Holy Persons

Saint Gianna: A Model For Mothers
 Helen Hull Hitchcock

The Foreword from  Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero

"A woman of exceptional love, an outstanding wife and mother, she gave witness in her daily life to the demanding values of the Gospel." In his homily on the occasion of her beatification, April 24, 1994, Pope John Paul II proposed Gianna Beretta Molla as a model for all mothers: "By holding up this woman as an exemplar of Christian perfection, we would like to extol all those high-spirited mothers of families who give themselves completely to their family, who suffer in giving birth, who are prepared for every labor and every kind of sacrifice, so that the best they have can be given to others."

In canonizing Gianna Beretta Molla this spring, the Church officially recognized the extraordinary sanctity of a woman who chose to live an ordinary life-as a professional and, later, as a wife and mother. Though she had once considered entering a religious order, instead she practiced medicine (receiving her medical degree in 1949, and her specialty in pediatrics in 1952). She devoted herself to caring for her patients, and her selflessness and dedication as a physician endeared her to the people. But it was not only her practice of medicine that influenced them. She regarded her profession as a mission through which she could aid and nurture both bodies and souls. The young doctor's devotion to her Catholic faith was well known in her community, and especially her instruction of young Catholic girls in their faith.

Gianna meditated long and prayerfully on God's will for her. "What is a vocation?" she wrote: "It is a gift from God-it comes from God Himself! Our concern, then, should be to know the will of God. We should enter onto the path that God wills for us, not by 'forcing the door', but when God wills and as God wills." [1] Gianna believed she was called to marriage and * family life, but she waited patiently for God's will to be revealed.

Gianna Beretta did not marry until she was thirty-three years old-to an engineer ten years her senior, Pietro Molla, whose sister had earlier been a patient of the young Dr. Beretta. Letters Gianna wrote during their year-long courtship reveal her deep commitment to this new vocation. The couple married in September 1955. Several days before their wedding, Gianna wrote to Pietro, reflecting on their vocation to marriage: "With God's help and blessing, we will do all we can to make our new family a little cenacle where Jesus will reign over all our affections, desires and actions.... We will be working with God in His creation; in this way we can give Him children who will love Him and serve Him."

Gianna's faith and her communion with Christ were profound, and from this grace she drew deeper understanding of the dedication and self-giving love that is fundamental to Christian marriage and family life.

After her marriage and even after she had children Gianna continued her medical practice, extending her gifts beyond her immediate family to the children of others, Three children, a son and two daughters, were born between 1956 and 1959, and Gianna had two miscarriages before conceiving another baby in 1961 Pietro and Gianna referred to their children as their "treasures".

In his own account of these years, Pietro Molla says that he did not object to Gianna's continuing her medical practice, because she was so deeply attached to her patients, though after she became pregnant with their fourth child, Pietro and Gianna had agreed that she would stop working outside the home after the baby was born.

Early in the pregnancy it was discovered that Gianna had a fibroma, a benign tumor, on her uterine wall. Surgery that would involve aborting the baby was suggested, but the Mollas instantly and firmly rejected this idea, and chose surgery that would remove only the tumor. Because of her medical knowledge, Gianna understood more fully than most the risks involved in this delicate surgery-both to her and to her unborn child. She insisted that the baby be protected at all costs.

The surgery successfully removed the fibroma, and the pregnancy continued, apparently normally, and the family made plans for the future in joy and hope. But all was not well, and a few days before the baby was born, Gianna realized it would be a difficult-possibly life-threatening delivery. She asked her husband to promise that if it were necessary to choose between saving her and saving the baby, he should choose the baby. "I insist", she said.

On Good Friday, Gianna entered the hospital. And a lovely, healthy baby daughter, Gianna Emanuela, was born the next day, April 21, 1962. But the mother had developed a fatal infection-septic peritonitis. (Modern antibiotics most likely would have saved her.) The inflammation caused immense suffering during her final week on earth. In the midst of her terrible pain, Gianna called to her own mother, Maria, who had died in 1942-and she prayed. As she lay dying, she repeated, "Jesus, I love you", over and over. Her agony ended on April 28–at home.

She was thirty-nine. The tiny infant, Gianna Emanuela, was exactly one week old.

The bereft Pietro was left to raise four very young children without their mother: Pierluigi, the eldest, was not yet six; Mariolina, four; Laura, nearly three; and of course the new baby. In this book are Pietro's own reflections on the difficult years that followed, and how the example of his wife's serene and joyous faith helped sustain him through his grief at Gianna's death; when their little daughter, Mariolina, died only two years later; and through all the ordinary difficulties of raising a family alone–with the added extraordinary challenges of raising children whose absent mother had already become a revered public figure.

Almost immediately upon her death a devotion to Gianna arose among those whose lives she had so deeply touched, and who knew her heroic devotion to her faith and her family.

Her "cause" was introduced formally in 1970. She was beatified April 24, 1994; and canonized on May 16, 2004–forty-two years after her death.

That her husband, now ninety-one, and three children attended her canonization ceremony is one of several historic "firsts" connected with her canonization. (Pierluigi, an engineer, is married; Laura is a political scientist; Gianna Emanuela is a physician who specializes in Alzheimer's disease.)

Gianna Beretta Molla is the first married laywoman to be declared a saint (though there are many sainted widows). She is also the first canonized woman physician–a professional woman who was also a "working mom" four decades ago, when this was unusual.

Her witness of abiding faith in Christ, and her example of generous, loving self-donation–wherever and however she was called to serve the Lord–provide particular inspiration for women of our time and in our culture, where conflicting demands and confusing signals are a daily part of our lives.

There is another aspect of this new saint's life that is worth pondering–and this book affords a glimpse of it. That is, the role of her family–the example of her parents -in her formation as a committed, active young Catholic. Her family was outstanding for its deep Christian faith, expressed not only in worship, in private prayer and family devotions, but in generously extending their gift of faith to others.

Her family's example of unselfish love set the direction of young Gianna's life. It gave her the firm foundation upon which, through the grace of God and her trusting acceptance of his will for her, she confidently built her life–a life that would shelter, nurture, guide, and inspire countless others. Gianna's plans for raising her own children in the faith was influenced by her own experiences growing up. Her understanding of motherhood came from her own mother. Even though her own children could not know her tender motherly presence while they were growing up, she interceded for them. At the very end of her life, as Gianna suffered mortal pain, she sought her mother's prayers. As we-especially mothers of young families–may now seek hers.

Saint Gianna, pray for us.

Helen Hull Hitchcock

Feast of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne | July 26, 2004

Martyr's Beatification Cause Moves Forward
Korean Layman Worked With Poor

SEOUL, South Korea, JAN. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The diocesan phase of the cause of beatification and canonization of John Song Hae-bung, a lay missionary martyred during the Korean War, has opened in the Diocese of Incheon.

The present cause is the first of a layman in the period following the Japanese colonial era, the Fides news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples reported Thursday.

The diocesan commission has been established which will guide this phase of the process, collecting the necessary testimony and documentation for the cause of beatification.

According to a biography published by Fides, John Song was the eldest of a Catholic family, and entered the seminary in 1944.

After Korea's liberation from Japanese occupation, he left his theological studies to dedicate himself to active missionary work. He opened schools and homes for orphans and the poor in the Diocese of Incheon.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, he was falsely accused of being a Communist. He was arrested and killed by a death squad, reported Fides.

Korea has over 10,000 Christian martyrs, killed in various persecutions over the centuries.

In 1984, in the first canonization ceremony held outside the Vatican, Pope John Paul II inscribed 103 martyrs of the Korean Church into the catalogue of saints.

In 2003, the Holy See approved the opening of the beatification process for Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions, tortured and killed for the faith in 1791, when Christianity had just reached Korea.



 VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, during a private audience with Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., president of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Pope authorized the congregation to promulgate the decrees concerning the following causes:


 - Blessed Szymon of Lipnica, Polish, priest of the Order of Friars Minor (1439-1482).

  - Blessed Antonio de Santa Ana (ne Antonio Galvao de Franca), Brazilian, priest of the Order of Alcantarine or Discalced Friars Minor, and founder of the Convent of Conceptionist Sisters (1739-1822).

  - Blessed Charles of St. Andrew (ne Johannes Andreas Houben), Dutch, priest of the Congregation of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1821-1893).

  - Blessed Marie Eugenie de Jesus (nee Anne-Eugenie Milleret de Brou), French, foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (1817-1898).

  - Venerable Servant of God Carlo Liviero, Italian, bishop of Citta di Castello and founder of the Congregation of Little Handmaidens of the Sacred Heart (1866-1932).

  - Venerable Servant of God Stanislaus of Jesus Mary (ne Jana Papczynski), Polish, priest and founder of the Congregation of Marian Clerics of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (1631-1701).

  - Venerable Servant of God Celina Chludzinska, Polish, widow and foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1833-1913).

  - Venerable Servant of God Marie Celine of the Presentation (nee Jeanne-Germaine Castang), French, nun of the Second Order of St. Francis (1878-1897).


  - Servants of God Manuel Gomez Gonzalez, Spanish, diocesan priest born in 1877, and Adilio Daronch, Brazilian, lay person born in 1908, both killed in Feijao Miudo, Brazil, in 1924.

  - Servant of God Albertina Berkenbrock, Brazilian, lay person born in 1919, killed in 1931.

  - Servant of God Eufrasio of the Baby Jesus (ne Eufrasio Barredo Fernandez), Spanish, born in 1897, priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1934.

  - Servants of God Lorenzo, Virgilio and 44 companions of the Institute of Brothers of the Marist Schools, Spanish, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Enrique Izquierdo Palacios and 13 companions, Spanish, of the Order of Friars Preachers, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Servants of God Ovidio Beltran, Hermenegildo Lorenzo, Luciano Pablo, Estanislao Victor and Lorenzo Santiago, Spanish, members of the Institute of Brothers of the Christian Schools, and Jose Maria Canovas Martinez, Spanish, parish helper, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Servants of God Maria del Carmen, Rosa and Magdalena Fradera Ferragutcasas, Spanish, religious of the Congregation of Daughters of the Blessed and Immaculate Heart of Mary, killed during religious persecution in Spain in 1936.

  - Servant of God Lindalva Justo de Oliviera, Brazilian, of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, born in 1953, killed in 1993 in Sao Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.


  - Servant of God Mamerto Esquiu, Argentinean (1826-1883), of the Order of Friars Minor, bishop of Cordoba, Argentina.

  - Servant of God Salvatore Micalizzi, Italian (1856-1937), professed priest of the Congregation of the Mission.

  - Servants of God Jose Olallo Valdes, Cuban (1820-1889), professed religious of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.

  - Servant of God Stefan Kaszap, Hungarian (1916-1935), novice of the Society of Jesus.


The Virtually Venerable Fulton J. Sheen by Charles F. Harvey

Has Archbishop Fulton Sheen been declared an American saint? Not exactly. In fact, not at all. At least not yet. Only now is the process of opening his cause for canonization begun. It would be presumptuous, then, to declare Sheen a saint-in-the-making. We aren't in a position to anticipate the Church's judgment and even though not everyone who is a saint by virtue of making it to heaven is declared a saint by the Church, we can't settle the question of "who's in" and "who's not" by our own lights. But we can say that Sheen certainly embodied two qualities that characterized many canonized American saints: zeal for personal sanctity and a drive to realize the unique possibilities for spreading the Gospel that America affords. -- Mark Brumley

On May 8, 1895, in El Paso, Illinois, a son born to Newton and Delia Sheen was given the name Peter. Yet, when it came time to enroll him in parochial school and his maternal grandfather (whose last name was Fulton) was asked the boy's name, he replied: "It's Fulton." The Confirmation name "John" completed the name that would become world-famous as one of the most vibrant spokesmen for the Church since the Protestant Reformation: Fulton J. Sheen.

Archbishop Sheen notes in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, that in Gaelic "Fulton" means "war" and "Sheen" means "peace." It is as though his very name foretold the kind of life he was to have: an uninterrupted warring against the powers of darkness to promote the peace of Christ's kingdom.

After high school, while attending St. Viator's College, the young Sheen took part in a national examination and won a scholarship entitling him to three years of university training with all expenses paid. His close friend, Fr. William J. Bergan, counseled him not to accept the prize, but, instead, to enter the seminary. He took his friend's advice, and after completing theological studies at St. Viator's and at St. Paul's Seminary in Minnesota, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 20, 1919.

Since he had excelled in his studies for the priesthood, he was selected to attend the Catholic University of America for advanced academic work. It was there that he earned his S.T.L. and J.C.B.

In September of 1921--just two years after ordination--he was off to the University of Louvain in Belgium where he took his Ph.D. in 1923. Offers of teaching positions at Columbia and at Oxford were declined in obedience to his bishop. Instead of a prestigious academic post, he would be an assistant pastor assigned to a parish where the streets had not even yet been paved.

Academic offers continued (an invitation to organize and head the philosophy department at the seminary in Detroit was especially attractive), but Sheen dedicated himself to the task at hand, immersing himself in the work of the parish.

Then, late in the summer of 1926, his bishop told him that he was to join the faculty at Catholic University. He remained on the faculty there for the next twenty-five years. So popular were his lectures that sometimes extra seats were brought in to accommodate the overflow.

Two years after his appointment to Catholic University, he began a parallel career: a long-time media presence as a Catholic spokesman and apologist on radio and, later, on television. After anchoring a series of religious broadcasts on radio, he was selected to host The Catholic Hour on NBC radio until he moved to TV. In 1952, Bishop Sheen (he had been named auxiliary bishop in New York under Cardinal Spellman in 1951) starred in the first religious television show in New York: Life Is Worth Living. That program (with his trademark "God love you") brought him instant recognition by the American TV-viewing public in the early-to-mid 1950s.

By 1954, his ratings were competitive with those of Mr. Television himself, Milton Berle. His popularity increasing, Sheen moved to ABC for a national hook-up. By 1956, his show was being broadcast on one-hundred eighty-seven stations in the U. S. and Canada. He said, "Little did I know in those days that it would be given to me through radio and television to address a greater audience in half an hour than Paul in all the years of his missionary life."

Athanasius Redux

If God raised up the great bishop Athanasius to fight Arianism in the fourth century, perhaps it is not too far afield to think that he raised up the great bishop Sheen to combat Communism in the twentieth. Sheen stressed the need for reason in dealing with Communism, which had continued to gain appeal in America since the 1920s. His prophetic program on Stalin's death, which was broadcast live a week before the Soviet ruler died, cemented Sheen's position as America's top Catholic anti-Communist. Some high-level party members called him "Public Enemy No. 1."

Contrary to some, Sheen was no intellectual featherweight, and he brought his formidable powers of intellection to bear on the problem of Communism, the better to refute it. He absorbed Marx, Lenin, and Stalin to prepare himself for the assaults he would sustain in his attack on their theories. He was a tremendous success. He converted or influenced a number of Communists and leftists in the heyday of American Communism, including Louis Budenz, Elizabeth T. Bently, Bella Dodd, and Heywood Broun.

One incident related in his autobiography is worth recounting here, revealing as it does the intensity of pro-Communist sentiment in America during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. According to Bishop Sheen's own account, "The foreign policy of the United States was considering lifting [sic] the embargo against sending arms to the Communists in Spain. In order to combat this movement, a meeting was held in Constitution Hall, Washington. The speakers were three: a former Spanish Ambassador, a young woman who had been in Spain and had fought against the Communists, and myself. Thousands were turned away from Constitution Hall. It is very likely that the meeting had something to do with breaking down the movement to send arms to the Communists."

Sheen used that episode to lead into an anecdote that reveals to us something about President Franklin Roosevelt that his apologists would prefer remain unspoken. Bishop Sheen recalled that the day after the meeting in Constitution Hall, he had a meeting with FDR. He went to ask for a political favor for an old friend who had lost his re-election bid to Congress. During the meeting, FDR took Sheen to task for something that he mistakenly thought the bishop had said at the Constitution Hall meeting. Sheen tried to disprove Roosevelt's allegation, but the President would not permit him to follow through. Next Roosevelt said: "You think you know a great deal about the Church's attitude toward Communism, don't you? I want to tell you that I am in touch with a great authority, and he tells me that the Church wants the Communists to win in Spain." Sheen answered: "Mr. President, I am not the least bit impressed with your authority." FDR: "I did not tell you who it was." The bishop checkmated Roosevelt with: "You are referring to Cardinal Mundelein, and I know that Cardinal Mundelein never made the statement you attributed to him."

Roosevelt had stuck his foot in his mouth; but Bishop Sheen wanted to conduct the business he came for in the first place. He said: "Mr. President, I came to see you about a position in Housing." FDR said: "Oh, Eddie voted for everything I wanted in Congress. He wants to be in Housing, does he not?" Sheen said that was correct. Roosevelt made a note on a pad and continued: "The moment you leave this office I will call Mrs. So-and-So [he mentioned the name of the woman who was in charge of Housing] and you call Eddie and tell him he has the job." When Sheen left the White House he called Eddie and said: "Eddie, I saw the President. I am sorry, you do not get the job." Eddie said: ""Is that what the President said after all I did for him?" Sheen said: "No, he said you would have it." Eddie never got the job. Needless to say, Bishop Sheen was a shrewd observer of the human heart.

Sheen also told a story that reveals the depth of pro-Soviet sympathy in America during his radio days. He said that because of his position on the USSR, his talks were closely monitored. If he "veered from the then-popular position of Russia being a democracy," a technician in the studio would cut him off. Once he submitted a manuscript for an upcoming broadcast that had the line, "Poland was crucified between two thieves--the Nazis and the Soviets." Sheen got a telegram from the Bishops' Conference asking him not to say that, because one of the thieves was, of course, the USSR. Never one to miss a beat, the bishop answered the telegram with: "How would it be to call Russia the 'good' thief?"

20th Century Missionary Giant

In 1950, Bishop Sheen was tapped to head the national office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He founded a magazine named Mission and published God Loves You, a weekly column in Catholic newspapers. Between 1950 and 1966, he irrigated the fields of the foreign missions with $200 million (a tremendous sum these days; how much more so then!).

In Treasure in Clay, Archbishop Sheen recounts some of his dealings with the foreign missions. For example, he tells the story of a missionary priest in Australia who labored in the desert there. The heat averaged 125 degrees, and the only kind of food he could carry was canned peaches, since everything else exploded in the desert heat. His "rectory" was his Volkswagen, which was eventually swept away in a flood. Bishop Sheen wrote him a check for a new VW. In his capacity as national head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, his decisions benefited the mission efforts in New Guinea, Borneo, Pacific Islands, China, Africa, Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, and countless other locales.

Prodigious author

Archbishop Sheen, known primarily for his oratorical skills, was, nonetheless, a superb prose stylist. (He wrote more than sixty books!) And he gave full exercise to both of these talents in defending and promoting the Church. His many works include such gems as God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Preface to Religion, Three to Get Married, The Divine Romance, Peace of Soul, Life Is Worth Living, The Seven Last Words, The Way of the Cross, This Is the Mass, The Power of Love, The Divine Verdict, The Armor of God, Way To Inner Peace, God Loves You, Thinking Life Through, and Thoughts For Daily Living.

Consummate Churchman

In 1966, Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of Rochester, New York, where he served for four years before stepping down at age seventy-four. He was named titular Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales) in 1969.

His quicksilver wit and golden smile softened the patrician bearing that would quickly stiffen in defense of Christ's Church and the honor of His Bride. And he had a marvelous sense of humor: Pope Paul VI once reportedly told him that he would have a high place in heaven. "Is that an infallible statement?" he grinned.

His high-caliber intellect (steeped as it was in the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas), the magnitude of his writing and speaking skills, his shrewd sense of theater, and his unflagging love for Christ's Church combined to produce the most colorful and effective Catholic apologist in twentieth century America.

Humble priest

By his own account, each day of his priestly life included a continuous hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. This daily prayer and mediation and his deep devotion to the Blessed Mother formed the spine of his fidelity to his priestly vocation and the foundation for the holiness to which he aspired.

Some two months before his death, he met the visiting John Paul II, who embraced him warmly and told him: "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church." Archbishop Sheen died in New York City on December 9, 1979.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2001 issue of Catholic Dossier magazine.

Archbishop Sheen books and videos available through Ignatius Press:

• Treasure in Clay
• Life Is Worth Living
• The Priest Is Not His Own
• The World's First Love
• Through the Year with Fulton Sheen
• Fulton Sheen: Good Friday (VHS)
• Bishop Fulton J. Sheen: His Irish Wit and Wisdom (VHS)
• Fulton Sheen: His Last Words (VHS)
• Bishop Sheen on Angels (VHS)
• Sheen Gems (VHS)
• Retreat with Fulton Sheen (DVD)
• Fulton Sheen Mission Rosary (CD)
• Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: A Prophet for Our Time (VHS)
• Fulton Sheen: His Last Words (DVD)

• The Hour That Makes My Day | Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen | From Treasure in Clay
• On Advent and Eternity | Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen | From Through the Year with Fulton Sheen

Charles F. Harvey worked at Ignatius Press from 1998 until his death in February 2003. He became the full-time managing editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review in 2001. He had previously worked for Catholic Answers, the San Diego diocesan Office of Social Ministry, and St. Joseph Communications.


John XXIII, Minus the Myths
Interview With Pope's Great-Nephew Marco Roncalli

ROME, NOV. 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The life of Pope Blessed John XXIII is still the focus of intense debate and numerous clichés which distort his intellectual and spiritual figure.

To clarify the matter, a book has just been published in Italian by Marco Roncalli, entitled "Giovanni XXIII -- Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Una vita nella storia" (John XXIII -- Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli: A Life in History), published by Mondadori.

The author is John XXIII's great-nephew, who, among other things, has been the editor of the correspondence (1933-1962) between Loris Francesco Capovilla, Giuseppe De Luca and Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, published this year by Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

The new biography of John XXIII was to be presented today in Bergamo, Italy, by Archbishop Loris Capovilla, who was John XXIII's secretary, and by Monsignor Gianni Carzaniga, president of the Giovanni XXIII Foundation.

To understand better the figure of John XXIII, ZENIT interviewed his great-nephew, Marco Roncalli.

Q: What are the clichés that you hope to refute on the human and spiritual history of the beloved Pope John XXIII?

Roncalli: I would say they are many. They stand out clearly if one revises carefully all the Roncalli sources, especially those that are unpublished.

I am thinking of certain youthful notebooks, agendas or diaries, some collected letters and collections of homilies. But I'm also referring to documentation relative to his figure, which has appeared in several archives and was known by few specialists in the most recent congresses.

And we can start with those of long ago. Let us think of the spent cliché of a peasant Roncalli, virtually the receiver of an ancestral wisdom. It is true that his roots are important, also his family.

But let's not forget that he entered the seminary while still a child and that was his new family. The seminary formed the man, and the man of the Church.

In sum, Roncalli's social extraction is not a secondary fact -- though common to most of the Italian northern clergy at the beginning of the 20th century: From this extraction a certain tenacity and constancy are derived, joined to a strong practical sense and respect for the times necessary in each cycle […], all elements of his character.

And from this stems also a certain harmony between nature and the supernatural, a way of living in the present, looking at the future with unconditional confidence in God's providence.

However, I repeat, the cliché of Roncalli as an exclusive product of a peasant culture -- or of the country boy who became Pope who does not forget the "least," as if Roncalli's roots alone "sic et simpliciter" could explain everything to us -- does not stand on its own.

Instead, beginning with the years of the seminary, without breaking or attenuating the bond with his own and his land, the awareness soon matures in him of being a member of the universal Church. Once elected Pope, he said immediately that the world was his family.

Another cliché is that of a simple Roncalli, whereas whoever studies his life has before him a complex figure -- but a figure in which culture has had an important role: studies, meetings with writers, philosophers, theologians, etc., in the course of his life.

Thus, exploring the archives, we come across a very young Roncalli who is, yes, the one known until now for the "Diary of a Soul," his spiritual compendium, but also a very sensitive seminarian, attentive to the widest cultural horizons of his time.

We see him at the dawn of the 20th century, very aware of the problematic relationship between tradition and renewal, of the need for the Church's progressive attention to new cultural realities.

Whoever, for example, leafs through one of his unpublished notebooks entitled "Ad Omnia," sees him wondering not only about the phenomenon of Modernism, a storm through which he also goes through, but also about Americanism: ecclesiological theories, his idea of the unavoidable confrontation between Christianity and modernity.

Another point: Pope John has often been depicted as a weak Pope, who suffered. Instead, if one wishes to weigh up his gestures in a correct manner, suffice it to read his agendas or diaries to realize how well he was able to move decisively.

Some biographers have said that John XXIII read at the last minute texts prepared by others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Several journal notes document whole days spent preparing an address in his own handwriting.

On June 28, 1962, for example, he wrote: "Day of the vigil of St. Peter: occupied entirely in preparing an address in St. Peter's after Vespers. It was a bit of an effort for me to write it, word by word as I do, and all by myself in these circumstances. But in the end, though I'm not always delighted with myself, I am happy to fulfill a function, and to transmit to the clergy and the faithful a sentiment that is entirely my own. I am Pope by the will of the Lord who is my good witness: But to be a parrot who repeats by heart others' thought and voice, truly mortifies me."

He certainly was born -- to use a slogan -- "to bless and not to condemn," but his humble and amiable being was not equivalent to being weak or accommodating.

He was certainly less decisive than his predecessor; however, he put meekness to one side when it became an alibi for others.

I am thinking of May 1962, when the so-called crisis of exegesis continued, and, seeing the inactivity of the commission with the same name -- to say nothing of the frictions with Cardinal Augustin Bea's work, ever more active in the Council's preparation -- he wrote a letter to Cardinal Eugène Tisserant which seems like an ultimatum: "Either the commission intends to move, work and provide, suggesting to the Holy Father measures appropriate to the needs of the present hour, or it is worthwhile for it to be dissolved and a higher authority provide 'in Domino' a reconstitution of this organism.

"However, it is absolutely necessary to remove the impression about uncertainties circulating here and there, which honor no one, of fears about clear positions that must be taken on the orientations of persons and schools. [...] It would be a motive of great consolation if with the preparation of the Ecumenical Council a biblical commission could be established of such resonance and dignity that it would become a point of attention and respect for all our separated brothers who, leaving the Catholic Church, took refuge as shelter and salvation under the shadows of the sacred Book, diversely read and interpreted."

This fact emerges also in relations with his collaborators. When someone did something he didn't like, while being careful to safeguard relations, he was not afraid to make his interlocutors understand his displeasure.

It happened especially with Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, but also with Cardinal Angelo Dell'Acqua. An example? The latter -- the day after the ministerial crisis of the winter of 1961, centered on Fanfani -- realized the Pope was colder toward him.

The reason? It became known that Dell'Acqua, the substitute of the Secretariat of State, had dined at Fanfani's home, and the family dinner became, thanks to the Curia's "telltale," a meeting for the definition of the government's team with the outstanding role of Dell'Acqua.

The substitute's quick clarification was the occasion to hear from the Pope words of dissociation from Italian political issues: "I was told something else and I'm sorry! We cannot be concerned with issues that correspond exclusively to the Italian state: We are not the ones who must intervene in this matter.…"

Examples with Ottaviani are more numerous. And so John XXIII intervened directly with Ottaviani when he was worried about the identity of the Holy Office, which was running the risk of being no longer, as he wrote in his diary, that "monastery of very strict cloister, left to its task, severe certainly, but most reserved in all that concerned the vigilance, custody and defense of the doctrine and precepts of the Lord," no longer the "Supreme Congregation of which the Pope is the true Superior" and "from whose authority all should depend and by right and in fact does depend, at least in the most important and significant matters" -- but rather the "bulwark" around which, even from the perspective of defending Christian values, ends up by engaging one in unimportant politics.

Also recently there has been talk of a naive Pope in the face of Khrushchev. We read what John XXIII wrote in his diary on September 20, 1961, commenting on the Soviet leader's speaking well of the Pope for the first time, after the papal radio-message of September 10.

This is his private comment: "In the afternoon on TV they reported the communication of Khrushchev, the despot of Russia, on my appeals to statesmen for peace: respectful, calm, comprehensible. I believe it is the first time that a Pope's invitatory words to peace were treated with respect. In regard to the sincerity of the intentions of one who is proud to profess himself an atheist and materialist, though he speak well of the Pope's word, to believe him is something else. Meanwhile, this is better than silence or contempt. 'Deus vertat monstra in bonum' [God converts monsters into something good]. It is enough?"

Q: What were the Pontiff's real expectations in regard to Vatican II?

Roncalli: In the last four chapters of the book, in fact, I concentrate on the Council. Based on new sources, I recount how this idea germinated, how it was received.

I follow the venture of Vatican II in the coming to light of the first idea, in the phase that preceded the preparation, in the preparation itself, in the beginning, also talking about a free confrontation -- what the Pope called the holy freedom of the children of God -- which the whole world witnessed.

And I reflect on the anxieties and consolations of the Pope who every day thought of the Council.

The Council was not his invention. It was a valuable instrument verified by history of the Church which he knew well. The instrument that would have enabled him to interpret -- in the line of tradition, but open to updating -- the role to which he had been called; an instrument that would have allowed him to make the Church advance on her path in step with the world, questioning the whole episcopate involved in the exercise of collegiality in an extensive "universal" reflection.

But let us go back to the beginning of it all: the idea of the Council. As he stated, it did not ripen within him "as the fruit of a prolonged meditation, but as the spontaneous flower of an unexpected spring."

Therefore, he applied to himself that rather familiar spiritual rule "of absolute simplicity in accepting divine inspirations, and prompt submission to the apostolic needs of the present time."

"In announcing the ecumenical Council, we have listened to an inspiration; we have considered its spontaneity, in the humility of our soul," he said in a message to the Venetian clergy.

It's true, he had the applause of the secretary of state, Domenico Tardini, as the latter's diary documents. And there are also the statements of Cardinal Ruffini and of others who maintain -- plausible fact -- that they suggested to the Pope the idea of a Council, an idea that, moreover, according to several unanimous and concordant statements, Roncalli had also expressed repeatedly during the years of delegation in Istanbul to Monsignor Righi, to Jacquin of the Institut Catholique of the Paris Nunciature, to Monsignor Bortignon of the Venetian Patriarchate, and also to his nephew Privato Roncalli, my father.

We should recall that the convocation of a Council had already been considered at least twice in the 20th century, by Pius XI in 1923 -- who then put it to one side awaiting a solution to the "Roman question" -- and by Pius XII -- to whom in fact Cardinals Ruffini and Ottaviani had written a memorandum enumerating the reasons for a convocation.

There were two outlines, held for a long time in strict secret, for the second of which Monsignor Francesco Borgoncini Duca -- a friend of Roncalli, who also might have spoken about it with him, but before 1954, the year when he died -- was appointed director general of all the preparatory works.

And this is not all. There were also other prelates in the past who had supported the idea of a Council for a long time as a "necessity" or "wish," such as Monsignor Celso Constantini, author of a lengthy dossier dated February 15, 1939, and reported under the title "The Council: On the Appropriateness of Convoking an Ecumenical Council."

A week after Constantini's reflections, Giovanni Papini wrote in Il Corriere della Sera: "We like to think that the new Pontiff will see to the reopening of the Vatican Council that was suspended on October 20, 1870. (...) Now that the independence and authority of a sovereign have been restored to the Pope, a resumption of the Council interrupted seventy years ago, will take place in a more moderate climate and would be welcomed with very great joy by Catholics worldwide."

And now we come to the central point: the meaning that John XXIII wished to give, at least in the focus, to "his" Council, something that at the beginning was not at all defined: that it should probably be more pastoral than dogmatic -- pastoral, however, but not in a reductive sense.

It should make room to evaluate everything. As Monsignor Dell'Acqua has attested, Pope Roncalli "never thought of opening and closing the Ecumenical Council. Whoever thinks this, is outside of the truth. Pope John told me repeatedly: 'What matters is to begin; the rest we leave to the Lord'; in how many other circumstances a Pope began a Council that was concluded by another Pope. It was not his intention, therefore, to speed things up."

When he announced it for the first time, take note, he wrote in his own writing on the text that he invited everyone to pray for "a good beginning, continuation and happy success of these intentions of hard work, for the light, edification and joy of the whole Christian people, as a kind and renewed invitation to our brethren of the separated Churches to take part with us in this encounter of grace and fraternity."

Moreover, the event of the Council convoked by John XXIII, in keeping with the preceding perspectives and being open to the breath of the Spirit, should manifest to the Church and the world the holy freedom of the children of God, in the sign of a less defensive general vision, […] more open to confidence, respect, to confrontation, to co-responsibility, to the "signs of the times."

Evaluated carefully, it was also a courageous choice. Conscious of his age, he could have remained tranquil between blessings and canonizations, ordinary activity and the writing of some document, leaving to his successors all the problems that cardinals and bishops put on his desk, and dismissing situations in continual evolution.

Instead, he did the opposite. He addressed everything and not on his own. It was his sensitivity, his historical studies: "A Council is necessary." He confided to his secretary a "biblical reason" to explain his idea: "Did Jesus ever speak to Peter on his own? No, the other disciples were always present."

Q: In what ways was Pope John XXIII prophetic?

Roncalli: Suffice it to read his October 11 address with which he opened the Second Vatican Council, a memorable text because of the breadth of its horizon and prophetic inspiration. Do you not perceive in him, in his essence, the force of a religion that unifies?

It was Pope John's prophetic task, however, to indicate the goal of peace: urgent, which cannot be delayed. ... Let us think of his encyclical testament, "Pacem in Terris."

He is the one who is writing -- speaking of himself in that text as "the vicar of Him whom the prophet announced as the Prince of Peace, [we] conceive of it as Our duty to devote all Our thoughts and care and energy to further this common good of all mankind. Yet peace is but an empty word, if it does not rest upon that order which Our hope prevailed upon Us to set forth in outline in this encyclical. It is an order that is founded on truth, built up on justice, nurtured and animated by charity, and brought into effect under the auspices of freedom."


Cardinal Bertone Comments on Blessed John XXIII
"I Want to Be Kind, Today and Always, to Everyone"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily given by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at the Mass celebrated in St. Peter's on Oct. 11, memorial of Blessed John XXIII.

* * *

Pope John XXIII's message is still extraordinarily timely today. His life, his discourses and his actions bring us to the heart of the faith and the heart of Christian commitment.

As we know, one of Pope John's most important decisions was to convoke the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which was inaugurated on Oct. 11, 1962, here in St. Peter's Basilica.

I was present -- indeed, by a fortunate circumstance, it was I who organized the distribution of the first council documents "sub peculiari secreto" to the council fathers -- and I remember how the day unfolded to its extraordinary conclusion in St. Peter's Square by moonlight.

We could recall a wealth of Pope John's teachings and episodes concerning him, but today I intend to focus on several thoughts which might be useful in our personal life and spiritual renewal.

The Church, in his view, has a motherly face: Her task is to keep "her arms open to receive everyone." She is a "home for one and all" that "desires to belong to everyone, and in particular she is the Church of the poor, like the village fountain," with no distinctions of race or religion.

The Church's holiness and human wisdom are expressed very clearly in what is called "the daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII":

1) Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

2) Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

3) Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

4) Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

5) Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

6) Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

7) Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.

8) Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

9) Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

10) Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

To conclude: here is an all-embracing resolution: "I want to be kind, today and always, to everyone."

In this way, we can put Pope John's hope for every Christian into practice: "Every believer in this world must be a spark of light, a core of love, life-giving leaven in the mass: and the more he is so, the more he will live, in his innermost depths, in communion with God."


John Bosco's Mother Is Decreed "Venerable"
Margaret Occhiena, Co-founder of Salesian Family

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes read a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Margaret Occhiena, mother of St. John Bosco, as well as her reputation for holiness.

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins read the decree Wednesday in the chapel of the Salesian community in the Vatican.

On hand were the rector major of the Salesians, Father Pascual Chávez; the postulator general, Father Enrico dal Cóvolo; the prefect of the Apostolic Vatican Library, Father Raffaele Farina; the director general of the Vatican Press, Father Elio Torrigiani; and the members of the religious community.

