Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Canonization... and a Challenge

Over a million showed yesterday as, on a São Paulo military tarmac, B16 gave the world's largest Catholic country its first native-born saint.

Of Frei Galvão, the 18th century Franciscan and architect now revered as a patron of the construction trade guardian of women in labor, the Pope said in his canonization homily (fulltext):
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.

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. Jn 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" (Jn 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....

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....

[A]llow 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" (Lev 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!
Yesterday marked the hinge of the five-day trek as Benedict XVI left São Paulo and headed to Aparecida, the country's Marian shrine selected by him as the site of the decennial plenary of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops, which begins tomorrow.

The pontiff didn't leave the mega-city, however, without also leaving a detailed and incisive programmatic message for the bishops of Brazil, given during Vespers in the São Paulo cathedral.

Here's but a bit of it (emphases original):
We Bishops have come together to manifest this central truth, since we are directly bound to Christ, the Good Shepherd. The mission entrusted to us as teachers of the faith consists in recalling, in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, that our Saviour "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls. For this reason the Father sent his Son, and in the Lord’s own words transmitted to us in the Gospel of Saint John, "as the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21). Hence the mandate to preach the Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:19-20). These words are simple yet sublime; they speak of our duty to proclaim the truth of the faith, the urgent need for the sacramental life, and the promise of Christ’s continual assistance to his Church. These are fundamental realities: they speak of instructing people in the faith and in Christian morality, and of celebrating the sacraments. Wherever God and his will are unknown, wherever faith in Jesus Christ and in his sacramental presence is lacking, the essential element for the solution of pressing social and political problems is also missing. Fidelity to the primacy of God and of his will, known and lived in communion with Jesus Christ, is the essential gift that we Bishops and priests must offer to our people (cf. Populorum Progressio, 21)....

Starting afresh from Christ in every area of missionary activity; rediscovering in Jesus the love and salvation given to us by the Father through the Holy Spirit: this is the substance and lifeline of the episcopal mission which makes the Bishop the person primarily responsible for catechesis in his diocese. Indeed, it falls ultimately to him to direct catechesis, surrounding himself with competent and trustworthy co-workers. It is therefore clear that the catechist’s task is not simply to communicate faith-experiences; rather—under the guidance of the Pastor—it is to be an authentic herald of revealed truths. Faith is a journey led by the Holy Spirit which can be summed up in two words: conversion and discipleship. In the Christian tradition, these two key words clearly indicate that faith in Christ implies a way of living based on the twofold command to love God and neighbour—and they also express life’s social dimension.

Truth presupposes a clear understanding of Jesus’ message transmitted by means of an intelligible, inculturated language, which must nevertheless remain faithful to the Gospel’s intent. At this time, there is an urgent need for an adequate knowledge of the faith as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its accompanying Compendium. Education in Christian personal and social virtues is also an essential part of catechesis, as is education in social responsibility. Precisely because faith, life, and the celebration of the sacred liturgy—the source of faith and life—are inseparable, there is need for a more correct implementation of the liturgical principles as indicated by the Second Vatican Council, as well as those contained in the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (cf. 145-151), so as to restore to the liturgy its sacred character. It was with this end in view that my Venerable Predecessor on the Chair of Peter, John Paul II, wished "to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity ... Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated" (Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52). For Bishops, who are the "moderators of the Church’s liturgical life", the rediscovery and appreciation of obedience to liturgical norms is a form of witness to the one, universal Church, that presides in charity.

A leap forward in the quality of people’s Christian lives is needed, so that they can bear witness to their faith in a clear and transparent way. This faith, as it is celebrated and shared in the liturgy and in works of charity, nourishes and reinvigorates the community of the Lord’s disciples while building them up as the missionary and prophetic Church. The Brazilian Episcopate has an impressive structure based on recently revised and more easily implemented statutes which focus more directly on the good of the Church. The Pope has come to Brazil to ask that, through following the word of God, all these Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate truly become messengers of eternal salvation for all those who obey Christ (cf. Heb 5:10). If we are to stay true to our solemn commitment as successors of the Apostles, we Pastors must be faithful servants of the word, eschewing any reductive or mistaken vision of the mission entrusted to us. It is not enough to look at reality solely from the viewpoint of personal faith; we must work with the Gospel in our hands and anchor ourselves in the authentic heritage of the Apostolic Tradition, free from any interpretations motivated by rationalistic ideologies.

