced in Rimini, Marvelli registered as a Christian Democrat, living "his political commitment as a service to organized society: political activity could and should be transformed in the highest _expression of lived faith," the Holy See biography notes.

In 1945, the Bishop of Rimini asked him to direct Catholic professionals. His commitment can be summarized in two words: culture and charity. He also founded a popular university and opened a soup kitchen for the poor, where he himself served and listened to their needs. As co-founder of Italian Workers' Catholic Action, he formed a cooperative for construction workers.

He showed his genuine love for the Eucharist in a continuous relationship, from where he drew the strength "to carry out his work of redemption and liberation, capable of humanizing the face of the earth," the Holy See emphasized.

Marvelli died on Oct. 5, 1946, when a military truck hit him while he was riding his bicycle to a polling station (he was one of the candidates in the election for the first communal administration). He was 28.

On Sunday, Sept. 5, in addition to Alberto Marvelli, John Paul II will beatify two other outstanding figures of Catholic Action: young Italian lay woman Pina Suriano and Spanish priest Pere Tarres i Claret.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John Paul II Will Beatify Pere Tarres i Claret

Ecclesiastical Adviser to Catholic Action in Spain

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Pere Tarres i Claret was a doctor, a priest, an apostle, a formator of youth and he will be beatified this Sunday by John Paul II in Loreto.

As a young student and doctor, the future blessed already walked "on the paths of holiness." As a priest, "he dedicated himself to intense pastoral activity" and, in particular, to the "formation of the youth of Catholic Action," highlighted Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, in his decree last June that opened the doors to the imminent beatification.

An ecclesiastical adviser of Catholic Action, Pere Tarres i Claret was "a great educator, say those who knew him: he knew how to teach to love," acknowledged Italian Catholic Action.

A native of the city of Manresa, near Barcelona, Spain, Father Claret was born on May 30, 1905. He studied at the faculty of medicine of the University of Barcelona. While living in this city, he frequented St. Philip Neri's Oratory.

He was a member, with great apostolic zeal, of the Catalonian Federation of Christian Youth. Both in the federation as well as in Catholic Action he worked in several posts simultaneously. He made a vow of chastity at 22 with the approval of his spiritual director.

In 1928, after completing medical school, he established himself definitively in Barcelona. Together with his friend, Dr. Gerardo Manresa, he founded the sanatorium-clinic of Our Lady of Mercy in that city.

During the disturbing period of the Spanish Civil War, as a refugee in Barcelona, he secretly took communion to the persecuted. He also acted as a field doctor, heroically looking after numerous wounded, and did not miss an occasion to manifest his faith.

He returned home from the front in 1939, and entered the Seminary of Barcelona that same year. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1942.

The future blessed was entrusted with many pastoral activities in his short eight years as a priest. Among the offices he held were that of diocesan vice-assistant of Catholic Action youth in Barcelona and assistant of the association's center for women and youth in the parish of St. Vincent of Sarria.

In 1945 he wrote in his diary that he felt "submerged in the ocean of the apostolate, as he had dreamed about for so long, with the same fire and enthusiasm that he felt as a lay person for the federation" of Christian Youth.

After three months of a painful illness, Pere Tarres i Claret died at 45 in the clinic he had founded on Aug. 31, 1950.

In addition to Father Claret, John Paul II will beatify on Sunday two other outstanding figures of Catholic Action: young lay Italians Pina Suriano (1915-1950), and Alberto Marvelli (1918-1946).


Czeslaw Milosz - a life infused with faith

Jo Siedlecka

The Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, died at his home in Krakow, Poland on Saturday. He was 93.

Best known as a poet, Milosz also wrote novels and dozens of essays. His translations of Polish writers introduced many foreign readers to the literature of his homeland. His poems were an inspiration to the Solidarity trade union movement fighting the communist regime in Poland in the 1970s and '80s.

Faith infused all his writing. A committed Catholic, Milosz was drawn to the Book of Job, where suffering tests a man's faith in God but does not break it. Milosz translated many books of the Bible from Hebrew and New Testament Greek into Polish. His favourite books were Psalms, Job and Revelations.

Professor Robert Faggen, from Claremont McKenna College in California who edited Striving Toward Being: The Letters of Merton and Milosz (1997) said: "He had a profound understanding of the history of religion and the Christian church. One of the questions he would always be asking is: 'How could a just and good God have created a world so filled with cruelty and torture?' "

Professor Faggen said: "He is without question one of the heroic figures of 20th century poetry, although 'heroic' was a mantle he shunned. At the Solidarity monument in Gdansk, you have icons of three figures: Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II and Milosz."

Faggen said the Pope and the poet began corresponding over Milosz's treatise on theology and its justifications of evil.

"One of the things the Pope said to him was: "In your poetry, you take two steps forward and one step back.'" Czeslaw replied: 'Holy Father, how in this century can I do otherwise?' "

Born in what is now Lithuania, Milosz moved to Poland and survived the Nazi occupation during World War II and the Soviet takeover that followed. His poetry gave witness, creating a literary record filled with anger and irony but not despair.

Milosz credited French wartime philosopher Simone Weil for teaching him to live with contradiction. He wrote about this conflict in several poems. Explaining his own rationale for the existence of God, he said: "It's not up to me to know anything about heaven or hell. But in this world, there is too much ugliness and horror. So there must be, somewhere, goodness and truth. And that means somewhere God must be."

Paying tribute to Milosz, Lech Walesa, former Polish president and Solidarity leader said: ""He inspired, encouraged and strengthened us. He belonged to the generation of princes, great personalities."

Czeslaw Milosz is survived by two sons. His first wife, Janina, died in 1986. His second wife, Carol, died in 2003.

Although he was ill, Milosz kept writing until shortly before his death. In a poem called 'Meaning' he wrote in 1991:

When I die, I will see the lining of the world
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.



VATICAN CITY, JAN 4, 2005 (VIS) - In Rome at the beginning of last month, the second edition of the Roman Martyrology was presented. The new Martyrology is an updated list not, as the name might suggest, of martyrs, but of all the saints and blesseds venerated by the Church.

  The latest edition of the Martyrology was presented during an event promoted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to commemorate the conciliar constitution on liturgical reform "Sacrosanctum Concilium", promulgated on December 4, 1963.

  The new edition contains certain differences with respect to the earlier edition, which was published in 2001 and was the first since Vatican Council II. A number of typographical errors have been corrected and the 117 people canonized or beatified between 2001 and 2004 have been added. Moreover, many saints, mostly Italian-Greek monks, whose names have not thus far been listed in the Martyrology but who are effectively much venerated, especially in southern of Italy, have also been included.