After the reading, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone came to offer his greetings and his blessing.

The Congregation for Saints' Causes, at the invitation of Benedict XVI, promulgated the decree Oct. 23.

At the end of the brief ceremony the rector major, Father Chávez, said: "This is a memorable day for the Salesian family which sees Mama Margaret take a further step toward the altars.

"It is an event the whole Salesian world has been waiting for and for which it has been preparing with many initiatives in honor of the mama of Don Bosco. We entrust ourselves to her so that she may intercede for the whole Salesian family and for the congregation as it prepares to celebrate the 26th General Chapter in 2008."


Margaret Occhiena was born on April 10, 1788, in Caprigli, Italy. She lived at home until she married Francis Bosco. Later she moved to Becchi.

After her husband's premature death, Margaret, 29, had to raise her family alone at a time of starvation.

She took care of her husband's mother and of the latter's son Anthony, while educating her own sons, Joseph and John.

She supported her son John in his journey toward the priesthood. At age 58, she left her little house of Colle and followed her son in his mission among the poor and abandoned boys of Turin.

There, for 10 years, mother and son united their lives in the beginnings of the Salesian Work. She was Don Bosco's first and principal cooperator. She contributed her maternal presence to the Preventive System. Thus she became the "co-founder" of the Salesian family.

Margaret was illiterate but full of a wisdom that helped so many street boys. "For her, God was first, so she consumed her life in the service of God, in poverty, prayer and sacrifice," explains a biography issued by the Salesians.

She died on Nov. 25, 1856, in Turin at age 68. A throng of boys, who wept for her as for a mother, accompanied her remains to the cemetery.


The Virtually Venerable Fulton J. Sheen | Charles F. Harvey

Has Archbishop Fulton Sheen been declared an American saint? Not exactly. In fact, not at all. At least not yet. Only now is the process of opening his cause for canonization begun. It would be presumptuous, then, to declare Sheen a saint-in-the-making. We aren't in a position to anticipate the Church's judgment and even though not everyone who is a saint by virtue of making it to heaven is declared a saint by the Church, we can't settle the question of "who's in" and "who's not" by our own lights. But we can say that Sheen certainly embodied two qualities that characterized many canonized American saints: zeal for personal sanctity and a drive to realize the unique possibilities for spreading the Gospel that America affords. -- Mark Brumley

On May 8, 1895, in El Paso, Illinois, a son born to Newton and Delia Sheen was given the name Peter. Yet, when it came time to enroll him in parochial school and his maternal grandfather (whose last name was Fulton) was asked the boy's name, he replied: "It's Fulton." The Confirmation name "John" completed the name that would become world-famous as one of the most vibrant spokesmen for the Church since the Protestant Reformation: Fulton J. Sheen.

Archbishop Sheen notes in his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, that in Gaelic "Fulton" means "war" and "Sheen" means "peace." It is as though his very name foretold the kind of life he was to have: an uninterrupted warring against the powers of darkness to promote the peace of Christ's kingdom.

After high school, while attending St. Viator's College, the young Sheen took part in a national examination and won a scholarship entitling him to three years of university training with all expenses paid. His close friend, Fr. William J. Bergan, counseled him not to accept the prize, but, instead, to enter the seminary. He took his friend's advice, and after completing theological studies at St. Viator's and at St. Paul's Seminary in Minnesota, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 20, 1919.

Since he had excelled in his studies for the priesthood, he was selected to attend the Catholic University of America for advanced academic work. It was there that he earned his S.T.L. and J.C.B.

In September of 1921--just two years after ordination--he was off to the University of Louvain in Belgium where he took his Ph.D. in 1923. Offers of teaching positions at Columbia and at Oxford were declined in obedience to his bishop. Instead of a prestigious academic post, he would be an assistant pastor assigned to a parish where the streets had not even yet been paved.

Academic offers continued (an invitation to organize and head the philosophy department at the seminary in Detroit was especially attractive), but Sheen dedicated himself to the task at hand, immersing himself in the work of the parish.

Then, late in the summer of 1926, his bishop told him that he was to join the faculty at Catholic University. He remained on the faculty there for the next twenty-five years. So popular were his lectures that sometimes extra seats were brought in to accommodate the overflow.

Two years after his appointment to Catholic University, he began a parallel career: a long-time media presence as a Catholic spokesman and apologist on radio and, later, on television. After anchoring a series of religious broadcasts on radio, he was selected to host The Catholic Hour on NBC radio until he moved to TV. In 1952, Bishop Sheen (he had been named auxiliary bishop in New York under Cardinal Spellman in 1951) starred in the first religious television show in New York: Life Is Worth Living. That program (with his trademark "God love you") brought him instant recognition by the American TV-viewing public in the early-to-mid 1950s.

By 1954, his ratings were competitive with those of Mr. Television himself, Milton Berle. His popularity increasing, Sheen moved to ABC for a national hook-up. By 1956, his show was being broadcast on one-hundred eighty-seven stations in the U. S. and Canada. He said, "Little did I know in those days that it would be given to me through radio and television to address a greater audience in half an hour than Paul in all the years of his missionary life."

Athanasius Redux

If God raised up the great bishop Athanasius to fight Arianism in the fourth century, perhaps it is not too far afield to think that he raised up the great bishop Sheen to combat Communism in the twentieth. Sheen stressed the need for reason in dealing with Communism, which had continued to gain appeal in America since the 1920s. His prophetic program on Stalin's death, which was broadcast live a week before the Soviet ruler died, cemented Sheen's position as America's top Catholic anti-Communist. Some high-level party members called him "Public Enemy No. 1."

Contrary to some, Sheen was no intellectual featherweight, and he brought his formidable powers of intellection to bear on the problem of Communism, the better to refute it. He absorbed Marx, Lenin, and Stalin to prepare himself for the assaults he would sustain in his attack on their theories. He was a tremendous success. He converted or influenced a number of Communists and leftists in the heyday of American Communism, including Louis Budenz, Elizabeth T. Bently, Bella Dodd, and Heywood Broun.

One incident related in his autobiography is worth recounting here, revealing as it does the intensity of pro-Communist sentiment in America during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. According to Bishop Sheen's own account, "The foreign policy of the United States was considering lifting [sic] the embargo against sending arms to the Communists in Spain. In order to combat this movement, a meeting was held in Constitution Hall, Washington. The speakers were three: a former Spanish Ambassador, a young woman who had been in Spain and had fought against the Communists, and myself. Thousands were turned away from Constitution Hall. It is very likely that the meeting had something to do with breaking down the movement to send arms to the Communists."

Sheen used that episode to lead into an anecdote that reveals to us something about President Franklin Roosevelt that his apologists would prefer remain unspoken. Bishop Sheen recalled that the day after the meeting in Constitution Hall, he had a meeting with FDR. He went to ask for a political favor for an old friend who had lost his re-election bid to Congress. During the meeting, FDR took Sheen to task for something that he mistakenly thought the bishop had said at the Constitution Hall meeting. Sheen tried to disprove Roosevelt's allegation, but the President would not permit him to follow through. Next Roosevelt said: "You think you know a great deal about the Church's attitude toward Communism, don't you? I want to tell you that I am in touch with a great authority, and he tells me that the Church wants the Communists to win in Spain." Sheen answered: "Mr. President, I am not the least bit impressed with your authority." FDR: "I did not tell you who it was." The bishop checkmated Roosevelt with: "You are referring to Cardinal Mundelein, and I know that Cardinal Mundelein never made the statement you attributed to him."

Roosevelt had stuck his foot in his mouth; but Bishop Sheen wanted to conduct the business he came for in the first place. He said: "Mr. President, I came to see you about a position in Housing." FDR said: "Oh, Eddie voted for everything I wanted in Congress. He wants to be in Housing, does he not?" Sheen said that was correct. Roosevelt made a note on a pad and continued: "The moment you leave this office I will call Mrs. So-and-So [he mentioned the name of the woman who was in charge of Housing] and you call Eddie and tell him he has the job." When Sheen left the White House he called Eddie and said: "Eddie, I saw the President. I am sorry, you do not get the job." Eddie said: ""Is that what the President said after all I did for him?" Sheen said: "No, he said you would have it." Eddie never got the job. Needless to say, Bishop Sheen was a shrewd observer of the human heart.

Sheen also told a story that reveals the depth of pro-Soviet sympathy in America during his radio days. He said that because of his position on the USSR, his talks were closely monitored. If he "veered from the then-popular position of Russia being a democracy," a technician in the studio would cut him off. Once he submitted a manuscript for an upcoming broadcast that had the line, "Poland was crucified between two thieves--the Nazis and the Soviets." Sheen got a telegram from the Bishops' Conference asking him not to say that, because one of the thieves was, of course, the USSR. Never one to miss a beat, the bishop answered the telegram with: "How would it be to call Russia the 'good' thief?"

20th Century Missionary Giant

In 1950, Bishop Sheen was tapped to head the national office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He founded a magazine named Mission and published God Loves You, a weekly column in Catholic newspapers. Between 1950 and 1966, he irrigated the fields of the foreign missions with $200 million (a tremendous sum these days; how much more so then!).

In Treasure in Clay, Archbishop Sheen recounts some of his dealings with the foreign missions. For example, he tells the story of a missionary priest in Australia who labored in the desert there. The heat averaged 125 degrees, and the only kind of food he could carry was canned peaches, since everything else exploded in the desert heat. His "rectory" was his Volkswagen, which was eventually swept away in a flood. Bishop Sheen wrote him a check for a new VW. In his capacity as national head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, his decisions benefited the mission efforts in New Guinea, Borneo, Pacific Islands, China, Africa, Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, and countless other locales.

Prodigious author

Archbishop Sheen, known primarily for his oratorical skills, was, nonetheless, a superb prose stylist. (He wrote more than sixty books!) And he gave full exercise to both of these talents in defending and promoting the Church. His many works include such gems as God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Preface to Religion, Three to Get Married, The Divine Romance, Peace of Soul, Life Is Worth Living, The Seven Last Words, The Way of the Cross, This Is the Mass, The Power of Love, The Divine Verdict, The Armor of God, Way To Inner Peace, God Loves You, Thinking Life Through, and Thoughts For Daily Living.

Consummate Churchman

In 1966, Pope Paul VI appointed him Bishop of Rochester, New York, where he served for four years before stepping down at age seventy-four. He was named titular Archbishop of the Titular See of Newport (Wales) in 1969.

His quicksilver wit and golden smile softened the patrician bearing that would quickly stiffen in defense of Christ's Church and the honor of His Bride. And he had a marvelous sense of humor: Pope Paul VI once reportedly told him that he would have a high place in heaven. "Is that an infallible statement?" he grinned.

His high-caliber intellect (steeped as it was in the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas), the magnitude of his writing and speaking skills, his shrewd sense of theater, and his unflagging love for Christ's Church combined to produce the most colorful and effective Catholic apologist in twentieth century America.

Humble priest

By his own account, each day of his priestly life included a continuous hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. This daily prayer and mediation and his deep devotion to the Blessed Mother formed the spine of his fidelity to his priestly vocation and the foundation for the holiness to which he aspired.

Some two months before his death, he met the visiting John Paul II, who embraced him warmly and told him: "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church." Archbishop Sheen died in New York City on December 9, 1979.


Holiness Is Simplicity: Father Mariano de la Mata (1905-1983)

Interview With a Blessed's Contemporary

SAO PAULO, Brazil, NOV. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Mariano de la Mata is an example to the Church not because of his great works, but because of his simple and virtuous life, says the vice postulator of his cause for canonization.

Father Miguel Lucas, who lived with the Spanish priest in the Augustinian community in Brazil, says in this interview with ZENIT that his companion is an example for all to see that sanctity is reached by living the little things in life well.

Father Mariano de la Mata (1905-1983) was beatified Sunday in the Cathedral of Sao Paulo, during a ceremony presided over by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Q: Who was Father Mariano de la Mata?

Father Lucas: A Spanish Augustinian priest. He was born in 1905 and came to Brazil in 1931; he died in Sao Paulo in 1983. He was a man of charity for the poor and spiritual director of the St. Rita of Cassia charity workshops, which are dedicated to making clothes for the poor. During Father Mariano's life, there were about 9,000 women members.

Father Mariano always visited the four hospitals that existed within Sao Paulo's Parish of St. Augustine. He liked children very much, and was always surrounded by them and had sweets in his pockets to give them.

He was a friend to his students. He made a friend of each student. He loved nature. He looked after plants as if they were patients. He cultivated many flower pots in the terrace of St. Augustine School.

Q: What led to the start of his process of beatification?

Father Lucas: Since Father Mariano's death, his reputation for holiness spread rapidly. God has granted many graces through his intercession. When, in 1977, my superior in Brazil and I went to ask Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns to open Father Mariano's process of beatification, he replied: "This man deserves to be a saint; this one does."

Q: You lived together with Father Mariano. Did you think he would reach the glory of the altar?

Father Lucas: No. First because there was no blessed or saint in Brazil. And second, because he isn't outstanding for great works. It's true that everything he did, he did well. He practiced all the virtues to a higher degree than normal. He was always dedicated to the poor, the sick, to prayer. This makes us think that sanctity is within our reach.

Q: Can you illustrate how he lived the virtues?

Father Lucas: When he was in the sacristy of St. Augustine Church he was visited by the poor. He would put his hands on their shoulders, which were sometimes dirty or wounded, and talk with them. He always gave them some money.

His assiduous visitors left the church happier because of Father Mariano's embrace, than for the pennies he gave them. On cold winter nights, Father Mariano would go down with blankets to the school's square to cover the poor who slept there.

Another story about Father Mariano is that, despite his impaired vision, he would go by car all day through the streets of Sao Paulo to visit the premises of the St. Rita of Cassia charity workshops.

When he arrived late for a meal, some friend would say: "Father Mariano, the meal is almost over." He would reply: "The meal can wait, but not the sick; many times they do not wait."

Father Mariano also enjoyed sports. He himself had a soccer team in the school, of which he was director, and played with the youths. There is even a photograph of him with the school's soccer team and several trophies his team won.

Q: What message has Father Mariano left the Church in Brazil and in the world?

Father Lucas: With his life and testimony, Father Mariano is telling us that holiness continues to apply today in the Christian life and is always possible.

Above all, he is a saint who gives credit to the fact that the building of the kingdom of God is also done on the city streets and in the little acts of every day.

Father Mariano's life challenges all of us. He is a saint of today for the life of today.


Benedict XVI Canonizes 4 Saints
Says They Invested in Heaven

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Saints gain heaven by trusting in the word of God, said Benedict XVI on proclaiming the sanctity of a bishop, a priest and two women religious.

"Their names will be remembered forever," he said today at the canonization Mass of the four saints in St. Peter's Square.

Rafael Guízar Valencia (1878-1938) was born in Cotija de la Paz, in the Mexican state of Michoacan, the fourth of 11 children.

His evangelizing work was often impeded by the political situation in Mexico.

During the religious persecution of the 1920s, he was exiled in the United States, Guatemala and Cuba, where he continued his missionary work.

Many miracles were attributed to him in his lifetime. He died on June 6, 1938.

"Imitating Christ," the Holy Father said during the homily of the more than two-hour celebration in St. Peter's Square, St. Guízar Valencia "gave up his properties and never accepted gifts from the powerful, or gave them away immediately."

"That is why he received a 'hundredfold' and was able to help the poor, even amid relentless 'persecutions,'" (cf. Mark 10:30) added the Pontiff.

His heroic charity earned him the name "bishop of the poor,'" the Pope said to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square, including some 10,000 Mexicans.

Benedict XVI said that "in his priestly and later episcopal ministry, he was a tireless preacher of popular missions, the most appropriate way to evangelize people then, using his 'Catechism of Christian Doctrine,'" he said in reference to the book which became the manual of faith for several generations of Mexicans.

The Bishop of Rome added that one of the bishop's priorities was "the formation of priests," the reason why he "reconstructed the seminary, which he considered 'the apple of his eye.'"

"That is why he used to exclaim: 'A bishop might not have a miter, a staff or even a cathedral, but he can never be without a seminary, because the future of his diocese depends on it,'" the Pope said.

The Holy Father continued: "May the example of St. Rafael Guízar Valencia be a call to brother bishops and priests to consider as essential in pastoral programs, in addition to the spirit of poverty and to evangelization, the fomenting of priestly and religious vocations, and their formation according to the heart of Christ."

Mother Theodore Guérin
(1798-1856), founder of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in the United States.

The French religious entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in 1823, and devoted herself to the work of teaching in schools.

In 1839 she was asked by her superiors to move to the United States to become the head of a new community in Indiana.

"After their long journey over land and sea, the group of six sisters arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. There they found a simple log-cabin chapel in the heart of the forest," said the Pope today at the canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued: "They knelt down before the Blessed Sacrament and gave thanks, asking God's guidance upon the new foundation.

"With great trust in divine providence, Mother Theodore overcame many challenges and persevered in the work that the Lord had called her to do."

"By the time of her death in 1856, the sisters were running schools and orphanages throughout the state of Indiana," said the Pontiff.

Benedict XVI quoted the 19th-century nun: "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!"

At the end of the canonization, when reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father prayed in French that St. Theodore will encourage "us to live the faith and to witness before our contemporaries, paying ever more attention to little ones and to the most abandoned in society."

Italian Father Filippo Smaldone
(1848-1923), known as the apostle of those who can't hear or speak.

St. Filippo Smaldone was a "priest of great heart," said the Holy Father during today's canonization Mass, which could be followed in sign language on large screens in St. Peter's Square.

"[N]ourished by constant prayer and Eucharistic adoration, he was above all a witness and servant of charity, manifested eminently in service to the poor, in particular deaf-mutes, to whom he was completely dedicated," said the Pope.

The saint founded the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, which has convents in Italy, Brazil, Moldavia, Paraguay and Rwanda.

"St. Filippo Smaldone saw the image of God reflected in deaf-mutes, and he used to repeat that, just as we prostrate ourselves before the Blessed Sacrament, so we should kneel before a deaf-mute."

Sister Rose Venerini
(1656-1728), founder of the first public school for women in Italy.

St. Venerini  "was not content to give the girls a good education," said the Holy Father during today's canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square, "but was concerned to give them a complete formation, with firm references in the doctrinal teaching of the Church."

"Her apostolic style still continues to characterize the life of the Religious Teachers Venerini, which she founded," said the Pope.

The Pontiff added: "And how timely and important also for present-day society is the service they carry out in the field of education, especially in the formation of women!"


Mother Theodore Guerin

 An Indiana nun once banished from her congregation by a bishop will be proclaimed a saint on Sunday, providing a model of virtuous life to America's Roman Catholics — even if they find themselves at odds with church leaders.

Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin as the first new U.S. saint in six years, a span marked in this country by the scandal over the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The pontiff also will canonize a Mexican bishop and two Italians who founded religious orders.

The celebration of a new saint offers a respite from the lawsuits and settlements that have dominated much of the discussion of the U.S. church in recent years, and Guerin's life story can inspire those struggling in their own faith, said members of the religious order she founded, the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

"The bishop here in Vincennes was impossible to work with, yet she always kept her faith. She held on to it," said Sister Marcia Speth, one of the order's leaders. "In that way, she witnesses to us how to be today in an imperfect, flawed, sinful church."

Guerin led a group of six French nuns who arrived in Indiana on Oct. 22, 1840, to establish a community in the woods outside Terre Haute. She and Vincennes Bishop Celestin de la Hailandiere struggled over control of the fledgling order, and he dismissed Guerin from her vows, threatened her with excommunication and banished her for a time from St. Mary-of-the-Woods. She did not return until after his resignation in 1847.

In that way, she is like many saints who found themselves bucking church authorities while alive, only to be acclaimed as saints after their deaths, said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame and the author of the 2001 book "Lives of the Saints."

"So many leading figures who had tussles with their bishop or other high-ranking ecclesiastical officials were later rehabilitated. History remembers them, but not the officials who gave them a difficult time," McBrien said. "I dare say that Mother Guerin, as a soon-to-be-canonized saint, will achieve an elevated status that will forever elude the bishop who dismissed her."

When Guerin and fellow sisters stepped off the stagecoach at St. Mary-of-the Woods, only a simple church in a dense forest awaited them. They boarded with a local family until acquiring a small cabin that was so cold their bread froze. They faced anti-Catholic prejudice in frontier western Indiana.

Guerin raised money and built an academy for girls billed as the oldest Roman Catholic college for women in the U.S. It's known today as St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. The sisters also founded schools across Indiana. Today the order has 465 sisters, with 10 women currently in formation to become nuns.

Guerin, who died in 1856 at the age of 57, remains a role model for women at the college, said Samantha Dumm, a 19-year-old sophomore from Morgantown, Ind., who is traveling with other students to the
Vatican for Sunday's canonization.

"She wants us to be strong women, stand up for ourselves and make our own way in life," Dumm said.

Guerin will become the eighth U.S. saint and the first one canonized since Sister Katherine Drexel in October 2000.

A little more than a year after Drexel's canonization, the scandal over the sex abuse by Catholic priests erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston and spread across the country. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements have been paid out, and bishops' popularity has waned, despite reform measures.

Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, who promoted Guerin's cause for sainthood for the order, said she hopes the canonization will refocus the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics alike on holiness.

"I think every time it happens, it is an impetus for the rest of us," Tighe said. "God did not create just some people to be special. We are all on earth on a faith journey to heaven."


Cause Opens for Native Bangladeshi Prelate
Archbishop Ganguly on Track for Beatification

DHAKA, Bangladesh, SEPT. 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The diocesan phase opened for the process of beatification of the first native archbishop of Bangladesh, Theotonius Amal Ganguly.

The solemn Mass to mark the occasion Sept. 2 was reported by Vatican Radio, which also explained that it is a historic event for the country, whose population of 147 million includes 280,000 Catholics.

About 3,000 people were on hand for the Mass, including Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, the apostolic nuncio, and Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka.

In 1960 Pope John XXIII appointed Father Ganguly the first native bishop of the then territory of East Pakistan, making him auxiliary of Dhaka.

Five years later, Pope Paul VI appointed him coadjutor archbishop of the same place, eventually becoming archbishop at the age of 47. Four years later, after separation from the rest of the Pakistani territory, the country was named Bangladesh. The prelate died at age 57 from a heart attack.

In his homily, Archbishop Costa mentioned that many lay people, both young and old, asked him to initiate his predecessor's process of beatification.

The prelate made this request to Benedict XVI last March.

"We will pray that God will grant a good outcome to this cause," Archbishop Costa told the thousands of faithful present. "Each one of you will receive a photo of the Servant of God and a prayer. Please pray it in every home and parish."

At the end of the ceremony, the faithful went in great numbers to pray at Archbishop's Ganguly's tomb in the Archbishop's Residence.


Beatification for Hungarian nun executed for saving Jews

In the first beatification to take place in Hungary since that of St Stephen nearly 1000 years ago, Sara Salkahazi, a nun honoured by Jewish organisations for saving the lives of dozens of Jews during World War II, is to be declared Blessed in Budapest later this month.

Sara Salkahazi, who was recognised in 1972 by Yad Vashem, was killed by the Arrow Cross - the Hungarian allies of the Nazis - on 27 December 1944 for hiding Jews in a Budapest building used by her religious order, the Sisters of Social Service, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Salkahazi was taken along with several other occupants of the home and shot, their bodies falling into the Danube River and never recovered.

The beatification rite will take place 17 September at St Stephen's (St Istvan's) Basilica, Budapest and will be the first beatification to take place in the country since the beatification of St Stephen himself who was beatified in 1083 along with his son, St Imre, and St Gellert, an Italian bishop who had a key role in converting Hungarians to Christianity.

"Sara Salkahazi heroically exercised her love of humanity stemming from her Christian faith," said Budapest Cardinal Peter Erdo, who will celebrate the beatification mass. "This is for what she gave her life."

Salkahazi was born in the city of Kassa in 1899, at the time in Hungary but now known as Kosice and part of Slovakia.

Changes introduced by Pope Benedict again allow beatification rites to be held around the world, instead of only in the Vatican, as was the norm for centuries.

Church officials also highlighted Salkahazi's modest middle-class roots, saying she will be first Hungarian to be beatified who is not royalty or a member of the country's aristocracy, the Post added.

Before taking her religious vows in 1930, Salkahazi worked as a bookbinder, journalist and newspaper editor.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by an act of the Israeli Knesset. Since its inception, Yad Vashem has been entrusted with documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust period, preserving the memory and story of each of the six million victims, and imparting the legacy of the Holocaust for generations to come through its archives, library, school, museums and recognition of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Interview With Cardinal Peter Erdo
primate of Hungary, before the beatification.

Q: Of what importance is this event?

Cardinal Erdo: First I wish to say that the last canonization that took place in Hungary was in 1083, at a time when there was still no technical distinction between beatification and canonization. Therefore, it is correct to say that it is the first beatification that is effected in Hungary.

Above all it is a great joy, not only for Catholic believers but for the whole society: a completely extraordinary event. And it is also very important that all this is happening in the year of Hungary's jubilees, in a year that the Hungarian episcopal conference has declared a year of prayer for the spiritual renewal of the Magyar nation. Above all it is the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution.

What does this beatification mean for us in the city of Budapest? It means that a woman of today, of the 20th century, let us say an ordinary woman, that is, not aristocratic or of the royal household, can live the Christian ideal and also be shown to all the people as an example of Christian life.

The blessed and saints are, on one hand, our patrons who intercede for us and, on the other, they are always examples of Christian life and this example must be current, palpable for people today.

Hungarians have relatively few canonized saints, also because our administrative strength, to carry out these processes, was somewhat lacking in our very agitated history.

Therefore, it is an extraordinary joy that John Paul II already beatified three Hungarians and now Benedict XVI has permitted the beatification of Sister Sara Salkahazi, who was a martyr and died in Budapest, in this city which has existed under this name only since 1873, because before, Buda and Pest were two different cities.

The patron saint of our city is St. Gerard Sagredo of Venice, who was an Italian bishop. After St. Stephen's death, [St. Gerard] was thrown into the Danube from the mountain that now bears his name. His statute raises the cross over the city of Budapest. His martyrdom was closely linked to the Danube's waters.

And now we celebrate the beatification of a saintly woman of the 20th century, who also suffered martyrdom and whose martyrdom is also related to the waters of the Danube.

She was shot on the Danube, with many people of Jewish origin, because she was a martyr of Christian charity. She gave her life for her neighbors. She hid many persecuted people in her convent, and when this fact was discovered at the end of 1944 she was arrested and then, together with the women she was hiding, was shot on the Danube.

Later, eyewitnesses of this event were found who stated how she died. She made the sign of the cross in the last moment of her life; therefore, fully conscious, she wished to give witness of the way that a true Christian must behave in such tragic situations.

Q: In the history of the Church, including during difficult periods, some charismatic personalities have appeared as compasses in the storm. What role did Sister Sara play in the tormented period in which she lived?

Cardinal Erdo: Above all, Sister Sara was a very modern woman. A journalist in the city of Kosice, which belonged to Hungary when it was born and later formed part of Czechoslovakia, she wrote for several newspapers and later she also wrote plays and her writings are full of human sensibility but also full of Christian thought.

Through her intellectual activity, she was open to a vocation and decided to dedicate her life to the service of her neighbor. That is why she entered the Society of the Social Sisters, which was a new congregation of that time and which was engaged above all in service to the poor and the sick.

In regard to the poor, Sister Sara discovered the extreme need of women in the society of that time; women who were obliged to work even though they had a family, who often lived in utter dependence and poverty.

She also organized several houses for women in situations of crisis. Thus, a Christian feminism characterized the thought of this religious and also the house in Budapest where she was a superior at the end of her life.

Initially it was a house for women workers and in this house they later hid many women of Jewish origin. This was not an isolated action of Sister Sara but also organized centrally by her whole congregation.

It was Margit Slachta, superior general of the congregation, who wrote that in each house of her Society, persecuted women were hidden; yet more than that, when students were in boarding schools, they were sent home to have enough room for persecuted women.

Hungarian laws at that time exempted people of Jewish origin from the juridical consequences of their origin if they were members of a religious congregation, or if they were priests or clerics of a Christian church.

Because of this, for example, in the city of Cluj, in present-day Romania, which also belonged to Hungary, this Society had a large house, where not a few young women were dressed as religious to save their lives. So, we have many testimonies of this kind.

We have other information also that in another house of the Society in Budapest, until the last moment of Nazism, there were many people hidden, also men, naturally not as religious, but, for example, in compartments under the house's roof and other such things.

In fact, after her death, no other religious was killed, either by the Nazis or the Communists who arrived later. It was a truly moving story already at that time, but a story about which, under Communism, relatively little was said; hence the cause of beatification could only be initiated after the change of the system.

Q: Saints and blessed leave us an ideal testament and a strong example to follow in which the Catholic community should be inspired in life and in daily difficulties. Sister Sara's testimony is an up-to-date message for us all. In what way can we propose her exemplary life in the contemporary context of irresponsibility and relativism?

Cardinal Erdo: By presenting the details of her life, because in at least 10 places she worked for the poor: for example, in Ukraine of the Carpathians, where also at that time there were enormous social problems and poverty.

Then, we can present her as a person who fought for her vocation, a person who was very determined to follow the will of God, once she recognized it.

All those who knew her say she was a severe and strong personality, even though she knew how to joke, but who never wished to give up when she had recognized something as the will of God.

This clarity of decision could be a great example for people today who have great difficulty in deciding, in finding their vocation, their spouse, or their life's profession.

She is also a great example of Christian attitude that helps others without calculation, without taking her own interests into account and who looks with open eyes at the social situation of the people, of the city where she lives and who is aware of the needs of people who live around her, because today we are often very isolated and do not even realize the misery in which some of those close to us live.

Hence, there is a very strong alienation in present-day society and we as Christians must pull down this wall of alienation. We must open our eyes and also our hearts to those who have some kind of need, which might have to do with health, or be material, psychological, spiritual or social in people who are oppressed or persecuted.

Today's world is full of such situations; hence, the testimony of this religious is, sadly, of great present importance.

Q: What was her charism? How can you describe her spirituality?

Cardinal Erdo: Her life was inscribed harmoniously in her congregation; hence, social service to the human person.

Today the great systems of social welfare, of health, if they work, do not function as before, including in the Western world; this is one issue.

Another issue is that the loans given by these systems are generally material loans and not directly personal, so that the systems are de-personalized, while the help that these religious tried to give was always a most personal help which did not just calculate the quantity of foods distributed but tried to be in personal contact with the needy. This too, in my opinion, is a very timely aspect of Christian spirituality.

Q: Her motto was: "Ecce ego, mitte me!" (Here I am. Send me!). How can this motto be interpreted and applied in the contemporary world?

Cardinal Erdo: All of us are obliged to seek the will of God in general, if we want the objective norms of human behavior that are already written in our hearts and nature.

But we are also obliged to seek the concrete will of God: his plan for our person, hence, our vocation.

Surely it cannot be impossible to find this vocation. God does not call us to hide himself but he calls us to meet us; therefore, we must believe with much optimism in the fact that it is possible to know the will of God also in the concrete situations of our lives.

When Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us the whole truth that he taught and would make us recall all the teachings of Jesus Christ, we have no illusions, we do not think that the Holy Spirit works a miracle with our memory, but instead points out to us in each concrete situation what Jesus Christ wants, what his teaching means for us in that specific situation -- hence, [...] baptism, which also implies the Holy Spirit as gift of God, and, in a special way, confirmation, which gives us this indelible sign of the Holy Spirit, the capacity to hear the voice of the Spirit which points out to us what God wills, what he expects from us in the specific circumstances of each day.

There are traditional and current phrases of Christian life, such as the examen of conscience every day, or a good resolution every morning looking ahead, foreseeing how the day will go, which will certainly be full of stress and agitation, and we try to foresee what the greatest temptations of the day will be which are predictable or perhaps what occasions there are to do good.

Therefore, if we have a small project for the day, no doubt at night, in our examen of conscience, we can ask ourselves if, with the grace of God, we have been able to accomplish the project. Or, if there were sins, we can ask for God's forgiveness and begin again with our eyes open wider.

If we succeed in learning this attitude of attention to the Holy Spirit, it will become increasingly easier. And this promptness is called virtue in the theological sense of the word.

Q: What has impressed you personally of the figure of Sister Sara?

Cardinal Erdo: I still know personally ladies who were rescued by Sister Sara or other religious of her congregation. For me, her figure was always a figure of the stories of the ancestors, if we want a realistic reading.

It is a proof that the saints are not persons who are remote from us, from daily life, from our possibilities; rather, they are people like ourselves who simply -- even in the trivial circumstances of daily life -- succeed in following God's will consistently. And this promptness of the person then receives God's blessing.

And through our simple actions, miracles take place, events that later shake a whole generation and that leave their mark for a long time, including on the conscience of an entire city or a whole nation.


Blessed Bartolo Longo

The Feast of the Assumption was Aug. 15, and to mark the occasion thousands of pilgrims gathered at the Sanctuary of the Holy Rosary of Pompei, one of the world's most famous Marian shrines. Among other things, the pilgrims celebrated the 100th anniversary of the gift of the shrine to the Holy See in 1906 by Blessed Bartolo Longo, its founder and a tireless advocate of the dogma of Mary's Assumption.

Beatifying Longo in 1980, John Paul II called him the "Man of Mary."

If every saint (and near-saint) has an interesting story, some are more interesting than others, and Longo's may be close to the most interesting of all. He holds the singular distinction that he was once a priest -- but not of the Catholic church, or even of the Christian God.

Improbably, Longo was a priest of Satan.

He grew up in a Catholic household, but fell in with a different crowd when he went to Naples for law school. Attracted to the 19th century "Spiritist" movement, he began attending séances, and eventually became involved in a Satanic cult. He was formally made a priest, and regularly conducted Black Masses and other Satanic rituals for the better part of a decade.

Eventually, however, Longo came under the influence of a Dominican who brought him back to Catholicism. Longo became a lay member of the Dominicans' Third Order, taking the name "Brother Rosary."

Longo organized a petition drive for world peace from 1896 to 1900, collecting more than four million signatures in dozens of countries. For his efforts, he was nominated for the 1902 Noble Peace Prize.

At the same time, Longo also led a petition drive supporting the dogma of Mary's Assumption. More than 120 bishops signed, and the petition was given to Pope Leo XIII. Some questioned the idea of a layperson meddling in theology, but Leo declared that the Holy Spirit can speak through any of the baptized.

Longo did not live to see the proclamation of the Assumption by Pius XII on Nov. 1, 1950. Forty years later, however, John Paul acknowledged him as the father of "the promotional movement of the definition of the dogma."

The moral of this story? If a former Satanist can become the architect of an infallible papal declaration, maybe there's hope for us all.


John Paul I's Cause Expected to Advance
Diocesan Phase Might End in November

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The vice postulator of the cause for the beatification of Pope John Paul I announced that the diocesan phase of the process could end this year.

The announcement, reported on Vatican Radio, was made public on the occasion of the presentation of the celebrations for the 28th anniversary of the election to the papacy of the patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Albino Luciani. The celebrations will be held Aug. 26.

Speaking of John Paul I's birthplace, Canale d'Agordo, the vice postulator, Monsignor Giorgio Lise, revealed that "170 witnesses have been heard in 190 sessions; there are some missing in Rome and Vittorio Veneto. Therefore, the diocesan phase is drawing to a close and, in November, on the patronal feast of St. Martin, on the 11th of that month, it might well be concluded."

According to the vice postulator, the focus has been on the purported miracle that occurred in Puglia, in southern Italy. A man says he was cured of a tumor after praying to God for the grace through the Pontiff's intercession.

The diocesan phase of the cause began in Belluno in 2003. Once the diocesan phase is concluded, the cause will be taken up by the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes.

