Saints, People Who Leave Everything to Follow Christ

during the Eucharistic celebration held this morning in St. Peter's Square, which was attended by around 30,000 people, the Pope canonized the following Blesseds: Rafael Guizar Valencia (1878-1938), Filippo Smaldone (1848-1923), Rosa Venerini (1656-1728), and Theodore Guerin, nee Anne-Therese (1798-1856).

At the beginning of his homily, the Holy Father commented on the Gospel account of the rich young man, affirming how “a saint is that man or that woman who, responding with joy and generosity to the call of Christ, leaves everything to follow Him.”

“Earthly riches occupy and preoccupy the mind and the heart. Jesus does not say they are evil, but that they distance one from God if they are not, so to say, 'invested' for the kingdom of heaven, in other words used to help those who live in poverty.”

Benedict XVI then went on to refer in turn to each of the new saints. The Mexican, Rafael Guizar Valencia was, he said, “bishop of the poor.” In his ministry as priest and later as bishop, in the diocese of Veracruz, he was a tireless preacher of popular missions – then the most effective way of evangelizing the people – using his “Catechism of Christian Doctrine.” One of his priorities was the formation of priests, and he rebuilt a seminary which he considered “the apple of his eye.”

“May the example of St. Raphael Guizar Valencia,” said the Pope, “be a call to brother bishops and priests to consider as a fundamental element of their pastoral projects – alongside the spirit of poverty and evangelization – the fomentation of priestly and religious vocations and their formation in accordance with Christ's heart.”

The Italian St. Filippo Smaldone, founder of the Institute of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, was, said Pope Benedict, “a priest with a great heart, nourished through constant prayer and Eucharistic adoration; he was above all a witness to and servant of charity which he displayed magnificently in serving the poor, especially the deaf, to whom he dedicated himself entirely.”

“In the deaf,” the Pope went on, the saint “saw a reflection of the image of Jesus, and he used to repeat that, just as we prostrate ourselves before the Most Holy Sacrament, so must we kneel before the deaf.”

Speaking of the new Italian saint, Rosa Venerini, foundress of the Congregation of the “Maestre Pie Venerini,” Benedict XVI pointed out how “she did not content herself with giving girls an adequate education, but made it her concern to ensure them a complete formation, with concrete reference to the doctrinal teaching of the Church. Even today her apostolic style continues to characterize the life” of the congregation she founded. “How important, even for modern society, is the service [the congregation] provides in the field of schooling, and especially in the formation of women.”

St. Theodore Guerin was a Frenchwoman who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary “ad Nemus” (Saint Mary of the Woods) in the U.S.A. The Pope recalled a phrase she used shortly before her death as she noted how sisters from her congregation were running schools and orphanages all over the state of Indiana: “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!

“Mother Guerin is a beautiful spiritual figure and a model of Christian life,” he added. “She was always ready for the missions the Church asked of her, finding the strength and courage to put them into effect in the Eucharist, prayer and an infinite trust in Divine Providence. Her interior strength gave her a particular concern for the poor, and especially for children.”

(This update courtesy of Vatican Information Service.)

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