  The updated Martyrology contains 7,000 saints and blesseds currently venerated by the Church, and whose cult is officially recognized and proposed to the faithful as models worthy of imitation.


“Lion of Munster” opposed Nazi Euthanasia and Persecution of Jews

Clemens Augustus von Galen To Be Beatified

MUNSTER, Germany, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Clemens Augustus von Galen (1878-1946), better known as the "Lion of Munster," were recognized on Dec. 20, 2003.

Last Year the medical-theological Commission had already recognized the validity of a miracle. Now it corresponds to bishops and cardinals to endorse the cause of beatification. Once this step is taken, the Holy Father will sign the decree and decide the date of the beatification ceremony.

Clemens Augustus, Count von Galen, belonged to the noble family of Spee. His uncle, Wilhelm von Ketteler was a well-known bishop of Mainz. After completing his studies and obtaining excellent results, he was ordained a priest and on Sept. 5, 1933 appointed bishop of Munster.

During the whole Nazi period, he raised his voice in defense of the rights of the Church, the poor, the Jews, and the sick. He energetically opposed the spread of Nazi paganism.

His homilies of the summer of 1941 became famous, which brought him to the brink of being arrested and condemned to death. Von Galen protested forcefully against euthanasia, the seizure of monasteries and convents, the expulsion of religious and the persecution of Jews.

Especially effective was von Galen's offensive against Hitler's euthanasia program.

In a homily opposing euthanasia, von Galen said: "Never, for any reason, can a man kill an innocent if it is not in war or for legitimate defense." "If the principle by which we can kill our non-productive brothers is affirmed and accepted, calamities and misfortunes will strike us when we are old and weak!"

The bishop of Munster added in the homily: "If we allow one of us to kill those who are non-productive, misfortune will strike the invalid who exhausted and sacrificed themselves, and lost their health and strength in the productive process."

"If we even once accept the principle of the right to kill our non-productive brothers -- even if it is limited from the start to the poor and defenseless mentally ill --, then by this principle murder becomes admissible for all non-productive beings, the incurably ill, those made invalid at work or in war, and ourselves, when we are old, weak and so not productive."

"Arriving at this point, the life of none of us will be safe. Any commission can include us in the list of the non-productive," von Galen alerted.

"No police, no court will investigate our murder, or punish the murderer as he deserves."

"Who will be able to trust a doctor? He could classify his patient as non-productive and receive instructions to kill him."

"It is impossible to imagine the abysses of moral depravity and general mistrust, even in the family realm, to which we would descend if such a horrible doctrine were tolerated, accepted, and put into practice," von Galen concluded.

The homily was reproduced in leaflets which were dropped by Britain's Royal Air Force over Germany.

Von Galen's resistance to the Nazi euthanasia programs was kept up by other priests, among them the Provost of Berlin Cathedral, Bernhard Lichtenberg.

Lichtenberg was arrested, tried and condemned in October 1941. He died in 1943 on the way to Dachau. John Paul II raised him to the honor of the altar on June 23, 1996.

Von Galen's homilies had great impact among the wounded soldiers returning from the battlefront. Many of them, in fact, thought they would be eliminated in the euthanasia program.

Despite his efforts, von Galen's courageous opposition did not stop the horror machine. Hitler announced publicly that he had put an end to the euthanasia program on Aug. 24, 1941, but the programs to eliminate the weak, the sick and non-Aryans continued.


Statue Unveiled to Italian Franciscan Who Saved Many From Nazi Persecution

Inauguration Took Place in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua

PADUA, Italy, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A bust of Father Placido Cortese, known for his efforts to save numerous people from Nazi persecution, was unveiled in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.

Born Nicolo Cortese di Cherso and called Father Placido by his brothers in the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, he was director of the magazine "St. Anthony's Messenger."

According to Father Apollonio Tottoli, the priest’s biographer, Father Placido "did not look like a hero. He was small and thin. But he had amazing courage and determination to the point of facing martyrdom in prayer."

At the height of the war, when the city of Padua was occupied by the Nazis, Father Placido organized a network to rescue prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. He saved the lives of refugees, prisoners, Jewish and Slovenian persecuted politicians and others.

Carlo Bolzonella, who knew him, said that "Father Placido was an angel, he had amazing charity, he was a friar who was truly all heart."

"I once saw him weep because he couldn't help all those who were imploring him. He helped the Jews and to this end he often asked me for two workers who later went on to Como and Switzerland," he added.

When the Gestapo began to look for him, Father Placido decided to stay in his monastery, which enjoyed papal extraterritoriality.

Subsequently, on Oct. 8, 1944, with the pretext of helping a person, he was lured out of the monastery and arrested by the Nazis.

Some eyewitnesses say that during the interrogations, despite unheard of tortures, Father Placido assumed all responsibility and did not reveal the name of a single collaborator in the charity network.

Slovenian Colonel Vladimiro Vauhnih, head of the pro-Allies information network, reported that "the Gestapo took out the eyes of the religious, cut his tongue off, and buried him alive."

Father Placido was 37 when he died. His cause of beatification opened in January, 2002 in Trieste, the place where he was tortured, whom people already call the "Paduan Father Kolbe."

The biography of the blessed is entitled "Father Placido Cortese: Victim of Nazism," and is available in Italian from Messaggero di S.Antonio Editrice.


Marvelli, a Blessed in Jacket and Tie

Interview with Biographer of New Blessed

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Blessed Alberto Marvelli is not what most would consider a traditional blessed: he was a young, athletic layman who often wore a jacket and tie.

In this interview, Professor Roberto Di Ceglie of the Pontifical Lateran University, explains to ZENIT how "faith and history" are intertwined in Marvelli who was proclaimed blessed a month ago in Loreto. He also outlines his personality and describes him as "athletic, responsible and credible."

Professor Roberto Di Ceglie is co-author with Natalino Valentini of a book on the new lay blessed entitled "Alberto Marvelli: Fidelity to God and Fidelity to History” published in Italian by Messaggero di S.Antonio Editrice. The book includes the minutes of a scientific congress promoted by the diocese of Rimini, Italy, this year.

Q: What does this contemporary young saint in a jackete and tie have to say to the world?

Di Ceglie: A saint in a tie and jacket means the Christian capacity to dress oneself with the clothing of history, making it significant in the light of the pillars of faith, the Eucharist, and prayer.

In other words, this clothing assumes its maximum potentiality in the constant remembrance of the values of faith in a God who himself is involved in the first person in human affairs.