Albino Luciani, born on Oct. 17, 1912, was elected Pope on the second day of the conclave, on Aug. 26, 1978. He died a month later.


Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross | Edith Stein | August 9th

August 9th is the Feast Day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who was martyred on that day in 1942 in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Fr. Charles P. Connor, in Classic Catholic Converts, writes:
The story of the Jewish Carmelite Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, known in the world as Edith Stein, presents us with one of the more brilliant converts to come to the Faith in [the twentieth] century; it also places us in close contact with a horrendous tragedy of the modern world, the Holocaust.
Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Germany on October 12, 1891, the youngest of eleven children. In 1913 she began studies at the University of Göttingen in Germany. She soon became a student of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and was later attracted to the work of Max Scheler, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism in 1920. A chance reading of the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila revealed to her the God of love she had long denied. She entered the Church in 1922.

For eight years Edith lived with the Dominicans, teaching at Saint Magdelene's, which was a training institute for teachers. She wrote:

Initially, when I was baptized on New Year's Day, 1922, I thought of it as a preparation in the Order. But a few months later, when I saw my mother for the first time after the baptism, I realized that she couldn't handle another blow for the present. Not that it would have killed her—but I couldn't have held myself responsible for the embitterment it would have caused.
In fact, after her conversion Edith continued to attend synagogue with her mother. Meanwhile, she continued to grow and impress as a philospher. In 1925 she met the Jesuit Erich Pryzwara, a philosopher who would have a tremendous influence on Hans Urs von Balthasar. Pryzwara encouraged Edith to study and translate St. Thomas Aquinas; she eventually wrote a work comparing Usserl with Aquinas.

In 1933 Edith entered the religious life with the Carmel of Cologne, Germany. She fell in love with the person and writing of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She wrote:

My impression was, that this was a life which had been absolutely transformed by the love of God, down to the last detail. I simply can't imagine anything greater. I would like to see this attitude incorporated as much as possible into my own life and the lives of those who are dear to me.
After taking her first vows, Edith was known as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She continued to write, Fr. Connor notes, "continually developing the theme that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are in fact one and the same sacrifice. From her religious background, she knew the importance of sacrificial prayer for Old Testament prophets." She wrote of how Jesus' sacrifice as the Incarnate God-man was the final, perfect sacrifice that replaced all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Because of the rise of Nazi power, Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also converted to Catholicism, moved to Holland in 1938. On August 2, 1942, Edith and her sister were taken from the convent by two S.S. officers. She was martyred seven days later. Fr. Connor writes: "On October 11, 1998, fifty-six years, two months, and two days after her death at Auschwitz, Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II."

Ferdinand Holböck writes in New Saints and Blesseds of the Catholic Church : 1984-1987 (Volume 2)
The Church now presents Sister Teresa Benedicta a Croce to us as a blessed martyr, as an example of a heroic follower of Christ, for us to honour and to emulate. Let us open ourselves up for her message to us as a woman of the spirit and of the mind, who saw in the science of the cross the acme of all wisdom, as a great daughter of the Jewish people, and as a believing Christian in the midst of millions of innocent fellow men made martyrs. She saw the inexorable approach of the cross. She did not flee in fear. Instead, she embraced it in Christian hope with final love and sacrifice and in the mystery of Easter even welcomed it with the salutation,"ave crux spes unica". As Cardinal Höffner said in his recent pastoral letter, "Edith Stein is a gift, an invocation and a promise for our time. May she be an intercessor with God for us and for our people and for all people."

Edith Stein: A Biography
by Waltraud Herbstrith

A powerful and moving story of the remarkable Jewish woman who converted to Catholicism, became a nun, achieved remarkable success in the male-dominated world of German philosophy, and was sent to a Nazi death camp when she refused to deny her Jewish heritage.

Waltraud Herbstrith has fashioned a warm, memorable portrait of this woman who, as Jesuit philosopher Jan Nota points out in the introduction, "discovered in Christ the meaning of human existence and suffering ... Edith Stein was one of those Christians who lived out of a hope transcending optimism and pessimism." Hers is a voice that speaks powerfully to all of us today, and a life that stands as testimony to the profoundest values of human existence, the significance of the individual, and the truths of faith that can reconcile Christian and Jew, philosophy and religion, oppressor and oppressed to heal a troubled world.


St. Benedict
Whittaker Chambers | From Saints For Now, edited by Clare Boothe Luce

Queen Victoria left this world almost at the moment that I chanced to enter it. Her memory, when I was old enough to identify it, fell thinly across my earliest childhood. People still spoke of  "the Queen", as if in all history there had been only one and everybody must know at once that Queen Victoria was meant. Somewhat later, I sensed that her going had stirred a deep-set uneasiness, as if with her a part of the mainland of human experience had sunk into the sea and no one quite knew what further subsidences and commotions to expect. Yet, in those far off days, no one ever chanted to me that grim line of the Queen's favorite poet:
And the great aeon sinks in blood:
though I was not very old when I had the "Death of Arthur" read to me in full, and, after the depressingly long glories of the winter moon, I noted with relief that
The new sun rose, bringing the new year.
With the rest of my generation, I grew in that sun's illusory light. For the historical skies of my boyhood were only in frequently troubled, chiefly by a triad of figures powerful and unpredictable enough to thrill from time to time the nerve of reality. They were, of course, in America, Theodore Roosevelt; in England, King Edward VII; and, on the continent of Europe, bestriding it like a self-inflated colossus, the German Kaiser. Each had a characteristic motif; too, like a Wagnerian hero: a little repetitive phrase that set the historic mood or forecast that each, for good or ill, was about to vault again upon the world stage, to give some new tingling turn to the plot. Thus, from the heart of Europe, would come characteristic variations on the Bismarckian theme of Blut und Eisen. In America, rose blithe shouts of "Bully! It's bully!" While Edwardian England had reversed the plea in which Swinburne exhorted Walt Whitman to "send but a song oversea to us", and both shores of the Atlantic rocked to the surge and thunder of Tarara-boom-de-ay.

Long before I had the slightest notion what the barbaric sounds might mean, as language or destiny, I listened fascinated to people chanting:
A Brussels carpet on the floor:
An elevator at the door:
Tarara-boom-de-ay; Tarara-boom-de-ay!
It was not only because of its gayness that it embedded it self in my memory. For what others found gay, I found indefinably ominous, as fixing a tone, a touch of dissolution that, even as a sensitive child, I could not possibly have explained to myself or anybody else. But one day, much later, the echo of Tarara-boom-de-ay fused itself unexpectedly with something that would seem to have nothing to do with it--a more or less random remark by one of my college instructors in Contemporary Civilization. Contemporary Civilization, a course required for all freshmen at Columbia College, was taught by several young men whom I remember chiefly as rather lugubrious--disillusioned veterans of the First World War, and a conscientious objector who had refused to take part in it. One day, the objector, staring at some point far beyond the backs of our heads, observed that "the world is entering upon a new Dark Ages."

It was one of the few things that I carried away from Contemporary Civilization, required for all freshmen. And it was not so much the meaning of the words, which I was far too unfledged to understand, as the toneless despondency with which they were uttered that struck me. That, and their acceptance of the Dark Ages as something relevant, and possibly recurrent in history.

For under the sunlit skies of my boyhood, the Dark Ages were seldom mentioned: if at all, chiefly by way of contrast to the light of our progress. For the voice of that time was, at least as it reached me, wholly incapable of the irony with which, little more than a decade later, Jean de Bosschére would ask: "Qui se leva pour dire que nous ne sommes pas en plein jour?"

The Dark Ages were inexcusable and rather disreputable--a bad time when the machine of civilization in its matchless climb to the twentieth century had sheared a whole rank of king-pins and landed mankind in a centuries-long ditch. At best, it was a time when monks sat in unsanitary cells with a human skull before them, and copied and recopied, for lack of more fruitful employment, the tattered records of a dead antiquity. That was the Dark Ages at best, which, as anybody could see, was not far from the worst.

If a bright boy, leafing through history, asked: "How did the Dark Ages come about?" he might be told that "Rome fell!"--as if a curtain simply dropped. Boys of ten or twelve, even if bright, are seldom bright enough to say to themselves: "Surely, Rome did not fall in a day." If a boy had asked: "But were there no great figures in the Dark Ages, like Teddy Roosevelt, King Edward, and the Kaiser?" he might well have been suspected of something like an unhealthy interest in the habits and habitats of spiders. If he had persisted and asked: "But isn't it clear that the Dark Ages are of a piece with our age of light, that our civilization is by origin Catholic, that, in fact, we cannot understand what we have become without under standing what we came from?" he would have been suspected of something much worse than priggery--a distressing turn to popery.

I was no such bright boy (or youth). I reached young man hood serene in the knowledge that, between the failed light of antiquity and the buzzing incandescence of our own time, there had intervened a thousand years of darkness from which the spirit of man had begun to liberate itself (intellectually) first in the riotous luminosity of the Renaissance, in Human ism, in the eighteenth century, and at last (politically) in the French Revolution. For the dividing line between the Dark Ages is not fast, and they were easily lumped together.

To be sure, even before Queen Victoria died, the pre Raphaelites had popularized certain stage properties of the Middle Ages. And on the Continent there had been Novalis, to mention only one name (but no one in my boyhood mentioned Novalis). There had been Huysmans (we knew Huys mans, but his name was touched with decadence). There was a fad of the Gothic and figures like Viollet-le-Duc: while an obscure American, Henry Adams, was even then composing Mont St. Michel and Chartres, and inditing certain thoughts on the Virgin and the Dynamo that would echo briefly above the clink of their swizzle sticks in the patter of my generation.

I was in my twenties, a young intellectual savage in college with thousands of others, before the fact slowly dawned upon me that, for a youth always under the spell of history, the his tory I knew was practically no history at all. It consisted of two disjointed parts--the history of Greece and Rome, with side trips to Egypt and the Fertile Crescent: and a history of the last four hundred years of Europe and America. Of what lay in between, what joined the parts and gave them continuity, and the pulse of life and breath of spirit, my ignorance was darker than any Dark Age. Less by intelligence than by the kind of sixth sense which makes us aware of objects ahead in the dark, I divined that a main land mass of the history of Western civilization loomed hidden beyond my sight.
I turned to medieval history. But the distinguished teachers who first guided me into the Dark Ages seemed, even to my blindness, not too sure of their own way. They knew facts, more facts than I would ever know. Yet in their understanding of the facts something was missing, something that would enable them to feel that the life of the times they were exploring was of one tissue with the life of ours, that neither could be divided from the other, without an arterial tearing, that neither could be understood without the other. Their exposition, even of so obvious a problem as the causes for the fall of the Roman West left me with a sense of climbing railless stairs above a chasm at night. Rome fell, I learned, because of the barbarian hordes and a series of great barbarian leaders. H. G. Wells would presently startle me with the information that the hordes had been comparative handfuls among the populations they conquered, while, somewhat later, I would come to believe that the barbarian leaders were scarcely more barbarian than the Romans, that many of them were disaffected officials of the Roman state and their conduct was not so much that of invaders as what we should now call Fifth Columnists.

Or I was taught that Rome's collapse was due in part to the disrepair of the Roman roads and the breakdown of communications. Or the resurgence of the Pontine marshes and the high incidence of malaria at Rome. Or that the conquest of the East had introduced alien and indigestible masses into the Empire, and corrupted Rome, and so it fell. But even a collegiate savage could scarcely fail to note that it was precisely the corrupt Eastern half of the Empire that survived as a political unit, and, for another eight hundred years, stood against the vigorous East, and was the bulwark of the fallen West.

There were other facts and factors. My ignorance could question them only so far, and then not their reality for the most part, but their power to explain by themselves an event so complex and so thunderous as the crash of a civilization. Some more subtle dissolvent, I sensed, must also have been, undivined, at work. I thought I had caught a hint of it in Salvianus' moritur et ridet: "The Roman Empire is luxurious, but it is filled with misery. It is dying but it laughs--moritur et ridet." But Salvian, we learned with a deflecting smile, was an extremist, though, in the hindsight of disaster, his foresight would scarcely seem overstated. What interested me was that men had smiled complacently at Salvian's words when he spoke them, and men still smiled at them complacently a thousand years later--the same kind of men, I was beginning to suspect, upon, I also suspected, a similar turning point of history.

In any case, for me it was too late. What the missing some thing was in the crisis of Rome I was not to learn in classrooms. The crisis of civilization in my own time had caught me in its undertow and soon swept me far beyond that earlier Dark Ages. Not until it had cast me back upon its rocks, by grace a defeated fugitive from its forces, would I again find peace or pause to seek to determine what, if anything, that mortal experience had taught me about the history of our own time, or any other.

This century was half gone, and with it more than half my life, that at that moment seemed all but to have ended in an ordeal with which my name is linked, when someone, seeking only to comfort me, once more directed my eyes to that point in the past from which, some thirty years before, I had abruptly taken them. Anne Ford, my friend of many years standing, sent me from the Monastery of Gethsemani a little silver medal, blessed in my family's name and mine, by Father Louis--Thomas Merton of The Seven-Storey Mountain, who, as a later student, had sat in the same college classrooms, listening to some of the same instructors I had known. On the medal was an image of St. Benedict.

I found myself asking who St. Benedict had been. I knew that he had founded a monastic order, which bore his name, and that for it he had written a famous Rule. I knew that he had uttered a precept that I had taken for my own: Laborare est orare--to labor is to pray. I had once written a little news story about plans for the restoration of his monastery of Monte Cassino after its destruction in the World War of 1939. What I had written had presumably been read at least by one hundred thousand people (so much for journalism in our time). But a seeker after knowledge at any age, certainly one fifty years old, must begin by confessing that he probably knew less about St. Benedict than many a pupil in parochial school. Nor, had I asked a dozen friends, regarded as highly intelligent by themselves and the world, could one of them have told me much more about St. Benedict than I knew myself. The fact that such ignorance could exist, could be taken as a matter of course, was more stunning than the abyss of ignorance itself.

For the briefest prying must reveal that, simply in terms of history, leaving aside for a moment his sanctity, St. Benedict was a colossal figure on a scale of importance in shaping the civilization of the West against which few subsequent figures could measure. And of those who might measure in terms of historic force, almost none could measure in terms of good achieved.

Nor was St. Benedict an isolated peak. He was only one among ranges of human height that reached away from him in time in both directions, past and future, but of which, with one or two obvious exceptions, one was as ignorant as of Benedict: St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII).

Clearly, a cleft cut across the body of Christendom itself, and raised an overwhelming question: What, in fact, was the civilization of the West? If it was Christendom, why had it turned its back on half its roots and meanings and become cheerfully ignorant of those who had embodied them? If it was not Christendom, what was it? And what were those values that it claimed to assert against the forces of active evil that beset it in the greatest crisis of history since the fall of Rome? Did the failure of the Western World to know what it was lie at the root of its spiritual despondency, its intellectual confusion, its moral chaos, the dissolving bonds of faith and loyalty within itself, its swift political decline in barely four decades from hegemony of the world to a demoralized rump of Europe little larger than it had been in the crash of the Roman West, and an America still disputing the nature of the crisis, its gravity, whether it existed at all, or what to do about it?

Answers to such questions could not be extemporized. At the moment, a baffled seeker could do little more than grope for St. Benedict's hand and pray in all humbleness to be led over the traces of the saint's progress to the end that he might be, if not more knowledgeable, at least less nakedly ignorant. The biographical facts were synoptic enough and chiefly to be found in the Dialogues of Pope St. Gregory the Great or inferred between the lines of St. Benedict's Rule.

Benedict had been born, toward the end of the fifth century, of good family in the sturdy countryside of Nursia, which lay close enough to Rome to catch the tremors of its sack, in 410, by Alaric's West Goths (the first time in eight hundred years that the city had fallen) and the shock of its sack by the Vandals, who, in 455 completed the material and human havoc that the West Goths had begun. To a Rome darkened by such disasters, Benedict had been sent to school as a boy of fourteen or fifteen. There he was shaken by the corrupt customs of his schoolmates, it is said. But we may surely conjecture that he was touched, too, like sensitive minds in our own day, by a sense of brooding, indefinable disaster, of doom still incomplete, for the Dark Ages were scarcely more than begun.

The boy fled from Rome, or, as we might say, ran away from school, and settled with a loose-knit congregation about thirty miles from the city. There he performed his first miracle. When, as a result, men called him good, he fled again. For, though he was a boy, he was clearly old enough to fear the world, especially when it praises. This time he fled into the desert wilderness near Subiaco, where for three years he lived alone in a cave. To those who presently found him, he seemed more like a wild creature than a man. Those were the years of the saint's conquest of his flesh, his purgation, illumination, and perhaps his prayerful union with God. They must also have been the years when he plumbed all the perils of solitary austerities and the hermit life, by suffering them.

At any rate, the saint left Subiaco to enter on his first experience in governing a community of monks. He returned to Subiaco, and, in twelve years, organized twelve Benedictine communities. His days were filled with devotion and with labor and touched with miracles. But again human factors threatened failure. St. Benedict with a few companions withdrew to Monte Cassino, some eighty miles southeast of Rome. There he overthrew an ancient altar of Apollo (for paganism was still rooted in the countryside), and there he raised his own altar. On those heights, he organized his community, ruled his monks, performed new miracles, distilled his holy experience in his Holy Rule. There he died at a date which is in dispute, but was probably about 547, when the campaigns of the Eastern Roman Empire to recover Italy from the East Goths had so permanently devastated the Peninsula that the irruption of the Lombards into the ruins brought a new horror rather than any novelty in havoc.

Against that night and that ruin, like a man patiently lighting a wick in a tempest, St. Benedict set his Rule. There had been other monastic Rules before--St. Pachomius' and St. Basil's, for example. St. Benedict called his the Holy Rule, setting it down and setting it apart from all others, with a consciousness of its singular authority that has led some biographers to speculate whether he had not been prompted by the Holy See to write it. Perhaps it is permissible to hazard that his authority need have proceeded from nothing more than that unwavering confidence which commonly sustains genius.

What was there in this little book that changed the world? To us, at first glance, it seems prosaic enough, even fairly obvious. That, indeed, is the heart of its inspiration. In an age of pillar saints and furiously competing athletes of the spirit, when men plunged by thousands into the desert, in a lunge toward God, and in revulsion from man, St. Benedict's Rule brought a saving and creative sanity. Its temper was that of moderation as against excesses of zeal, of fruitful labor as against austerities pushed to the point of fruitlessness, of discipline as against enthusiasm, of continence of spirit and conduct as against in continence.

It has been said (by T. F. Lindsay in his sensitive and searching St. Benedict) that, in a shattered society, the Holy Rule, to those who submitted to its mild but strict sway, restored the discipline and power of Roman family life.

I venture that it did something else as well. For those who obeyed it, it ended three great alienations of the spirit whose action, I suspect, touched on that missing something which my instructors failed to find among the causes of the fall of Rome. The same alienations, I further suspect, can be seen at their work of dissolution among ourselves, and are perhaps among the little noticed reasons why men turn to Communism. They are: the alienation of the spirit of man from traditional authority; his alienation from the idea of traditional order; and a crippling alienation that he feels at the point where civilization has deprived him of the joy of simple productive labor.

These alienations St. Benedict fused into a new surge of the human spirit by directing the frustrations that informed them into the disciplined service of God. At the touch of his mild inspiration, the bones of a new order stirred and clothed themselves with life, drawing to itself much of what was best and most vigorous among the ruins of man and his work in the Dark Ages, and conserving and shaping its energy for that unparalleled outburst of mind and spirit in the Middle Ages. For about the Benedictine monasteries what we, having casually lost the Christian East, now casually call the West, once before regrouped and saved itself.

So bald a summary can do little more than indicate the dimensions of the Benedictine achievement and plead for its constant re-examination. Seldom has the need been greater. For we sense, in the year 1952, that we may stand closer to the year 410 than at any other time in the centuries since. If that statement seems as extreme as any of Salvian's, three hundred million Russians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, East Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, and all the Christian Balkans, would tell you that it is not--would tell you if they could lift their voices through the night of the new Dark Ages that have fallen on them. For them the year 410 has already come.

Whittaker Chambers (April 1, 1901 - July 9, 1961) was an American writer, editor, and famous defector from the American Communist Party. He is best known for his testimony about the espionage of Alger Hiss, detailed in his book Witness, published in 1952.


A Study In Faithful Obedience |

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers | New Foreword to From Slave to Priest

Sister Caroline Hemesath's powerful narrative of Father Augustine Tolton's life is a poignant reminder that with God all things are possible. This welcome new edition, reacquaints us with the first black American priest of the United States and chronicles the profound struggle for equality and acceptance faced by black Catholics in the postbellum era. Confronted with a succession of seemingly indomitable challenges (a narrow escape from slavery, his father's death, abject poverty, exclusion from American seminaries), Father Tolton's fervent desire to study Catholicism, his intense longing for the priesthood and his mother's loving support were the wellsprings from which he drew the strength to persevere.

Father Tolton knew that unconditional trust in God meant that he must become completely vulnerable before the God who made him. Father Tolton reveled in the folly of divine abandonment, confidently exposing the deepest parts of his soul before God who gave him the strength to exercise his priestly ministry under the weighty yoke of racism. He was a beacon of hope to black Catholics in the nineteenth century who were trying to find a home in the American Church. Father Tolton, in his abiding faith and selfless charity, was the instrument through which God's love shone brightly. The resplendent chorus, "I have come ... not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (Jn 6:38) echoed majestically throughout Father Tolton's brief life.

Despite the oppressive hardships placed upon Father Tolton by a culture firmly rooted in the arid soil of hatred and malevolence, God brought him out of the heart of darkness and used him as an instrument of grace. Father Tolton was a tireless messenger of the Gospel and "was not afraid to go into the deep South, where racial hatreds had reached a high pitch and where segregation was decreed by harsh laws." Despite the novelty of being the only black priest in an all-white clergy, the gifted Father Tolton was able effectively to convey the richness, beauty and truth of the Catholic faith, which penetrated even the hardest hearts ("Wherever he went, he was respected and honored").

When we look beneath the surface of our national life, we see that the septic undercurrent of racism flows largely unabated. Racism is alive and well, and is intricately woven into the fabric of American culture. But unlike the 1950s and '60s, where racism was overt, extreme, and statutorily institutionalized, the structure of racism today is more subtle and covert, exhibiting itself through outward manifestations of a now unconscious and tacit philosophy of dehumanization.

Since the 1960s and '70s, many black Catholics, in response to racism in the Church, have turned to and been heavily influenced by liberation theology, a Christian belief in the transcendent as a vehicle for social liberation. Liberation theology does not ask what the Church is, but rather what it means to be the Church in the context of liberating the poor and oppressed. As such, the Church's primary mission is to challenge oppression and identify herself with the poor. For liberation theology, the Magisterium (that is, the teaching authority of the Church) is part of the oppressive class by definition since, in this view, it does not participate in the class struggle. Ultimately, in this "liberation" version of Catholicism, faith is subordinate to political ideology, and the Church becomes an instrumental good rather than remaining an intrinsic good and the necessary means of salvation.

Father Tolton, a former slave become Catholic priest, knew well that the basis for any authentic theology of liberation must include the truth about Jesus, the Church and man's dignity. He endured years of frustration, humiliation, and rejection in a country boasting openness to religious freedom and tolerance. Despite the fact that slaves were "free", they were far from liberated. In Father Tolton's own words: "We are only a class-a class of dehumanized, brutalized, depersonalized beings." The nation failed the "freedom" litmus test rooted in its own Declaration of Independence, while the Catholic Church in America failed to live up to the tenets of her own creed and gospel by not recognizing that genuine liberation means freedom from the bondage of iniquity and sin.

With the assistance and support of several very persistent and undaunted priests, Father Tolton was finally accepted by the Catholic Church--in Rome! He thrived in the Eternal City where his priestly vocation was nurtured and where his gifts and talents were recognized, prompting even the prefect of the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide to note what the American Church failed to appreciate: "Father Tolton is a good priest, reliable, worthy, and capable. You will discover that he is deeply spiritual and dedicated." For his part, Father Tolton acknowledged the great gift of his Catholic faith and, despite bitter trials and turmoil, remained faithful to the teachings of the Church. He was a visionary who saw far beyond race and politics, looking inward-into the heart of the Church herself. He taught, "The Catholic Church deplores a double slavery--that of the mind and that of the body. She endeavors to free us of both .... She is the Church for our people."

The life of Father Tolton is a study in faithful obedience. When the Vatican assigned Father Tolton to serve as a missionary priest in the United States, where he was "a slave, an outcast, a hated black", he obeyed in faith. His was not the faith of blind obedience, like that of an automaton or domesticated animal, but a spirit of faith that, as a child of our Heavenly Father--in complete humility and generosity--he continually strove to discern and fulfill the will of God under the loving guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. It is precisely duc et altum--into the void, the unknown--that Father Tolton received his mission to be a fisher of men.

The greatest legacy of Father Augustine Tolton does not lie in the fact that lie was a pioneer, the first black American priest in the United States. Yes, he was that-but lie was so much more! Father Tolton loved and served the Lord with great fervor and intensity. He knew that God's love is so immense, its power so limitless, its embrace so tender and intimate, that Love Himself brings forth life. Father Tolton was a living testimony to God's creative, life-giving work.

Father Tolton serves as a role model for those who seek to be configured more perfectly to Christ. Amid great persecution, Father Tolton showed us that being configured to Christ means emptying ourselves so that God can fill us; it means exposing the weakest parts of who we are so that God can make us strong; it means becoming blind to the ways of this world so that Christ can lead us; it means dying to ourselves so that we can rise with Christ. I pray that everyone who reads this biography will be inspired by Father Augustine Tolton, who, guided by the Holy Spirit, became a living example of what it means to be fully alive in our Catholic faith.

-- Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
Portland, Oregon
Holy Thursday, 2006

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, and the founder of Aurem Cordis, an apostolate dedicated "to promote the truth and beauty of the gospel by encouraging others to submit themselves freely to the life-giving love of the Trinity and to become living witnesses to that love in the world." Deacon Burke-Sivers gives talks around the country on spirituality, family life, lay vocations, and other topics, and has appeared on "Catholic Answers Live", EWTN, and many local television and radio programs. He has a BA in economics from Notre Dame and an MTS from the University of Dallas. He, his wife Colleen, and their four children live in Portland, Oregon.


Process for Beatification of Cardinal Pironio Opens
Phase Begins in Rome for Argentina-born Prelate

ROME, JUNE 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Pope's Vicar for Rome opened the diocesan phase of the process of beatification of Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who helped John Paul II launch World Youth Days.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar, on Friday described the three characteristics of the faith of the Argentine cardinal: God the Father, the Virgin Mary and the cross.

The vicar for Rome explained that these three loves gave Cardinal Pironio the courage not to draw back, not even when he received death threats in his country.

The opening of the diocesan phase took place in Rome because that was the diocese in which the Cardinal Pironio lived during his last years, and where he died on Feb. 5, 1998.

Eduardo Pironio, born on Dec. 3, 1920, played an important part in Church history in the last quarter of the 20th century.

John Paul II appointed him president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on April 8, 1984, and in that Vatican dicastery, he became the Pontiff's right-hand man in his pastoral work with youth worldwide.

Before, Cardinal Pironio had been prefect of the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life, the dicastery which oversees more than 1 million religious and consecrated persons in the world. He was spiritually close to Sister Lucia, the visionary of Fatima.

Pope Paul VI elevated him to cardinal in May 1976 after having worked for many years in the Latin American bishops' council, first as secretary and later as president.

In Argentina, he was bishop of Mar del Plata, in the province of Buenos Aires. He was the youngest of an Italian immigrant family of 22 children.


Sister Sara Salkahazi Helped Jews

BUDAPEST, Hungary, JUNE 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Sister Sara Salkahazi, a nun shot to death for sheltering Jews in Hungary during World War II, will be beatified in Budapest this fall.

Bishop Andras Veres, secretary of the Hungarian bishops' conference, said on Thursday that the beatification will be conducted by Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Hungarian episcopal conference, on Sept. 17 in St. Stephen's Basilica.

In April, Benedict XVI signed a decree on Sister Salkahazi's martyrdom, a document paving the way for her beatification.

A member of the Sisters of Social Service, a charity organization helping the poor, the woman religious was a journalist, a writer and a cultural activist. She helped to shelter hundreds of Jews, including many women and children, in a convent in the final months of the war.

She was reported to the authorities, and henchmen of the ruling fascist Arrow Cross Party drove her and the people she had sheltered to the banks of the Danube River and shot them on Dec. 27, 1944.

The Sisters of Social Service saved more than 1,000 lives during the war.

Cardinal Erdo, the primate of Hungary, said in reaction to the Pope's decision: "I believe that in the year of the nation's spiritual renewal, the Holy Father could not give a more beautiful gift to the Church, and also to the whole of Hungarian society."


Italian Priest, Father Mose Tovine, to Be Beatified in Bresica

BRESCIA, Italy, JUNE 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Mosè Tovini, an Italian priest who was passionate about the catechism, will be beatified in Bresica this fall.

The beatification will take place on Sept. 17 in the city's cathedral.

In December, Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for Sainthood Causes to publish a decree of acknowledgment of a miracle due to Father Tovini's intercession, which opened the door to his beatification.

The miracle attributed to Father Tovini is the cure of an Italian priest, Father Giovanni Flocchini, a former pastor of Comero.

Father Tovini (1877-1930), a priest of the Diocese of Brescia, was a professor at the Brescia Seminary, teaching mathematics, philosophy, sociology, apologetics and dogmatic theology.


Father Eustaquio Van Lieshout

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, JUNE 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Dutch-born Father Eustaquio Van Lieshout, beatified in Brazil, was presented as a model of contemplation as well as apostolic action and dedication to souls.

Last Thursday, on the solemnity of Corpus Christi, 70,000 faithful attended the beatification of this missionary of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

During the beatification Mass, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, read at Benedict XVI's behest the apostolic letter with which the Pope inscribed the servant of God, Father Van Lieshout, in the list of the blessed.

The cardinal stressed the importance of Father Van Lieshout's "social message." He was a man who was greatly concerned about "the poor, the afflicted, all those who suffered and children," the Vatican prefect noted.

According to Cardinal Saraiva Martins, ceremonies such as this represent a stimulus so that the faithful have as reference people whom the Church considers models of humility and humanity.

Some 50 bishops and 60 priests attended the ceremony, in addition to the crowd that gathered in Belo Horizonte's Mineiro stadium.

Also present were some 30 members of the new blessed's family, who traveled for the occasion from the Netherlands, as well as Father Gonxalo Belem, 82, whose miraculous cure of cancer of the larynx four decades ago opened the doors to the beatification.

Inspired by biography

Van Lieshout was born in Aarle-Rixtel, in the Netherlands, on Nov. 3, 1890. He was baptized the same day and given the name Humberto. He was the eighth of 11 siblings in a farming family, explains the biographical note issued by the Vatican Information Service.

It was the reading of the biography of Blessed Father Damien de Veuster, the Belgium-born apostle of lepers, which led Van Lieshout to enter the same Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. During his novitiate, he took the name Eustaquio.

He was ordained a priest in 1919 and carried out his pastoral ministry in his country until 1924. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro the following year.

For 18 years, he worked as a missionary in Brazil. In April 1942 he became parish priest of St. Dominc's in Belo Horizonte, where he died on Aug. 30, 1943.

In 1949, his remains were translated from the cemetery to his last parish.

Last Oct. 19, Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of the decree recognizing the miracle attributed to the intercession of the Dutch missionary, which opened the doors to his beatification.


Fr. Eustaquio Van Lieshout (1890-1943)

VATICAN CITY, JUN 14, 2006 (VIS) - At 4 p.m. tomorrow, in the Mineirao Stadium of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside at a Eucharistic concelebration during which, by order of Benedict XVI, he will read out the Apostolic Letter in which the Holy Father proclaims as Blessed, Servant of God Fr. Eustaquio Van Lieshout.

   Fr. Eustaquio Van Lieshout was born in Aarle-Rixtel, Netherlands, on November 3, 1890, the eighth of eleven children, and baptized the same day with the name of Humberto. He came from a very Catholic rural family. After reading the biography of the Belgian Blessed, Fr. Damian de Veuster of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, he decided to join the same order. During his noviciate, he took the name of Eustaquio. He was ordained a priest in 1919, and exercised the pastoral ministry in his own country until 1924.
  He arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1925, and for the next 18 years worked as a missionary in Brazil. In April 1942, he took over the parish of Santo Domingo in Belo Horizonte, where a few months later, on August 30, 1943, he died.
  In 1949, his mortal remains were transferred to his last parish, which is dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

   On December 19, 2005 Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of a decree concerning a miracle attributed to the intercession of Fr. Eustaquio.


88 Japanese Martyrs Closer to Beatification

TOKYO, JUNE 12, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Congregation for Sainthood Causes has approved the cause of beatification for 188 Japanese martyrs of the 17th century.

The Catholic bishops' conference of Japan confirmed the announcement in a communiqué.

Father Fuyuki Hirabayashi, secretary of the episcopal commission in charge of the cause, said the beatification ceremony will most likely take place some time after May 2007.

Bishop Jun-ichi Nomura of Nagoya, president of the bishops' conference in Japan, Bishop Francis Xavier Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu, and Father Hirabayashi visited the Vatican in January to submit a petition signed by all the members of episcopal conference.

Cardinal Seiichi Shirayanagi, retired archbishop of Tokyo, also personally presented a petition with the same request to Benedict XVI. The next step will be the Pope's signature and promulgation of the decree of beatification.

The beatification "will be an extraordinary event for the Church in Japan," the Fides news agency said.

The news agency said the beatification of Peter Kassui Kibe and 187 other martyrs "will bring enthusiasm, immense joy and spiritual consolation to the little flock of Catholic faithful in the country of the rising sun."

Already recognized among Japan's martyrs are Paul Miki and companions.


Chinese Diocese Remembers Its Martyrs
Looks Back, and Ahead, at 150th Anniversary

ROME, JUNE 11, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Chinese Diocese of Cangzhou helped to stimulate the Catholic community's missionary effort, said diocesan representatives.

Bishop Joseph Li Liangui of Cangzhou, in the province of Hebei, opened the anniversary ceremonies last month, reported Eglises d'Asie, an agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris.

A key event took place in the Catholic cemetery of Xianxian, where a small monument was recently erected in memory of the diocese's founders. Buried in the cemetery are five French bishops, a Chinese bishop and many Chinese priests and foreign missionaries.

All their tombs were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976.

Using the cathedral's paschal candle to light a 2-meter torch, the bishop appealed to priests and faithful to continue the missionary endeavor undertaken in the region more than 150 years ago.

In a pastoral letter last January, Bishop Li, 44, a prelate accepted by both Rome and Beijing, invited the diocesan faithful to prepare for this jubilee.


The French missionaries who "brought to this land the seeds of light and truth" founded the diocese in 1856.

"Today, the hour has come to write new pages of the history of our diocese," wrote the bishop. "Animated by an unbreakable spirit, we have inherited from our predecessors the seed of the Good News."

Accompanied by saints' relics, including those of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for five months the torch will go from parish to parish, symbolizing the light of Christ spread throughout the region. The torch will be returned to the cathedral Oct. 15.

In early October, an assembly will be held of representatives of the diocese, culminating with the baptism of 150 catechumens, and, on Oct. 12-13, a university colloquium will take place on evangelization.

Known for its numerous priestly and religious vocations, the Diocese of Cangzhou has more than 200 parishes and 75,000 faithful.

The bishop is assisted by some 100 priests and 227 women religious. About 80 seminarians are studying in the diocese's intermediate seminary, before attending the regional seminary of Shijiazhuang.

The Holy See established the diocese in 1856, splitting the Catholic mission of Tcheli in three territories. The southeastern Vicariate of Tcheli was entrusted to the French Jesuits and, in 1924, it took the name Vicariate of Xianxian.

Elevated to the rank of diocese in 1946, Xianxian was renamed Cangzhou in 1981.

