Sunday, October 15, 2006

Today the Catholic Church canonized 4 new saints to serve as examples of Christian life to the faithful. Pope Benedict XVI delivered the following remarks today:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Four new saints are proposed today for the veneration of the universal Church: Rafael Guízar y Valencia, Filippo Smaldone, Rosa Venerini and Théodore Guérin. Their names will forever be remembered.

In contrast, we think immediately of the 'rich young man' in the Gospel we just heard. This young man has remained anonymous. If he had responded positively to the invitation of Jesus, he would have become His disciple and the evangelists would have recorded his name.

This fact immediately allows us to see the theme of tehe Liturgy of the Word this Sunday. If man places his security in the riches of this world, he will not achieve the full sense of life and true joy; if instead, trusting in the word of God, he renounces himself and his worldly goods for the Kingdom of Heaven, he will apparently lose much but in fact gain everything.

A saint is that man or woman who, responding with joy and gnerosity to the call of Christ, leaves everything to follow Him. Like Peter and the other Apostles, like St. Therese of Jesus (Therese of Liseux) whom we remember today, and numberless other friends of God, the new saints went through this exigent but satisfying evangelical itinerary, and received back - along with the trials and persecutions of their earthly life - 'a hundredfold', as well as eternal life.

Jesus therefore can guarantee a happy existence and eternal life, but through a road different from that imagined by the rich young man - not through one good deed or some legal contribution, but by choosing the Kingdom of God as the 'precious pearl' for which it is worth selling all that one possesses (cfr Mt 13, 45-46).

The rich young man did not get to take this step. Even if he earned a look full of love from Jesus (cfr Mk 10,21), his heart could not detach itself from the wealth he possessed. And that was a teaching for the disciples: "How difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!" (Mk 10,23).

Earthly riches occupy and preoccupy the mind and heart. Jesus does not say wealth is bad but that it keeps us far from God if
it is not, so to speak, 'invested' into the Kingdom of the heavens, especially to come to the aid of the poor.

To understand this is fruit of that wisdom that the first Reading speaks of. Wisdom, it says, is more precious than silver and gold, than even of beauty, health and light itself, because "the splendor it emanates never sets" (Wis 7,10).

Obviously, this wisdom cannot be reduced to a mere intellectual dimension. It is much more. It is the 'wisdom of the heart," as Psalm 89 calls it. It is a gift that comes from on high (cfr Jc 3,17), from God, and it is obtained by praying (cfr Wis 7,7).

That wisdom in fact has not remained far from man's reach; it has made itself acessible to his heart (cfr Dt 30,14), taking form in the First Alliance between God and Israel through Moses. The wisdom of God is contained in the Ten Commandments.

Thus, Jesus says in the Gospel that "to enter into life" , it is necessary to follow the commandments (cfr Mk 10,19). It is necessary but not enough. In fact, as St. Paul says, salvation does not come from the Law, but from grace. And St. John reca that the Law came down through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ (cfr Jn 1,17).

To arrive at salvation, therefore, it is necessary to open oneself in faith to the grace of Christ, who places a demanding condition on those who turn to Him: "Come follow me!" (Mk 10,21).

The saints had the courage and humility to say Yes - they renounced everything to be His friends. That was done by the four new Saints we venerate today. In them we find realized the experience of Peter: "See, we have left everything and we have followed You" (Mk 10,28). Their only reasure is in heaven - God.

In Spanish, he said the following:

The Gospel which we heard helps us to understand the figure of San Rafael Guizar y Valencia, Bishop of Veracruz in the beloved nation of Mexico, as an example of those who left everything to 'follow Christ.'

This saint was faithful to the divine Word, "alive and effective," which penetrates the deepest profundity of the spirit (cf Hb 4,12). Imitating Christ who was poor, he gave up his goods, and never accepted gifts form the powerful, or if he did, he gave them away immediately.