Q: Marvelli is among the most luminous figures of Italian Catholicism. Why?

Di Ceglie: Because in him faith and history have been united in a marvelous way. This bond, which brings with it the splendor of a life lived to the fullest thanks to faith in Christ, finds in Marvelli an _expression of exceptional power: young, athletic, courageous, intelligent, able in his studies and successful at work, solid in his positions but respectful of diversity, attentive to the needs of others, determined to pursue objectives with obligation and responsibility, credible, sure.

Who would not be attracted by the fascination of such a figure? Luminous, without a doubt.

Q: Lay, young, saint: is it a path we will see increasingly?

Di Ceglie: In each one of us, certainly, there is the yearning to see and meet saints. It is therefore desirable that holiness be increasingly allied to the condition of the laity, who can have the honor of living it in the context of daily life, in an authentic missionary spirit of which the need is increasingly noted.

And it turns out to be even more fascinating that youth comes across such paths, because it is a symbol of freshness, of openness to reality and, in a certain sense, of serene correspondence with events and history, still not vitiated, and if I am allowed the _expression, foreign to a certain pedantry that at times comes with age.

In a word, it is a question of re-thinking, from this point of view, the spontaneity of the little ones, who not by chance Jesus called to be free to go to Him.

Q: Truth and charity, contemplation and action: Marvelli is spoken about as an extraordinary example of faith and history. How did he do it?

Di Ceglie: The fact of appreciating and developing earthly realities is constitutive of Christianity.

Medieval culture combined the saying Gratia non destruit naturam sed perficit, namely, that grace does not diminish but empowers the dignity of the things of the world in relationship to God who loves man to the point of sacrificing His Son for his salvation.

Marvelli's extraordinary experience is attributable, undoubtedly, to an exceptional visibility of this relationship, which finds its effective _expression in the capacity to combine faith, politics, and ethics.

But beyond this particularity, we must say that in general there is no holiness without this correspondence between faith and history.


John Paul II's Homily After Beatification of 5 persons
"Allowed Themselves to Be Guided by the Word of God"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II's homily today, delivered during the solemn Mass in which he proclaimed blessed Peter Vigne (1670-1740); Joseph-Marie Cassant (1878-1903); Anna Katharina Emmerick (1774-1824); María Ludovica De Angelis (1880-1962); and Charles I of Austria (1887-1922).

* * *

1. "'Verbum Domini manet in aeternum' -- The Word of the Lord remains for ever."

The exclamation of the Song of the Gospel refers us to the very foundations of the faith. In the face of the passage of time and the continual alterations of history, the revelation that God has offered us in Christ remains stable forever and opens a horizon of eternity on our earthly journey.

This is what the five new blessed experienced in a singular way: Peter Vigne, Joseph-Marie Cassant, Anna Katharina Emmerick, María Ludovica De Angelis, Charles of Austria. They allowed themselves to be guided by the Word of God as by a luminous and sure light, which never failed to illuminate their path.

[In French]

2. By contemplating Christ present in the Eucharist and in his salvific passion, Father Peter Vigne was led to be an authentic disciple and faithful missionary of the Church. May his example give the faithful the desire to draw audacity for the mission from the love of the Eucharist and adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament! Let us pray that he will touch the hearts of young people so that they will accept to consecrate themselves totally to him in the priesthood or religious life, if they are called by God. May the Church in France see in Father Vigne a model so that new sowers of the Gospel will arise.

3. Brother Joseph-Marie always put his trust in God, in contemplation of the mystery of the passion, and in union with Christ present in the Eucharist. In this way, he was permeated with the love of God, abandoning himself to him, "sole happiness on earth," and detaching himself from the goods of the world in the silence of a Trappist monastery. In the midst of trials, with his eyes fixed on Christ, he offered his sufferings for the Lord and the Church. May our contemporaries, in particular the contemplatives and the sick, discover, following his example, the mystery of prayer, which raises the world to God and gives strength in trials!

[In Spanish]

4. "God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control."

These words of St. Paul invite us to collaborate in the building of the Kingdom of God, from the perspective of faith. They may well be applied to the life of Blessed Ludovica De Angelis, whose life was totally consecrated to the glory of God and the service of her fellowmen.

Prominent in her figure are the heart of a mother, her leadership qualities, and the very audacity of saints. She had a concrete and generous love for sick children, enduring sacrifices to alleviate them; for her collaborators at the La Plata Hospital she was a model of joy and responsibility, creating a family atmosphere; for her sisters in the community, she was a genuine example of a Daughter of Our Lady of Mercy. In all this, she was sustained by prayer, making of her life a continuous communication with the Lord.

[In German]

5. Blessed Anna Katharina Emmerick showed and experienced in her own flesh "the bitter passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ." The fact that, from being the daughter of poor peasants, who constantly sought closeness to God, she became the famous "mystic of Muenster" is a work of divine grace. Her material poverty is contrasted with her rich interior life. As much as by her patience to endure her physical weaknesses, we are impressed by the strength of character of the new blessed and her firmness in the faith.

She received this strength from the Holy Eucharist. In this way, her example opened the hearts of poor and rich men, educated and humble people, to complete loving passion toward Jesus Christ. Still today she communicates to all the salvific message: "By his wounds you have been healed" (see 1 Peter 2:24).

6. The decisive duty of the Christian is in seeking the will of God in everything, in knowing it and carrying it out. This daily challenge was addressed by the man of state and Christian Charles, of the House of Austria. He was a friend of peace. In his eyes, war was "something horrible." Ascending the throne in the midst of the storm of the First World War, he tried to take up the peace initiative of my predecessor Benedict XV.

From the beginning, Emperor Charles understood his task of sovereign as a holy service to peoples. His first need, in his political conduct, was to follow the call of Christians to holiness. That is why he considered the idea of social love important. May he always be a model for us all, in particular for those today who have a political responsibility in Europe!


Charles I of Austria: a Eucharistic Soul

Peace Was a Top Commitment

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican press office issued this biography of Charles I of Austria (1887-1922), who will be beatified this Sunday.

* * *

Charles of Austria was born August 17, 1887, in the Castle of Persenbeug in the region of Lower Austria. His parents were the Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josephine of Saxony, daughter of the last King of Saxony. Emperor Francis Joseph I was Charles' Great Uncle.

Charles was given an expressly Catholic education and the prayers of a group of persons accompanied him from childhood, since a stigmatic nun prophesied that he would undergo great suffering and attacks would be made against him. That is how the "League of prayer of the Emperor Charles for the peace of the peoples" originated after his death. In 1963 it became a prayer community ecclesiastically recognized.

A deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began to grow in Charles. He turned to prayer before making any important decisions.

On October 21, 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon and Parma. The couple was blessed with eight children during the ten years of their happy and exemplary married life. Charles still declared to Zita on his deathbed: "I'll love you forever."

Charles became heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on June 28, 1914, following the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand.

World War I was under way and with the death of the Emperor Francis Joseph, on November 21, 1916, Charles became Emperor of Austria. On December 30th he was crowned apostolic King of Hungary.

Charles envisaged this office also as a way to follow Christ: in the love and care of the peoples entrusted to him, and in dedicating his life to them.

He placed the most sacred duty of a king -- a commitment to peace -- at the center of his preoccupations during the course of the terrible war. He was the only one among political leaders to support Benedict XV's peace efforts.

As far as domestic politics are concerned, despite the extremely difficult times he initiated wide and exemplary social legislation, inspired by social Christian teaching.

Thanks to his conduct, the transition to a new order at the end of the conflict was made possible without a civil war. He was, however, banished from his country.

The Pope feared the rise of Communist power in central Europe, and expressed the wish that Charles re­establish the authority of his government in Hungary. But two attempts failed, since above all Charles wished to avoid the outbreak of a civil war.

Charles was exiled to the island of Madeira. Since he considered his duty as a mandate from God, he could not abdicate his office.

Reduced to poverty, he lived with his family in a very humid house. He then fell fatally ill and accepted this as a sacrifice for the peace and unity of his peoples.

Charles endured his suffering without complaining. He forgave all those who conspired against him and died on April 1, 1922 with his eyes turned toward the Holy Sacrament. On his deathbed he repeated the motto of his life: "I strive always in all things to understand as clearly as possible and follow the will of God, and this in the most perfect way."


Anna Katharina Emmerick, Mystic of the Passion

She Bore the Wounds of Christ

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Anna Katharina Emmerick, (1774-1824), who will be beatified this Sunday.

* * *

Anna Katharina Emmerick was born on September 8, 1774, in the farming community of Flamsche near Coesfeld. She grew up amidst a host of nine brothers and sisters. She had to help out in the house and with the farm work at an early age. Her school attendance was brief, which made it all the more remarkable that she was well instructed in religious matters. Her parents and all those who knew Anna Katharina noticed early on that she felt drawn to prayer and to the religious life in a special way.

Anna Katharina labored for three years on a large farm in the vicinity. Then she learned to sew and stayed in Coesfeld for her further training. She loved to visit the old churches in Coesfeld and to join in the celebration of Mass. She often walked the path of Coesfeld's long Way of the Cross alone, praying the stations by herself.

Anna Katharina wanted to enter the convent, but since her wish could not be fulfilled at that time, she returned to her parental home. She worked as a seamstress and, while doing so, visited many homes.

Anna Katharina asked for admission to different convents, but she was rejected because she could not bring a significant dowry with her. The Poor Clares in Münster finally agreed to accept her if she would learn to play the organ. She received her parents' permission to be trained in Coesfeld by the organist Söntgen. But she never got around to learning how to play the organ. The misery and poverty in the Söntgen household prompted her to work in the house and help out in the family. She even sacrificed her small savings for their sake.

Together with her friend Klara Söntgen Anna Katharina was finally able to enter the convent of Agnetenberg in Dülmen in 1802. The following year she took her religious vows. She participated enthusiastically in the life of the convent. She was always willing to take on hard work and loathsome tasks. Because of her impoverished background she was at first given little respect in the convent. Some of the Sisters took offence at her strict observance of the order's rule and considered her a hypocrite. Anna Katharina bore this pain in silence and quiet submission.

From 1802 to 1811 Anna Katharina was ill quite often and had to endure great pain.

As a result of secularization the convent of Agnetenberg was suppressed in 1811, and Anna Katharina had to leave the convent along with the others. She was taken in as a housekeeper at the home of Abbé Lambert, a priest who had fled France and lived in Dülmen. But she soon became ill. She was unable to leave the house and was confined to bed. In agreement with Curate Lambert she had her younger sister Gertrud come to take over the housekeeping under her direction.

During this period Anna Katharina received the stigmata. She had already endured the pain of the stigmata for a long time. The fact that she bore the wounds of Christ could not remain hidden. Dr. Franz Wesener, a young doctor, went to see her, and he was so impressed by her that he became a faithful, selfless and helping friend during the following eleven years. He kept a diary about his contacts with Anna Katharina Emmerick in which he recorded a wealth of details.

A striking characteristic of the life of Anna Katharina was her love for people. Wherever she saw need she tried to help. Even in her sickbed she sewed clothes for poor children and was pleased when she could help them in this way. Although she could have found her many visitors annoying, she received all of them kindly. She embraced their concerns in her prayers and gave them encouragement and words of comfort.

Many prominent people who were important in the renewal movement of the Church at the beginning of the 19th century sought an opportunity to meet Anna Katharina, among them Clemens August Droste zu Vischering, Bernhard Overberg, Friedrich Leopold von Stolberg, Johann Michael Sailer, Christian and Clemens Brentano, Luise Hensel, Melchior and Apollonia Diepenbrock.

The encounter with Clemens Brentano was particularly significant. His first visit led him to stay in Dülmen for five years. He visited Anna Katharina daily to record her visions which he later published.

Anna Katharina grew ever weaker during the summer of 1823. As always she joined her suffering to the suffering of Jesus and offered it up for the salvation of all. She died on February 9, 1824.

Anna Katharina Emmerick was buried in the cemetery in Dülmen. A large number of people attended the funeral. Because of a rumor that her corpse had been stolen the grave was reopened twice in the weeks following the burial. The coffin and the corpse were found to be intact.

Clemens Brentano wrote the following about Anna Katharina Emmerick: "She stands like a cross by the wayside." Anna Katharina Emmerick shows us the center of our Christian faith, the mystery of the cross.

The life of Anna Katharina Emmerick is marked by her profound closeness to Christ. She loved to pray before the famous Coesfeld Cross, and she walked the path of the long Way of the Cross frequently. So great was her personal participation in the sufferings of our Lord that it is not an exaggeration to say that she lived, suffered and died with Christ. An external sign of this, which is at the same time, however, more than just a sign, are the wounds of Christ which she bore.

Anna Katharina Emmerick was a great admirer of Mary. The feast of the Nativity of Mary was also Anna Katharina's birthday. A verse from a prayer to Mary highlights a further aspect of Anna Katharina's life for us. The prayer states, "O God, let us serve the work of salvation following the example of the faith and the love of Mary." To serve the work of salvation -- that is what Anna Katharina wanted to do.