Fourteen of China's 120 martyrs, canonized in Rome in October 2000, were from the Diocese of Xianxian during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Four priests and 5,153 faithful died as a result of the rebellion directed against the Western presence in China.


Cause Advancing for 2 Poles Slain in Peru
Diocesan Inquiry Nears End for Conventual Franciscans

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 31, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Michael Tomaszek and Father Zbigniew Strzalkowski, both of Krakow, were on mission in the Peruvian Andes when they were killed by Maoist terrorists 15 years ago.

On June 5, 1995, the fourth anniversary of their death, the Congregation for Sainthood Causes authorized the opening of their process of beatification as martyrs of the faith.

The following year, inquiries were made in Krakow to obtain information about the infancy, formation and first years in ministry of these Polish Servants of God.

Now, the diocesan inquiry is nearing completion, stated the Communications Office of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals.

After completing their theological studies at the Conventual Franciscan Major Seminary in Krakow and obtaining a master's degree in Spanish, the two religious left to go on mission in the Andes with another Conventual Franciscan, Father Jaroslaw Wysoczanski.

They carried out their "difficult ministry," as the order noted, in a poor parish of Pariacoto and in many surrounding villages of the area.


The country in which they were missionaries was one of the top world producers of coca, destined to become cocaine and yield huge "profits for drug dealers" and a "miserable income for farmers," the order noted.

The northern areas of the Andes, where the Franciscan religious were working, at the time had an intense coca leaf trade.

In the early 1990s, the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorist group "controlled the region, guaranteeing safety and prosperity for the drug traders and taking advantage of the fear and ignorance of the local people," the communiqué stated.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 22, 1991, there were a record 1,638 violent deaths in the country.

In this environment, the action of the Church -- a more incisive catechesis, the opening of centers for Christian activities and the training of lay leaders -- "represented a threat and a danger," the Conventual Franciscan order said. As a result, violence increased against foreign missionaries and lay people.

One of Shining Path's numerous leaflets read: "With the Bible and the Cross they are trying to stop the advance of revolution."

Imbued with a mixture of Maoism and nationalism, full of hatred for "exploiters," the terrorists were also willing to kill poor farmers who opposed their plans or were suspected of collaborating with the government or army.

Father Strzalkowski and Father Tomaszek arrived in Pariacoto in 1990. They helped leave the imprint of their Franciscan charism in their mission, reflected in humility, poverty, prayer, affability, commitment to the good and tenacity in community life, the order said.

Last Mass

On the afternoon of Aug. 9, 1991, Father Strzalkowski, 32, and Father Tomaszek, 30, celebrated their last Mass.

The terrorists knocked at the friary door. The two priests were dragged outside, loaded on a jeep and taken to the village center. A make-shift "trial" was held. The religious were clear in expressing their evangelizing mission.

Taken in the jeep to the mountains, the two religious were pushed out of the vehicle and made to lie on the road with their hands tied behind their back with their death sentence written on a bloodstained piece of cardboard: "This is the way the lackeys of imperialism die." They were shot.

"The area where the missionaries intended to have a place of retreat for the local people," wrote the order, "became the scene of their martyrdom."


Verbum Dei Founder Gets Papal Greeting
Father Jaime Bonet Turns 80

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent a message of congratulations on the 80th birthday of Father Jaime Bonet, founder of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity.

The Pope's message, issued by the Vatican on May 18, was read by the fraternity's president, Isabel Maria Fornari, during the thanksgiving Mass that Father Bonet celebrated May 21 in the church of the Verbum Dei Theological Institute in Madrid, Spain.

The Holy Father conferred his apostolic blessing on the founder and invoked an "abundance of divine graces and the maternal protection of the Holy Virgin Mary."

Pope John Paul II gave his consent to the declaration of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity as a unique fraternity of consecrated life, which was ratified by the Holy See with a decree of papal approval in April 2000.

Preaching academies

Jaime Bonet was born in Alqueria Blanca, Spain. While still a seminarian, he organized a school or "preaching academy" to give sound preparation for engaging in the ministry of the Word.

Later, Father Bonet was noted for his preaching of the spiritual exercises. In the 1960s, the growth of groups wishing to prepare for preaching led him to create "apostolic schools" or schools of evangelization with youths who, in the measure they were formed, became leaven in many other parishes.

In 1963 a group of girls belonging to the schools of evangelization asked Father Bonet about the possibility of consecrating themselves completely to the life of evangelization that he inspired with his preaching.

This first such group, called Diocesan Missionaries of the Word of God, were dedicated "to prayer and the ministry of the Word." They received their approval from the bishop of Mallorca in October 1963.

As the fruit of Father Bonet's preaching, groups of youth and some diocesan priests adopted this form of life. And, in 1969, two priests were given permission by the bishop to be incorporated in Verbum Dei.

On Wednesday, Father Jaime Bonet will celebrate 50 years of priesthood.

Verbum Dei is present in 35 countries. It has about 1,000 consecrated persons and 35,000 disciples.


New Portuguese Blessed Put Kids First
Mother Rita Beloved of Jesus (1848-1913)

VISEU, Portugal, MAY 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The plight of children in the 21st century makes newly-beatified Mother Rita Beloved of Jesus an important figure, says Cardinal José Saraiva Martins.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, said this Sunday when he presided over the rite of beatification of the Portuguese founder, in Viseu, her birthplace.

The "characteristic point" of the Portuguese religious' holiness "was the maternal and charitable care of poor and abandoned children, for whom she heroically gave her life," Cardinal Saraiva Martins said.

Rita Lopes de Almeida was born on March 5, 1848. In 1880 she laid the bases for her institute with the opening of a school for poor girls.

She would later found the Institute of Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Mother Rita's work extended to several localities and she was able to surmount the existing difficult political conditions by moving to Brazil. She died on Jan. 6, 1913.

Trying times

A native of the same region as the new blessed, Cardinal Saraiva Martins recalled on Vatican Radio the circumstances of the time in which Mother Rita was born: "a time, socially and religiously, of notable wounds between the civil authorities and the Church."

He continued: "At the beginning of the 19th century, given the political vicissitudes and the consequent suppression of the religious orders, the Church in Portugal wrote very lofty pages of martyrdom, to the point of undergoing the desert of exodus, as happened to Mother Rita's spiritual daughters, precisely in 1913, as she was going to the house of the Father."

She "literally gave her life" for poor and abandoned children, the cardinal said. "There is no greater love."

The Vatican official added: "In the wake of the material and moral destructions of World War II, the Servant of God Pius XII cried out several times in his messages: 'Save the children, who are the future of society.'

"More than 70 years earlier, in a similar climate of riots and destruction, Blessed Rita placed poor and abandoned children at the center of her attention."

"Her spiritual daughters received and developed this commission, gathering up, at the same time, the solidity and simplicity of Mother Rita's pedagogical intuitions and her concrete contribution to the literacy" of the people of Portugal and Brazil, the cardinal said.

"Still today she is the loving mother of thousands of children in Europe, Africa and Latin America," he added.

Love of rosary

"Mother Rita could not give us a more timely message, given that the daily news reports again present to us the grief of murdered and rejected children, offended in their modesty and innocence, sold, enslaved or prematurely trained for war," lamented the cardinal.

In his homily, quoted by the Ecclesia agency, Cardinal Saraiva Martins highlighted the new blessed's Marian devotion, "with her particular predilection for the rosary," which anticipated in a certain way all that would come with the "message of Our Lady to the three little shepherds of Fatima," just four years after the woman religious' death.

"In love" with Jesus, from whom she drew her apostolic zeal, Mother Rita also left a "very important" message, because "she struggled with all her might for the liberation of women from all forms of slavery," Cardinal Saraiva Martins said.

"The future of a country, of the whole of society, depends on education, above all of children and youth," he added. "This is Mother Rita's great and precious teaching."


Letter to Session of Congregation for Sainthood Causes
"The Last Word Is Given to Theology"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI recently sent to the participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes.

* * *

To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins
Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

On the occasion of the plenary assembly of this Congregation for the Causes of Saints, I would like to address my cordial greetings to you, Your Eminence, which I gladly extend to the cardinals, archbishops and bishops who are taking part in the meeting. I likewise greet the secretary, the undersecretary, the consultors and medical experts, the postulators and all the members of this dicastery.

Together with my greeting, I also express my sentiments of appreciation and gratitude for this congregation's service to the Church in promoting the causes of saints, who "are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love," as I wrote in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (No. 40).

This is why from the outset the Church has held their commemoration and worship in great honor, dedicating down the centuries ever more vigilant attention to the procedures that lead the servants of God to the honors of the altar.

In fact, the causes of saints are "major causes," both because of the nobility of the subject treated and their effect on the life of the People of God. In light of this reality, my Predecessors often intervened with special legislative measures to improve the examination and celebration of their causes. In 1588, Sixtus V willed the Sacred Congregation for Rites to be established for this purpose.

Then how can we forget the provident legislation of Urban VIII, the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the norms of Pius XI for ancient causes, the "motu proprio" "Sanctitas Clarior" and Paul VI's apostolic constitution "Sacra Rituum Congregatio"?

My Predecessor Benedict XIV, rightly considered "the master" of the causes of saints, deserves a grateful mention. More recently, in 1983, beloved John Paul II promulgated the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," followed in the same year by the publication of the "Normae Servandae in Inquisitionibus ab Episcopis Faciendis in Causis Sanctorum" [Norms to be Observed in Inquiries made by Bishops in the Causes of Saints].

More than 20 years' experience has prompted this congregation to draft an appropriate "Instruction for the Process of the Diocesan Inquiry in the Causes of Saints."

This document is addressed primarily to diocesan bishops and its preparation constitutes the first item on the agenda of your plenary meeting. Its intention is to facilitate the faithful application of the "Normae Servandae" cited, in order to ensure the seriousness of the investigations carried out in diocesan inquiries into the virtue of servants of God and in cases claiming martyrdom or possible miracles.

The evidence for the causes is collected and studied with supreme care and with a diligent search for the historic truth through testimonies and documentary proof "omnino plenae," for they have no other aim than the glory of God and the spiritual good of the Church and of all who are in search of the Gospel truth and perfection.

The diocesan pastors, deciding "coram Deo" on which causes deserve to be initiated, will first of all evaluate whether the candidates to the honors of the altar truly enjoy a firm and widespread fame of holiness and miracles or martyrdom. This fame, which the Code of Canon Law of 1917 stipulates should be "spontanea, non arte aut diligentia procurata, orta ab honestis et gravibus personis, continua, in dies aucta et vigens in praesenti apud maiorem partem populi" (Canon 2050 §2), is a sign of God who points out to the Church those who deserve to be set on the lamp stand to "give light to all in the house" (cf. Matthew 5:15).

It is clear that it will not be possible to introduce a cause of beatification or canonization if proven holiness does not exist, even if the person concerned was distinguished for conformity with the Gospel and special ecclesial and social merits.

The second theme that your plenary assembly is treating is "the miracle in the causes of saints." It is well known that since ancient times, the process for arriving at canonization passes through the proof of virtues and miracles, attributed to the intercession of the candidate to the honors of the altar.

As well as reassuring us that the servant of God lives in heaven in communion with God, miracles constitute the divine confirmation of the judgment expressed by the ecclesiastical authority on his/her virtuous life. I hope that the plenary meeting will be able to examine this subject in greater depth in the light of the Tradition of the Church, of present-day theology and of the most reliable scientific discoveries.

It should not be forgotten that in the examination of events claimed to be miraculous the competence of scholars and theologians converges, although the last word is given to theology, the only discipline that can give a miracle an interpretation of faith.

This is why the process of saints' causes moves from the scientific evaluation of the medical council or technical experts to a theological examination by the consultors and later by the cardinals and bishops. Moreover, it should be clearly borne in mind that the uninterrupted practice of the Church establishes the need for a physical miracle, since a moral miracle does not suffice.

Martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit

The third subject reflected upon at the plenary meeting concerns martyrdom, a gift of the Spirit and an attribute of the Church in every epoch (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 42). The Venerable Pontiff John Paul II, in his apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," noted that since the Church has once again become the Church of martyrs, "as far as possible, their witness should not be lost" (No. 37).

The martyrs of the past and those of our time gave and give life ("effusio sanguinis") freely and consciously in a supreme act of love, witnessing to their faithfulness to Christ, to the Gospel and to the Church. If the motive that impels them to martyrdom remains unchanged, since Christ is their source and their model, then what has changed are the cultural contexts of martyrdom and the strategies "ex parte persecutoris" that more and more seldom explicitly show their aversion to the Christian faith or to a form of conduct connected with the Christian virtues, but simulate different reasons, for example, of a political or social nature.

It is of course necessary to find irrefutable proof of readiness for martyrdom, such as the outpouring of blood and of its acceptance by the victim. It is likewise necessary, directly or indirectly but always in a morally certain way, to ascertain the "odium Fidei" [hatred of the faith] of the persecutor. If this element is lacking there would be no true martyrdom according to the perennial theological and juridical doctrine of the Church. The concept of "martyrdom" as applied to the saints and blessed martyrs should be understood, in conformity with Benedict XIV's teaching, as "voluntaria mortis perpessio sive tolerantia propter Fidem Christi, vel alium virtutis actum in Deum relatum" ("De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione," Prato 1839-1841, Book III, chapter 11, 1). This is the constant teaching of the Church.

The subjects being examined at your plenary meeting are of indisputable interest and the reflections, with the possible suggestions that may arise, will make a valuable contribution to the achievement of the objectives indicated by John Paul II in the apostolic constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister," in which he says: "Most recent experience, finally, has shown us the appropriateness of revising further the manner of instructing causes and of so structuring the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that We might meet the needs of experts and the desires of Our Brother Bishops, who have often called for a simpler process while maintaining the soundness of the investigation in matters of such great import.

"In light of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council on collegiality, We also think that the Bishops themselves should be more closely associated with the Holy See in dealing with the Causes of Saints."

To be consistent with these instructions, elected to the Chair of Peter, I was glad to act on the widespread desire that greater emphasis be placed in their celebration on the essential difference between beatification and canonization, and that the particular Churches be more visibly involved in Rites of Beatification on the understanding that the Roman Pontiff alone is competent to declare a devotion to a servant of God.

Your Eminence, I thank you for this congregation's service to the Church and, while I wish those who are taking part in the work of the plenary meeting every success through the intercession of all the saints and of the Queen of the saints, I invoke upon each one the light of the Holy Spirit. For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer as I cordially bless you all.

From the Vatican, April 24, 2006



Tanzanian President's Cause Is Under Way

ROME, MAY 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The cause of beatification for Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, considered one of Africa's "fathers of the nation," is under way.

Nyerere was president of the Tanganyika African National Union and, after independence, the first president of Tanzania.

The Catholic Information Service for Africa has confirmed that the diocesan phase of the process of Nyerere's beatification has been completed.

Nyerere (1922-1999) became president in 1961, and through the Arusha Declaration of 1967 introduced a national policy of self-reliance based on a socialist model of cooperative village farms.

Critics blame his Ujamaa system for the country's past economic woes. He voluntarily relinquished power in 1985.

Bishop Justin Samba of Nyerere's home Diocese of Musoma is directing the cause of beatification, while Father Wojciech Koscielniak is the postulator and Maryknoll Father Ed Hayes the vice postulator.

Father John Civille of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, who has written a book on Nyerere, and Fathers Laurenti Magesa and Philbert Rwehumbiza are the theological censors involved in the process.

More information is available from Father Andrzej Madry, of the Musoma Diocese communications office, at madry@juasun.net.


Mexico's Rafael Guízar Valencia

VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Among the latest people in line to be canonized as saints is Bishop Rafael Guízar Valencia, a standout evangelizer in Mexico at the time of its religious persecution last century.

Last Friday Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Rafael, who was bishop of Veracruz.

Rafael Guízar Valencia (1878-1938) was born in Cotija de la Paz, in the state of Michoacan, the fourth of 11 children. His brother Antonio became archbishop of Chihuahua.

Rafael Guízar received his priestly ordination at age 23 in Zamora in June 1901. He was in charge of spiritual direction in the Zamora seminary, where he taught dogmatic theology.

He was soon appointed apostolic missionary by Pope Leo XIII, and evangelized the villages he visited, basing his teaching on a simple catechism that Father Guízar wrote.

At the time of the Mexican revolution of 1910, he dedicated himself in particular to the dying and their families. In 1913, he carried out mission work among soldiers in Mexico City, Puebla and Morelos.

Disguised as a vendor of trinkets, and sometimes under a hail of bullets, he attended to the dying, imparted sacramental absolution and often gave them viaticum, which he carried concealed to avoid detection as a priest.


In July 1919, he was in Havana when he received the news that Pope Benedict XV appointed him bishop of Veracruz.

On Nov. 30, 1919, he received episcopal consecration in the Cuban capital by the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Tito Trocchi.

Among his works, Bishop Guízar revived the diocesan seminary, establishing it in Xalapa, moving it later to Mexico City, when anti-clerical forces confiscated the Church's buildings.

During the religious persecution of the 1920s, he was exiled in the United States, Guatemala and Cuba, where he continued his missionary work.

Later he returned. But under the government of Plutarco Elías Calles he had to travel to Mexico City with many of his seminarians and asked the priests of Veracruz to continue their services in anonymity.

Bishop Guízar succeeded in keeping the seminary open. The authorities sought him and he was again forced to leave the country. He went to the United States, Cuba, Guatemala and Colombia.

On May 7, 1929, President Portes Gil stated his willingness to dialogue with the bishops. On hearing the news, Bishop Guízar returned to his homeland, to his diocese and to his seminary.

That May 24 he wrote a letter to all the faithful asking for prayers for a speedy peaceful arrangement between the Church and state. The arrangement, though provisional, was made public on June 22, 1929.

Death sentence

In 1931, the governor of Veracruz, Adalberto Tejeda, imposed a law limiting the number of priests to one for every 100,000 inhabitants -- 13 priests for the entire state of Veracruz. This forced Bishop Guízar to flee his diocese a third time. This time he went to Puebla and Mexico City.

He returned later despite a death sentence passed against him. After a painful illness, he died in a house next to his seminary in Mexico City.

He was beatified Jan. 29, 1995, by Pope John Paul II.

One of the future saint's sisters, María, was the mother of Maura Degollado Guízar, whose son Father Marcial Maciel founded the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi movement.

In a book-length interview, "Christ Is My Life," Father Maciel recalled his great-uncle: "I remember that on one occasion he invited me to accompany him to Mexico City's Alameda. He was carrying an accordion which he played very well, but I didn't know for what he would use it. We arrived at this place, which was very crowded and he took out his accordion and began to play popular songs.

"People gathered around him. When there was a sufficiently large number, he put the accordion aside and began to preach Christ. I don't know if he did so to teach me a lesson. I think it flowed from his soul and it was obvious that he really enjoyed talking about Christ to others."


2 Priests Beatified in Milan
Father Luigi Monza and Monsignor Luigi Biraghi

MILAN, Italy, APRIL 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Milan's cathedral was the setting, for the first time since 1662, for the rite of beatification of two priests and founders.

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, presided over the beatification ceremony of Father Luigi Monza and Monsignor Luigi Biraghi.

"We have great need to have many blessed and saints, so that their example of life will denounce the evil present in us, but above all so that it will awaken and strengthen the drive toward the authentic good," the cardinal said in the homily.

Also present was the papal legate, Cardinal Joséé Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, who read the formula of beatification in the Pope's name.

"With our apostolic authority, we grant that the venerable servants of God, Luigi Biraghi and Luigi Monza, be called henceforth blessed and that their feast be celebrated in places and according to the rules established by law: every year, on May 28 for Luigi Biraghi and on Sept. 28 for Luigi Monza," said Cardinal Saraiva Martins.

Father Monza (1898-1954) founded the Little Apostles, a community of consecrated women that seeks to bring to society the charity of the early Christians.

"Our Family," an institution that looks after handicapped children in several countries worldwide, is a product of the Little Apostles.

Monsignor Biraghi (1801-1879) was doctor of the Ambrosian Library and undertook intense charitable works and support of mission countries.

In 1838 he founded the Sisters of St. Marcellina, dedicated in numerous countries to the cultural and moral education of young people, and to the missions.


"Apostle of the Untouchables" Beatified
Father Augustine Thevarparampil

RAMAPUAN, India, APRIL 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Father Augustine Thevarparampil, known as the apostle of the untouchables, was beatified in Ramapuan, India.

Cardinal Varkev Vithayathil, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, presided at the beatification ceremony today in the name of Benedict XVI.

Here is a biography of Father Thevarparampil, adapted from a Holy See document.

* * *

Everybody knew him as Kunjachan which, in the Malayalam language of India, means "little priest."

Father Augustine Thevarparampil was very short, but was a giant in announcing Christ among the dalit, the outcasts.

Born in Ramapuram, in the Diocese of Palai, Kerala, on April 1, 1891, Augustine entered the seminary after completing his studies in public schools.

He was ordained a priest at age 33, on Dec. 17, 1921, by Servant of God Mar Tommaso Kurialacherry. (Mar in the Syrian Oriental Churches is a title of respect used to address bishops.)

In 1923 Kunjachan was sent as vice parish priest to Kadanad, in the Church of St. Sebastian. His pastoral service in this place did not last long. Ill-health forced him to return to his native village in 1926.

During his convalescence, he became aware of the miserable living conditions of the "untouchables," those belonging to the lowest caste of the Indian society. Gandhi used to call them Harijan -- "the people of God."

Father Augustine decided to devote his life to the evangelization and human betterment of the poorest of his society.

The priest rose at 4 each morning. After celebrating Mass, he and a catechist used to go and visit the families in the villages. He took care of the dalits in his parish, as well as all those he could materially reach.

He used to call "child" anybody who needed help. He offered assistance and comfort, tried to solve disputes and took care of the sick. Some used to avoid him and hide from him.

His short height was a blessing because he could go in and out, without any difficulty, of the poor village huts. Kunjachan was a friend to the children; he always carries some sweets for them. The children enjoyed his company tremendously.

Father Augustine spent his entire life in simplicity, living like the poor to whom he had devoted his existence.
His will begins: "I possess neither land nor money, and I owe no one anything. I want my funeral to be a very simple one."

A man of great spirituality, he used to pray continuously even during his frequent traveling. He was always patient and understanding with the outcasts. He knew how to overcome mistrust.

During his priesthood days among the dalits he personally baptized almost 6,000 people. And he was known as the "apostle of the untouchables."

After celebrating 50 years of priesthood, he died on Oct. 16, 1973, at age 82.

He wished to be buried among his beloved children, in the barren land, but the parishioners demanded that he be laid to rest in the church, at the foot of the altar of St. Augustine, patron of the community.

Ever since then his tomb has been the destination of thousands of pilgrims every year. Solemn celebrations are held especially on Oct. 16 to commemorate his death.


Legacy of Slain Monks of Tibhirine Recounted by Priest Who Was in Ill-fated Monastery
Last Testament of Victim Prior Blesses Murderers

TIBHIRINE, Algeria, MARCH 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A friend of the prior of the Trappist monks of Tibhirine is trying to stir interest in the spiritual legacy of those men who were murdered a decade ago.

On the night of March 26-27, 1996, some 20 gunmen invaded the Monastery of Notre Dame of Atlas in Tibhirine and kidnapped its seven Trappist monks, of French nationality.

A month later, Djamel Zitouni, leader of the Armed Islamic Groups, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and proposed an exchange of prisoners to France.

The following month, a second communiquéé from the group announced: "We have slit the monks' throats." The killings reportedly took place May 21, 1996; their bodies were found nine days later.

Father Thierry Becker, of the Algerian diocese of Oran, was a guest of the monastery the night that the Muslim fundamentalists abducted Father Christian de Chergéé, the prior, and the other six Trappists.

In recent statements to the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Father Becker asserted that he is recounting the legacy of the monks of Tibhirine.

Theirs was "a message of poverty, of abandonment in the hands of God and men, of sharing in all the fragility, vulnerability and condition of forgiven sinners, in the conviction that only by being disarmed will we be able to meet Islam and discover in Muslims a part of the total face of Christ," the priest said.

Father Becker is no stranger to strife in Algeria. He was vicar general in Oran when on Aug. 1, 1996, his own bishop, Pierre Lucien Claverie, 58, was killed along with an Algerian friend, Mohammed Pouchikhi. The Dominican prelate, born in Algeria, had dedicated his life to dialogue between Muslims and Christians. He had such a deep knowledge of Islam that he was often consulted on the subject by Muslims themselves.

A welcoming in truth

"Precisely the desire to welcome one another in truth, brought us together 10 year ago in Tibhirine," said Father Becker. "The meeting 'Ribat es-Salam,' Bond of Peace, was being held in those days, a group of Islamic-Christian dialogue which was oriented to share respective spiritual riches through prayer, silence…….

"The Ribat still exists; it has not given up the challenge of communion with the spiritual depth of Islam. Thus we make our own the spiritual testimony of Father Christian de Chergéé, whose monastic choice matured after an Algerian friend saved his life during the war of liberation, while that friend, a Muslim of profound spirituality, was killed in reprisal."

Father Becker continued: "'We are worshippers in the midst of a nation of worshippers,' the Prior used to say to his brothers in community, all of whom had decided to stay in Tibhirine even when violence was at its height.

"In the course of the decades, the monastery stripped itself of its riches, donated almost all of its land to the state, and shared its large garden with the neighboring village. The monks chose poverty, also in the sense of total abandonment to the will of God and of men.

"And great trust was born with the local people, so much so that 10 years after the events, nothing has disappeared from the monastery, everything has been respected. But the future of that holy place is in the hands of the Algerians."


The spiritual legacy of the monks also has caught the eye of a member of the International Theological Commission.

Archbishop Bruno Forte, who participated in a Vatican-organized videoconference on "Martyrdom and the New Martyrs," quoted the "spiritual testament" of the Trappist prior. He described it as a "splendid example of how martyrdom is the crowning of a whole life of faith and love of Christ and his Church."

The text of the testament follows.

* * *

Testament of Dom Christian de Chergéé
(opened on Pentecost Sunday, May 26, 1996)

Facing a GOODBYE ...

If it should happen one day -- and it could be today -- that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country.

I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

I would ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?

I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood.

I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems to prevail so terribly in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.

I should like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.

I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this.

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder.

It would be too high a price to pay for what will perhaps be called, the "grace of martyrdom" to owe it to an Algerian, whoever he might be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.

I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately.

I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters.

It is too easy to soothe one's conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists.

For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: it is a body and a soul.

I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it.

I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel which I learned at my mother's knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers.

Obviously, my death will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naive or idealistic:
"Let him tell us now what he thinks of his ideals!"

But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free.

This is what I shall be able to do, God willing: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him His children of Islam just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.

For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything.

In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families -- you are the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing:

Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a "GOD BLESS" for you, too, because in God's face I see yours.

May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.

Algiers, 1st December 1993
Tibhirine, 1st January 1994

Christian +


Elisha of St. Clement (1901-1927)

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Elisha of St. Clement of the Order of Discalced Carmelites will be beatified this Saturday during a Mass in the cathedral of Bari, Italy.

Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari-Bitonto will preside, according to the announcement from the Holy See's office of liturgical celebrations.

Below is a biography of the religious, written by the Discalced Carmelite Order. It is adapted here.

* * *

The new blessed was born in Bari, on Jan. 17, 1901, the third child of Joseph and Pasqua Fracasso. Four days later she was baptized in the Church of St. James by her uncle, Father Charles Fracasso, chaplain at the cemetery, and given the name Theodora. She was confirmed in 1903.

Her family then lived in St. Mark's Square and were supported by what the father earned as a master painter and decorator. Around 1929, after many sacrifices, he opened a shop for the sale of paint. Her mother was always busy with work in the home.

They were both good practicing Christians and had in all nine children; four died in infancy. The five remaining children were Prudence, Anne, Theodora Domenica and Nicola.

In 1905 the family moved to Via Piccinni, to a house with a little garden, in which, the little Theodora, aged 4 or 5, said she saw a beautiful Lady in a dream, who moved among the rows of blooming lilies, then suddenly disappeared in a beam of light.

Later her mother explained to her the possible significance of the vision and Theodora promised that she would become a nun when she grew up.

Theodora was sent to a nursery school run by the Stigmata Sisters, and continued her studies until third grade. On May 8, 1911, after making a long preparation, she received her first holy Communion. The night before she dreamed of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus who predicted to her: "You will be a nun like me." Later she attended a work shop for sewing and embroidery near the same institute.

Theodora entered the Association of the Blessed Imelda Lambertini, a Dominican nun with a special devotion to the Eucharist.

Afterward she joined the "Angelic Army" of St. Thomas Aquinas. She met with her friends from time to time in the dormitory where they would meditate and pray together, read the Gospel, "The Eternal Maxims," "The Imitation of Christ," the "Fifteen Saturdays of Our Lady," the lives of the saints and, in particular, the autobiography of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus.

Third Order

Her behavior and the good influence she had on her companions did not go unnoticed. In the meantime Theodora's vague religious vocation was becoming clearer thanks to the advice of Dominican Father Peter Fiorillo, her spiritual director.

He introduced her to the Third Order Dominicans, who accepted her as a novice on April 20, 1914. She took the name Agnes, and made her profession on May 14, 1915, with a special dispensation because of her young age.

During the war years, 1915-1918, Theodora found numerous occasions to increase her apostolic work, as a catechist and helper.

Toward the end of 1917, Theodora decided to seek advice from a Jesuit, Father Sergio Di Gioia. He became her new confessor. About a year later he decided to direct her, together with her friend Clare Bellomo, the future Sister Diomira of Divine Love, to the Carmel of St. Joseph, Via De Rossi, in Bari. They went there together for the first time in December 1918.
1919 was a year of intense spiritual activity, as, under the guidance of Father Di Gioia, she prepared to enter the convent.

She entered the community on April 8, 1920, and took the habit that Nov. 24, taking the name Sister Elisha of St. Clement.

She made her first simple vows on Dec. 4, 1921. Besides St. Teresa of Jesus, she took as her guide Théérèèse of the Child Jesus, following the "little way of spiritual childhood where I felt," she affirmed, "called by the Lord." She made her solemn profession Feb. 11, 1925.

Her journey, from the beginning, was not easy. Already in the first months of the novitiate she had to face not a few difficulties.

Severe superior

The real problem arose after Mother Prioress Angelica Lamberti in the spring of 1923, appointed Sister Elisha to be in charge of the embroidery machine in the girls boarding school attached to the Carmel.

The head mistress, Sister Columba of the Blessed Sacrament, was of an authoritarian disposition, severe and with little understanding of others. She refused to see the goodness and gentleness with which Sister Elisha treated her pupils, and, so, after two years, had her removed from her post.

Always observant of the rule and community acts, Sister Elisha passed much of her day in her cell, dedicating her time to the embroidery that was given her. The mother prioress continued to esteem her greatly, and, in 1927, appointed her sacristan.

During her painful trial, Father Elias of St. Ambrose, the procurator general of the Discalced Carmelite Order, was a great comfort. He had first come to know of her in 1922, on the occasion of a visit to St. Joseph's Carmel. The young Carmelite kept up an exchange of letters with him from which she drew great benefit.

In January 1927 Sister Elisha was struck down and weakened by influenza. She started to suffer from frequent headaches, but did not complain.

When, on Dec. 21, Sister Elisha also began to have a violent fever and other disturbances, the community assumed it was just one of her usual illnesses, but each day her situation caused more concern.

On Dec. 24 a doctor came to see her. Even though he diagnosed possible meningitis or encephalitis, he did not consider the clinical situation particularly serious. Only on the following morning were two doctors called to her bedside. At that point they declared that her condition was irreversible.

Sister Elisha of St. Clement died at noon on Christmas Day 1927. She had predicted: "I will die on a feast day."


Life of Father Michael McGivney
By Catherine Smibert

ROME, MARCH 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- You could call it an American success story, with a Catholic twist.

A new book, "Parish Priest," tells the life of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's fraternal benefit society.

It is about a meek yet strong leadership. It shows how one priest, by helping his parishioners, changed the face of the Church in his own country and beyond.

A co-author of the work, Julie Fenster, was in Rome for a book-signing held at the North American College last Tuesday.

Fenster talked about her subject, Father McGivney (1852-1890).

"There's always going to be prejudice in any age and anywhere," she said, "and the way this parish priest chose to deal with his very anti-Catholic surroundings of the mid-late 1800s is inspiring."

Fenster isn't your typical biographer of saintly folks. Actually she's a historian who tends to specialize in American heritage, presenting often-untold stories of pioneers and heroes. But, there was something about Father McGivney that put him in this category for her and her co-author, historian David Brinkley.

"Father McGivney wasn't negative but positive, and felt that Catholic values coincided with fundamental American ones," Fenster contended.

"One of the ways he proved that, was through the founding of the Knights of Columbus which gave Catholic men a spiritual support system and drew them into their Church even more," she said. "But it could also put a pragmatic yet deeply spiritual face on Catholicism for a lot of mainstream Americans so they could see and understand how crucial family life is to Catholics."

Her co-author Brinkley agrees: "Father McGivney served as a sort of John the Baptist of the modern insurance movement."

Also on hand at the book-signing was the postulator for the cause of Father McGivney's beatification, Dominican Father Gabriel O'Donnell. He said the backgrounds of the authors strengthen the book.

"Though it has not been written in any way to promote Catholicism or the priesthood, it does just that and more effectively," Father O'Donnell said. "The authors, as credible historians, can say things about the Church that are more objective and won't risk sounding self-promoting."

Fenster observed how Father McGivney promoted the American dream to his faithful in a less conventional way: "Moving beyond the influences of kings, generals, etc., Father McGivney was different because he led from the back.

"He wasn't a ferocious leader who swung his arms around, but one whose idea of being a leader was to live the Christian life -- to be mild in his personal relationships with other people. If we look at successful businesspeople we see these are qualities that translate even into our times."

It's through this leadership, and a vision of the family as the building block of society, that have brought the current count of members of his benevolent order to 1.7 million. It’’s also what attracted the around 175 diocesan seminarians present for the book-signing.

"The book focuses on a very humble priest who was never swayed or tempted toward apathy," Fenster said. "And our goal through this event is to turn that focus to those studying for the priesthood as if to honor them through this book and to respect what they have the potential to be."

Nick Schneider, a seminarian from North Dakota, said he was impressed and enlightened by the presentation.

"Anyone who has a great zeal for the faith and is familiar with our social climate is always a great example for us," he told me afterward. "It's important for us studying in Rome and for all American Catholics to know more about exceptional characters in the history of the Church in our nation."

Father O'Donnell, the postulator, commented on the daily e-mails from people who learn about Father McGivney: "They say they feel that though he is a model figure, he's reachable and ever present."

The diocesan phase of Father McGivney's cause has been completed. The Congregation for Sainthood Causes is now reviewing his case.

Father O'Donnell called Father McGivney "a remarkable example of what makes a good parish priest at a difficult time. And there was a deep spirituality there that is a witness to the whole world, to families and certainly to priests and seminarians."


Father Andrea Santoro

ROME, FEB. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Jewish-Italian Fund planted a tree in Jerusalem in memory of Father Andrea Santoro, the missionary who was killed in Turkey on Feb. 5.

The initiative was promoted by Emmanuele Pacifici, a member of the Jewish Community of Rome and president of the Friends of Yad Vashem Association. He contacted the Jewish-Italian Fund and wrote a letter of solidarity to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome.

Pacifici told ZENIT that he "felt immense grief" for what happened to Father Santoro, who was killed while he was praying.

Pacifici's own father, the chief rabbi of Genoa, has been seized while praying, and then tortured and deported to Auschwitz, from where he never returned.

As a child, Pacifici was saved from Nazi persecution thanks to the help of the nuns of St. Martha in Settignano, Florence.

He explained that in Jewish religious tradition a tree symbolizes life. Since 1962 a tree is planted in the Avenue of Righteous Gentiles, near Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, in memory of those who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination and who have been declared "Righteous among the Nations."


