More than 80,000 people filled Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday for the canonzation by Pope Francis of seven new saints.
Two of the new Saints are martyrs: José Sánchez del Río, a 14-year-old boy who was killed in 1928 in Mexico during the “Cristero” struggle which opposed the government’s anti-Catholic and anticlerical policies. Under torture José refused to disown his faith; a handwritten note addressed to his mother and found on his dead body read: “I promise that in heaven I will prepare a place for all of you. Your José dies defending the Catholic faith for the love of Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe”.
The first martyr belonging to the La Salle Order, killed in 1792 during the French Revolution. His name is Salomone Leclercq; he too chose to die in the defense of his faith.
Then there is “Cura Brochero” (José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero), an Argentinean priest “’who smelt of sheep’ and travelled enormous distances on the back of a mule during the 19th century to bring consolation and Jesus’ message of salvation to the poorest of the poor.
The Spanish Bishop of Palencia Manuel González García, founder of the Congregation of the Eucharistic Missionaries of Nazareth, the Disciples of Saint John, and the Children of Reparation. He was known for his strong devotion to the Eucharist and became known as the “Bishop of the Tabernacle”. He died in 1940.
Father Lodovico Pavoni of the Italian city of Brescia, founder of the religious congregation ‘Sons of Mary Immaculate’ or ‘Pavonians’. During the industrial revolution of the 19th century he set up an Oratory for Christian education and together with his ‘labourer brothers’ he taught the poor and the marginalized trades and religious education in the belief that improving social conditions would improve the spiritual life, and improving the spiritual life would improve social conditions..
Alfonso Maria Fusco, a priest from the southern Italian city of Salerno, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, commonly known as Baptistine Sisters. Their mission was to evangelize, educate and promote youth, especially those who were most poor, abandoned and at risk. He was particularly close to the impoverished and neglected farmers of the South of Italy after the unification of Italy in 1861.
Finally the French Discalced Carmelite mystic and writer Elizabeth of the Trinity who died aged just 26 in 1906 from Addison’s disease, which in the early 20th century had no treatment with which to cure or allieviate the suffering of its victims. Even though her death was painful, Elizabeth gratefully accepted her suffering as a gift from God. Her last words were: “I am going to Light, to Love, to Life!”
During his homily the Pope said “saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer. Men and women who struggle with prayer, letting the Holy Spirit pray and struggle in them.”
Pope Francis said, “In this way, we come to the theme of prayer, which is central to this Sunday’s scriptural readings and challenges all of us who are gathered here for the canonization of new Saints. The Saints attained the goal. Thanks to prayer, they had a generous and steadfast heart. They prayed mightily; they fought and they were victorious.
“So pray! Like Moses, who was above all a man of God, a man of prayer. We see him today in the battle against Amalek, standing atop the hill with his arms raised. From time to time, however, his arms would grow weary and fall, and then the tide would turn against the people. So Aaron and Hur made Moses sit on a stone and they held up his arms, until the final victory was won.”
Pope Francis said that, “This is the kind of spiritual life the Church asks of us: not to win by war, but to win with peace!”
Pope Francis continued, “There is an important message in this story of Moses: commitment to prayer demands that we support one another. Weariness is inevitable. Sometimes we simply cannot go on, yet, with the support of our brothers and sisters, our prayer can persevere until the Lord completes his work.
“Saint Paul writes to Timothy, his disciple and co-worker, and urges him to hold fast to what he has learned and believed (cf. 2 Tim 3:14). But Timothy could not do this by his own efforts: the “battle” of perseverance cannot be won without prayer. Not sporadic or hesitant prayer, but prayer offered as Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “Pray always, without ever losing heart” (Lk 18:1). This is the Christian way of life: remaining steadfast in prayer, in order to remain steadfast in faith and testimony. Here once again we may hear a voice within us, saying: “But Lord, how can we not grow weary? We are human… even Moses grew weary…!” True, each of us grows weary. Yet we are not alone; we are part of a Body! We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church, whose arms are raised day and night to heaven, thanks to the presence of the Risen Christ and his Holy Spirit. Only in the Church, and thanks to the Church’s prayer, are we able to remain steadfast in faith and witness.
“We have heard the promise Jesus makes in the Gospel: “God will grant justice to his chosen ones, who cry to him day and night” (cf. Lk 18:7). This is the mystery of prayer: to keep crying out, not to lose heart, and if we should grow tired, asking help to keep our hands raised. This is the prayer that Jesus has revealed to us and given us in the Holy Spirit. To pray is not to take refuge in an ideal world, nor to escape into a false, selfish sense of calm. On the contrary, to pray is to struggle, but also to let the Holy Spirit pray within us. For the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray. He guides us in prayer and he enables us to pray as sons and daughters.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said, “The saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer. Men and women who struggle with prayer, letting the Holy Spirit pray and struggle in them. They struggle to the very end, with all their strength, and they triumph, but not by their own efforts: the Lord triumphs in them and with them. The seven witnesses who were canonized today also fought the good fight of faith and love by their prayers. That is why they remained firm in faith, with a generous and steadfast heart. Through their example and their intercession, may God also enable us to be men and women of prayer. May we cry out day and night to God, without losing heart. May we let the Holy Spirit pray in us, and may we support one another in prayer, in order to keep our arms raised, until Divine Mercy wins the victory.”