In Colossians the apostle Paul speaks of two ways to serve the gospel, to serve salvation. One consists in the active proclamation in word and deed. But what if that is no longer possible? Paul, who obviously finds himself in such a situation, writes: "Now 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" (Colossians 1:24).

Anna Katharina Emmerick served salvation in both ways. Her words, which have reached innumerable people in many languages from her modest room in Dülmen through the writings of Clemens Brentano, are an outstanding proclamation of the gospel in service to salvation right up to the present day. At the same time, however, Anna Katharina Emmerick understood her suffering as a service to salvation. Dr. Wesener, her doctor, recounts her petition in his diary: "I have always requested for myself as a special gift from God that I suffer for those who are on the wrong path due to error or weakness, and that, if possible, I make reparation for them." It has been reported that Anna Katharina Emmerick gave many of her visitors religious assistance and consolation. Her words had this power because she brought her life and suffering into the service of salvation.

In serving the work of salvation through faith and love, Anna Katharina Emmerick can be a model for us.

Dr. Wesener passed on this remark of Anna Katharina Emmerick: "I have always considered service to my neighbor to be the greatest virtue. In my earliest childhood I already requested of God that he give me the strength to serve my fellow human beings and to be useful. And now I know that he has granted my request." How could she who was confined to her sickroom and her bed for years serve her neighbor?

In a letter to Count Stolberg, Clemens August Droste zu Vischering, the Vicar General at that time, called Anna Katharina Emmerick a special friend of God. In the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar we can say, "She brought her friendship with God to bear in solidarity with human beings."

To bring friendship with God to bear in solidarity with human beings -- does this not shed light on an important concern in the life of the Church today? The Christian faith no longer includes everyone. In our world the Christian community represents people before God. We must bring our friendship with God to bear, let it be the decisive factor in solidarity with human beings.

Anna Katharina Emmerick is united to us in the community of believers. This community does not come to an end with death. We believe in the lasting communion with all whom God has led to perfection. We are united with them beyond death and they participate in our lives. We can invoke them and ask for their intercession. We ask Anna Katharina Emmerick, the newly named Blessed, to bring her friendship with God to bear in solidarity with us and with all human beings.


Trappist Joseph-Marie Cassant, Ordinary and Saintly
Biography of Soon-to-Be-Beatified Monk

Joseph-Marie Cassant (1878-1903)

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See issued this biography of Joseph-Marie Cassant (1878-1903), a French Trappist monk and priest, whom John Paul II will beatify on Sunday.

* * *

Joseph-Marie Cassant was born on March 6, 1878, at Casseneuil, Lot-et-Garonne, in the Diocese of Agen, France, into a family of orchard-keepers. The second child born to the family, he had an elder brother already nine years of age. He was a lodger at the boarding school of the La Salle Brothers in Casseneuil itself, and it was there that his poor memory began to cause him difficulty in studying.

He received a solid Christian education at home and at school, and little by little the deep desire to become a priest grew within him. Father Filhol, the parish priest, thought well enough of the boy to help him with his studies, but his weak memory kept him from entering the minor seminary. When it became clear that he was drawn toward silence, recollection and prayer, Father Filhol suggested that he give thought to the Trappists, and the young 16-year-old unhesitatingly agreed.

After a trial period, Joseph entered the Cistercian Abbey of Sainte-Marie du Désert, in the Diocese of Toulouse, France, on Dec. 5, 1894. The novice master at the time was Fr. André Mallet, a man skilled at understanding the needs of souls and responding in love. From their very first meeting he showed this when he said to the young man, "Just trust, and I will help you to love Jesus!" Nor were the other monks of the monastery slow to appreciate the newcomer: He neither argued nor grumbled but was ever happy, ever smiling.

The young monk would often meditate upon Jesus in his passion and on the cross, and so became deeply imbued with love for Christ. The "way of Jesus' heart" which Father André taught him is an unceasing call to live the present moment with patience, hope and love.

Brother Joseph-Marie was well aware of his limitations and weaknesses, and so was led to depend more and more on Jesus, his strength. He had no interest in half-measures but wished to give himself completely to Christ. His personal motto bears witness to this: "All for Jesus, all through Mary." On Ascension Thursday, May 24, 1900, he was admitted to final vows.

Then came his preparation for the priesthood. This he viewed primarily in relation to the Eucharist, which was truly to him the living presence of Jesus among us. The Eucharist is the Savior himself, wholly giving himself to men; his Heart is pierced on the Cross and then tenderly gathers in all those who trust in him. There were times during his theological studies when, because of his great sensitivity, he suffered much from the lack of understanding of the monk teaching the course.

But, as in all his contradictions, he relied upon Christ present in the Eucharist as his "only good upon this earth" and confided his suffering to Father André who would cheer him up and help him better to understand. In the end, he did well enough to pass his examinations and had the great joy of being ordained a priest on October 12, 1902.

At that point it became clear that he had contracted tuberculosis and that the disease was already well advanced. The young priest spoke of his pains only when it was impossible to hide them further. How could he complain, he who meditated so lovingly on the Lord's Way of the Cross?

In spite of a seven weeks' stay with his family which he undertook at his abbot's request, his health continued to deteriorate. He then returned to the monastery, where he was soon sent to stay in the infirmary. Here was one more opportunity to offer up his sufferings for Christ and the Church: His physical pain became more and more unbearable, and was even worsened by the nurse's neglect. Father André continued to accompany him and became more than ever his constant aid and support.

The young priest had said, "When I can no longer say Mass, Jesus can take me from this world." Early in the morning of June 17, 1903, Father Joseph-Marie received Communion and left this world to be with Christ Jesus for ever.

On June 9, 1984, the Holy Father, John Paul II, acknowledged his heroic virtues.

The sheer ordinariness of his life has been noted by some: 16 quiet years at Casseneuil and nine years of monastic enclosure spent in doing the simplest of things: prayer, studies, work. They are indeed simple things, but lived in an extraordinary way. They were the slightest of deeds, but performed with limitless generosity. Christ imbued his mind, clear as the water that leaps from a spring, with the conviction that God alone is our true and highest happiness and that his kingdom is like a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price.

The message of Father Joseph-Marie has great meaning for us today. In a world filled with distrust and often with despair but thirsting for love and kindness, his life can provide an answer, and in a special way to today's young who seek meaning in their lives. Joseph-Marie was a youth without any standing or worth in the eyes of men. He owed the success of his life to a meeting with Jesus that redefined his very existence.