Indeed, "within the particular Churches, it is the Bishop’s responsibility to guard and interpret the word of God and to make authoritative judgments as to what is or is not in conformity with it" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, 19). As the primary Teacher of faith and doctrine, the Bishop will rely on collaboration with the theologian, who, in order "to be faithful to his role of service to the truth, must take into account the proper mission of the Magisterium and collaborate with it" (ibid., 20). The duty to preserve the deposit of faith and safeguard its unity calls for strict vigilance so that the faith may be "preserved and handed down with fidelity and so that particular insights are clearly integrated into the one Gospel of Christ" (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 126).

This, therefore, is the enormous responsibility you have assumed as formators of your people, and especially of the priests and religious under your care. They are you faithful co-workers. I am aware of your commitment to seeking ways of forming new vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Theological formation, as well as education in sacred sciences, needs to be constantly updated, but this must always done in accord with the Church’s authentic Magisterium.

I appeal to your priestly zeal and your sense of vocational discernment, especially so that you will know how to bring to completion the spiritual, psychological and affective, intellectual and pastoral formation needed to prepare young people for mature, generous service to the Church. Good and assiduous spiritual direction is indispensable for fostering human growth and eliminating the risk of going astray in the area of sexuality. Always keep in mind that priestly celibacy "is a gift which the Church has received and desires to retain, convinced that it is a good for the Church itself and for the world" (Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 57).

I would also like to commend to your care the religious communities which play such an important role in the lives of your dioceses. They offer their own valuable contribution since "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Cor 12:4). The Church cannot help but show its joy and gratitude for all that religious men and women are able to contribute in universities, schools, hospitals, and other works and institutions.

I am familiar with the dynamic of your Assemblies and the efforts involved in formulating the various pastoral plans so that they give priority to the formation of clergy and those who assist them in their pastoral work. Some of you have encouraged evangelization movements to assist in the work of gathering groups of faithful together to carry out certain types of action. The Successor of Peter is relying on you to ensure that the preparation you give them is always based on a spirituality of communion and fidelity to the See of Peter, so that the work of the Spirit is never in vain. In fact, the integrity of the faith, together with ecclesiastical discipline, is and will always be an area requiring careful oversight on your part, especially when it comes to living out the consequences of the fact that "there is only one faith and one baptism"....

There is nothing new in the observation that your country is living through a historic deficit in social development, whose extreme effects can seen in the vast cross-section of Brazilians living in need and the great inequalities in income, even at the highest levels of society. It is your task, my dear Brothers, as the hierarchy of the people of God, to promote the search for new solutions imbued with the Christian spirit. A vision of the economy and social problems from the perspective of the Church’s social teaching should always bring us to consider things from the viewpoint of human dignity, which transcends the simple interplay of economic factors. Hence, it is necessary to work untiringly to form politicians, and all Brazilians who wield a certain influence, be it great or small, as well as all members of society, so that they can fully assume their responsibilities and learn to give the economy a truly human and compassionate face.

There is a need to form a genuine spirit of truthfulness and honesty among the political and commercial classes. Those who take on leadership roles in society must try to foresee the social consequences—direct and indirect, short-term and long-term—of their own decisions, always acting according to the criteria that will maximize the common good, rather than merely seeking personal profit.
Today's stops include the "Fazenda de Esperança" ("Farm of Hope") drug-treatment center. Founded by a Franciscan friar in 1983, its success rate at keeping onetime addicts on the straight and narrow hovers at around 80 percent.

Spurred by its effectiveness, the wire reports that the "Farm" -- where "addicts are given a mixture of spiritual guidance and discipline with hard farm work to help them kick the habit, develop a work ethic and learn to help others with troubled lives" -- has grown to 41 locations around the world.

PHOTO 1: Reuters/Sergio Moraes
PHOTO 2: Reuters/Caetano Barriera