For that he received "a hundredfold" and could thereby help the poor, even in the midst of 'persecutions' without end (cf Mk 10.30). His charity, lived to a heroic degree, earned him the title "Bishop of the Poor." In his priestly and later episcopal ministry, he was a tireless preacher of popular missions, the most appropriate method at that time to evangelize peoples, using his Catechism of the Christian doctrine.

Since the formation of priests was one of his priorities, he reconstructed the seminary that was called 'the apple of his eyes,' and for that, he often said: "A bishop may lack miter, staff and even a cathedral, but he can never lack a seminary, because the future of his diocese depends on that."

With this profound sense of priestly fatherhood, he faced new persecutions and displacements, while guaranteeing that his seminarians would continue to be educated.

May the example of St. Rafael Guizar y Valencia be a call to our brother bishops and priests to consider fundamental in their pastoral programs - in addition to the spirit of poverty and evangelization - the drive for religious and priestly vocations and the formation of priests and religious according to the heart of Christ.

He resumed in Italian:

St. Filippo Smaldone, a son of southern Italy, was able to transmute into his life the best virtues of the region. A priest with a great heart, nourished by constant prayer and Eucharistic adoration, he was above all a witness and servant of charity, which he manifested eminently in his service to the poor, especially to the deaf-mute to whom he dedicated himself wholly.

The work he begun continues, thanks to the Congregation of the SAlesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts founded by him, and which is now found in various parts of Italy and throughout the world.

In the deaf-mute, St. Filippo Smaldone saw a reflection of the image of Jesus, and he used to say that just as one prostrated himself before the Blessed Sacrament, so should one kneel before a deaf-mute.

We gather from his example the invitation to always consider indissoluble the love for the Eucharist and for our neighbor. In fact, the true capacity to love our brothers only comes through our encounter with the Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

St. Rosa Venerini is another example of the faithful disciple of Christ, ready to abandon everything to fulfill the will of Christ. She loved to say: "I find myself so bound to the divine will that nothing matters; I just want to live according to His will, and to serve Him the way He wants, nothing more." (Biografia Andreucci, p 515).

From this abandonment to God came the far-seeing activities that she carried out courageously fot the spiritual elevation and authentic emancipation of the young women of her time. St. Rosa did not content herself with providing young women with an adequate education. but she worked to assure them a complete education with a firm basis in the doctines of the Church.

Her apostolic style continues to characterize today the Congregation of the Maestre Pie Venerini which she founded. How current and important today is the service which she rendered for our society in the field of education, especially for young women!

He said the following in English:

"Go, sell everything you own, and give the money to the poor… then come, follow me." These words have inspired countless Christians throughout the history of the Church to follow Christ in a life of radical poverty, trusting in Divine Providence.

Among these generous disciples of Christ was a young Frenchwoman, who responded unreservedly to the call of the divine Teacher. Mother Theodore Guérin entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in 1823, and she devoted herself to the work of teaching in schools.

Then, in 1839, she was asked by her Superiors to travel 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. There they found a simple log-cabin chapel in the heart of the forest. 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.

In her own words, "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!"

In French, he said:

Mother Théodore Guérin is a beautiful spiritual figure and a model of Christian life. She was always available for the missions the Church asked of her. She found the strength and the daring to serve these missions in the Eucharist, in prayer, and an infinite confidence in divine Providence.

Her interior strength impelled her to a special attention for the poor, especially the children.

He concluded in Italian:

Dear brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to the Lord for the gift of holiness, which today blazes with singular beauty in the Church. Jesus invites us, as He did the saints, to follow him in order to have eternal life as our legacy. Their testimonial example is illuminating and inspiring especially to the young, because they allowed themselves to be conquered by Christ, by His look full of love.

Mary, Queen of the Saints, pray for us that among the Christian people there will be more men adn women like St. Rafael Guizar y Valencia, St. Filippo Smaldone, St, Rosa Venerini and St. Theodore Guerin, ready to abandon everything for the Kingdom of God, willing to adopt for themselves the logic of giving and of service as a way to save the world. Amen!

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