He showed himself a follower of the Lord in the midst of a community of brothers, with the guidance of a spiritual father, who was to him a witness of Christ as well as one who knew to receive and to understand him.

For the meek and humble he is a superb example. Watching Joseph-Marie, we learn how to live each day for Christ with love, zeal and fidelity, accepting at the same time the help of an experienced brother or sister who can lead us in the footsteps of Jesus.


Apostle of Eucharist and Tireless Missionary Raised to Altar

John Paul II Will Beatify French Priest Peter Vigne

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Next Sunday, a week after the beginning of the "Year of the Eucharist," John Paul II will propose to the universal Church the life and testimony of a tireless missionary and apostle of the Most Holy Sacrament, when he beatifies French priest Peter Vigne (1670-1740) in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

Here is the biography of the future Blessed issued by the Holy See.

* * *

PETER VIGNE (1670-1740)

Peter Vigne was born on Aug. 20, 1670 in Privas, France, a small town still feeling the effects of the Wars of Religion from the previous century. His father, Peter Vigne, an honest textile merchant, and his mother, Frances Gautier, married in the Catholic Church, had their five children baptized in the Catholic parish of Saint Thomas. Two daughters died in infancy. Peter and his two older siblings, John-Francis and Eleonore, lived with their parents in relative comfort.

When he was 11 years of age, Peter was chosen by the parish priest to act as a witness, signing the parish register for baptisms, marriages and deaths.

After receiving a good level of education and instruction, towards the end of his teenage years, his life was suddenly transformed by a new awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist. This experience led him to center his life on Jesus, who offered himself on the Cross for love of us and, in the Eucharist, never ceases to give himself to all men. In 1690, he entered the Sulpician Seminary in Viviers. Ordained a priest on September 18, 1694 in Bourg Saint Andeol by the bishop of Viviers, he was sent as curate to Saint-Agreve where, for six years he exercised his priestly ministry, in friendship with his parish priest and beloved by his parishioners.

Always attentive to discern in life's events what the Lord was asking of him, he felt called elsewhere. With understandable hesitancy in the beginning and then with increasing certitude, he pursued his spiritual itinerary along new paths. His desire to work as a missionary among the poor was central to his decision to join the Vincentians in Lyon, in 1700. There, he received a solid formation in poverty and in conducting "popular missions" and with his fellow priests began visiting towns and villages in the work of evangelization. In 1706, he left the Vincentians of "his own free will." Now more than ever he was passionate for the salvation of souls, especially for the poor people living in the countryside. After a period of searching, his vocation took shape with increasing clarity. He became an "itinerant missionary" applying his own pastoral methods, whilst submitting his ministry to the authorization of his hierarchical superiors.

For more than thirty years he traveled tirelessly on foot or on horseback the roads of Vivarais and Dauphiné, and even beyond. He faced the fatigue of being constantly on the move, as well as severe weather conditions, in order to make Jesus known, loved and served. He preached, visited the sick, catechized the children, administered the sacraments, even going as far as carrying "his" confessional on his back, ready at all times to celebrate and bestow the mercy of God. He celebrated Mass, exposed the Blessed Sacrament, and taught the faithful the prayer of adoration. Mary, "beautiful tabernacle of God among men" was also given a place of honor in his prayer and teaching.

In 1712, he went to Boucieu-le-Roi, where the setting favored the erection of a Way of the Cross. With the help of parishioners he constructed 39 stations throughout the village and countryside, teaching the faithful to follow Jesus from the upper room to Easter and Pentecost. Boucieu became his place of residence. There, he gathered together a few women, charging them to "accompany the pilgrims" on the Way of the Cross and to help them pray and meditate.

It was there that he founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. On Nov. 30, 1715, in the church at Boucieu, he gave them the cross and the religious habit. He invited them to ensure continuous adoration of Jesus present in the eucharist and to live together in fellowship. Anxious to give the youth access to instruction, thus helping them grow in their faith and Christian values, Peter Vigne opened schools and also established a training school for teachers.

Such a challenging and busy lifestyle needed some support. For that reason, whenever Peter Vigne was in Lyon on business, he never failed to call on his former seminary tutors, the priests of Saint Sulpice, to meet his confessor and spiritual director. Drawn by the Eucharistic spirituality of the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament, founded by Monsignor d'Authier de Sisgaud, he was accepted as an associate member of this society of priests on Jan. 25, 1724, in Valence, and benefited from their spiritual and temporal help.

Whilst continuing to accompany his young congregation, Peter Vigne continued with his apostolic works, and to make the fruits of his missions more available, he found time to write books: rules to live by, works of spirituality, and especially one entitled, "Meditations on the Most Beautiful Book, Jesus Christ Suffering and Dying on the Cross."

The physical strength of our pilgrim for God, the demands of his apostolic activities, the long hours he spent in adoration and his life of poverty, bear witness not only to a fairly robust physique, but above all to a passionate love of Jesus Christ who loved his own to the end (cf. John 13:1).

At the age of 70, the effects of exhaustion began to show. During a mission at Rencurel, in the Vercors mountains, he was taken ill and had to interrupt his preaching. Despite all his efforts to celebrate the Eucharist one more time and encourage the faithful to love Jesus, feeling his end was near, he expressed once again his missionary zeal, then withdrew in quiet prayer and reflection. A priest and two Sisters came in haste to accompany him in his final moments. On July 8, 1740, he went to join the One he had so loved, adored and served. His body was taken back to its final resting place in the little church in Boucieu where it remains to this day.


Biography of Future Blessed Sister Maria Ludovica de Angelis

"Do Good to All, No Matter Who it May Be"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 24, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Sister Maria Ludovica de Angelis (1880-1962), whom the Pope will beatify on Oct. 3 in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

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Born on Oct. 24, 1880, in Italy, at St. Gregorio, a small village of Abruzzo, not too far from the city of L'Aquila, Sister Maria Ludovica De Angelis, the first of eight children, brought great happiness to her parents. On the same afternoon of the day she was born, she was carried to the baptismal font where her parents chose the name of Antonina for their firstborn.

Even as a very young child, Antonina loved nature, and, as she worked long and tirelessly in the fields, she felt right at home being so close to God's earth. A bright and honest child, Antonina grew into a sensitive and delicate yet very strong young woman. She was somewhat reserved, as was typical of the people of her native land. However, her penetrating and serious eyes conveyed boundless tenderness and this is how she looked upon all whom she met, especially the children.

