Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The rain was the most obvious protagonist of this morning’s canonization of 4 new saints, as it poured down relentlessly on the ocean of coloured umbrellas, on the sick, on the ministrants and bishops gathered in St Peter’s square. Every step of the ceremony, the readings, processions – with the exception of the rites performed around the papal altar – were hindered by the opening and closing of the multi coloured umbrellas as they were passed from hand to hand, covering heads but drenching the shoulders and robes of the cardinals and 40 thousand faithful.
But the principal protagonist –said the pope – was “the Glory of God reflected in the lives of the saints”. Benedict XVI, thus united the solemn feast of the Holy Trinity – in which we “lift our gaze to the “open skies“ …to the profound depths of God’s mystery, who is one being in three persons – to the ceremony of the canonization of 4 blessed from Malta, Polond, Holland, France. They are George Preca (1880-1962), priest and founder of Societas Doctrinæ Christianæ Malta’s first saint, Szymon z Lipnicy (1435 ca.-1482), priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, and great preacher who died after caring for the sick during the plague in Poland; Karel van Sint Andries Houben (1821-1893), passionist priest, born in Holland but missionary in Ireland, the so called “healer” of Dublin; Marie-Eugénie de Jésus Milleret (1817-1898), founder of the Institute of the Sisters of the Assumption. All of these lived through times of great social tumult and de-Christianisation; all of these worked as missionaries, so much so that their work spread not only throughout their individual nations, but also abroad. The Pope defined them as “exemplary witnesses of the Gospel”.
Cardinals from across the world participated in the ceremony as well as the Presidents of Ireland, Malta, Poland and the Philippines : where the miracle which guaranteed sainthood for Sr. Marie Eugenie took place.
In his homily Benedict XVI, underlined that “God’s wisdom manifests itself in the cosmos, in its variety and the beauty of its elements, but his greatest masterpiece are the saints”. More precisely – explained the pontiff, inspired by the mass readings - “Every single saint participates in the richness of Christ, given to him from the father, through the Holy Spirit. It is always the Holiness of Christ that the Spirit plasmates in “saintly souls”, creating in them friends of Christ and witnesses of his Holiness”.
The pope then went on to reflect on the character and work opf the 4 new saints.
Fr. George Preca was “A friend of Christ and a witness of his holiness, moulded by Him …, , born in La Valletta on the island of Malta. As a priest he dedicated himself entirely to evangelization: through preaching, writing, catechesis, the administration of the sacraments but first and foremost through the example of his way of life. The expression of St John’s Gospel, “Verbum caro factum est” guided his soul and his every action, thus the Lord through him was able to bring a great work to fruition, the “Society of Christian Doctrine”, which aims to ensure Parishes the service of qualified, well prepared and generous catechists. A profoundly mystic and priestly soul, he gave himself over to the love of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. He would often repeat “My Lord God, how greatly I am indebted to you! Thank you My Lord God and Forgive Me!. Saint George Preca may you help the Church in Malta and the entire world be the faithful echo of Christ’s voice the Word made flesh”.
The Pole Simon of Lipnica, “a witness of Christ and follower of St Francis of Assisi, lived in a distant time, yet today he is proposed to the Church as a model of that type of Christian, who animated by the Spirit of the Gospel is ready to give their entire life to their fellow man. He was filled by the mercy of the blessed sacrament, and did not hesitate to come to the help of the sick and dying of the plague, countering that disease that would in the end bring about his own death. Today we entrust all those who suffer from poverty and disease, loneliness and social injustice to his care. Through his intercession we ask for the grace of Christ’s persevering love”.
The pope then presented the figure of the passionist Karel van Sint Andries Houben, “totally dedicated to the care of souls. During his many years of priestly ministry in England and Ireland, the people flocked to him to seek out his wise counsel, his compassionate care and his healing touch. In the sick and the suffering he recognized the face of the Crucified Christ, to whom he had a lifelong devotion. He drank deeply from the rivers of living water that poured forth from the side of the Pierced One, and in the power of the Spirit he bore witness before the world to the Father’s love. At the funeral of this much-loved priest, affectionately known as Father Charles of Mount Argus, his superior was moved to observe: “The people have already declared him a saint’”.
In his reflections on Marie-Eugénie Milleret the Pope underlined her strong bond with the Eucharist. As a child she had received First communion, but her family were followers of Voltaire and never gave her any religious instruction. It was only when she reached 15 that Marie Eugenie discovered the faith. “Christ who was present in the depths of her heart - observed Benedict XVI - allowed time to mark its own rhythm, eventually guiding her heart and soul to dedicated herself totally to Him, by entering into religious life. She perceived the importance of transmitting the faith to the young generations, particularly to young women, an intellectual, moral and spiritual formation which would turn them into adults capable of taking charge of their family life, as well as contributing to the life of the Church and society. All along her path of her life’s journey she found the inspiration and strength for her mission in prayer, assoaciated with contemplation and action.
Following the example of Saint Marie Eugenie may all the men and women of today transmit those same necessary values to young people so that they too may become joyful witnesses of the Risen Christ. So that those young people will no longer be afraid of welcoming those spiritual and moral values and will be able to live accordingly with patience and faithfulness. This is how their characters are formed, this is how we can prepare them for the future”.
The pontiff concluded “Let us be drawn by their examples, let us be guided by their teachings so that our entire existence become as theirs a song of praise and glory to the Holy Trinity. May we obtain this grace through Mary, the Queen of Saints and through the intercession of this our “Elder Brothers” who we venerate today. Amen”.
At the end of the celebration Benedict XVI greeted those present in different languages, thanking them for their “patience” for having put up with the ceaseless rain. “But water – said the Pope with a smile – is a precious gift and so we must also give praise for the water”. The faithful loudly applauded, waving flags, hats and rain-drenched umbrellas.