Remembering a Missionary Killed in Turkey
Note of Cardinal Sepe in Memory of Father Andrea Santoro

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the note of Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in memory of Father Andrea Santoro, the Italian missionary who was killed in Turkey on Feb. 5.

The text, adapted here, was published by Fides, the dicastery's news agency.

* * *

"Unless the grain of wheat which falls to the ground dies, it remains alone; if it dies, it produces much fruit" (John 12:24). This Gospel verse, we learn from those around him, was often on the lips of Father Andrea Santoro. Almost like a program for life, to be kept continually in mind, or, considering his death, a forewarning, an announcement that his life offered for the cause of the Gospel would not be fruitless.

Father Andrea was neither unprepared nor imprudent: He had studied and had become very familiar with the culture and environment in which he chose to live, he was aware that an extreme act such as the one which killed him was not to be excluded.

He loved God profoundly and with the same intensity he loved all those whom the Lord placed on his path in Rome and in Turkey. Besides, there is an unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor: "One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether …… love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God and closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God" (cfr. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 16).

All missionaries know they may be called to sacrifice their life for the cause of the Gospel. However, a violent death is not something accidental which must be simply taken into account, it is the supreme offering of self.

Missionaries put their lives in the hands of the Lord with full awareness and with love, knowing that should their blood be shed it will not be in vain, it will be nourishment and source of life for the local community and indeed for the whole Church.

Reverend Andrea was a missionary sent by the Diocese of Rome, the Church bathed in the blood of Sts. Peter and Paul and built on the sacrifice of a host of other martyrs. He went to the origins of the Church, to the place where the good news of the Gospel first began to spread, thanks to the work of St. Paul.

As a Christian who received the faith from that part of the world, he wanted to return there to give the faith in his turn. Reverend Andrea went to Turkey not to proselytize or to try to impose a change on the situation and society: His mission was one of presence, a presence of prayer and of concern for the material and spiritual poverty around him; he was absorbed in love for God and for every brother and sister with whom he came into contact.

"Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor," the Holy Father Benedict XVI writes in his first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (cfr. No. 15). "The concept of neighbor is now universalized, yet it remains concrete ... it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding _expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now" (ibid.).

The Father called Reverend Andrea home on the Lord's day, just after Mass when he had renewed the sacrifice of Christ's death and resurrection [……], as he was saying his prayers in the church entrusted to his care.

The profound, intimate, spiritual communion the priest was experiencing at that moment has now become fullness of life in the eternal embrace of God. His blood has been added to that of the host of other missionary martyrs who died while on mission in many different parts of the world and on many different frontiers: Many of them remain unknown, unknown their names and unknown their burial places.

But in the eyes of God their death was precious and the whole Church is indebted to them for their witness of faith, love and courage. Reverend Andrea was a Fidei Donum priest (gift of faith) sent on mission to Turkey by the Diocese of Rome. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the "Fidei Donum" encyclical written by Pope Pius XII who instituted this form of missionary service, let us pray that the blood shed by this priest may irrigate the soil of our local Churches, flow abundantly in the hearts of priests and men and women religious, pour into our young people and enflame them with love and readiness for mission.

As we return the mortal body of Reverend Andrea to the earth while waiting for the glorious day of resurrection and unending joy, we pray to the Lord "that the sacrifice of his life may promote the cause of dialogue among religions and peace among peoples" (Benedict XVI, General Audience, Feb. 8, 2006), certain that -- when and how the Lord alone wills and knows -- the Church and the world will reap abundant fruits from this little seed now buried in the earth.


Pope Hears Support for Beatification of Mafia Victim
Palermo Prelate Extols Example of Father Giuseppe Puglisi

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- In a private audience with Benedict XVI, the archbishop of Palermo supported the cause of beatification of a diocesan priest who was murdered by the Mafia.

Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, prelate of the Sicilian capital, recalled the "heroic witness" of Father Giuseppe Puglisi, who was gunned down Sept. 15, 1993, outside his church.

The Archdiocese of Palermo on Monday disclosed the content of the cardinal's audience with the Pope, held three days earlier.

Cardinal De Giorgi expressed to the Holy Father "the greetings of the Church of Palermo" and thanked him "for the interest he has shown in it since the start of his pontificate," states the note.

"The archbishop made particular reference to this pastoral interest of the Pope, reminding him of the heroic testimony of the Servant of God, Giuseppe Puglisi," it adds. The priest was killed by the Sicilian Mafia on his 56th birthday.

Father Puglisi was "guilty" of being concerned for the children of Palermo's Brancaccio neighborhood. His concern conflicted with Mafia interests and cost him his life. A film has been made of the priest's life.

"As he already did during the conclave," the statement of the Archdiocese of Palermo says, Cardinal De Giorgi "emphasized to the Pope that Father Puglisi was killed because, as priest, he educated the children and young people evangelically, in respect for legality and thus removed them from the seductions of the Mafia."

Well known

The note states that the cardinal stressed how Father Puglisi's witness is already known beyond Italy's borders.

It "constitutes an exemplary point of reference both for priests as well as faithful in the struggle against evil and the promotion of good," the statement says.

"The Holy Father followed with great interest the exposition of the cardinal, who expressed the expectation of a favorable result of the process of beatification for martyrdom, under examination by the Congregation for Sainthood Causes," states the communiquéé.

Benedict XVI assured the cardinal that "the witness of this priest is very important to him."

Recognition of the martyrdom would open the doors of Father Puglisi's beatification without the need to verify a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Pontiff Praises St. John Bosco as "Teacher of Life"


St. John Bosco   VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).-
Benedict XVI extolled the example of St. John Bosco as a "teacher of life" for young people.

The Holy Father referred to the famed priest and educator (1815-1888) at the end of today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

"See in him, dear young people, an authentic teacher of life and holiness," the Pope said, a day after the liturgical memorial of the Italian saint.

Addressing the sick in attendance at the audience, Benedict XVI encouraged them to learn "from your spiritual experience to trust the crucified Christ in all circumstances."

He also addressed the newlyweds present, who arrived in their wedding clothes. The Holy Father urged that they take recourse to St. John Bosco's intercession, "that he may help you to assume with generosity your mission of spouses."

The saint, who founded the Salesian Society, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, and the Pious Union of Salesian Cooperators, dedicated his life to the education of the poor in Turin, Italy.

Antonio Rosmini: A Thinker Vindicated
Defenders Hoping to Start Cause of Beatification

ROME, NOV. 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A 19th-century priest whose writings were once condemned by the Holy Office is now a possible candidate for beatification.

The process of beatification might begin for Antonio Rosmini Serbati (1797-1855), a profound thinker. Some of his works were condemned because of erroneous interpretations promoted by a few of his followers.

Ordained a priest in 1821, he went on in 1830 to found the Institute of Charity, a religious congregation recognized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI.

Despite his absolute fidelity to Pope Pius IX, in 1849 the ecclesiastical authorities placed two of Father Rosmini's works on the Index of banned books. Condemned later with the doctrinal decree "Post Obitum" were 40 of his propositions, taken especially from posthumous works and others published in his lifetime.

It was not until July 1, 2001, that a note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by the then prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, removed every shadow doubt about Father Rosmini.

Genuine posture

Father Vito Nardin, provincial superior of the Italian Rosminians from 1997 to 2003, said in statements to ZENIT that he believes the cause of beatification of Father Rosmini might begin before July, to mark the 150th anniversary of his death.

Explaining why the Vatican's doctrinal congregation lifted the ban on Father Rosmini's writings, Father Nardin explained that "the serious and rigorous scientific publications demonstrate that the interpretations contrary to the faith do not correspond with Rosmini's genuine posture."

The conclusion, he said, is that "the reasons for concern and prudence and the doctrinal difficulties which determined the promulgation of the 'Post Obitum' decree of condemnation of the Forty Propositions, taken from Antonio Rosmini's works, can be considered surmounted."

"The condemnation continues to be valid for those who read them outside the context of Rosmini, …… with a meaning contrary to the Catholic faith and doctrine," clarified the priest.

Papal praise

In his encyclical "Fides et Ratio," Pope John Paul II presented Rosmini as one of the thinkers who effected a fruitful encounter between philosophic learning and the Word of God.

"In words that are comprehensible to all it can be expressed thus: 'The accused has not committed the deed,'" said Father Nardin.

He also noted the "humility" of Father Rosmini, which "led him to accept condemnations and bans."


José Luis Sánchez: A Congregation's Inspiration
Interview With Legion of Christ Founder Father Marcial Maciel

ROME, NOV. 20, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Among those who witnessed the 1928 martyrdom of a now-beatified teen-ager in Mexico was a friend who went on to found the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.

Marcial Maciel was only 7 years old when he saw the execution of his 14-year-old friend Joséé Luis Sáánchez del Ríío. Joséé Luis was among 13 martyrs beatified today in Guadalajara, Mexico.

José Luis had joined the Cristeros, a large group of Mexican Catholics who rose against the religious persecution of the government of Plutarco Elíías Calles.

Q: You were a witness of Joséé Sáánchez del Ríío's martyrdom in Mexico. After almost 80 years, what do you remember of those moments? How did you meet Joséé?

Father Maciel: Joséé Luis -- as we, his friends, called him -- was from Sahuayo, Michoacan, a village not far from Cotija, my native village.

My maternal grandmother, Maura Guíízar Valencia, had her home there, and we often went to visit her. I was six years younger than Joséé Luis. He liked to organize games for the children. He would speak to us of Jesus. I remember that he took me to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He was very good.

When the religious persecution began, he wanted to join the Cristeros to defend the faith. He asked for permission several times, and in the end was received.

In February 1928 -- I was 7 years old, almost 8 -- I was in Sahuayo when we learned that Joséé Luis had been arrested and had been locked in the parish's baptistery.

One of the windows looked out on the street and from there we could hear him sing: "To heaven, to heaven, to heaven I want to go," while awaiting his sentence. The federals were using the parish as a prison, and also as a corral. Rafael Picazo, who controlled the village of Sahuayo, put as a condition to release him that he deny his faith before Picazo himself and his soldiers.

We all heard about this, and we were very worried and in a tremendously emotional and sad state. We, his friends, met together to pray for him. We cried a lot, asking the Most Holy Virgin that he not be killed but, at the same time, that he not renounce his faith. In fact, Joséé Luis wanted no part in [renouncing the faith].

And at the end of two days we learned, in the afternoon, that he had been taken to the Refuge inn. That night they cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk barefoot to the cemetery, which was several blocks away.

We -- a few relatives, friends, village acquaintances -- followed him from a distance. I remember the stains of blood left by his footsteps. He went with his hands bound behind his back and I remember the federals pushing him, insulting him and demanding that he stop crying out "Hail to Christ the King!" And his answer was always to cry: "Hail to Christ the King and Holy Mary of Guadalupe!"

We were only allowed to go to the cemetery's wall. They put him next to the grave. They say he was stabbed several times and that they kept insisting that he renounce his faith, but he answered: "Hail to Christ the King and Holy Mary of Guadalupe!" His father wasn't with us. He wasn't there. And they asked him mockingly: "What do you want your father to be told?" He answered: "That we will see each other in heaven."

Finally they shot him in the temple. I heard the shot that put an end to his life. You can imagine the profound impression this made on us, especially the children.

I have a very beautiful, profound memory of this friend of mine who gave his life for Christ; he has always been for me a testimony of what authentic love of Christ means. I also remember him with some nostalgia, because I would say to Our Lord: "Why did you choose him to be a martyr and leave me behind?"

Q: How did that testimony of martyrdom influence you in your personal life and in the work you would later undertake to found the Legionaries of Christ and the lay movement Regnum Christi?

Father Maciel: As I said, Joséé Luis' martyrdom left a profound, indelible mark on me. His death contributed to root in me the certainty that faith is worth more than life. It spoke to me of the eternal value of a life totally given for love of Christ, it stirred in me a longing for eternity ... but it was not only Joséé Luis.

In my village of Cotija, during the Cristero war, we often saw those who were hung in the square or witnessed the shooting of Cristeros who died crying out, "Hail to Christ the King!" They were leaving behind, perhaps, a family, children, a mother -- how many mothers encouraged their children not to renege on their faith!

I witnessed the martyrdom of Antonio Ibarra, a musician from by village, of Leonardo and several others. I still have engraved in my mind some of those faces and scenes, especially when they took Antonio down from the gallows and placed him in the arms and lap of his mother, Isabel Ibarra. And it was all kinds of people who were martyred in many villages of Mexico: children, youths and adults, men and women, rich and poor, priests and lay faithful.

I think the testimony of martyrdom of so many Christians, who preferred to shed their blood before betraying Jesus Christ, influenced my own life very much and my mission as founder, as it was a testimony that, so to speak, made one live the heroic faith of the early Christians.

That testimony helped me to understand that, to be coherent, a Christian life must be fully committed to Jesus Christ. A half-baked Christianity, of compromises, which "lights a candle to God and another to the devil," as the popular saying says, is not Christianity.

I would have liked to have given my life, as Joséé Luis Sáánchez did, as hundreds of thousands of Cristero martyrs did; but I understood that God was asking another kind of martyrdom of me, that of living the Gospel to its ultimate consequences. And it is this, in the end, that is behind the foundation of the Legion of Christ and of the Regnum Christ Movement: to help other people also to commit themselves to know, live and transmit the love of Jesus Christ.

When the time came to choose the name for the congregation that the Holy Spirit was inspiring me to found, I thought of several names in my mind, but the memory of the testimony of the Cristeros was an element that helped me to understand that the name that would best express our mission was that of Legionaries of Christ -- men who join the struggle for the Kingdom of Christ without keeping anything for themselves, men who are prepared to give their lives.

Q: José was killed and the Cristero movement he supported failed. Was it a futile death?

Father Maciel: In 1929 the Cristeros lay down their arms in obedience to the order of Pope Pius XI. The political authorities of the time did not keep their agreements with the Church and with the Cristeros, and many disarmed Cristeros afterward were killed.

It all ended in nothing. It seemed a failure. But as Tertullian said: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians."

On his first trip to Mexico in 1979, the first of his trips as a pilgrim around the world, John Paul II witnessed the enthusiasm and life of the faith that is breathed in Mexico, undoubtedly watered by the blood of the martyrs.

A martyrdom not only is never a futile death, but rather is a fruitful and redeeming death.

It is the death of the disciple who associates himself to his Master's cross, and who with him offers his life for the salvation of many men, including his own executioners.

Like Jesus, [the martyr's] death seems immediately a failure, but he is a luminous witness of the resurrection and of eternal life over death.

I have been able to witness several times that since Joséé Luis' death until today, many visit his tomb, take flowers to him, light candles, and pause there to pray, praying for his intercession.

As Jesus said: "God is not God of the dead, but of the living." When we pray to the saints, we know we are speaking with people who are alive, who have triumphed definitively and have reached happiness with God, toward which we journey during this life and to which we are all called.

Q: At 15 years, is a boy capable of giving his life for Christ? Can a 15-year-old boy know his vocation clearly?

Father Maciel: You ask me if a 15-year-old adolescent is capable of giving his life for Christ. The very context of this interview, Joséé Luis Sáánchez del Ríío's martyrdom, a boy of 14 years, is in itself an answer.

In your second question you establish a beautiful relationship, which encloses a great truth. Martyrdom is a call from God to give the whole of one's life for Christ in a few minutes. A vocation is also a call to give the whole of one's life for Christ, but day by day, minute by minute.

We must not forget that it is God who calls, and he chooses the moment to do so. God is the sower who deposits the seed.

He can awaken a priestly vocation in the heart of a child, as in that of a youth, as in that of an adult; when he sees the opportune moment. He knows how to find the way to make them feel clearly in their interior his invitation to follow him.

Of course, as happens with every process of maturation, in the life of a child and of a youth, the seed must grow in time, and the call will be studied and will have time to be pondered and verified.

The path toward the priesthood or consecrated life goes through different stages of formation, and the Church will admit those who are apt.

What is important is to be able to offer these children and adolescents who feel God's call in their interior at an early age, a space of freedom and a propitious environment, a "good earth," sun, water and air so that the seed can sprout in its time; this is what we try to do in the vocational centers of the Legion and of the Regnum Christi.

This was also my personal experience: I received the call to the priesthood at 14 years of age; I left my home for the seminary at 15 years; I have never doubted my vocation; I have been and am fully happy in my priesthood and I am already 85 ...

Q: Do you know that the founder of another religious congregation which arose in Mexico was also a witness of this martyrdom?

Father Maciel: I suppose you are referring to Father Enrique Amezcua Medina, founder of the priestly Confraternity of the Laborers of the Kingdom of Christ. He is from Colima.

I cannot tell you if he was a witness of the martyrdom, I rather think not, but I do believe that he owes his priestly vocation to Joséé Luis Sáánchez, whom he met in 1927, at the height of the Cristero war.

He said that when he was 9 years old, when he approached Joséé to get to know him, Joséé hugged the flag of Christ the King against his chest and spoke with much fervor about the Most Holy Virgin to a discouraged Cristero youth.

Father Enrique ... the boy Enrique, approached him and said he wanted to be like him, a soldier of Christ the King. Joséé smiled at him and said he was still too young, but that what he had to do was to pray much for him and for all the Cristeros.

Father Enrique recalled how he fixed his gaze on him and said: Perhaps God will want you to be a priest. And if one day you become a priest, you will be able to do many things that neither I nor we can do. So, don't fret.

They made a pact to always pray for one another, and they sealed it with a handshake. And Joséé Luis said good-bye to him: "Now, until God wills, see you soon, or in heaven ..."
Q: For what do you pray to Joséé Luis?

Father Maciel: For what I always pray: that he obtain from God the grace for all of us to be faithful to our faith and to our unconditional love of Christ until death. I entrust to him all children and adolescents.

I think that, as he was for me, Joséé will be for all of them an excellent model of friendship with Christ and of Christian faithfulness and coherence.


Message of the Mexican Martyrs
Interview With Father Luis Orozco, Author

ROME, NOV. 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The 13 Mexicans martyrs of the 1920s religious persecution who will be beatified next Sunday, help to explain the flowering of the Church in that country, says a scholar.

Legionary Father Luis Alfonso Orozco, a professor of theology at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, has published a book on the subject, "Martyrdom in Mexico During the Religious Persecution."

The priest, who gave an interview to ZENIT, says that the blood of these martyrs made possible the maturation of the Church in Mexico in the 20th century.

Q: Are they martyrs of the Cristero war of 1926-1929, or martyrs of the religious persecution which that conflict sparked? Is there a difference?

Father Orozco: A martyr is one who gives his life for confessing his faith. The circumstances of martyrdom are very varied.

Specifically, in Mexico, it was the lot of these people -- who were priests, farmers and youths, like Joséé Luis Sáánchez del Ríío, killed at 14 -- to live in circumstances that were particularly complex as were those that sparked the religious persecution.

The Church, in her theological and historical judgment, does not raise them to the altar because they participated in the "Cristiada," but because they confessed their faith in Christ.

Q: How important are these 13 beatifications? Is there some general characteristic that unites the new Mexican blessed?

Father Orozco: They are the third group of martyrs of the "Cristiada" raised to the altar. The essential characteristic of this group is that the majority of the blessed are lay people. An interesting heterogeneous group, but in these 13 blessed is reflected the variety and the richness of martyrdom in the Church.

Q: What importance does the martyrs' message have for our time?

Father Orozco: The Christian people are called to confess their faith in Jesus, but not all Christians are called to be martyrs. Martyrdom is a gift given to us by God.

Pope John Paul II said that in these times Christians might not be asked for the testimony of blood but for the testimony of fidelity: to be faithful to the given word, to commitments assumed, to public witness of what we are.

Whoever is faithful to Christ in these difficult times is in a certain sense also a martyr.

Q: Is the blood of martyrs useful to people?
Father Orozco: In my particular case, one of the motivations that induced me to carry on with my research on martyrdom in Mexico during the religious persecution, is the immortal phrase of Tertullian, who, around the third century A.D., said: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christian life."

It has been confirmed in the course of the history of the Church that, precisely, wherever there was a persecution, wherever there were martyrs who shed their blood in different circumstances, those places, those particular Churches afterward grew and flourished.

It is as if God, in his providence, has a very outstanding place reserved for the martyrs. And, of course, for peoples who have given martyrs to the universal Church.

Q: Their blood is not shed in vain?

Father Orozco: Their testimony does not fall into the void. That generous blood is united, in a certain way, to the blood of Christ shed on the cross, with which he redeemed the human race.

The blood of martyrs shed in all ages, contributes -- with its part -- to the work of redemption initiated by Christ.

In Mexico, in the 20th century, the Mexican Church reached its maturity, precisely because of the blood of these martyrs. The popular faith and family unity experienced in Mexico is also its consequence.

There is no doubt that the faith of the Mexican people has emerged strengthened from the events of martyrdom.


A Mexican Gandhi Nears Beatification
Anacleto Gonzáález Flores, Symbol of 1920s Martyrdom

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, NOV. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Thirteen Mexicans martyred during the religious persecution of the 1920s will be beatified in Guadalajara next Sunday according to Benedict XVI's new guidelines.

Among the martyrs who died during the so-called Cristero war of 1926-1929, the most outstanding is Anacleto González Flores.

He was a lay leader who was very active from 1915 until the year of his martyrdom, 1927, at the hands of the federal army commanded by Mexican President Plutarco Elíías Calles.

González Flores founded the Popular Union, better known as the "U," a movement that included labor, women and farmers. It promoted catechesis and actively opposed the local and federal governments in their measures to suppress religious freedom.

Because of his option for pacifism and nonviolence during the Cristero war, González Flores was known as the "Mexican Gandhi."

Married and the father of two, "Master Cleto," as he was known, was born in Tepatitlan, in the state of Jalisco, in July 1888.

He came from humble origins. The son of an alcoholic weaver, he did various jobs until he received his law degree at 33 in 1921. Before that, he had been a seminarian and postulant in the seminaries of San Juan de los Lagos and Guadalajara.


In 1914, when all churches were closed on the order of Joséé Guadalupe Zuno, governor of Jalisco, González Flores organized the Popular Union and founded the newspaper Gladium, "sword" in Latin, a word with which he already dreamed of martyrdom.

Confrontations between the government and Catholics started in July 1918, to which González Flores responded with the philosophy of "peaceful resistance."

He was arrested in 1919 for his social, political and religious ideals. Three years later he coordinated the first Catholic Labor Congress in Guadalajara and organized the National Catholic Labor Conference that spread throughout the country.

In May 1925 the National League in Defense of Religious Freedom was founded in Mexico City. It favored recourse to arms, but González Flores disagreed, and insisted on moral strength to win the battle.

Militants arrived in the capital in 1926 with an ultimatum for the Popular Union, which obliged him to enter the National League. The armed movement began the following year, which Gonzáález Flores accepted with regret.

Taken prisoner

General Jesús Ferreira decided to put an end to the Popular Union by taking the "Master" prisoner. González Flores was arrested on March 31, 1927, and martyred the following day. His executioners hanged him by his thumbs and then, at bayonet point, kept torturing him to disclose the whereabouts of the archbishop of Guadalajara and other leaders of the Cristero Revolution.

Finally, the steel blade fatally pierced his heart. At the same time, his companions in the struggle and martyrdom were shot in the courtyard of the same prison.

The "Master" asked to be killed after his companions, so as to be able to console them.

Before dying, González Flores told the general in charge: "I forgive you from my heart; we will soon meet before the divine tribunal, the same judge who will judge me will judge you; then you will have an intercessor in me with God."

González Flores' process of beatification was opened officially and solemnly on Oct. 15, 1994, in the Shrine of Guadalupe, in Guadalajara, where his mortal remains rest. Many faithful flock there to venerate his memory.


Maria Pia Mastena: Saw Jesus in the Sick and Poor
Founder of the Sisters of the Holy Face to Be Beatified

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See issued a biography of Maria Pia Mastena (1881-1951), founder of the Sisters of the Holy Face, who will be beatified Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica. An adapted excerpt of the biography appears below.

* * *

Maria Pia Mastena was born in Bovolone in the Italian province of Verona on Dec. 7, 1881.

Her parents were exemplary Christians and very fervent in the practice of the faith and in works of charity. Of their four children, the last, Tarcisio, entered the Capuchin Franciscans, and he too died with a reputation for sanctity.

The future blessed received her first Communion on March 19, 1891, with great fervor, and on this occasion she made a private vow of perpetual chastity. On Aug. 27, 1891, she received the sacrament of confirmation. During her adolescence she was assiduous at religious functions and at parish activities, especially as a catechist.

Shortly afterward she sensed a calling to religious life, and she pursued this ideal that was characterized by a strong Eucharistic devotion and devotion to the Holy Face. She requested to enter religious life at age 14, but she was only accepted as a postulant in 1901 in the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Verona.

With the permission of her superiors, on April 11, 1903, she made "a private vow to be a victim soul."

She was vested with the religious habit on Sept. 29, 1902, and on Oct. 24, 1904, she professed vows of religious life and received the name Sister Passitea Maria of the Child Jesus.

The blessed lived this phase of her life with particular spiritual intensity and she would also recall that it was a time of grace and blessing. The fervor which she experienced in the institute would be an inspiration for her to take a vow to seek perfection in all things.

She was a teacher in various places in the Veneto region, in particular for more than 19 years in Miane, where she dedicated herself to an intense apostolate to students of every age, infirmity and disability.

With the authorization of her superiors and the "nulla osta" of the Holy See, on April 15, 1927, she entered the Cistercian monastery of Veglie, to fulfill a deep desire for the contemplative life.

On Nov. 15, 1927, with the encouragement of the bishop of Vittorio Veneto, she left the monastery, resumed teaching and proceeded toward the foundation of a new religious institute called the Sisters of the Holy Face. It was canonically recognized on Dec. 8, 1936, and, after great suffering, it was recognized as a congregation of pontifical right on Dec. 10, 1947.

The entire apostolic ministry that followed was dedicated to the establishment and the expansion of the congregation, through promoting new initiatives for the poor, the suffering and the sick.

The blessed entrusted to the institute the mission to "engender, restore, and rediscover the image of the gentle Jesus in souls."

She died in Rome on June 28, 1951.


Maria Crocifissa Curcio: Her Life
Founder of Carmelite Missionary Sisters to Be Beatified

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See issued a biography of Maria Crocifissa Curcio (1877-1957), founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Théérèèse of the Child Jesus, who will be beatified Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica. An adapted excerpt of the biography appears below.

* * *

Maria Crocifissa Curcio, founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, was born in Ispica, Sicily, in the Diocese of Noto, on Jan. 30, 1877. Her parents were Salvatore Curcio and Concetta Franzòò.

The seventh of 10 siblings, she spent her childhood in a highly cultural and social home environment, in which she quickly exhibited lively intelligence and a pleasant personality. Strong-willed and determined, in her early teens she developed a strong tendency toward piety, with specific attention toward the weak and marginalized.

At home she was raised under the strict moral guidelines. But according to the customs of the era, her father did not permit her to study beyond grade six.

This deprivation cost her greatly. However, eager to learn, she drew comfort from the many books in the family library, where she found a copy of the "Life of St. Teresa of Jesus." The impact of this saint enabled her to come to know and love the Carmel, and so she began her "study of celestial things."

In 1890, at age 13, she succeeded, not without difficulty, in enrolling in the Carmelite Third Order. Because of her regular attendance at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and her deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who "had captured her heart since childhood" by assigning her the mission of "making the Carmel reflourish," her knowledge of Carmelite spirituality made her understand the divine plans in store for her.

She desired to share the ideal of a Missionary Carmel, which unites the contemplative dimension with that of a specifically apostolic dimension. So she began an initial experience of community life with a few fellow members of the Third Order in a small apartment in her ancestral home, which her siblings had bequeathed to her.

She then transferred to Modica, where she was entrusted with the management of the "Carmela Polara" conservatory for the acceptance and assistance of young females who were orphans or in any way needy. Maria had the firm resolution to turning them into "worthy women who would be useful to themselves and to society."

After several years of trials and hardships in the vain attempt to see this undertaking of hers in some way supported and officially recognized by the local ecclesiastic authorities, she finally managed to obtain the support and agreement of her missionary ideal in Father Lorenzo Van Den Eerenbeemt, a Carmelite Father of the Ancient Order.

On May 17, 1925, she came to Rome for the canonization of St. Théérèèse of the Child Jesus, and the next day, accompanied by Father Lorenzo, she visited Santa Marinella, a small town on the Latium coast north of Rome. She was struck by the natural beauty of this region, but also by the extreme poverty of a great number of this town's inhabitants. It was here that she finally realized that she had reached her landing place.

Having obtained an oral permission "of experiment" from the bishop of the Diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, Cardinal Antonio Vico, on July 3, 1925, she definitively settled in Santa Marinella. On July 16, 1926, she received the decree of affiliation of her small community with the Carmelite order.

In 1930, after many sufferings, her small nucleus obtained the recognition of the Church. Cardinal Tommaso Pio Boggiani, ordinary of the Diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, established the Congregation of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Théérèèse of the Child Jesus as an institute of diocesan rights.

"To bring souls to God" is the objective that brought to life the numerous openings of educational and charitable institutions in Italy and abroad. For this reason Maria urged her daughters to bring a Christian point of view to families.

She was able to achieve her missionary yearning in 1947 when she sent the first sisters to Brazil with the mandate to "never forget the poor."

With her entire life marked by poor health and diabetes, which she forced herself to always accept with strength and a serene adhesion to the will of God, she passed the last years of her life in illness, continuing to pray and to give of herself to her sisters, to whom she offered a precious example of virtues.

She intensely cultivated the union of love with Christ in the Eucharist by giving all of herself to make amends "for the immense number of souls who do not know and do not love God." She urged her sisters to "love with holiness the treasures with which the Divine Goodness entrusts you; the souls of the youth, the hope of the future."


The hidden life of Charles de Foucauld
An explorer, monk and priest who did nothing by half-measures:  by KATE WHITE

Charles de Foucauld lived a remarkable life of adventure, deprivation and devotion. He was a man of extremes, an aristocratic bon vivant whose conversion to Christianity led him to embrace a life of radical solitude and prayer. He was killed in 1916 by a group of rebels in the Algerian desert where he had lived in the midst of a Berber tribe for 10 years, drawn to serve the poor and the forsaken.

Foucauld, who will be beatified in Rome Nov. 13, was inspired by the “hidden life” of Jesus in Nazareth and hoped that other disciples of Jesus would be as well. He championed a life for religious that would not only be found in enclosed communities, monasteries or convents but lived among ordinary people.
He hoped lay missionaries would come to the southern part of Algeria. He envisioned Christians who would participate in the local economy and live a Christian life among a Muslim population. All this in the early 1900s.

The Muslim holy man who said of Foucauld, “He has given his time to the Eternal,” did not say, “He has given his life” but rather “his time.” To give one’’s time is a very concrete, demanding experience. To give one’’s life seems more abstract. During many hours of adoration in front of the Eucharist, Foucauld had images of the role of the church. Missionaries should live among the poor and be witnesses to the life of Christ. They should not necessarily preach the Gospel with words, but live the joy and simplicity and poverty of a life like that of Jesus.

He thought the liturgy should be celebrated in the language of the people of the country where it was being celebrated. Foucauld wanted the Catholic worship of God to be open and understandable to nonbelievers.
His belief in the real presence in the Eucharist was so strong that he felt the presence of Christ in the Eucharist had a spiritual effect on the persons around it. He believed the real presence held the world together.

Those who were influenced or inspired by Foucauld include Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Jacques Maritain and John Howard Griffin, author of Black Like Me. “This man, he’s like an addiction. He’s contagious,” said Fr. Lennie Tighe, a Boston priest who is a member of Jesus Caritas, a fraternity of diocesan priests inspired by the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld. It, like the many Foucauld-inspired lay fraternities, emphasizes solitude, simplicity, a spirit of adoration and “a love of the desert, of withdrawal from time to time,” said Fr. Tighe.

For some, Foucauld’s appeal lies in his nonconformism. For others, the purity and intensity of his calling and the human struggles he experienced in his life attract them. Certainly, he was a man of paradoxes. The Web site for Jesus Caritas describes Foucauld in these words: “While longing to establish a community, he never had a member. He was a human being: attractive and enigmatic, a product of his time yet classically mysterious.”

He inherited a fortune

Charles de Foucauld was born Sept. 15, 1858, into a noble family in Strasbourg, France. During the summer, his extended family would meet in the country home of his parents. Charles’’ parents died while he was still a child, and he inherited a large fortune. Aside from his sister, his closest family relationship was with Marie Moitessier, a first cousin nine years older, whose quiet faith would later greatly influence him.

Charles de Foucauld was excessive in whatever he did. As a young army officer at the Military Academy of Saumur, he was known for a great consumption of the best foie gras and the best champagne. He became almost obese. As a young army officer assigned to duty in the French department of Algeria, he made a liaison with a young woman, “Mimi,” whom he brought to all the gatherings of officers and their wives. This was the 1880s and the French army was known for its strong Catholic traditional opinions. The wives of the officers “were not amused” by the presence of Charles’ mistress.

When Charles’ superior officers requested that he not bring the lady to all the social functions, he refused to conform, resigned from the army and with Mimi returned to France. In 1881, back in France and living in Evian, he read in a newspaper that the army division of which he was a member in Algeria had been attacked by a rebellious tribe and had taken serious casualties. Immediately he left for Algeria and rejoined his division to fight in the Sahara. In fighting the Arab tribes, he came to respect his adversaries and set out to learn Arabic. This led to studying the Quran and then the Bible. He was struck by the great sense of hospitality found in even the poorest Muslim homes. His spirit became immersed in the vast spaces of the desert. In their unlimited horizons, he saw an icon of eternity.

Charles was not the first Frenchman to grow to respect the Muslim faith. Several young Frenchmen, including Ernest Psichari, the grandchild of Renan, were converted back to their childhood faith through the experience of adoration by the Muslims in the desert. But while Charles was moved by the sight of a Muslim stopping in the desert to spread a rug and bow to the presence of the Almighty, he remained an agnostic. God, if he existed, was unknowable In 1882, Charles resigned from the army. Shortly afterward, he decided to go on an exploratory mission in the region of the Sahara that was along Morocco’s Algerian border. Morocco, at that time, did not allow Europeans to enter its borders. Charles joined a caravan of Eastern European and Middle Eastern Jews traveling through Algeria and Morocco. He was exceptionally gifted in foreign languages and managed to pass as an itinerant rabbi fleeing persecution in Russia. He took notes on the geography of the area and upon his return to Paris published his findings.

Another exploratory expedition, in 1885-86, took him to the oases in South Algeria and Tunisia. French soldiers were posted in the Algerian Sahara, and Charles ascribed to their presence a “peacekeeping” mission. Before the French army took control of the area, it was common for the villages in the desert oases to be raided by traveling tribes on horseback. It was so common that people in the oases felt discouraged from storing water, planting crops, building permanent dirt houses or undertaking other long-term plans. In his caravan trip to Algeria and Morocco, Charles saw up close the local population and their relationship with the French military. He thought the military could and should bring the benefits of the French republic to the desert dwellers and should put an end to intertribal warfare. Later when he lived in the Sahara, he worked to stop the practice of slavery among the nomadic tribes.

In 1886 back in Paris, Charles took an apartment near his cousin Marie Moitessier, now married and the vicomtesse Olivier de Bondy, and prepared his conferences on the topography of the Sahara near and inside Morocco. The Eiffel Tower was being built in Paris, but Charles was worlds away in his mind studying Arabic and the Muslim faith. “Mimi” seems to have disappeared from the picture.
‘God, if you exist ……’

He was frequently in the home of his cousin, a devout Roman Catholic who never mentioned his excesses but hoped he would return to the faith of his childhood and incorporated him into her family. Her confessor was l’Abbé Henri Huvelin, a popular diocesan priest assigned to the church of St. Augustine in Paris. Not yet 30, he found the question of “faith” was much on his mind. According to a biography by Jean François Six, Foucauld would visit churches and silently pray, “God, if you exist, let me know it.” One October day in 1886 he went to see l’Abbé Huvelin in the confessional at the church of St. Augustine. Charles said he wanted to talk about “the faith” and the priest answered, “Why don’’t you begin with a good confession?” Charles converted to faith in Christ at that instant. It reminds one of the conversion of Paul Claudel, the French poet, playwright and diplomat, who said that one Christmas day, as he was standing by a pillar in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, faith came to him in a flash.