On Dec. 7 of the same year on which Antonina was born, a great woman died in Savona. The woman of whom we speak had chosen to dedicate fully her own life to the following of Christ who said: "Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful..." and "All that you do the least of my brethren, you do to me...”

She was Saint Mary Joseph Rossello who began the Institute of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy, a Religious Family, her family that, having taken its first steps in 1837, was now spreading to various parts of the world as it engaged in the works of mercy.

This Religious Family, known for its good example and genuine religious lifestyle, was' attracting many other women to follow the same ideal.

Antonina, coming to know this religious family, immediately felt in her heart that her dreams were echoing the same dreams as those cherished by Mother Rossello. There was no need to search further. She entered the community of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy in November 1904 and, on the day of her reception, she received the name of Sister M. Ludovica. Exactly three years after her entrance, on November 14, 1907, in God's Providence, she set sail for Buenos Aires, arriving there on December 4. From this time she gave of herself unselfishly in uninterrupted service and ministered with complete dedication in whatever she was called to do.

Sister Ludovica did not have a formal education, but all that she accomplished through her own resourcefulness astounded everyone who lived with her and knew her. Although her Spanish was mixed with Italian, her native tongue -- an abruzzese dialect -- she understood well and was always able to make herself understood. She had neither the talent nor the ability to set up programs or to write goals and objectives. However, she gave of herself completely in her assignment at the Children's Hospital.

From her very first days in the Hospital she felt at home and took on the task of providing the meals for the children, Sisters and staff. Later, when she was named as manageress of the Hospital and Superior of the community, she was known as the untiring angel of the hospital staff that, through her loving efforts, was gradually becoming a strong and united family with a single goal in mind -- the good of the children.

Gentle in manner and determined in her commitment, she always had the Rosary in her hands, her gaze and heart turned to God, and a warm smile lighted up her face. Through her unbounded goodness, without being aware of it, Sister Ludovica became a constant instrument of mercy so that the message of God's love for each one of his children was touching everyone.

Her goal in life was repeated in the sentence: "Do good to all, no matter who it may be."

Heaven only knows how Sister Ludovica managed to procure financial help to build operating rooms, additional children's rooms, medical equipment, a building at Mar del Plata for convalescing children, a Chapel -- today a parish -- and even a flourishing farm, at City Bell, that yielded abundant produce so that her children could have good nourishment. All this was accomplished by this simple woman who was driven by love and complete dedication.

For 54 years, Sister Maria Ludovica was a friend, mother and counselor to countless numbers of people of every social condition.

On Feb. 25, 1962, her earthly journey ended as God summoned her to her eternal reward. However, her story did not end in death. For those who knew her, especially the medical personnel, were very mindful of all the good she had accomplished. They named the Children's Hospital after her, calling it "Superior Ludovica Hospital."


Pere Tarrés Aimed to Be a Holy Priest, at All Costs

John Paul II Recalls Catalan at Beatification

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II pointed to the testimony of Pere Tarrés i Claret, a doctor who became a priest on his way to beatification.

Born in Manresa, Spain, on May 30, 1905, Pere Tarrés was a member of the Federation of Christian Youth of Catalonia and of Catholic Action. He founded the sanatorium-clinic of Our Lady of Mercy in Barcelona.

"In the exercise of his medical profession, he dedicated himself with special solicitude to the sick who were poorest, convinced that 'the sick person is a symbol of the suffering of Christ,'" the Pope said during his homily at today's beatification Mass, celebrated near the Shrine of Loreto.

As a refugee in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, Tarrés secretly took Communion to the persecuted. He also acted in his capacity as a field doctor, heroically caring for numerous wounded.

He returned home from the front in 1939 and entered the Barcelona seminary that same year. He was ordained a priest in May 1942.

Tarrés "consecrated himself with generous audacity to the tasks of his ministry, remaining faithful to the commitment assumed on the eve of his ordination: 'Only one purpose, Lord: to be a holy priest, no matter what it costs,'" the Pope said in the homily.

"He accepted with faith and heroic patience a terrible sickness, which led to his death when he was only 45," the Holy Father said. "Despite his suffering, he often repeated: 'How good the Lord is to me!' And, 'I am really happy.'"


Pina Suriano's Secret: "To Live for Jesus"

Pope Tells of Young Sicilian at Her Beatification

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II summarized the life of newly beatified Pina Suriano with the phrase, "I do nothing other than to live for Jesus."

The young Sicilian (1915-1950) had to give up the dream of her life -- religious consecration -- because of her family's opposition and practical problems. She then gave her life to God as a lay member of Catholic Action.

"She spoke to Jesus with the heart of a spouse," the Pope said today in the homily at the beatification Mass. He added these words of Suriano: "Jesus, make me ever more yours. Jesus, I want to live and die with you and for you."

"As a girl she was a member of the Feminine Youth of Catholic Action, of which she was later a parish leader, finding in the association important stimulus for human and cultural growth in an intense climate of fraternal friendship," the Holy Father said.

"She matured gradually a simple and firm will to give her young life to God as an offering of love, in particular for the sanctification and perseverance of priests," John Paul II concluded.

Suriano, known among her friends for her beauty, made a vow of chastity on April 29, 1932, in the Chapel of the Daughters of Mercy and of the Cross, social headquarters of Feminine Youth of Catholic Action.

On May 30, 1948, together with three friends, she offered herself as a victim for the holiness of priests.

Just over a year later, she developed a form of rheumatoid arthritis that frequently forced her to stay in bed, unable to move. She died of a heart attack on May 19, 1950, at 35.


Alberto Marvelli, a Politician of God

At Beatification Mass, Pope Recalls a Postwar Protagonist

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The secret of Alberto Marvelli, an Italian engineer and postwar politician, was the giving of his life for Jesus and his brothers, John Paul II said at his beatification.

In his homily at today's beatification Mass, addressed to 250,000 people gathered near the Shrine of Loreto, the Pope sketched the profile of this "strong and free youth, generous son of the Church of Rimini and of Catholic Action."

He "conceived the whole of his brief life of just 28 years as a gift of love to Jesus for the good of his brothers," the Holy Father said.

John Paul II recalled the words Marvelli wrote in his diary: "Jesus has enveloped me with his grace," "I see only Him, I think only of Him."

Alberto Marvelli was born in 1918. He was a childhood friend of film director Federico Fellini, and a member of Catholic Action. In 1941, at the end of his university studies in mechanical engineering, Marvelli had to enlist in the Italian army, even though he condemned the war.

Discharged from the front, he dedicated himself to aiding the poor during the conflict.

