Sunday, September 04, 2016

"May She Be Your Model of Holiness!" – With The World Watching, Mother Teresa Declared Saint

In each standard Holy Year of the last century, the Popes have successively used the quarter-century observance to yield the church's biggest stage to a lone woman, recognizing in her a spirit of sanctity which has captivated her age and beyond.

Indeed, all but one were contemporary figures – and, even now, each remains widely celebrated across the generations to follow: in 1925, Pius XI highlighted the figure of Therese of Lisieux, canonizing the 24 year-old "Little Flower" all of 28 years after her death; in 1950, Pius XII elevated the Italian "martyr of purity" Maria Goretti within a half-century of her stabbing, before the most massive crowd ever seen for a rite of the kind, the first ever to be held outdoors (and before a throng famously led by the saint's own mother); in 1975, Blessed Paul VI aimed to honor both the United States and the ecumenical movement by making Mother Elizabeth Seton the country's first daughter raised to the altars, and in the Great Jubilee of 2000, John Paul II – now, of course, a saint himself – capped his personalization of the papacy with the sainting of Sister Faustina Kowalska on the Second Sunday of Easter, the core feast of the Polish nun's visions of the Merciful Jesus, which generations of the Curia had held as suspect and aimed to suppress until Karol Wojtyla's own ascent to Peter's Chair.

And so today, amid an Extraordinary Jubilee dedicated to the Father's mercy, the line continued with Pope Francis' formal pronouncement of what the world long ago determined about one of the most admired and recognizable figures of the 20th century....

(Translation of formula:)
For the honor of the Blessed Trinity,
the exaltation of the Catholic faith and
the increase of the Christian life,
by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and

of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,
and our own;
after due deliberation

and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and
having sought the counsel of many of our
brother Bishops: 
We declare and define
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
to be a Saint
and we enroll her among the Saints,
decreeing that she is to be venerated as such
by the whole Church.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit.
* * *
On the eve of the 19th anniversary of the Albanian-born missionary's death, Italian reports estimated the crowd in St Peter's Square at 120,000, a smaller-than-expected figure likely owed to the security fears hanging over this Jubilee Year. In any case, even for the passage of time, few canonizations have attracted the level of attention today's rite has received across the globe, and given the moment's significance as affirming the new saint's universal veneration among the faithful, it'd be hard to think of a recent moment that reflects the concept as clearly as this.

In Rome, the four-day festival of prayer, concerts and speeches wraps up with a Mass tomorrow in St Peter's to mark the first feast of Saint Teresa – an observance which, to date, has only been added to the liturgical calendar in her adopted India, but may be generally celebrated elsewhere each 5 September upon petition to the Holy See by the relevant episcopal conference.

That said, considering the massive focus on today's event – not to mention the enduring, widespread affection for the new saint – pastors may, at their discretion, deem it suitable to bring this special edition of the feast-day to their communities at Monday's daily Masses: the Common of Virgins (white vestments) is used, with the following proper Collect....
who called Saint Teresa, virgin
to respond to the love of your Son thirsting on the cross

with outstanding charity to the poorest of the poor,
grant, we beseech you,
by her intercession,
to minister to Christ in his suffering brothers.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
* * *
And here, the on-demand video of this morning's Canonization Mass (worship aid, with translations):

With the English text of the Pope's homily, in which he predicted that – even for her sainthood – "we'll just keep spontaneously calling her 'Mother Teresa'":
“Who can learn the counsel of God?” (Wis 9:13). This question from the Book of Wisdom that we have just heard in the first reading suggests that our life is a mystery and that we do not possess the key to understanding it. There are always two protagonists in history: God and man. Our task is to perceive the call of God and then to do his will. But in order to do his will, we must ask ourselves, “What is God’s will in my life?”

We find the answer in the same passage of the Book of Wisdom: “People were taught what pleases you” (Wis 9:18). In order to ascertain the call of God, we must ask ourselves and understand what pleases God. On many occasions the prophets proclaimed what was pleasing to God. Their message found a wonderful synthesis in the words “I want mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos 6:6; Mt 9:13). God is pleased by every act of mercy, because in the brother or sister that we assist, we recognize the face of God which no one can see (cf. Jn 1:18). Each time we bend down to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we give Jesus something to eat and drink; we clothe, we help, and we visit the Son of God (cf. Mt 25:40). In a word, we touch the flesh of Christ.

We are thus called to translate into concrete acts that which we invoke in prayer and profess in faith. There is no alternative to charity: those who put themselves at the service of others, even when they don’t know it, are those who love God (cf. 1 Jn 3:16-18; Jas 2:14-18). The Christian life, however, is not merely extending a hand in times of need. If it is just this, it can be, certainly, a lovely expression of human solidarity which offers immediate benefits, but it is sterile because it lacks roots. The task which the Lord gives us, on the contrary, is the vocation to charity in which each of Christ’s disciples puts his or her entire life at his service, so to grow each day in love.

We heard in the Gospel, “Large crowds were travelling with Jesus” (Lk 14:25). Today, this “large crowd” is seen in the great number of volunteers who have come together for the Jubilee of Mercy. You are that crowd who follows the Master and who makes visible his concrete love for each person. I repeat to you the words of the Apostle Paul: “I have indeed received much joy and comfort from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philem 1:7). How many hearts have been comforted by volunteers! How many hands they have held; how many tears they have wiped away; how much love has been poured out in hidden, humble and selfless service! This praiseworthy service gives voice to the faith – it gives voice to the faith! – and expresses the mercy of the Father, who draws near to those in need.

Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and those who are cast aside, and to give oneself in their service. In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love. And each one of us can say: “Just as the Lord has come to meet me and has stooped down to my level in my hour of need, so too do I go to meet him, bending low before those who have lost faith or who live as though God did not exist, before young people without values or ideals, before families in crisis, before the ill and the imprisoned, before refugees and immigrants, before the weak and defenceless in body and spirit, before abandoned children, before the elderly who are on their own. Wherever someone is reaching out, asking for a helping hand in order to get up, this is where our presence – and the presence of the Church which sustains and offers hope – must be”. And I do this, keeping alive the memory of those times when the Lord’s hand reached out to me when I was in need.

Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.

Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness! I think, perhaps, we may have some difficulty in calling her “Saint Teresa”: her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we'll just keep spontaneously calling her “Mother Teresa”. May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion. Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile”. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.