Charles would later remark, “My religious vocation dates from the same hour as my faith: God is so great.” Three events shaped his vocation. The first was a sermon by l’Abbé Huvelin in which he said that Jesus took the last place. Foucauld wanted to be with Jesus in the last place. With a friend, he visited a Trappist monastery and happened to see a monk who had an old mended habit. The monk looked like a beggar and Charles decided he wanted to be that poor. The third was a visit to the Holy Land beginning at the end of November 1888 and ending in February 1889. His visit to Nazareth brought him a great desire to live as Jesus lived, hidden, a workman, without prestige or power.

Prayer, poverty, solitude

In 1890, Foucauld entered the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Snows in France. At the insistence of l’’Abbéé Huvelin, he had waited three years before entering. Almost from the beginning, he struggled to fulfill his own sense of religious calling. He fought frequently with his superiors, who wanted him to become a priest, while Foucauld wanted to return to the desert to be a hermit. He longed to live a life of prayer, poverty and solitude, to triumph over his own feelings of laziness and half-heartedness. He wished for self-abnegation, even abjection, in his desire to imitate the life of Jesus.

Six months after he entered Our Lady of the Snows, Foucauld, at his request, moved to a poorer monastery in Syria, then part of the Ottoman Empire. The monastery employed over a dozen laborers, and Foucauld was in put in charge of the workers who were building a road. Foucauld was uneasy with this; he felt he had not become a monk to give orders to others. He wanted “the last place” and began dreaming of a new community of persons living with and among the poor. He remarked, “Jesus lived by the work of his hands. He did not live on donations, offerings or the work of foreign workers to whom he gave orders.”

In Syria, Foucauld drafted his initial rule for a religious community. As he saw it, no past worldly status of a monk should influence his place in the community. He did not want some monks to be priests and others to do manual labor. He believed that monks should not own property but should live from day to day as simply as possible. The diet was to be meager, based on that of the local people. He sent his rule to his spiritual confessor. Concerned that the rule was too demanding, even frightening in its severity, l’Abbé Huvelin replied, “Live as a poor person …… as abjectly as you like, but I beg of you, don’’t write a rule for others.”

In 1897 Foucauld moved to the Holy Land to live as a servant to the cloistered Poor Clares in Nazareth. He lived in a tool hut in the back of the garden and was in charge of running the community’s errands in town. He did odd jobs, carpentry and masonry, dug in the garden and studied the Bible. He organized each hour of the day, praying, writing in his diary, eating the minimum possible, working, reading the Gospel, and back to praying. He would spend all night in the chapel in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Shortly before his move to Nazareth, the Ottoman Turks had massacred some 140,000 Armenians in 1895. Foucauld was deeply affected by the slaughter. He regretted not being a priest who could comfort the Armenians and minister to them in their own language. In Nazareth he began to think seriously of becoming a missionary and priest.

On June 9, 1901, Charles de Foucauld was ordained a priest and went to the Sahara near Morocco to live as a “hermit missionary” among non-Christians. He still dreamed of being joined by a small community that would live with him in the desert. He revised his rule, which was nonetheless still severe. He wrote that he would demand three things of his companions: that they be ready to have their heads cut off, to die of starvation and to obey him “in spite of his worthlessness.”

For the next 15 years he lived as a missionary hermit, settling first near a French military base and later in a Touareg village in the southern part of the Sahara. The Touareg were a Berber people, and Foucauld prepared the first dictionary and grammar of the Touareg language, translated the four Gospels into Touareg and undertook a translation of Touareg poetry. He divided his time between prayer, intellectual work and visits from the Touareg. All the time, he longed for manual work.

In a way he was not hidden at all like Jesus of Nazareth but was a focal point for the community. He gave as little time as possible to eating and sleeping -- to the point of becoming ill with scurvy. (This is the man who once had enjoyed the best foie gras and champagne.) The local people respected his life of poverty, prayer and hospitality. Foucauld made no attempt to convert them. Foucauld said once, “It would make as much sense to start by preaching the news of Jesus to the Muslims here as it would for a Muslim preacher to go to a town in Brittany [a Catholic stronghold in France].”

In 1916, Fr. Charles de Foucauld was shot by a band of robbers during an anti-French uprising. He was alone when he died, but within a decade of his death a biography had spread word of him and over time Foucauld’’s life and writings came to inspire others to follow in his path of prayer, adoration of the Eucharist, love of the desert and radical simplicity.

Today 19 different movements exist throughout the world of lay people, priests and religious following Foucauld’s instructions to live simply among the poor, to do the same kind of work as their neighbors do and to live the Gospel faith not so much by word as by example. Initially, most of the members of the religious communities inspired by Foucauld worked in factories or as manual laborers. These days members of the Little Brothers of Jesus or the Little Sisters of Jesus do many kinds of work, for religious specialization is the antithesis of what Foucauld thought important -- that is, humble, fraternal love for Jesus and for others. Foucauld’s originality lay in recognizing that it is not necessary to teach others, to cure them or to improve them; it is only necessary to live among them, sharing the human condition and being present to them in love.

Kate White lived in France for 20 years where she worked at the House of Ananias, a center for the catechumenate in Paris. (November 11, 2005)


Eurosia Fabris

Eurosia Fabris was born in Quinto Vicentino, an agricultural area, near Vicenza, on Sept. 27, 1866. Her parents, Luigi and Maria Fabris, were farmers.

At the age of 4, Eurosia moved with her family to Marola, a village in the municipality of Torri di Quartesolo. She lived there for the rest of her life. She attended only the first two years of elementary school between 1872 and 1874 because even at such a young age, she was forced to help her parents with farm work and her mother in particular with the household chores.

It was enough, however, for her to learn to read and write with the help of the Scriptures or religious books such as a catechism.

Besides her domestic tasks, she helped her mother in her work as a dressmaker, a practice which Eurosia would also take on later. Even as a child, she was rich in virtue and spirituality, always careful in providing for the needs of her family.

She was 12 when she made her first Communion. From then on, she received the Eucharist on all religious feasts, since at that time daily Communion was not the practice.

Eurosia joined the Association of the Daughters of Mary in the parish church of Marola, and was faithful in participating in their devotions. She diligently observed the practices of the group which helped increase in her a love for Mary. In Marola, she lived within sight of the shrine of the Madonna of Monte Berico.

Her favorite devotions were to the Holy Spirit, the infant Jesus, the cross of Christ, the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the souls in the purgatory. She was an apostle of good will in her family, among her friends, and in her parish, where she taught catechism to the children and sewing to the girls who came to her home.

By age 18, Eurosia was dedicated, pious and hardworking. These virtues, along with her pleasant personality, did not go unobserved and several young men proposed marriage to her, though she did not feel called to accept.

In 1885, Rosina, as she was called by her family, was affected by a tragic event. A young married woman near her home died, leaving three very young daughters. The first of them died shortly after her mother. The other two girls, Chiara Angela and Italia, were only 20 months and 2 months old, respectively. The father of these girls was away, living with his uncle and a grandfather who suffered from a chronic disease. They were three very different men, always quarrelling among themselves.

For six months, every morning, Rosina would go to care for the children and take care of their home. Later, following the advice of her relatives and that of the parish priest, and after praying about this turn of events, she decided to marry.

Rosina was joined in marriage to a man named Carlo Barban, well aware of the sacrifices that married life would hold for her in the future. She accepted this fact as the will of God who she now felt was calling her through these two babies to embrace a new mission. The parish priest would often comment: "This was a true act of heroic charity toward others."

The marriage was celebrated on the fifth of May 1886 and, in addition to the two orphaned babies, was blessed with nine other children. Her home was always opened to other children as well. Among them were Mansueto Mazzuco, who became a member of the Order of Friars Minor, taking the name Brother Giorgio.

To all these children, "Mamma Rosa," as she was called since her marriage, offered affection and care, sacrificing her own needs to provide for them a solid Christian formation. From 1918 to 1921, three of her sons were ordained priests, two for the diocesan clergy and one as a Franciscan (Father Bernardino), who would become her first biographer.

Once married, she embraced her marital obligations, always showing the greatest love and respect for her husband and becoming his confidant and adviser. She had a tender love for all her children. She was a hard worker who fulfilled her duties.

Mamma Rosa lived an intense life of prayer, which was evident by her great devotion to God love's, to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like the strong woman in Scripture, she became a treasure to her family.

She knew how to balance the family budget and at the same time exercised great charity toward the poor, sharing her daily bread also with them. She cared for the sick and gave them continuous assistance, showing heroic strength during the final illness of her husband Carlo, who died in 1930.

Mamma Rosa became a member of the Franciscan Third Order, known today as the Secular Franciscans. She faithfully attended all their meetings, but above all tried to live the true Franciscan spirit of poverty and joy in her home, in the midst of her daily work and prayer.

She had a gentle manner with everyone and praised God as the Creator and source of all good and the giver of all hope.

Mamma Rosa's family home was an ideal Christian community where her children were taught to pray, to obey, to respect the will of God, and to practice Christian virtues. In her vocation as a Christian mother, Mamma Rosa sacrificed herself day by day. She died on Jan. 8, 1932, and was buried in the church of Marola.

The canonical process of beatification and canonization was initiated last Feb. 3, at the diocesan curia of Padova, after getting passed several difficulties and misunderstandings among juridical persons trying to promote the cause.

Mamma Rosa was a model of holiness in what should be the daily life of a Catholic family. Her three sons who became priests were encouraged in their vocation by her example of holiness. She was proclaimed venerable on July 7, 2003, by Pope John Paul II for her heroic and singular virtues.


Maria Laura Mainetti

Cause Opens for Religious Slain in Satanic Rite
Sister Maria Laura Mainetti Murdered by 3 Teen-age Girls

CHIAVENNA, Italy, NOV. 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The cause of beatification has opened for Sister Maria Laura Mainetti, a 60-year-old religious murdered by three girls during a Satanic rite in 2000.

Bishop Alessandro Maggiolini of Como solemnly opened the process in Chiavenna on Oct. 23.

"After the time of sorrow and mourning, now is the moment of joy and light," said Monsignor Ambrogio Balatti, archpriest of Chiavenna San Lorenzo, as reported by the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Sister Laura, as she was known, was stabbed 18 times on the night of June 6-7, 2000, after being taken to a dark alley by two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old.

Monsignor Balatti said: "The three hapless girls could find no better excuse to attract Sister Laura, than to convince her that one of them was expecting a child, that she had been rejected by her family and boyfriend, and that she didn't know what to do or where to go.

"It makes me angry when they say that Sister Laura was naive. She took every precaution, but so did the girls. They were able to set up an astute and diabolic plan."

"Saw them lost"

"How could Sister Laura, whose birth cost her mother her life, who died a few days after her birth, refuse to help that young girl who said she was a mother?" the monsignor asked.

Sister Laura had "a special predilection for young people," whom she "considered the real poor of today: She saw them lost, without points of reference, exposed to the risk of the existential void."

Under interrogation, the accused said they killed the nun to "dispel the boredom of a life that was always the same in the small city," said Monsignor Balatti.

Officials soon learned that the trio initially wanted to sacrifice a priest in their Satanic rite -- and their first choice for a victim was Monsignor Balatti.
"At that time, interest in Satanism and occultism had become a fad," said the archpriest. "Even dress, music and some books contributed to the spread of such a tendency.

"Many young people followed more than anything out of a desire to call attention, to defy the rules. It found fertile ground in some because they were angry with God, perhaps because of personal problems, because of family troubles."

"Forgive them"

During the cause's opening ceremony, some of Sister Laura's thoughts were read out: "My life belongs to you, Jesus," "Lord, take also the little I have and the misery I am."

The killers themselves admitted that when she was dying, Sister Laura found the strength to pray for them, saying: "Lord, forgive them."

Bishop Maggiolini said: "I am certain that all this will reflect positively also on the three girls: Sister Laura's is a light that will help them grow and mature."

Sister Laura, who was baptized Teresina, was born in Colico, Italy, on Aug. 20, 1939. At the time of her death she was superior of the Community of Daughters of the Cross, in the Mary Immaculate Institute of Chiavenna.

A foundation and a series of charitable and pro-life services have been established in her memory. Several denominational centers in Italy and Africa have been named after the murdered religious.


Chiara Barillà

Speaking of beloved Italian Catholic women, Rome suffered a loss in late October with the death of Sr. Teresilla, a well-known figure locally for her ministry in prisons, bringing comfort to inmates from all social classes and all walks of life. She became famous for the role she played in transmitting a "secret diary" from a former member of the Red Brigades, containing insight into the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, to the Italian president at the time, Francesco Cossiga. Shortly thereafter, the former Red Brigade member received an amnesty after 11 years in prison and began working in a church-run social service center in Calabria.

Her death as the result of an automobile accident on Oct. 24 was a deep shock to many Italian Catholics.
Sr. Teresilla, whose birth name was Chiara Barillàà and who belonged to a community known as the Serve di Maria Riparatrice, was taking part in an annual candlelight Marian procession at the time she died. The procession begins on a Saturday evening and continues until Sunday dawn, ending at the Sanctuary of Divino Amore on the outskirts of the city. The route winds through a number of narrow, dimly lit streets, and just at the end of this year's procession, a car came around a corner and struck Sr. Teresilla. She died on the spot at the age of 61.

Sr. Teresilla was remembered as a driven but deeply compassionate woman who smiled upon presidents and prisoners alike. "Hers was a form of pure volunteerism, not linked to any organization," said Fr. Sandro Spriano, chaplain of Rome's sprawling Rebibbia prison. "She did everything possible for the reinsertion of detainees in society, finding work for them in businesses and social agencies. She followed them even after they left prison, but anonymously, because she didn't like to be in the limelight."


Martyr of Spanish Civil War to Be Beatified
Maríía de los Ángeles Ginard Martí

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Maríía de los Ángeles Ginard Martí, a martyr who died amid the religious persecution unleashed by the Spanish Civil War, will be beatified this week.

Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles died in Madrid on Aug. 26, 1936. On Saturday, Cardinal Joséé Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, will preside at the beatification Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

At Benedict XVI's request, the cardinal will read the apostolic letter with which the Pope will inscribe among the blessed of the Church, the Servant of God, "virgin and martyr," and seven other martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

The Vatican's office of liturgical celebrations confirmed the news. In a statement it noted that those to be beatified, "sustained by the Bread of Life and strengthened by the Word of God, faced the good fight of the faith and now participate in the glory of Christ the King, Master and Shepherd."

The third of nine siblings, Maríía de los ÁÁngeles Ginard Martíí was born in Lluchmayor, in the Balearic Islands, on April 3, 1894. She was a professed religious of the Congregation of Sisters Zealous of Eucharistic Worship.

Killed by a group of republican militiamen who previously had destroyed the congregation's convent in the Dehesa de la Villa, in the Spanish capital, her remains were found in a common grave. They now rest in the cemetery of the congregation's present convent in Madrid, according to the archdiocese's Digital Analysis service.

Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, published a pastoral letter for the beatification. He called it a celebration that "impels us to live the faith in such a way that we can communicate it to our contemporaries, especially the youngest," according to the archdiocesan press office.

Centered on Eucharist

Maríía de los ÁÁngeles Ginard Martíí felt drawn to the religious life around the time of her first Communion, which took place on April 14, 1905, explains a biography by the Holy See.

In her youth she had to work to help her family financially, noted Cardinal Rouco.

"But she rose early every day to participate in the Eucharist," he said, "and her work did not prevent her from reciting the rosary, visiting the Blessed Sacrament and spending long periods of adoration in the church of the Sisters Zealous of Eucharistic Worship." She entered the congregation in 1921.

Between 1926 and 1929 "she lived and worked …… in the house of the Sisters in Madrid where, sent by her superiors, she returned in 1932 and spent the four years prior to her death," the cardinal recalled.

The Holy See's biography noted: "When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles was in Madrid. Events prior to the war were alarming for the Church and its members. The religious persecution manifested itself openly with the burning of churches and convents and threats to priests, religious and Catholic faithful.

"In these circumstances, Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles was grieved by the destruction and threats embarked upon by the persecutors 'out of hatred for the faith,' for everything related to God and the Church. In her adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament she prayed for a solution to these problems and, firm in the faith, offered her life in martyrdom, if it was God's will, for the triumph of Christ."


Having sought refuge on July 20, 1936, together with the religious of her community, in the home of friends, "on the afternoon of Aug. 25, 1936, denounced by a porter of the dwelling where she had been received, she was seized," wrote Cardinal Rouco in his letter.

Sister Maríía de los ÁÁngeles saved the life of a married woman who had also been detained when she said: "I am the only nun here." Incarcerated, she was shot at sunset on Aug. 26 in the Dehesa de la Villa in Madrid.

The diocesan phase of her process of canonization opened in Madrid in April 1987; it closed in March 1990. On April 19, 2004, Pope John Paul II approved the publication of the decree on martyrdom for her beatification.


Newman's Papal Influence; Jesuit Agency's Milestone
New Book Focuses on British Cardinal

By Catherine Smibert

ROME, OCT. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- He is a figure whose work and persona have inspired innumerable pursuits of truth, and now he might have a greater impact still.

Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) has inspired a wealth of studies, publications and organizations -- and even influenced our current Pope, according to a new book represented at the English College last week.

"Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman" was presented to an audience of Curia members, journalists and pontifical university students during an upright English, yet relaxed Roman affair.

The glossy book is filled with select writings from both Church figures and other leading English clergy, and is edited by longtime religious commentator Peter Jennings.

Produced in only six months (from the time of the papal election), Jennings' book clearly presents Benedict XVI's keen interest in this convert from Anglicanism which dates back to his seminary days.

Declared venerable in 1991 for heroic virtues, the cardinal's effect on the current Holy Father is recognized throughout the writings in the new book.

These include introductory addresses given by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the symposium "John Henry Newman, Lover of Truth," to his address on conscience and truth, presented at a bishops workshop in Texas.

Jennings told me how he tried to enhance the in-depth chronology of Newman's life by using previously unpublished pictures like that of Newman in his role as founder of the English Oratory of St. Philip Neri, from the archives of the Birmingham Oratory.

"Having been baptized in the Oratory and now being the press secretary for the archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, I’’ve had the great fortune of working more directly with the Oratory Fathers and thus, the postulator for the cause" of canonization, Jennings said.

The postulator is the provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Father Paul Chavasse. He told me he thinks the book will encourage a resurgence in Newman's popularity.

"In the passing years there has been a steady, increasing devotion to the cardinal on a world scale," Father Chavasse said, "but it was enormously encouraging for us to see the interest that was expressed by all attending the reception. Each expressed a desire for the cause to reach a happy conclusion as soon as it's practical."

That conclusion might be close at hand, he added.

"At the moment, we're investigating a possible miraculous cure through the intercession of Cardinal Newman in the Archdiocese of Boston," the priest said. "It was the healing of a 60-year-old permanent deacon who had suffered from a severe degenerative spinal disease which was threatening his mobility.

"Although there had been an operation, the surgeons were not at all convinced that he would be restored to health but, in fact, that's just what happened, he got out of bed and ... I read the medical reports in which one of the principal surgeons says: 'If you want an explanation for what has happened to you, I suggest you ask God.'"


Cause for Solidarity Chaplain Is Advancing, Says Official
Postulator Thinks Ceremony Could Occur in June

WARSAW, Poland, OCT. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The process of beatification for Father Jerzy Popieluszko might be concluded within a year, says the postulator of the cause.

The postulator, Father Tomasso Kaczmarek, has finished the "positio," or report, on the cause of martyrdom.

The 1,100-page volume describes both events in the life of Solidarity's chaplain, as well as evidence that "demonstrate that he was killed out of hatred of the Church and God," said the postulator.

He contended that the "positio" shows that "Father Jerzy died reconciled with God and that he accepted the sufferings and violent death he received in the spirit of Love."

According to the postulator, the beatification could take place in June 2006, during Benedict XVI's possible visit to Poland.

The "positio" will be handed to the relator, Father Hieronim Fokcinski, who represents the Congregation for Sainthood Causes. It will then be read by seven consultors. If their opinion is positive, the secretary of the Vatican congregation will prepare a report on the state of the cause, which the prefect will present to the Holy Father.

If the Pope accepts it, the decree of the heroic virtues will be read in the Consistory. In the case of a cause of martyrdom, in fact, this means that the Servant of God could be proclaimed blessed.

The postulator underlined that the date of beatification would depend on the work of the consultors, who he said will treat this as a "priority" cause.


Father Popieluszko, Solidarity's chaplain, was only 37 when he died. The Communist regime regarded him as a fanatic, an example of militant clericalism. Many Poles, however, considered him a wise and courageous pastor.

Father Popieluszko was kidnapped and killed on Oct. 19, 1984, by secret service agents, who beat him and threw him into the icy waters of the Vistula River. His body was found later in a lake at the Wloclawek dam, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Warsaw.

The priest's tomb, located in Warsaw next to the church where he celebrated Masses for the homeland, has drawn millions of pilgrims.


Joseph Bilczewski, Tireless Archbishop of Leopoli
Prelate to Be Canonized This Sunday

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Joseph Bilczewski (1860-1923), who will be canonized with four other blessed this Sunday by Benedict XVI.

* * *

Blessed Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski was born April 26, 1860, in Wilamowice near Kety, in the present-day Diocese of Bielsko Zywiec, then part of the Diocese of Krakow. Having finished elementary school at Wilamowice and Kety, he attended high school at Wadowice receiving his diploma in 1880.

On July 6, 1884, he was ordained a priest in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski. In 1886 he received a doctorate in theology from the University of Vienna. Following advanced studies in Rome and Paris he passed the qualifying exam at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. The following year he became professor of dogmatic theology at the John Casimir University of Leopoli.

He also served as dean of theology for a period of time prior to becoming rector of the university.

He dedicated himself to scientific work and, despite his young age, acquired fame as a learned man. His extraordinary intellectual and relational abilities were recognized by Franz Joseph, the emperor of Austria, who presented Monsignor Bilczewski to the Holy Father as a candidate for the vacant metropolitan See of Leopoli. Pope Leo XIII responded positively to the emperor's proposal and on Dec. 17, 1900, he named the 40-year-old monsignor archbishop of Leopoli of the Latin rite.

Given the complex social, economic, ethnic and religious situation, care for the large diocese required of the bishop a deep commitment and called for great moral effort and strong confidence in God. Archbishop Bilczewski became known for his goodness of heart, understanding, humility, piety, commitment to hard work and pastoral zeal.

Upon taking possession of the Archdiocese of Leopoli he spelled out clearly his pastoral plan, which can be summed up in the words "totally sacrifice oneself for the holy Church." Among other things he pointed out the need for the development of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and frequent reception of Communion.

A particular form of pastoral action of Archbishop Bilczewski were the pastoral letters and appeals addressed to the priests and the faithful of the archdiocese. In them he spoke of the problems of faith and morals of the time as well as of the most pressing issues of the social sphere. He also explained devotion to the Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart and the importance of religious and moral formation of children and youth in the family and in school.

He taught for the Church and for the Pope, and took care to cultivate many priestly vocations. He saw the priest as first and foremost a teacher of faith and an instrument of Christ, a father for the rich as well as for the poor. Taking the place of Christ on earth, the priest was to be the minister of the sacraments and for this reason his whole heart had to be dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist, in order to be able to nourish the people of God with the body of Christ.

He often exhorted the priests to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In his pastoral letter devoted to the Eucharist he invited the priests to participate in the priestly associations: the Association for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Association of Aid to Poor Catholic Churches, whose goal was to rejuvenate the zeal of the priests themselves.

He also dedicated a great deal of care to the preparation of children and to full participation in the Mass, desiring that every catechesis would lead children and youth to the Eucharist.

Archbishop Bilczewski promoted the construction of churches and chapels, schools and day-care centers. He developed teaching to help enable the growth in the instruction of the faithful. He materially and spiritually helped the more important works which were springing up in his archdiocese.

His holy life, filled with prayer, work and works of mercy led to his meriting great appreciation and respect on the part of those of various faiths, rites and nationalities present in the archdiocese. No religious or nationalistic conflicts arose during the tenure of his pastoral work. He was a proponent of unity, harmony and peace. On social issues he always stood on the side of the people and of the poor. He taught that the basis of social life had to be justice made perfect by Christian love.

During the First World War, he pointed out to the people the infinite love of God, capable of forgiving every type of sin and offense. He reminded them of the need to observe the commandments of God and particularly that of brotherly love.

During his 23 years of pastoral service he changed the face of the Archdiocese of Leopoli. Only his death on March 20, 1923, could end his vast pastoral action.

Wanting to rest among those for whom he was always father and protector, in accord with his desires, he was buried in Leopoli in the cemetery of Janow, known as the cemetery of the poor. Thanks to the efforts of the Archdiocese of Leopoli the process for his beatification and canonization was initiated. The first step was concluded on Dec. 17, 1997, with the declaration of the life of heroic virtue of Archbishop Bilczewski by Pope John Paul II.

In June 2001, the Congregation for Sainthood Causes recognized as miraculous the fact of the rapid lasting and unexplainable "quo ad modum" healing through the intercession of Archbishop Bilczewski of the third-degree burns of Marcin Gawlik, a 9-year-old boy, thus opening the way for his beatification.

The beatification took place in the Diocese of Leopoli on June 26, 2001, during John Paul II's apostolic visit to Ukraine.


Cure could speed Cardinal Newman's path to sainthood

A 'miracle cure' in Boston may help clear the way for the canonisation of John Henry Cardinal Newman, whose cause is promoted in a book launched in Rome on Monday night in the presence of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

The announcement was made by Fr Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of the Cause for the beatification and canonisation of Cardinal Newman, at the launch of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman, a collection of writings edited by Peter Jennings and published by Family Publications, Oxford. The book was launched at the English College. Among those attending were the Archbishops of Westminster and Birmingham, the president of the Vatican's Council for Social Communications, Archbishop John P Foley; and leading Newman scholars.

Fr Chavasse told them: "A couple of years ago, we received reports at the Birmingham Oratory, of a cure which had taken place in Boston, in the United States of America, of a man, a deacon. I am not at liberty to give the name of this man, who had been suffering from severe spinal problems, and who has now recovered, as a result of the intercession of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman."
Fr Chavasse thanked Andrea Ambrosi, "a most active member of the College of Postulators, who is now involved most intimately in advancing the Cause to a new stage, and whose assistance at this time has become indispensable."

He said: "Postulators are not known for rushing, indeed, they cannot, given the caution needed before anyone can be certain that a presumed miraculous cure is just that. Time has to elapse, evidence has to be gathered and so forth. Well, time has elapsed, evidence has been gathered, and guided by the Avvocato Ambrosi's expert knowledge and, with the approval of the Archbishop of Boston, a tribunal opened there on 25 June this year to investigate this cure.

"Much work has been done and much remains to be done: the tribunal will not finish its work until the beginning of February next; the last session is scheduled for 6 to 7 February 2006. After that, all the evidence gathered comes to Rome and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints begins its meticulous work, examining the medical and theological aspects of it. If these processes end positively, undoubtedly a miracle will be announced and Cardinal Newman, the best-known English churchman of the nineteenth century, will be declared Blessed in the usual way."

Fr Chevasse ended: "I commend this whole matter to your prayers, that all will go well and that before too long has elapsed we will be able to be gathered together again to celebrate the happy conclusion of another stage of the great English Cardinal's journey to officially recognised Sainthood." Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Newman brings together talks, sermons and addresses given to commemorate a variety of anniversaries and events concerned with Cardinal Newman's life, as well as several important new contributions which highlight the relevance of the great Cardinal's life and teachings for the contemporary Church.

The book contains articles by Fr Chevasse as well as by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, whose chapter is entitled: "The Importance of Newman Today", said he had discovered Newman's writings on the development of Christian doctrine while studying for the priesthood in Rome. He had chosen as a dissertation topic Newman's concept of the laity.
Peter Jennings said he hoped the book would increase popular devotion to Cardinal Newman, "the best-known churchman of the nineteenth century."

The Birmingham launch of the book will take place on Friday 21 October at the Birmingham Oratory, Upper Cloister Hall, 12.30pm to 2pm. The Oxford Launch will take place on Friday 28 October at the Oxford Oratory, 4.30pm to 5.45pm. (Mass at 6pm.) Further information from http://www.familypublications.co.uk


Felix of Nicosia, a Humble Capuchin Friar
18th-Century Blessed to Be Canonized Sunday

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Felix of Nicosia (1715-1787), who will be canonized with four other blessed this Sunday by Benedict XVI.

* * *

Felix of Nicosia was born of the marriage between Filippo Amoroso and Carmela Pirro, in Nicosia, Sicily, on Nov. 5, 1715. He was baptized on the same day, and was given the names Philip James. His father, a shoemaker by trade, died Oct. 12, 1715, leaving his widow with three children.

The family was poor but very religious. As a young boy, Felix worked in the workshop of the shoemaker Giovanni Cavarelli, close to the Capuchin friary, and so he often had opportunities to visit the community, get to know the friars and admire their way of life. Like most Sicilian boys in those days, he never attended school. The more time he spent with the friars, the more strongly he felt drawn to their life: their joyful austerity, their liberating poverty, their penance and prayer, their charity and missionary spirit.

Vocation tested

At age 20 he asked the superior of the friary in Nicosia to speak for him to the father provincial of Messina so that he could be admitted to the order as a lay brother. Being illiterate, he could not be admitted as a cleric; the lay vocation was more suited to his humble, simple nature. His request was repeated for eight successive years, and each time was met with the answer no, but his desire was as strong as ever.

His was a mature vocation, well weighed and ardently longed for. Certainly it is surprising that, after so many refusals, he never tried to join another similar order. For him, being a man of God and being a Capuchin were one and the same.

In 1743, hearing that the provincial of Messina was visiting in Nicosia, Felix asked to see him. He then explained his cherished wish. At last, the provincial admitted him to the order and sent him to the friary at Mistretta for his novitiate year.

A Capuchin friar

On Oct. 10, 1743, he began his novitiate, taking the name of Brother Felix. For him, the novitiate was a particularly intense year, spent in the practice of the virtues.

All his biographers tell us that Brother Felix was distinguished for his flair for obedience, his angelic purity, his love of mortification and his truly seraphic patience. It was with these virtues that he made his profession on Oct. 10, 1744.

Streets of Nicosia

Immediately after profession his superiors, contrary to the custom, sent him to the friary of Nicosia. In fact it was not common practice to assign a young religious to his own home town, in case he might be distracted by relatives and acquaintances. But Brother Felix's detachment from earthly affections was such that the superiors considered that no harm would come to his spiritual growth.

He had already made his own the maxim of St. Francis, that a friar should live in the world as a pilgrim and a stranger, calling nothing on earth his own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.

He was given the job of collecting alms. Every day he would walk through the streets, knocking on the doors of the rich, inviting them to share their prosperity, and of the humble dwellings of the poor, offering them comfort in their daily necessities.

There was a tranquil serenity and discretion about him as he moved through the streets, going from house to house. He would always say "thank you" whenever he received something, and even when he was sent away roughly he would answer: "Let it be for the love of God."

Thirsting for Scripture

Brother Felix was unable to read and write, yet full of Christian doctrine. Whatever he could not learn by reading Scripture, he learned by heart. He made every effort to absorb the passages of Scripture and the edifying books that were read at table in the friary, and lost no opportunity to listen to the sermons in the churches of Nicosia.

Devotions and penances

He was devoted to the crucified Christ. Every Friday he used to contemplate the passion and death of Jesus. Each Friday in March he fasted on bread and water and knelt in choir with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, meditating before the crucifix.

He had a particular veneration for the Eucharist, spending hours in front of the tabernacle even after having endured the trials of every-day life. He showed tender devotion to the Mother of God.

Last days

Now relieved of all duties, and physically ill on account of his extreme penances and mortifications, he was always ready for any kind of service, especially for the sick brothers in the friary infirmary. The more his strength declined, the more intense was his concentration on God and his joyful, simple obedience.

At the end of May 1787 he was overtaken by a sudden, raging fever while working in the garden. His superior, Father Macario, ordered him under obedience to lie down. Brother Felix told the doctor who prescribed medicines for him that they were useless, because this was his "final illness." His earthly life ended at 2 a.m. on May 31, 1787.

He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on Feb. 12, 1888.


Alberto Hurtado, Servant of Chile's Poor
Biography of a Soon-to-Be-Canonized Jesuit 

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Among the five people to be canonized a saint this Sunday is Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga. Here is an excerpt from a biography issued by the Holy See.

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Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga was born in Viñña del Mar, Chile, on Jan. 22, 1901. His father died when he was 4 years old. His mother had to sell, at a loss, their modest property in order to pay the family's debts.

As a further consequence, Alberto and his brother had to go to live with relatives and were often moved from one family to another. From an early age, therefore, he experienced what it meant to be poor, without a home and at the mercy of others.

He was given a scholarship to the Jesuit College in Santiago. Here he became a member of the Sodality of Our Lady and developed a lively interest in the poor, spending time with them in the most miserable neighborhoods every Sunday afternoon.

When he completed his secondary education in 1917, Alberto wanted to become a Jesuit, but he was advised to wait in order to take care of his mother and his younger brother. By working in the afternoons and evenings, he succeeded in supporting them; at the same time, he studied law at the Catholic University. In this period, he maintained his care for the poor and continued to visit them every Sunday. Obligatory military service interrupted his studies, but once he fulfilled this duty he went on to earn his degree early in August 1923.

On Aug. 14, 1923, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Chillan. In 1925 he went to Cordoba, Argentina, where he studied humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Spain to study philosophy and theology.

However, because of the suppression of the Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went on to Belgium and continued studying theology at Louvain. He was ordained a priest there on Aug. 24, 1933, and in 1935 obtained a doctorate in pedagogy and psychology.

After having completed his tertianship in Drongen, Belgium, he returned to Chile in January 1936. Here he began his activity as professor of religion at Colegio San Ignacio and of pedagogy at the Catholic University of Santiago.

He was entrusted with the Sodality of Our Lady for the students, and he involved them in teaching catechism to the poor. He frequently directed retreats and offered spiritual direction to many young men, accompanying several of them in their response to the priestly vocation and contributing to the formation of many Christian laymen.

In 1941 Father Hurtado published his most famous book: "Is Chile a Catholic Country?" The same year he was asked to assume the role of assistant for the Youth Movement of the Catholic Action, first within the Archdiocese of Santiago and then nationally. He performed these roles with a spirit of initiative, dedication and sacrifice.

In October 1944, while giving a retreat, he felt impelled to appeal to his audience to consider the many poor people of the city, especially the numerous street children in Santiago. This request evoked a ready and generous response. This was the beginning of the initiative for which Father Hurtado is especially well known: a form of charitable activity which provided not only housing but a homelike milieu for the homeless: "El Hogar de Cristo."

By means of contributions from benefactors and with the collaboration of committed laity, Father Hurtado opened the first house for children; this was followed by a house for women and then one for men. The houses multiplied and took on new dimensions; in some houses there were rehabilitation centers, in others trade-schools, and so on.

In 1945 Father Hurtado visited the United States to study the Boys Town movement and to consider how it could be adapted to his own country. The last six years of his life were dedicated to the development of various forms in which "El Hogar" could exist and function.

In 1947 Father Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association to promote a union movement inspired by the social teaching of the Church.