He succeeded in rescuing many young people from deportation during the German occupation.

"In the difficult period of World War II, which sowed death and multiplied atrocious violence and suffering, Blessed Alberto lived an intense spiritual life, from which arose that love of Jesus which led him to forget himself constantly to carry the cross of the poor," the Pope said in his homily.

After the city of Rimini was liberated in 1945, Marvelli's name was among the members of the first Junta of the Committee of Liberation. He was just 26, and became one of the protagonists of the postwar reconstruction of the city. He was a member of the Christian Democratic Party.

On the evening of Oct. 5, 1946, while he was riding his bicycle to an election meeting -- he was a candidate for the first communal administration -- he was struck and killed by a truck.

"Alberto made of the daily Eucharist the center of his life," John Paul II said during the Mass. "He also sought in prayer inspiration for his political commitment, convinced of the need to live fully as children of God in history, to make the latter a story of salvation."


LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily John Paul II delivered today in Loreto, at the beatification Mass for Father Pere Tarrés i Claret (1905-1950), Alberto Marvelli (1918-1946) and Pina Suriano (1915-1950).

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1. "What man can know the will of God?" (Wisdom 9:13). The question, posed in the Book of Wisdom, has an answer: Only the Son of God, made man for our salvation in Mary's virginal womb, can reveal God's plan to us. Only Jesus Christ knows the way to "attain wisdom of heart" (Responsorial Psalm) and obtain peace and salvation.

And what is this way? He has told us in today's Gospel: It is the way of the cross. His words are clear: "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).

"To carry the cross after Jesus" means to be ready for any sacrifice for love of him. It means to put anything or anyone before him, not even the persons most dear to us, not even our own life.

2. Dear brothers and sisters, gathered in this "splendid valley of Montorso," as described by Archbishop Comastri, whom I thank sincerely for the warm words he addressed to me. With him, I greet the cardinals, archbishops and bishops present; I greet the priests, religious, consecrated persons; and above all I greet you, members of Catholic Action who, led by the assistant general, Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi, and by the national president, Dr. Paola Bignardi, whom I thank for her warm greeting, wished to gather here, under the gaze of Our Lady of Loreto, to renew your commitment of faithful adherence to Jesus Christ.

You know it: To adhere to Christ is an exacting choice. It is no accident that Jesus speaks of the "cross." However, he specifies immediately after: "after me." This is the important message: We do not bear the cross alone. He walks before us, opening the way with the light of his example and the strength of his love.

3. The cross, accepted out of love, generates freedom. The Apostle Paul experienced this, "an old man and now a prisoner for Christ Jesus," as he describes himself in the letter to Philemon, but interiorly totally free. This is precisely the impression given in the page that was just proclaimed: Paul is in chains, but his heart is free, because it is full of the love of Christ. This is why, from the darkness of the prison in which he suffers for his Lord, he can speak of freedom to a friend who is outside the prison. Philemon is a Christian from the city of Colossae: Paul addresses him to ask him to liberate Onesimus, who is still a slave according to the law of the period, but a brother through baptism. Renouncing the other as his possession, Philemon will receive as a gift a brother.

The lesson from this episode is clear: There is no greater love than that of the cross; there is no greater freedom than that of love; there is no fuller fraternity than that born from the cross of Christ.

4. The three blessed, just proclaimed, made themselves humble disciples and heroic witnesses of the cross of Jesus.

Pedro Tarrés i Claret, first a doctor and then a priest, dedicated himself to the lay apostolate among the young of Barcelona's Catholic Action, of whom, subsequently, he was an assistant. In the exercise of the medical profession he dedicated himself with special solicitude to the sick who were poorest, convinced that "the sick person is a symbol of the suffering Christ."

Once a priest, he consecrated himself with generous audacity to the tasks of his ministry, remaining faithful to the commitment assumed on the eve of his ordination: "Only one purpose, Lord: to be a holy priest, no matter what it costs." He accepted with faith and heroic patience a terrible sickness, which led to his death when he was only 45. Despite his suffering, he often repeated: "How good the Lord is to me!" And, "I am really happy."

5. Alberto Marvelli, strong and free youth, generous son of the Church of Rimini and of Catholic Action, conceived the whole of his brief life of just 28 years as a gift of love to Jesus for the good of his brothers. "Jesus has enveloped me with his grace," he wrote in his diary. "I see only Him, I think only of Him." Alberto made of the daily Eucharist the center of his life. In prayer he also sought inspiration also for his political commitment, convinced of the need to live fully as children of God in history, to make the latter a story of salvation.

In the difficult period of World War II, which sowed death and multiplied atrocious violence and suffering, Blessed Alberto lived an intense spiritual life, from which arose that love of Jesus which led him to forget himself constantly to carry the cross of the poor.

6. Blessed Pina Suriano, a native of Partinico, in the Diocese of Monreale, also loved Jesus with an ardent and faithful love to the point of being able to write in all sincerity: "I do nothing other than to live for Jesus." She spoke to Jesus with the heart of a spouse: "Jesus, make me ever more yours. Jesus, I want to live and die with you and for you."

As a girl she was a member of the Feminine Youth of Catholic Action, of which she was later a parish leader, finding in the association important stimulus for human and cultural growth in an intense climate of fraternal friendship. She matured gradually a simple and firm will to give her young life to God as an offering of love, in particular for the sanctification and perseverance of priests.

7. Dear brothers and sisters, friends of Catholic Action, gathered in Loreto from Italy, Spain and so many parts of the world! Through the beatification of these three Servants of God, the Lord says to you today: Holiness is the greatest gift you can give to the Church and the world.

Carry in your hearts what the Church carries in her heart: that many men and women of our time be conquered by the attraction of Christ; that his Gospel may shine again as a light of hope for the poor, the sick, those hungry for justice; may Christian communities be ever more lively, open, attractive; may cities be welcoming and livable for all; may humanity be able to follow the ways of peace and fraternity.

8. It corresponds to you, the laity, to witness to the faith through the virtues that are specific to you: fidelity and tenderness in the family, competence in work, tenacity in serving the common good, solidarity in social relations, creativity in undertaking works that are useful to evangelization and human promotion. It corresponds to you also to show, in close communion with pastors, that the Gospel is timely, and that faith does not remove the believer from history, but submerges him more profoundly in it.

Courage, Catholic Action! May the Lord guide your journey of renewal!

The Immaculate Virgin of Loreto accompanies you with tender solicitude; the Church looks to you with confidence; the Pope greets you, supports you, and gives you his heartfelt blessing.