Between 1947 and 1950, Father Hurtado wrote three important works: on trade unions, on social humanism, and on the Christian social order. In 1951 he founded Mensaje, a well-known Jesuit periodical dedicated to explaining the doctrine of the Church.

Pancreatic cancer brought him, within a few months, to the end of his life. In the midst of pain, he was often heard to say, "I am content, Lord." He died on Aug. 18, 1952.

His apostolate had been an _expression of a personal love for Christ the Lord. It was characterized by a great love for poor and abandoned children, an enlightened zeal for the formation of the laity, and a lively sense of Christian social justice.

Father Hurtado was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 16, 1994.


Pope Gregory the Great

Perhaps this saint of almost 1,500 years ago seems a little too far away from us. He was from a wealthy Roman patrician family and didn't die the glorious and gruesome death of a martyr, so what is there to capture the imagination of the 21st century?

Plenty. The 14-year pontificate of Gregory the Great has many resounding messages for the Catholic world today.

"Magnus, magnus" we all heard during the funeral of John Paul II and many wondered at its meaning. The term "magnus" (the great) has not been used in a very long time, not since Pope Nicholas I died in 867. It is a popular acclamation, not a granted title, something that people use and it sticks. Johannus Paulus Magnus certainly sounds as if it will stand the test of time.

What earns this title is a pontificate of great theological and intellectual advances, brilliant navigation of the Church through dark times and troubled waters, and the genuine love of the flock.

When Gregory was unanimously elected Pope, he was living as monk in Rome. He had transformed his family palace on the Caelian Hill into a monastic community. Although often sent by his predecessor, Pope Pelagius II, on delicate and complicated diplomatic missions, Gregory's first and true love was the contemplative life. Upon election to the papacy, like John Paul II, Gregory had balance his mystical side with his active responsibilities as Pope.

Responsibilities that Pope Gregory took very seriously. He was the first Pope to refer to himself as "Servus servorum Dei," or Servant of the servants of God, a title that John Paul II used frequently of himself. He fortified Rome against the Lombards, gave his own lands to feed the starving population and sent out missionaries to evangelize new lands, especially England.

As our John Paul II was actor and poet, so Pope Gregory left a lasting artistic gift to the Church, Gregorian chant.

Pope Gregory's last years were spent in constant illness and physical pain, but according to biographer Paul the Deacon, "he never rested" and continued his ministry until he died a peaceful and happy death in 604. His ceaseless work and prayer for the souls in his care served as an example for all those who witnessed it.

Another significant link between St. Gregory and our present times can be found in St. Benedict. Although St. Benedict died in 547 when Gregory was still a child, the Pope admired the monastic founder and furthered Benedictine monasticism with every means at his disposal. In these days of renewed interest in Benedict and his teachings, Pope Gregory seems to have planted the seeds that we are reaping now.

The legacy of Pope Gregory the Great earned him the title of Father of the medieval Church. Maybe John Paul II will be known as the Father of the Church of the third millennium.


José Luis Sáánchez Gave His Life at 14
2 Founders Witnessed Execution

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, SEPT. 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The execution of José Luis Sáánchez del Ríío, a 14-year-old martyr who will be beatified this fall, was witnessed by two founders of ecclesial entities in the Church.

Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and Enrique Amezcua Medina, founder of the priestly confraternity of the Laborers of the Kingdom of Christ, both met the young martyr, and are able to recount years later the heroism he exhibited.

José Luis, of Sahuayo, in the state of Michoacan, joined the Cristeros, a large group of Mexican Catholics who rose against the religious persecution of the government of Plutarco Elíías Calles, a year before he was executed on Feb. 10, 1929.

A 7-year-old Marcial Maciel witnessed the martyrdom of his young friend.

José Luis "was captured by government forces, which wanted to give the civilian population that supported the Cristeros, an exemplary lesson," said Father Maciel in the book "Christ Is My Life."

"Under pain of death, they asked him to give up his faith in Christ. Joséé Luis refused to apostatize. His mother was overwhelmed by sorrow and anguish, but kept encouraging her son," he said.

"Then the skin of the soles of his feet was sheered off, and he was obliged to walk through the village towards the cemetery. He wept and moaned with pain, but would not give in."

"Hail to Christ the King!"

Father Maciel continued: "Every now and then they stopped and said: 'If you cry out "Death to Christ the King," we will spare your life. Say 'Death to Christ the King!' But he answered, 'Hail to Christ the King!'"

Father Maciel said that at the cemetery, "before shooting him, they asked him once more if he would deny his faith. He refused and was killed right then and there. He died crying out as many other Mexicans did: 'Hail to Christ the King!'

"These are indelible images of my memory and of the memory of the Mexican people, although often there is not much mention of it in the official history."

Father Medina, then 9 years old, said in the biography of the confraternity he founded that he considers providential his meeting with the young martyr.

He met the child-martyr of Sahuayo and asked him if he could follow him but, seeing that he was so young, the future martyr told him: "You will do things that I will not be able to do," which, eventually, led him to the priesthood.
The confraternity's seminary in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, has been named Christ the King Seminary, and the boarding school was called José Luis, in honor of the future Mexican blessed.

The remains of José Luis rest in the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Sahuayo.


Charles de Foucauld

Charles de Foucauld, a French Army officer who entered religious life and became a hermit, will be beatified Nov. 13 in St. Peter's Basilica, says the postulator of the cause.

Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1858, de Foucauld was orphaned at 6. After a brief military career, in 1883 he undertook an expedition in the Moroccan desert which won him the gold medal of the French Geographic Society. His religious conversion occurred in 1886. He went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1888.

Heart of the Sahara

After de Foucauld's experience as a Trappist in Syria and as a hermit in Nazareth, in 1901 he was ordained a priest. He studied Arabic and Hebrew. "He lived in poverty, contemplation and humility, witnessing fraternally to God's love among Christians, Jews and Muslims," said Cardinal Joséé Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, during the ceremony for the decree's promulgation.

"In order to imitate Jesus' hidden life in Nazareth, de Foucauld went to live in Tamanrasset, in the heart of the Sahara Desert," added the cardinal. De Foucauld wrote several books on the Tuaregs, members of a Berber people of the western and central Sahara, including a book of grammar and a French-Tuareg dictionary. He founded the Union of Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart that was committed to the evangelization of the Tuaregs.

On Dec. 1, 1916, at 58, de Foucauld was shot dead in the midst of a skirmish among Berbers of Hoggar.

Ten religious congregations and eight spiritual life associations have been inspired by his testimony and charism.

Bishop Who Defied Hitler to Be Beatified in October
According to Muenster Diocese

ROME, JULY 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal August von Galen, who dared to defy Hitler, will be beatified Oct. 9, according to the Muenster Diocese Web page.

The cardinal, who lived 1878-1946, would become the first German to be proclaimed blessed in Benedict XVI's pontificate, the page said.

In a letter addressed to Bishop Reinhard Lettmann and dated June 29, Benedict XVI announced von Galen's beatification for "this year."

The diocese stated that the beatification will be held in St. Peter's Basilica, with a papal decree to be read by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, who will preside over the ceremony. The beatification is taking place after a miracle occurred in December attributed to Cardinal von Galen.

While bishop of Muenster, during the Nazi regime, Clemens August von Galen spoke out in defense of the rights of the poor and the sick, protesting strongly against euthanasia, the confiscation of monasteries and convents, the persecution of Jews and the expulsion of religious.

To avoid uprisings resulting from Bishop von Galen's protests, Hitler gave orders on Aug. 3, 1941, to officially block the euthanasia program. Euthanasia continued, though on a much smaller scale.

During von Galen's process of beatification, it was discovered that Pope Pius XII read his homilies and presented him as a "hero" to German priests of Westphalia.


Salesian Pushes the Cause of Don Bosco's Mother
Meets With Pope at Vacation Residence

LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- When welcoming Benedict XVI to the chalet where he is spending vacation, the rector-major of the Salesians asked a special favor.

Father Pascual Chávez asked the Pope to speed up the beatification of Margaret Occhiena, the mother of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians.

The rector-major, who spoke in private Monday with the Holy Father in the Salesian-owned chalet, handed him documents and a letter from all Salesian bishops worldwide, in which they request the promulgation of the decree of heroism of "Mama Margaret's" virtues.

The Salesian family would like Margaret Occhiena to be declared venerable on the 150th anniversary of her death, reported the congregation's ANS news agency.

Benedict XVI responded that the holiness of Occhiena is so evident that there should be no need for the whole process, showing how familiar he was with her virtues, added the news service.

"We are following the stages of the regular procedure," replied Father Chávez. The "positio" stating the formal argument for beatification was handed in June 25, 2000, while the examination by the historical experts ended in a positive manner the following Oct. 3.

The Holy Father expressed the hope that the beatification might be possible in 2006, ANS reported.


Margaret Occhiena was born on April 1, 1788, in Capriglio, and remained there until her marriage to Francis Bosco.

After her husband's premature death, she had to take charge of her family, helping her husband's mother, and taking care of his son Anthony, and educating her sons Joseph and John.

When John was ordained a priest, she left her home to accompany him for 10 years on his mission among the poor and abandoned young people of Turin.

"Without knowing it, she became 'co-founder' of the Salesian Family," states a biography issued by the Salesians.

"Without knowing how to write, but full of wisdom which comes from on high, she helped many poor street boys, no one's children. She put God before anything else, giving herself for him in a life of poverty, prayer and sacrifice," adds a brief biography.

She died at age 68 in Turin, in 1856.


Edith Stein's Appeal to the Young
Superior of Discalced Carmelites on the Saint's Impact

ROME, JULY 11, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Edith Stein, the Carmelite saint and co-patroness of Europe, could be a very engaging figure for some of the 800,000 expected to attend World Youth Day next month in Germany.

That is the opinion of Father Luis Aróstegui Gamboa, superior general of the Discalced Carmelites. "The search for Truth of Edith Stein -- Teresa Benedicta of the Cross -- could be a stimulus for young people who will go to Cologne, where she lived in the Carmel," he told ZENIT.

"Edith Stein is a very different figure from Thérèse of Lisieux, also a Carmelite saint, who enthused young people at Paris' World Youth Day," Father Aróstegui said.

"In the same way," he added, "I think that there are some young people, perhaps not all, who might be attracted by Stein's figure, as she is modern and her biography is very interesting in the best sense of the term: Jewish, German, seeker, who lost her faith and found it."

The Carmelite religious died in Auschwitz in August 1942.

Into contemplation

"She accepted her death in the concentration camp as communion with the cross of Christ, for her people and for peace in the world," said the superior general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. "This is impressive."

"Edith Stein was a person who was very committed to her faith and an exceptional personality; she was called to give lectures and classes when this was unusual, and she defended woman's rights and dignity," he said.

"This faith and fidelity, but at the same time reflection with freedom and responsibility, might be very attractive to young people," Father Aróstegui added.

He continued: "Moreover, her continuity of life when she entered the Cologne Carmel is also very interesting, as it was not a rejection of the intellectual life but, on the contrary, an entering more intensely into contemplation, which isn't inaction. In fact, her superiors asked her to continue with her intellectual work and she did so, in union with the Church and the needs of the world.

"Above all, the fact that she was a seeker and integrated values in her life and thought, and her profundity in the faith are very good for the world of young people who will meet in her native Germany."


Testimonies Sought About Holiness of Cardinal Pironio
Argentine Helped to Plan World Youth Days

ROME, JUNE 28, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Diocese of Rome appealed for testimonies about the holiness of Cardinal Eduardo Pironio who, as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, planned the first World Youth Days.

An edict, published in today's Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano and signed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar for Rome, stated that, "with the passing of the years," the Argentine cardinal's "fame for holiness" has increased, so there has been a formal request "to begin the cause for beatification and canonization of the Servant of God."

Cardinal Pironio died Feb. 5, 1998, in Rome. He was 77.

The edict requests that "if any writing that has the Servant of God as author, [and] has not already been handed in to the postulation of the cause," it should be sent to the diocesan tribunal of the Vicariate of Rome. The edict noted that printed works have already been collected.

Those who wish to keep originals of the cardinal's writings may send authenticated copies.

The diocese also asks the faithful to communicate to the tribunal "all news from which may be gathered elements favorable or contrary to the fame for holiness of the Servant of God."

It was also established that the edict be published in the curia of La Plata, Argentina, and in that diocese's review.

Key posts

Eduardo Pironio was born Dec. 3, 1920. He played an important part in Church history during the last quarter of the 20th century.

He organized the World Youth Days from the time John Paul II appointed him president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in April 1984.

Prior to this appointment, the cardinal had been prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, which oversees the Church's religious and consecrated persons.

Pope Paul VI elevated Archbishop Pironio to cardinal on May 24, 1976, after he had worked for many years in the Latin American bishops' council, first as secretary and later as president. In Argentina, he was bishop of Mar del Plata.


3 Beatifications Delegated to Warsaw Cardinal
Includes Communist-Era Martyr

WARSAW, Poland, JUNE 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- At Benedict XVI's request, Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw will preside here over the closing Mass of a National Eucharistic Congress and the beatification of three Polish priests.

Among the future blessed is a martyr, Father Ladislaw Findysz. He was born in Kroscienko Nizne, in the then Diocese of Przemysl of the Latins, on Dec. 13, 1907.

As a parish priest in Nowy Zmigrod, in the present-day Diocese of Rzeszow, he carried out his mission during World War II. In 1963, under the Communist regime, he was imprisoned because of his pastoral ministry.

In prison, he was humiliated and mistreated. His health broken, he was released from prison but died a few months later, on Aug. 21, 1964.

Cardinal Glemp, the primate of Poland, will also preside at the beatification of Father Bornislaw Markiewicz, who was born in Pruchnik, near Przemysl, on July 13, 1842.

He was a parish priest and seminary professor. He entered the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco in Turin, Italy.

Returning to Poland, he worked primarily in the formation of poor and orphaned young people.

He founded the men's and women's congregations of St. Michael the Archangel. The congregations were approved after his death, which occurred in Miejsce Piastowe on Jan. 29, 1912. The two congregations have belonged to the Salesian Family for years.

Formator of youth

The third future blessed is Father Ignatius Klopotowski. He was born on July 20, 1866, in Korzeniowka.

He was committed to charitable works. As a parish priest in Warsaw, he founded the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto. He worked in the formation of young people, the rehabilitation of troubled girls, and the care of orphans and the elderly. He died in Warsaw on Sept. 7, 1931.

Pilsudski Square in Warsaw will be the setting of the solemn Mass. Pope John Paul II presided at a Mass there during his first pastoral visit to Poland in 1979; at the time it was called Victory Square.

Benedict XVI has revived a papal tradition of not presiding at beatifications, a practice that was interrupted in 1971 by Pope Paul VI, when beatifying Maximilian Kolbe. For his part, Pope John Paul II presided over the beatification of 1,330 Servants of God.


Process for "Righteous" Emmanuele Stablum Moves Ahead
Saved Jews in Italy During Nazi Occupation

ROME, JUNE 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The diocesan process has been concluded for the beatification of Emmanuele Stablum, a religious hailed by Israel as "Righteous among the Nations" for saving Jews from Nazi persecution.

"An angel," is how he was described by Tibor Schlosser, adviser of the Israeli Embassy, during the November 2001 ceremony in which Stablum was conferred the "Righteous" recognition posthumously by the Yad Vashem Institute of Jerusalem.

Born in Terzolas in 1895, Stablum wanted to be a priest, but the superiors of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception asked him to become a doctor first, in order to treat patients of the Dermatological Institute of the Immaculate Conception (IDI), a sanatorium in Rome.

After the Nazi occupation of Italy in September 1943, Brother Emmanuele Stablum, who at the time was director of IDI, decided to save 51 Jews, by hiding them in the institute.

He put cream on the Jews' faces, so that the police would think they were patients with dermatological problems.

When Stablum died, Italo Levi-Luxardo, a Jewish doctor, wrote that Stablum, in addition to helping Jews, hid officers who did not want to be allied with the German occupation, as well as fugitives from the Nazi purges.

Elio Toaff, the former chief rabbi of Rome, commented: "To speak of the Israeli community's recognition is too little in regard to the work of salvation undertaken by the IDI which, without taking into account the grave danger it was in by helping Jews, showed with deeds of solidarity its determination to oppose injustice and oppression."

Brother Stablum was assistant general and later vicar general of his religious congregation. He died in 1950, at age 55.

Today the IDI is considered one of the most prestigious medical centers in Italy for dermatological problems.


American, Spanish Missionary Women Beatified

Benedict XVI Resumes Tradition of Not Presiding at Ceremony

VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Two women missionaries, from the United States and Spain, are the first to be beatified during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.

American Marianne Cope (1838-1918) and Spanish Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus (1868-1940) were raised to the altars on Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica. Portuguese Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, presided at the ceremony.

The Bishop of Rome has taken up on this occasion the Papal tradition of not presiding at beatifications, a practice that was interrupted in 1971 by Paul VI, when beatifying Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe.

Beginning in the Holy Year of 1975, Paul VI presided over beatifications until the end of his Pontificate. John Paul II continued in the steps of Paul VI, and presided over the beatification of 1,338 members of the Church.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins delivered his homily in Italian, Spanish and English, taking into account a numerous presence of American, Latin American and Spanish pilgrims.

He described Marianne Cope's life as "a wonderful work of divine grace."

An evangelizer of lepers in Molokai, she was the successor of the apostle of the lepers on the Hawaiian island, Blessed Father Damian De Veuster.

Born in Heppenheim, Germany, she was christened Barbara. She immigrated to New York in the United States when she was three-years old, and eventually became a U.S. citizen.

She belonged to the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Syracuse, New York. She held several positions of responsibility, but gave her final testimony of charity working with the lepers in the secluded island community, where she died Aug. 9, 1918.

"Blessed Marianne loved those suffering from leprosy more than she loved her very self. She served them, educated them, and guided them with wisdom, love and strength. She saw in them the suffering face of Jesus," explained the cardinal.

"Like the Good Samaritan, she became their mother. She drew strength from her faith, the Eucharist, her devotion to our blessed Mother, and from prayer. She did not seek earthly honors or approval. She wrote: 'I do not expect a high place in heaven. I will be very grateful to have a little corner where I can love God for all eternity,'" he stated.

The cardinal described Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus, co-founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary, dedicated to the evangelization of the Amazonian tribes, as "one of the great missionaries of the past century."

"She made frequent apostolic trips to Peru and Europe, and even went to China. She had the temper of an intrepid and tireless fighter, as well as a maternal tenderness capable of conquering hearts," he said.

Born Florentina Nicol Goñi in Tafalla, Spain, she eventually entered the congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Third Order of Huesca. She was a teacher and directress of the school adjacent to the convent.

At 45, she traveled as a missionary to Peru, where she helped Dominican Bishop Ramón Zubieta in the foundation of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary, of whom she was the first general superior. She died in Pamplona, Spain, Feb. 24, 1940.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins announced that Benedict XVI set the feast day of Marianne of Molokai on Jan. 23, and that of Ascensión of the Heart of Jesus on Feb. 24.


Blessed Elisabetta Hesselblad Hailed for Wartime Aid to Jews

Religious Founder Proclaimed "Righteous Among The Nations"

ROME, MAY 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Blessed Elisabetta Hesselblad, founder of the Order of Our Most Holy Savior of St. Bridget, was proclaimed "Righteous Among the Nations" for helping Jews in Rome during World War II.

The medal awarded to the Swede will be given on June 3 to her successor as general abbess of the Order, Mother Maria Tekla Famiglietti, by Shai Cohen, adviser of the Israeli Embassy.

The Yad Vashem remembrance authority in Israel, grants the title of Righteous Among the Nations to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The award ceremony in the Chancery Palace will be attended by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State; Walter Veltroni, mayor of Rome; Swedish ambassadors; and relatives of the blessed.

Mother Hesselblad, a Lutheran convert to Catholicism, founded the religious order in 1911. Today the order has spread to 16 countries. Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 9, 2000.

The religious lived in Rome during the German occupation of Italy. Her residence as general abbess of the order was St. Bridget's Convent in Piazza Farnese.

After moving because of the Nazi occupation, the Roman Jewish families Piperno and Sed decided to return to the Eternal City on Sept. 8, 1943, and sought refuge in St. Bridget's Convent.

Mother Hesselblad hid them and also took care that they not be compelled to attend Christian prayers.


An extraordinary Roman girl, Antionetta Meo.

Buried in the Church of the Holy Cross, she is recognized as a "servant of God," the first step toward sainthood.

Antonietta, or "Nennolina" as her family called her, was like most any little girl except for her precocious and deep love of Jesus. She was born on Dec. 15, 1930, and baptized on the feast of the Holy Innocents. The date of her baptism turned out to be a foreshadowing of her life. At age 5, she was diagnosed with cancer and at age 6 her leg was amputated. Shortly before her 7th birthday, she died.

What would appear to be a tragic story, takes on its joyous tone through the letters of Nennolina. Even as she was learning to write, her first letters were to Jesus.

One side of the room shows the possessions of any little girl. Dolls, tea sets, school dresses neatly arrayed seem normal enough until one notices the cane by Nennolina's Sunday coat and remembers the trauma she suffered.

The other side of the room documents the rich, intense and exemplary spiritual life of this little Christian soldier who was confirmed just before she died. The same little girl who asked God to "let me die before I commit a mortal sin."

Nennolina would put her letters under a statue of Jesus by her bed so "at night he could read them." The letters show her acceptance of suffering as a mark of Jesus' favor. "I am happy that Jesus sent me this difficulty, it means I am his beloved," she wrote.

Offering up her lost leg to God for lost souls, she begged Jesus to "give me many souls … to make them good so they can come to heaven with you."

The little suffering girl wrote 105 letters to Jesus and Mary, some in the awkward script of a young hand, some when she was too ill to write and dictated to her mother. In 1937, one letter found its way to Pope Pius XI.

It read, "Dear Jesus crucified, I love you so very much! I want to be with you on Calvary. Dear Jesus, give me the necessary strength to stand the pain which I offer to you for those who have sinned."

The next day, the Pope sent a legate to bring his apostolic blessing to Nennolina. Shortly after, she died.

Her example has not only provided much solace to those suffering but has also spurred conversions. Her age, however, has proved a difficulty on her path to sainthood. Her bravery, faith and deep love of Christ continues, nonetheless, to set an example for those many times her age.


Pope to Proclaim Cry of Abitene Martyrs
"We Cannot Live without Sunday!"

BARI, Italy, MAY 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- On his first trip outside the province of Rome, Benedict XVI will make known to the world the message left by the martyrs of Abitene: "We cannot live without Sunday."

The martyrs' message is the theme of the 24th Italian National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Bari May 21-29. The Pope will preside at the closing Mass, confirmed the Vatican.

Martyred in 303, the Christians lived in Abitene, a city of the Roman province called "Africa Proconsularis," today's Tunis. They were victims of Emperor Diocletian's persecution, initiated after years of relative calm.

The emperor ordered that "the sacred texts and holy testaments of the Lord and the divine Scriptures be found, so that they could be burnt; the Lord's basilicas were to be pulled down; and the celebration of sacred rites and holy reunions of the Lord were to be prohibited" (Acts of the Martyrs, I), explained the organizers of the eucharistic congress.

Disobeying the emperor's orders, a group of 49 Christians of Abitene (among them Senator Dativus, the priest Saturninus, the virgin Victoria, and the reader Emeritus) gathered weekly in one of their homes to celebrate Sunday Mass.

Taken by surprise during one of the meetings in Ottavio Felice's home, they were arrested and taken to Carthage to Proconsul Anulinus to be interrogated.

When the Proconsul asked them if they kept the Scriptures in their homes, the martyrs answered courageously that "they kept them in their hearts," revealing that they did not wish to separate faith from life.

"I implore you, Christ, hear me," "I thank you, O God," "I implore you, Christ, have mercy" were exclamations uttered by the martyrs during their torment. Along with their prayers they offered their lives and asked that their executioners be forgiven.

Among the testimonies, is that of Emeritus, who affirmed fearlessly that he received Christians for the celebration. The Proconsul asked him: "Why have you received Christians in your home, transgressing the imperial dispositions?"

"Sine dominico non possumus" ("We cannot live without Sunday"), answered Emeritus.

"The term 'dominicum' has a triple meaning. It indicates the Lord's day, but also refers to what constitutes its content -- his resurrection and presence in the eucharistic event," explained the congress' organizers.

The motive of martyrdom "must not be sought in the sole observance of a 'precept,'" as "in that period the Church had not yet established in a formal way the Sunday precept," noted Monsignor Vito Angiuli, pro-vicar of the Archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, in last Sunday's edition of the Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

"Deep down was the conviction that Sunday Mass is a constitutive element of one's Christian identity and that there is no Christian life without Sunday and without the Eucharist," he stressed.

This is clearly appreciated, he said, in the "commentary that the writer of the Acts of the Martyrs made to the question posed by the Proconsul to martyr Felice: 'I am not asking you if you are a Christian, but if you have taken part in the assembly or if you have a book of the Scriptures," he stressed.

"O foolish and ridiculous question of the judge!" states the commentary of the acts. "As if a Christian could be without the Sunday Eucharist, or the Sunday Eucharist could be celebrated without there being a Christian! Don't you know, Satan, that it is the Sunday Eucharist which makes the Christian and the Christian that makes the Sunday Eucharist, so that one cannot subsist without the other, and vice versa?"

"When you hear someone say 'Christian,' know that there is an assembly that celebrates the Lord; and when you hear someone say 'assembly,' know that a Christian is there," concludes the quotation.


book review by Edmund Campion

Life of Eileen O'Connor; Waterhole of Hope; Sacred Space
                                                                                                 by John Hosie

You may start getting ready for another Australian saint. The appearance of John Hosie's biography Eileen: The Life of Eileen O'Connor (Sydney: St Paul's $29.95) is a signal that the Brown Sisters have recharged their drive to see their co-founder canonised. It's a fascinating story. Church history is often an account of the quarrels of good people; but in its purest form it is a saga of the saints. Spilled from a pram at the age of three, Eileen O'Connor suffered an extreme curvature of the spine that kept her in pain and often in bed for much of her short life. Her twisted body refused to grow; all her life she was just over one metre in height. Eileen offered her suffering as a prayer for the missionary work of the church.

Then a real life missionary came into her life, Father Ted McGrath MSC, the local priest who brought her Holy Communion, and a spark ignited between them. They began to dream a great dream that would join them together for eternity. At the time - this was early in the 20th century - social services for the very poor were limited. There were hospitals such as St Vincent's where the poor could find a place but often the sick and disabled poor just stayed at home and rotted. But what if, Eileen and Father Ted dreamed, you could inspire some nurses to devote their lives to caring for the poor "and the poor only" in their own homes. And so, just as World War I was about to start, Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor came into being.

They were nurses, not nuns, wearing a washable white nurse's uniform with a brown hat and a brown cloak (St Joseph's colour) - so Sydneysiders called them the Brown Nurses and later the Brown Sisters. They lived in a home, not a convent, and the heart of their home was the invalid Eileen O'Connor whom they called their "little mother". She liked games and laughter and picnics and playing with her dog, Rags. She ate little but was addicted to tea, so that taking tea with her was always an occasion, almost Japanese in its rituals. Personally she was very close to her nurses, teaching them to pray and giving them points for daily meditation and keeping their hearts pure. When they left the home each morning, it was to serve Christ in the poor; and when they returned in the evening it was to Eileen's bedside, to discuss their work and to be encouraged by her.

That home of theirs, however, became a cause of heartbreak. Among their earliest supporters were a well-off brother and sister, the Gells. Father Edward Gell, parish priest of Ryde in Sydney, was a graduate of Propaganda Fide College, Rome, the training school for future bishops, so not easily spooked by church authorities (although he met his match when Norman Gilroy came to town - but that's another story). He and his sister Frances put up the money to buy a home for the nurses in Coogee, a seaside suburb. They put ownership in the names of Eileen and Father Ted. Hello? Father Ted was a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, a priest with a vow of poverty. Unlike Father Gell, an unvowed secular priest, he could not own property. Thus when an enforcer from head office came out to Australia to smarten up the Missionaries, he quickly got onto Father Ted's case. Take your name off those title deeds, he told Eileen's co-founder. No way, said the young priest. Well, then, off to Tasmania you go.

The story now becomes somewhat operatic. Father Ted does go to Tasmania but Eileen, thinking he might be losing his vocation, goes after him. Then they travel back to Sydney, where Father Gell invites them to join him on a Pacific cruise. On their return Father Ted is convicted of disobedience and the canonical crime of "flight with a woman" and he is expelled from the Missionaries. I'll appeal to Rome, he responds. Eileen says, I'll go with you - when they see me they'll know this "flight with a woman" business is absurd; I'm no sex object - as a later age might put it. Afterwards it all went pearshaped. Father Ted got back into the Missionaries all right, but he was exiled from Australia and posted to the United States. On her return to Sydney, Eileen was given the cold shoulder by church authorities and the Catholic gossip mill ground her small. She and Father Ted had a couple of furtive meetings - one notably in Bombay, whither she sailed from Sydney, Father Ted, by then a WWI military chaplain, coming from Basra in Iraq, or Mesopotamia as it was then called. Under these conditions the survival of the Brown Nurses may be thought providential.

They have been well served by historians. I first got to know their story when one of my students did an assignment on them 20 years ago. (Frank Jones, where are you?) He led me to a useful booklet by the fine MSC historian John F McMahon and I wrote about Eileen and Father Ted in a Jesuit magazine, collected in Great Australian Catholics. Next, in 1992, came a capacious book by Tom Boland, the Brisbane priest who has written good biographies of Archbishops Carr and Duig. He took the story through to Eileen's death, in 1921; the church's recognition of the Nurses as a religious congregation, in 1953; the return of Father Ted to the Home at Coogee, in 1969; and his death there at the age of 96. Now John Hosie has put another good biography alongside these. More information has emerged since Dr Boland wrote. It's a sensational story yet John Hosie does not sensationalise it. He is quite matter-of-fact about various supernatural manifestations - attacks by Satan, appearances by the Blessed Virgin Mary, the discovery that Eileen's body was incorrupt fifteen years after her death - manifestations a less temperate writer could not have resisted shouting about.

Church authority is a necessary part of Eileen O'Connor's story, as it is of another story, a quite different one, that I've been reading lately. A few kilometres outside the NSW provincial city of Goulburn there's a property which was once a Catholic orphanage and is now a "House of Prayer". It's mentioned in Michael McGirr's Bypass (see Online Catholics No 19) and when I was in Melbourne I found a book on it tucked into a bottom shelf and the Catholic Bookshop: Waterhole of Hope by Annie Patterson, published by Spectrum in Melbourne three years ago. (One of the problems of being an historian of the grassroots is that much of your source material can be evasive.) It's a big book, really two books; a ruminative memoir by the "founder", Sue Gordon Woods, and a parallel account of the House's first 25 years. A big book but a good one, especially if you come from a more structured environment for then it will give you a shake and maybe get you thinking about how your life has run. Through the quarter century there were three archbishops who had ultimate oversight of the House of Prayer, Thomas Vincent Cahill, Edward Bede Clancy and Francis Patrick Carroll - three very different individuals, each charged to make or delay difficult decisions that would impact on the life of the House. What struck me about this was the constant understanding and sympathy and - shall I say? - love Sue Gordon Walker and her companions showed towards their bishops. It's not the sort of thing that makes the news but nonetheless it's a reality of our story.

One of the things that puzzled me about the House of Prayer was how they actually prayed. Oh, they go off to Mass and make retreats and share biblical insights and meditate on the Bible and all that; but when I put the book down I found it difficult to imagine what prayer life in the House might be like. This line of thought was teasing me because, also in Melbourne, I'd met a woman called Michelle Anderson. She's started her own publishing house, led to it by her own need. An alumna of a Loreto school, she found herself seeking spiritual sustenance; and so discovered www.sacredspace.ie, the website run by the Irish Jesuits to meet the modern hunger for a prayer life that nourishes. Good stuff, she found. Coming from a background in publishing, her next thought was - BOOK: had anyone thought of turning this wonderful website into a book? And the answer was no. So we have Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2005 (Melbourne: Michelle Anderson Publishing: $24.95). It follows the church's liturgical year, which means that Page One is about to start. As I was looking at this, the postman brought the latest copy of Madonna, the Jesuit spirituality magazine and I found that they have seen it too. I'll borrow two of their sentences: "This is a book to help everyday prayer go more sweetly and to help you find unexpected space for God each day. It offers prayers for each day of the year, with reflections on prayer set within a standard weekly format, the gospel reading, and a few questions about the reading." Amen to that.


Young Politician and Engineer "of Charity” to be Beatified

Catholic Action's Alberto Marvelli Is on His Way to the Altar

VATICAN CITY, SEPT 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- When John Paul II beatifies Italian engineer Alberto Marvelli (1918-1946) of Catholic Action this Sunday, he will give the universal Church an exemplary figure for young people and politicians.

The characteristics of the future blessed were highlighted on Monday by Archbishop Angelo Comastri of Loreto, who described him as "a youth who made himself a saint as a youth." Marvelli "reminds us that youth is not the age of rashness, nor the age ... to waste time; it is not the age of whims and amusements," said the archbishop.

"Youth is the most beautiful time in which good can be done. St. Philip Neri said to the young people of his time: 'Lucky you, young people, who have so much time to do good!" Alberto Marvelli, whom John Paul II described as the "engineer of charity," understood "this well and reminds young people precisely of this truth," the archbishop added on Vatican Radio.

Marvelli was also "a young Christian involved in politics," where "he left a sign of cleanness, transparency, dignity, correctness, which is a great message for all politicians today. One can be in politics and be a saint, and this is a very great message that comes from the life of Alberto Marvelli," the prelate emphasized.

A native of Ferrara, Italy, he was born on March 21, 1918. Marvelli participated in the Salesian "Oratorio" and in Catholic Action, where his faith matured in a decisive option: "My program of life is summarized in one word: holiness," he said.

Of a strong and determined character, and a great lover of sports, especially cycling, Marvelli prayed, taught catechesis, and expressed apostolic zeal, charity, and serenity, according to the biography issued by the Holy See. He chose Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) as the model of his youth. Frassati was a member of Italian Catholic Action, beatified by John Paul II in 1990.

When Marvelli finished his university studies in mechanical engineering in 1941, he joined the army during World War II, a conflict he firmly condemned. He was discharged as three of his brothers were at the front. He then worked for a brief period for FIAT, Italian automobile company, in Turin.

Following the events that led to the fall of Fascism and the German occupation of Italy in 1943, Marvelli returned to his home in Rimini.

During the war he did much work for the poor and was very active in the post war reconstruction of his city.

At that time, the future blessed even went without shoes, giving his own to the needy. He would go on his bicycle to take food and spiritual solace to refugees in hiding, witnesses said during the beatification process.

Marvelli also rescued many young people from deportation during the German occupation. After the city was liberated on Sept. 23, 1945, he was only 26 and one of the advisers of the first junta of the liberation committee.

He was put in charge of housing in the city, and later reconstruction. At one point Marvelli wrote: "To serve is better than to be served. Jesus serves."

When political parties re-surfaced in Rimini, Marvelli registered as a Christian Democrat, living "his political commitment as a service to organized society: political activity could and should be transformed in the highest _expression of lived faith," the Holy See biography notes.

In 1945, the Bishop of Rimini asked him to direct Catholic professionals. His commitment can be summarized in two words: culture and charity. He also founded a popular university and opened a soup kitchen for the poor, where he himself served and listened to their needs. As co-founder of Italian Workers' Catholic Action, he formed a cooperative for construction workers.

He showed his genuine love for the Eucharist in a continuous relationship, from where he drew the strength "to carry out his work of redemption and liberation, capable of humanizing the face of the earth," the Holy See emphasized.

Marvelli died on Oct. 5, 1946, when a military truck hit him while he was riding his bicycle to a polling station (he was one of the candidates in the election for the first communal administration). He was 28.

On Sunday, Sept. 5, in addition to Alberto Marvelli, John Paul II will beatify two other outstanding figures of Catholic Action: young Italian lay woman Pina Suriano and Spanish priest Pere Tarres i Claret.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John Paul II Will Beatify Pere Tarres i Claret

Ecclesiastical Adviser to Catholic Action in Spain

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Pere Tarres i Claret was a doctor, a priest, an apostle, a formator of youth and he will be beatified this Sunday by John Paul II in Loreto.

As a young student and doctor, the future blessed already walked "on the paths of holiness." As a priest, "he dedicated himself to intense pastoral activity" and, in particular, to the "formation of the youth of Catholic Action," highlighted Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, in his decree last June that opened the doors to the imminent beatification.

An ecclesiastical adviser of Catholic Action, Pere Tarres i Claret was "a great educator, say those who knew him: he knew how to teach to love," acknowledged Italian Catholic Action.

A native of the city of Manresa, near Barcelona, Spain, Father Claret was born on May 30, 1905. He studied at the faculty of medicine of the University of Barcelona. While living in this city, he frequented St. Philip Neri's Oratory.

He was a member, with great apostolic zeal, of the Catalonian Federation of Christian Youth. Both in the federation as well as in Catholic Action he worked in several posts simultaneously. He made a vow of chastity at 22 with the approval of his spiritual director.

In 1928, after completing medical school, he established himself definitively in Barcelona. Together with his friend, Dr. Gerardo Manresa, he founded the sanatorium-clinic of Our Lady of Mercy in that city.

During the disturbing period of the Spanish Civil War, as a refugee in Barcelona, he secretly took communion to the persecuted. He also acted as a field doctor, heroically looking after numerous wounded, and did not miss an occasion to manifest his faith.

He returned home from the front in 1939, and entered the Seminary of Barcelona that same year. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1942.

The future blessed was entrusted with many pastoral activities in his short eight years as a priest. Among the offices he held were that of diocesan vice-assistant of Catholic Action youth in Barcelona and assistant of the association's center for women and youth in the parish of St. Vincent of Sarria.

In 1945 he wrote in his diary that he felt "submerged in the ocean of the apostolate, as he had dreamed about for so long, with the same fire and enthusiasm that he felt as a lay person for the federation" of Christian Youth.

After three months of a painful illness, Pere Tarres i Claret died at 45 in the clinic he had founded on Aug. 31, 1950.

In addition to Father Claret, John Paul II will beatify on Sunday two other outstanding figures of Catholic Action: young lay Italians Pina Suriano (1915-1950), and Alberto Marvelli (1918-1946).


Czeslaw Milosz - a life infused with faith

Jo Siedlecka

The Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, died at his home in Krakow, Poland on Saturday. He was 93.

Best known as a poet, Milosz also wrote novels and dozens of essays. His translations of Polish writers introduced many foreign readers to the literature of his homeland. His poems were an inspiration to the Solidarity trade union movement fighting the communist regime in Poland in the 1970s and '80s.

Faith infused all his writing. A committed Catholic, Milosz was drawn to the Book of Job, where suffering tests a man's faith in God but does not break it. Milosz translated many books of the Bible from Hebrew and New Testament Greek into Polish. His favourite books were Psalms, Job and Revelations.

Professor Robert Faggen, from Claremont McKenna College in California who edited Striving Toward Being: The Letters of Merton and Milosz (1997) said: "He had a profound understanding of the history of religion and the Christian church. One of the questions he would always be asking is: 'How could a just and good God have created a world so filled with cruelty and torture?' "

Professor Faggen said: "He is without question one of the heroic figures of 20th century poetry, although 'heroic' was a mantle he shunned. At the Solidarity monument in Gdansk, you have icons of three figures: Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II and Milosz."

Faggen said the Pope and the poet began corresponding over Milosz's treatise on theology and its justifications of evil.

"One of the things the Pope said to him was: "In your poetry, you take two steps forward and one step back.'" Czeslaw replied: 'Holy Father, how in this century can I do otherwise?' "

Born in what is now Lithuania, Milosz moved to Poland and survived the Nazi occupation during World War II and the Soviet takeover that followed. His poetry gave witness, creating a literary record filled with anger and irony but not despair.

Milosz credited French wartime philosopher Simone Weil for teaching him to live with contradiction. He wrote about this conflict in several poems. Explaining his own rationale for the existence of God, he said: "It's not up to me to know anything about heaven or hell. But in this world, there is too much ugliness and horror. So there must be, somewhere, goodness and truth. And that means somewhere God must be."

Paying tribute to Milosz, Lech Walesa, former Polish president and Solidarity leader said: ""He inspired, encouraged and strengthened us. He belonged to the generation of princes, great personalities."

Czeslaw Milosz is survived by two sons. His first wife, Janina, died in 1986. His second wife, Carol, died in 2003.

Although he was ill, Milosz kept writing until shortly before his death. In a poem called 'Meaning' he wrote in 1991:

When I die, I will see the lining of the world
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.



VATICAN CITY, JAN 4, 2005 (VIS) - In Rome at the beginning of last month, the second edition of the Roman Martyrology was presented. The new Martyrology is an updated list not, as the name might suggest, of martyrs, but of all the saints and blesseds venerated by the Church.

  The latest edition of the Martyrology was presented during an event promoted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to commemorate the conciliar constitution on liturgical reform "Sacrosanctum Concilium", promulgated on December 4, 1963.

  The new edition contains certain differences with respect to the earlier edition, which was published in 2001 and was the first since Vatican Council II. A number of typographical errors have been corrected and the 117 people canonized or beatified between 2001 and 2004 have been added. Moreover, many saints, mostly Italian-Greek monks, whose names have not thus far been listed in the Martyrology but who are effectively much venerated, especially in southern of Italy, have also been included.

  The updated Martyrology contains 7,000 saints and blesseds currently venerated by the Church, and whose cult is officially recognized and proposed to the faithful as models worthy of imitation.


“Lion of Munster” opposed Nazi Euthanasia and Persecution of Jews

Clemens Augustus von Galen To Be Beatified

MUNSTER, Germany, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Clemens Augustus von Galen (1878-1946), better known as the "Lion of Munster," were recognized on Dec. 20, 2003.

Last Year the medical-theological Commission had already recognized the validity of a miracle. Now it corresponds to bishops and cardinals to endorse the cause of beatification. Once this step is taken, the Holy Father will sign the decree and decide the date of the beatification ceremony.

Clemens Augustus, Count von Galen, belonged to the noble family of Spee. His uncle, Wilhelm von Ketteler was a well-known bishop of Mainz. After completing his studies and obtaining excellent results, he was ordained a priest and on Sept. 5, 1933 appointed bishop of Munster.

During the whole Nazi period, he raised his voice in defense of the rights of the Church, the poor, the Jews, and the sick. He energetically opposed the spread of Nazi paganism.

His homilies of the summer of 1941 became famous, which brought him to the brink of being arrested and condemned to death. Von Galen protested forcefully against euthanasia, the seizure of monasteries and convents, the expulsion of religious and the persecution of Jews.

Especially effective was von Galen's offensive against Hitler's euthanasia program.

In a homily opposing euthanasia, von Galen said: "Never, for any reason, can a man kill an innocent if it is not in war or for legitimate defense." "If the principle by which we can kill our non-productive brothers is affirmed and accepted, calamities and misfortunes will strike us when we are old and weak!"

The bishop of Munster added in the homily: "If we allow one of us to kill those who are non-productive, misfortune will strike the invalid who exhausted and sacrificed themselves, and lost their health and strength in the productive process."

"If we even once accept the principle of the right to kill our non-productive brothers -- even if it is limited from the start to the poor and defenseless mentally ill --, then by this principle murder becomes admissible for all non-productive beings, the incurably ill, those made invalid at work or in war, and ourselves, when we are old, weak and so not productive."

"Arriving at this point, the life of none of us will be safe. Any commission can include us in the list of the non-productive," von Galen alerted.

"No police, no court will investigate our murder, or punish the murderer as he deserves."

"Who will be able to trust a doctor? He could classify his patient as non-productive and receive instructions to kill him."

"It is impossible to imagine the abysses of moral depravity and general mistrust, even in the family realm, to which we would descend if such a horrible doctrine were tolerated, accepted, and put into practice," von Galen concluded.

The homily was reproduced in leaflets which were dropped by Britain's Royal Air Force over Germany.

Von Galen's resistance to the Nazi euthanasia programs was kept up by other priests, among them the Provost of Berlin Cathedral, Bernhard Lichtenberg.

Lichtenberg was arrested, tried and condemned in October 1941. He died in 1943 on the way to Dachau. John Paul II raised him to the honor of the altar on June 23, 1996.

Von Galen's homilies had great impact among the wounded soldiers returning from the battlefront. Many of them, in fact, thought they would be eliminated in the euthanasia program.

Despite his efforts, von Galen's courageous opposition did not stop the horror machine. Hitler announced publicly that he had put an end to the euthanasia program on Aug. 24, 1941, but the programs to eliminate the weak, the sick and non-Aryans continued.


Statue Unveiled to Italian Franciscan Who Saved Many From Nazi Persecution

Inauguration Took Place in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua

PADUA, Italy, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A bust of Father Placido Cortese, known for his efforts to save numerous people from Nazi persecution, was unveiled in the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua.

Born Nicolo Cortese di Cherso and called Father Placido by his brothers in the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, he was director of the magazine "St. Anthony's Messenger."

According to Father Apollonio Tottoli, the priest’s biographer, Father Placido "did not look like a hero. He was small and thin. But he had amazing courage and determination to the point of facing martyrdom in prayer."

At the height of the war, when the city of Padua was occupied by the Nazis, Father Placido organized a network to rescue prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. He saved the lives of refugees, prisoners, Jewish and Slovenian persecuted politicians and others.

Carlo Bolzonella, who knew him, said that "Father Placido was an angel, he had amazing charity, he was a friar who was truly all heart."

"I once saw him weep because he couldn't help all those who were imploring him. He helped the Jews and to this end he often asked me for two workers who later went on to Como and Switzerland," he added.

When the Gestapo began to look for him, Father Placido decided to stay in his monastery, which enjoyed papal extraterritoriality.

Subsequently, on Oct. 8, 1944, with the pretext of helping a person, he was lured out of the monastery and arrested by the Nazis.

Some eyewitnesses say that during the interrogations, despite unheard of tortures, Father Placido assumed all responsibility and did not reveal the name of a single collaborator in the charity network.

Slovenian Colonel Vladimiro Vauhnih, head of the pro-Allies information network, reported that "the Gestapo took out the eyes of the religious, cut his tongue off, and buried him alive."

Father Placido was 37 when he died. His cause of beatification opened in January, 2002 in Trieste, the place where he was tortured, whom people already call the "Paduan Father Kolbe."

The biography of the blessed is entitled "Father Placido Cortese: Victim of Nazism," and is available in Italian from Messaggero di S.Antonio Editrice.


Marvelli, a Blessed in Jacket and Tie

Interview with Biographer of New Blessed

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Blessed Alberto Marvelli is not what most would consider a traditional blessed: he was a young, athletic layman who often wore a jacket and tie.

In this interview, Professor Roberto Di Ceglie of the Pontifical Lateran University, explains to ZENIT how "faith and history" are intertwined in Marvelli who was proclaimed blessed a month ago in Loreto. He also outlines his personality and describes him as "athletic, responsible and credible."

Professor Roberto Di Ceglie is co-author with Natalino Valentini of a book on the new lay blessed entitled "Alberto Marvelli: Fidelity to God and Fidelity to History” published in Italian by Messaggero di S.Antonio Editrice. The book includes the minutes of a scientific congress promoted by the diocese of Rimini, Italy, this year.

Q: What does this contemporary young saint in a jackete and tie have to say to the world?

Di Ceglie: A saint in a tie and jacket means the Christian capacity to dress oneself with the clothing of history, making it significant in the light of the pillars of faith, the Eucharist, and prayer.

In other words, this clothing assumes its maximum potentiality in the constant remembrance of the values of faith in a God who himself is involved in the first person in human affairs.

Q: Marvelli is among the most luminous figures of Italian Catholicism. Why?

Di Ceglie: Because in him faith and history have been united in a marvelous way. This bond, which brings with it the splendor of a life lived to the fullest thanks to faith in Christ, finds in Marvelli an _expression of exceptional power: young, athletic, courageous, intelligent, able in his studies and successful at work, solid in his positions but respectful of diversity, attentive to the needs of others, determined to pursue objectives with obligation and responsibility, credible, sure.

Who would not be attracted by the fascination of such a figure? Luminous, without a doubt.

Q: Lay, young, saint: is it a path we will see increasingly?

Di Ceglie: In each one of us, certainly, there is the yearning to see and meet saints. It is therefore desirable that holiness be increasingly allied to the condition of the laity, who can have the honor of living it in the context of daily life, in an authentic missionary spirit of which the need is increasingly noted.

And it turns out to be even more fascinating that youth comes across such paths, because it is a symbol of freshness, of openness to reality and, in a certain sense, of serene correspondence with events and history, still not vitiated, and if I am allowed the _expression, foreign to a certain pedantry that at times comes with age.

In a word, it is a question of re-thinking, from this point of view, the spontaneity of the little ones, who not by chance Jesus called to be free to go to Him.

Q: Truth and charity, contemplation and action: Marvelli is spoken about as an extraordinary example of faith and history. How did he do it?

Di Ceglie: The fact of appreciating and developing earthly realities is constitutive of Christianity.

Medieval culture combined the saying Gratia non destruit naturam sed perficit, namely, that grace does not diminish but empowers the dignity of the things of the world in relationship to God who loves man to the point of sacrificing His Son for his salvation.

Marvelli's extraordinary experience is attributable, undoubtedly, to an exceptional visibility of this relationship, which finds its effective _expression in the capacity to combine faith, politics, and ethics.

But beyond this particularity, we must say that in general there is no holiness without this correspondence between faith and history.


John Paul II's Homily After Beatification of 5 persons
"Allowed Themselves to Be Guided by the Word of God"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II's homily today, delivered during the solemn Mass in which he proclaimed blessed Peter Vigne (1670-1740); Joseph-Marie Cassant (1878-1903); Anna Katharina Emmerick (1774-1824); María Ludovica De Angelis (1880-1962); and Charles I of Austria (1887-1922).

* * *

1. "'Verbum Domini manet in aeternum' -- The Word of the Lord remains for ever."

The exclamation of the Song of the Gospel refers us to the very foundations of the faith. In the face of the passage of time and the continual alterations of history, the revelation that God has offered us in Christ remains stable forever and opens a horizon of eternity on our earthly journey.

This is what the five new blessed experienced in a singular way: Peter Vigne, Joseph-Marie Cassant, Anna Katharina Emmerick, María Ludovica De Angelis, Charles of Austria. They allowed themselves to be guided by the Word of God as by a luminous and sure light, which never failed to illuminate their path.

[In French]

2. By contemplating Christ present in the Eucharist and in his salvific passion, Father Peter Vigne was led to be an authentic disciple and faithful missionary of the Church. May his example give the faithful the desire to draw audacity for the mission from the love of the Eucharist and adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament! Let us pray that he will touch the hearts of young people so that they will accept to consecrate themselves totally to him in the priesthood or religious life, if they are called by God. May the Church in France see in Father Vigne a model so that new sowers of the Gospel will arise.

3. Brother Joseph-Marie always put his trust in God, in contemplation of the mystery of the passion, and in union with Christ present in the Eucharist. In this way, he was permeated with the love of God, abandoning himself to him, "sole happiness on earth," and detaching himself from the goods of the world in the silence of a Trappist monastery. In the midst of trials, with his eyes fixed on Christ, he offered his sufferings for the Lord and the Church. May our contemporaries, in particular the contemplatives and the sick, discover, following his example, the mystery of prayer, which raises the world to God and gives strength in trials!

[In Spanish]

4. "God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control."

These words of St. Paul invite us to collaborate in the building of the Kingdom of God, from the perspective of faith. They may well be applied to the life of Blessed Ludovica De Angelis, whose life was totally consecrated to the glory of God and the service of her fellowmen.

Prominent in her figure are the heart of a mother, her leadership qualities, and the very audacity of saints. She had a concrete and generous love for sick children, enduring sacrifices to alleviate them; for her collaborators at the La Plata Hospital she was a model of joy and responsibility, creating a family atmosphere; for her sisters in the community, she was a genuine example of a Daughter of Our Lady of Mercy. In all this, she was sustained by prayer, making of her life a continuous communication with the Lord.

[In German]

5. Blessed Anna Katharina Emmerick showed and experienced in her own flesh "the bitter passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ." The fact that, from being the daughter of poor peasants, who constantly sought closeness to God, she became the famous "mystic of Muenster" is a work of divine grace. Her material poverty is contrasted with her rich interior life. As much as by her patience to endure her physical weaknesses, we are impressed by the strength of character of the new blessed and her firmness in the faith.

She received this strength from the Holy Eucharist. In this way, her example opened the hearts of poor and rich men, educated and humble people, to complete loving passion toward Jesus Christ. Still today she communicates to all the salvific message: "By his wounds you have been healed" (see 1 Peter 2:24).

6. The decisive duty of the Christian is in seeking the will of God in everything, in knowing it and carrying it out. This daily challenge was addressed by the man of state and Christian Charles, of the House of Austria. He was a friend of peace. In his eyes, war was "something horrible." Ascending the throne in the midst of the storm of the First World War, he tried to take up the peace initiative of my predecessor Benedict XV.

From the beginning, Emperor Charles understood his task of sovereign as a holy service to peoples. His first need, in his political conduct, was to follow the call of Christians to holiness. That is why he considered the idea of social love important. May he always be a model for us all, in particular for those today who have a political responsibility in Europe!


Charles I of Austria: a Eucharistic Soul

Peace Was a Top Commitment

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican press office issued this biography of Charles I of Austria (1887-1922), who will be beatified this Sunday.

* * *

Charles of Austria was born August 17, 1887, in the Castle of Persenbeug in the region of Lower Austria. His parents were the Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josephine of Saxony, daughter of the last King of Saxony. Emperor Francis Joseph I was Charles' Great Uncle.

Charles was given an expressly Catholic education and the prayers of a group of persons accompanied him from childhood, since a stigmatic nun prophesied that he would undergo great suffering and attacks would be made against him. That is how the "League of prayer of the Emperor Charles for the peace of the peoples" originated after his death. In 1963 it became a prayer community ecclesiastically recognized.

A deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus began to grow in Charles. He turned to prayer before making any important decisions.

On October 21, 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon and Parma. The couple was blessed with eight children during the ten years of their happy and exemplary married life. Charles still declared to Zita on his deathbed: "I'll love you forever."

Charles became heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on June 28, 1914, following the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand.

World War I was under way and with the death of the Emperor Francis Joseph, on November 21, 1916, Charles became Emperor of Austria. On December 30th he was crowned apostolic King of Hungary.

Charles envisaged this office also as a way to follow Christ: in the love and care of the peoples entrusted to him, and in dedicating his life to them.

He placed the most sacred duty of a king -- a commitment to peace -- at the center of his preoccupations during the course of the terrible war. He was the only one among political leaders to support Benedict XV's peace efforts.

As far as domestic politics are concerned, despite the extremely difficult times he initiated wide and exemplary social legislation, inspired by social Christian teaching.

Thanks to his conduct, the transition to a new order at the end of the conflict was made possible without a civil war. He was, however, banished from his country.

The Pope feared the rise of Communist power in central Europe, and expressed the wish that Charles re­establish the authority of his government in Hungary. But two attempts failed, since above all Charles wished to avoid the outbreak of a civil war.

Charles was exiled to the island of Madeira. Since he considered his duty as a mandate from God, he could not abdicate his office.

Reduced to poverty, he lived with his family in a very humid house. He then fell fatally ill and accepted this as a sacrifice for the peace and unity of his peoples.

Charles endured his suffering without complaining. He forgave all those who conspired against him and died on April 1, 1922 with his eyes turned toward the Holy Sacrament. On his deathbed he repeated the motto of his life: "I strive always in all things to understand as clearly as possible and follow the will of God, and this in the most perfect way."


Anna Katharina Emmerick, Mystic of the Passion

She Bore the Wounds of Christ

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Anna Katharina Emmerick, (1774-1824), who will be beatified this Sunday.

* * *

Anna Katharina Emmerick was born on September 8, 1774, in the farming community of Flamsche near Coesfeld. She grew up amidst a host of nine brothers and sisters. She had to help out in the house and with the farm work at an early age. Her school attendance was brief, which made it all the more remarkable that she was well instructed in religious matters. Her parents and all those who knew Anna Katharina noticed early on that she felt drawn to prayer and to the religious life in a special way.

Anna Katharina labored for three years on a large farm in the vicinity. Then she learned to sew and stayed in Coesfeld for her further training. She loved to visit the old churches in Coesfeld and to join in the celebration of Mass. She often walked the path of Coesfeld's long Way of the Cross alone, praying the stations by herself.

Anna Katharina wanted to enter the convent, but since her wish could not be fulfilled at that time, she returned to her parental home. She worked as a seamstress and, while doing so, visited many homes.

Anna Katharina asked for admission to different convents, but she was rejected because she could not bring a significant dowry with her. The Poor Clares in Münster finally agreed to accept her if she would learn to play the organ. She received her parents' permission to be trained in Coesfeld by the organist Söntgen. But she never got around to learning how to play the organ. The misery and poverty in the Söntgen household prompted her to work in the house and help out in the family. She even sacrificed her small savings for their sake.

Together with her friend Klara Söntgen Anna Katharina was finally able to enter the convent of Agnetenberg in Dülmen in 1802. The following year she took her religious vows. She participated enthusiastically in the life of the convent. She was always willing to take on hard work and loathsome tasks. Because of her impoverished background she was at first given little respect in the convent. Some of the Sisters took offence at her strict observance of the order's rule and considered her a hypocrite. Anna Katharina bore this pain in silence and quiet submission.

From 1802 to 1811 Anna Katharina was ill quite often and had to endure great pain.

As a result of secularization the convent of Agnetenberg was suppressed in 1811, and Anna Katharina had to leave the convent along with the others. She was taken in as a housekeeper at the home of Abbé Lambert, a priest who had fled France and lived in Dülmen. But she soon became ill. She was unable to leave the house and was confined to bed. In agreement with Curate Lambert she had her younger sister Gertrud come to take over the housekeeping under her direction.

During this period Anna Katharina received the stigmata. She had already endured the pain of the stigmata for a long time. The fact that she bore the wounds of Christ could not remain hidden. Dr. Franz Wesener, a young doctor, went to see her, and he was so impressed by her that he became a faithful, selfless and helping friend during the following eleven years. He kept a diary about his contacts with Anna Katharina Emmerick in which he recorded a wealth of details.

A striking characteristic of the life of Anna Katharina was her love for people. Wherever she saw need she tried to help. Even in her sickbed she sewed clothes for poor children and was pleased when she could help them in this way. Although she could have found her many visitors annoying, she received all of them kindly. She embraced their concerns in her prayers and gave them encouragement and words of comfort.

Many prominent people who were important in the renewal movement of the Church at the beginning of the 19th century sought an opportunity to meet Anna Katharina, among them Clemens August Droste zu Vischering, Bernhard Overberg, Friedrich Leopold von Stolberg, Johann Michael Sailer, Christian and Clemens Brentano, Luise Hensel, Melchior and Apollonia Diepenbrock.

The encounter with Clemens Brentano was particularly significant. His first visit led him to stay in Dülmen for five years. He visited Anna Katharina daily to record her visions which he later published.

Anna Katharina grew ever weaker during the summer of 1823. As always she joined her suffering to the suffering of Jesus and offered it up for the salvation of all. She died on February 9, 1824.

Anna Katharina Emmerick was buried in the cemetery in Dülmen. A large number of people attended the funeral. Because of a rumor that her corpse had been stolen the grave was reopened twice in the weeks following the burial. The coffin and the corpse were found to be intact.

Clemens Brentano wrote the following about Anna Katharina Emmerick: "She stands like a cross by the wayside." Anna Katharina Emmerick shows us the center of our Christian faith, the mystery of the cross.

The life of Anna Katharina Emmerick is marked by her profound closeness to Christ. She loved to pray before the famous Coesfeld Cross, and she walked the path of the long Way of the Cross frequently. So great was her personal participation in the sufferings of our Lord that it is not an exaggeration to say that she lived, suffered and died with Christ. An external sign of this, which is at the same time, however, more than just a sign, are the wounds of Christ which she bore.

Anna Katharina Emmerick was a great admirer of Mary. The feast of the Nativity of Mary was also Anna Katharina's birthday. A verse from a prayer to Mary highlights a further aspect of Anna Katharina's life for us. The prayer states, "O God, let us serve the work of salvation following the example of the faith and the love of Mary." To serve the work of salvation -- that is what Anna Katharina wanted to do.

In Colossians the apostle Paul speaks of two ways to serve the gospel, to serve salvation. One consists in the active proclamation in word and deed. But what if that is no longer possible? Paul, who obviously finds himself in such a situation, writes: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24).

Anna Katharina Emmerick served salvation in both ways. Her words, which have reached innumerable people in many languages from her modest room in Dülmen through the writings of Clemens Brentano, are an outstanding proclamation of the gospel in service to salvation right up to the present day. At the same time, however, Anna Katharina Emmerick understood her suffering as a service to salvation. Dr. Wesener, her doctor, recounts her petition in his diary: "I have always requested for myself as a special gift from God that I suffer for those who are on the wrong path due to error or weakness, and that, if possible, I make reparation for them." It has been reported that Anna Katharina Emmerick gave many of her visitors religious assistance and consolation. Her words had this power because she brought her life and suffering into the service of salvation.

In serving the work of salvation through faith and love, Anna Katharina Emmerick can be a model for us.

Dr. Wesener passed on this remark of Anna Katharina Emmerick: "I have always considered service to my neighbor to be the greatest virtue. In my earliest childhood I already requested of God that he give me the strength to serve my fellow human beings and to be useful. And now I know that he has granted my request." How could she who was confined to her sickroom and her bed for years serve her neighbor?

In a letter to Count Stolberg, Clemens August Droste zu Vischering, the Vicar General at that time, called Anna Katharina Emmerick a special friend of God. In the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar we can say, "She brought her friendship with God to bear in solidarity with human beings."

To bring friendship with God to bear in solidarity with human beings -- does this not shed light on an important concern in the life of the Church today? The Christian faith no longer includes everyone. In our world the Christian community represents people before God. We must bring our friendship with God to bear, let it be the decisive factor in solidarity with human beings.

Anna Katharina Emmerick is united to us in the community of believers. This community does not come to an end with death. We believe in the lasting communion with all whom God has led to perfection. We are united with them beyond death and they participate in our lives. We can invoke them and ask for their intercession. We ask Anna Katharina Emmerick, the newly named Blessed, to bring her friendship with God to bear in solidarity with us and with all human beings.


Trappist Joseph-Marie Cassant, Ordinary and Saintly
Biography of Soon-to-Be-Beatified Monk

Joseph-Marie Cassant (1878-1903)

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See issued this biography of Joseph-Marie Cassant (1878-1903), a French Trappist monk and priest, whom John Paul II will beatify on Sunday.

* * *

Joseph-Marie Cassant was born on March 6, 1878, at Casseneuil, Lot-et-Garonne, in the Diocese of Agen, France, into a family of orchard-keepers. The second child born to the family, he had an elder brother already nine years of age. He was a lodger at the boarding school of the La Salle Brothers in Casseneuil itself, and it was there that his poor memory began to cause him difficulty in studying.

He received a solid Christian education at home and at school, and little by little the deep desire to become a priest grew within him. Father Filhol, the parish priest, thought well enough of the boy to help him with his studies, but his weak memory kept him from entering the minor seminary. When it became clear that he was drawn toward silence, recollection and prayer, Father Filhol suggested that he give thought to the Trappists, and the young 16-year-old unhesitatingly agreed.

After a trial period, Joseph entered the Cistercian Abbey of Sainte-Marie du Désert, in the Diocese of Toulouse, France, on Dec. 5, 1894. The novice master at the time was Fr. André Mallet, a man skilled at understanding the needs of souls and responding in love. From their very first meeting he showed this when he said to the young man, "Just trust, and I will help you to love Jesus!" Nor were the other monks of the monastery slow to appreciate the newcomer: He neither argued nor grumbled but was ever happy, ever smiling.

The young monk would often meditate upon Jesus in his passion and on the cross, and so became deeply imbued with love for Christ. The "way of Jesus' heart" which Father André taught him is an unceasing call to live the present moment with patience, hope and love.

Brother Joseph-Marie was well aware of his limitations and weaknesses, and so was led to depend more and more on Jesus, his strength. He had no interest in half-measures but wished to give himself completely to Christ. His personal motto bears witness to this: "All for Jesus, all through Mary." On Ascension Thursday, May 24, 1900, he was admitted to final vows.

Then came his preparation for the priesthood. This he viewed primarily in relation to the Eucharist, which was truly to him the living presence of Jesus among us. The Eucharist is the Savior himself, wholly giving himself to men; his Heart is pierced on the Cross and then tenderly gathers in all those who trust in him. There were times during his theological studies when, because of his great sensitivity, he suffered much from the lack of understanding of the monk teaching the course.

But, as in all his contradictions, he relied upon Christ present in the Eucharist as his "only good upon this earth" and confided his suffering to Father André who would cheer him up and help him better to understand. In the end, he did well enough to pass his examinations and had the great joy of being ordained a priest on October 12, 1902.

At that point it became clear that he had contracted tuberculosis and that the disease was already well advanced. The young priest spoke of his pains only when it was impossible to hide them further. How could he complain, he who meditated so lovingly on the Lord's Way of the Cross?

In spite of a seven weeks' stay with his family which he undertook at his abbot's request, his health continued to deteriorate. He then returned to the monastery, where he was soon sent to stay in the infirmary. Here was one more opportunity to offer up his sufferings for Christ and the Church: His physical pain became more and more unbearable, and was even worsened by the nurse's neglect. Father André continued to accompany him and became more than ever his constant aid and support.

The young priest had said, "When I can no longer say Mass, Jesus can take me from this world." Early in the morning of June 17, 1903, Father Joseph-Marie received Communion and left this world to be with Christ Jesus for ever.

On June 9, 1984, the Holy Father, John Paul II, acknowledged his heroic virtues.

The sheer ordinariness of his life has been noted by some: 16 quiet years at Casseneuil and nine years of monastic enclosure spent in doing the simplest of things: prayer, studies, work. They are indeed simple things, but lived in an extraordinary way. They were the slightest of deeds, but performed with limitless generosity. Christ imbued his mind, clear as the water that leaps from a spring, with the conviction that God alone is our true and highest happiness and that his kingdom is like a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price.

The message of Father Joseph-Marie has great meaning for us today. In a world filled with distrust and often with despair but thirsting for love and kindness, his life can provide an answer, and in a special way to today's young who seek meaning in their lives. Joseph-Marie was a youth without any standing or worth in the eyes of men. He owed the success of his life to a meeting with Jesus that redefined his very existence.

He showed himself a follower of the Lord in the midst of a community of brothers, with the guidance of a spiritual father, who was to him a witness of Christ as well as one who knew to receive and to understand him.

For the meek and humble he is a superb example. Watching Joseph-Marie, we learn how to live each day for Christ with love, zeal and fidelity, accepting at the same time the help of an experienced brother or sister who can lead us in the footsteps of Jesus.


Apostle of Eucharist and Tireless Missionary Raised to Altar

John Paul II Will Beatify French Priest Peter Vigne

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Next Sunday, a week after the beginning of the "Year of the Eucharist," John Paul II will propose to the universal Church the life and testimony of a tireless missionary and apostle of the Most Holy Sacrament, when he beatifies French priest Peter Vigne (1670-1740) in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

Here is the biography of the future Blessed issued by the Holy See.

* * *

PETER VIGNE (1670-1740)

Peter Vigne was born on Aug. 20, 1670 in Privas, France, a small town still feeling the effects of the Wars of Religion from the previous century. His father, Peter Vigne, an honest textile merchant, and his mother, Frances Gautier, married in the Catholic Church, had their five children baptized in the Catholic parish of Saint Thomas. Two daughters died in infancy. Peter and his two older siblings, John-Francis and Eleonore, lived with their parents in relative comfort.

When he was 11 years of age, Peter was chosen by the parish priest to act as a witness, signing the parish register for baptisms, marriages and deaths.

After receiving a good level of education and instruction, towards the end of his teenage years, his life was suddenly transformed by a new awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist. This experience led him to center his life on Jesus, who offered himself on the Cross for love of us and, in the Eucharist, never ceases to give himself to all men. In 1690, he entered the Sulpician Seminary in Viviers. Ordained a priest on September 18, 1694 in Bourg Saint Andeol by the bishop of Viviers, he was sent as curate to Saint-Agreve where, for six years he exercised his priestly ministry, in friendship with his parish priest and beloved by his parishioners.

Always attentive to discern in life's events what the Lord was asking of him, he felt called elsewhere. With understandable hesitancy in the beginning and then with increasing certitude, he pursued his spiritual itinerary along new paths. His desire to work as a missionary among the poor was central to his decision to join the Vincentians in Lyon, in 1700. There, he received a solid formation in poverty and in conducting "popular missions" and with his fellow priests began visiting towns and villages in the work of evangelization. In 1706, he left the Vincentians of "his own free will." Now more than ever he was passionate for the salvation of souls, especially for the poor people living in the countryside. After a period of searching, his vocation took shape with increasing clarity. He became an "itinerant missionary" applying his own pastoral methods, whilst submitting his ministry to the authorization of his hierarchical superiors.

For more than thirty years he traveled tirelessly on foot or on horseback the roads of Vivarais and Dauphiné, and even beyond. He faced the fatigue of being constantly on the move, as well as severe weather conditions, in order to make Jesus known, loved and served. He preached, visited the sick, catechized the children, administered the sacraments, even going as far as carrying "his" confessional on his back, ready at all times to celebrate and bestow the mercy of God. He celebrated Mass, exposed the Blessed Sacrament, and taught the faithful the prayer of adoration. Mary, "beautiful tabernacle of God among men" was also given a place of honor in his prayer and teaching.

In 1712, he went to Boucieu-le-Roi, where the setting favored the erection of a Way of the Cross. With the help of parishioners he constructed 39 stations throughout the village and countryside, teaching the faithful to follow Jesus from the upper room to Easter and Pentecost. Boucieu became his place of residence. There, he gathered together a few women, charging them to "accompany the pilgrims" on the Way of the Cross and to help them pray and meditate.

It was there that he founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. On Nov. 30, 1715, in the church at Boucieu, he gave them the cross and the religious habit. He invited them to ensure continuous adoration of Jesus present in the eucharist and to live together in fellowship. Anxious to give the youth access to instruction, thus helping them grow in their faith and Christian values, Peter Vigne opened schools and also established a training school for teachers.

Such a challenging and busy lifestyle needed some support. For that reason, whenever Peter Vigne was in Lyon on business, he never failed to call on his former seminary tutors, the priests of Saint Sulpice, to meet his confessor and spiritual director. Drawn by the Eucharistic spirituality of the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament, founded by Monsignor d'Authier de Sisgaud, he was accepted as an associate member of this society of priests on Jan. 25, 1724, in Valence, and benefited from their spiritual and temporal help.

Whilst continuing to accompany his young congregation, Peter Vigne continued with his apostolic works, and to make the fruits of his missions more available, he found time to write books: rules to live by, works of spirituality, and especially one entitled, "Meditations on the Most Beautiful Book, Jesus Christ Suffering and Dying on the Cross."

The physical strength of our pilgrim for God, the demands of his apostolic activities, the long hours he spent in adoration and his life of poverty, bear witness not only to a fairly robust physique, but above all to a passionate love of Jesus Christ who loved his own to the end (cf. John 13:1).

At the age of 70, the effects of exhaustion began to show. During a mission at Rencurel, in the Vercors mountains, he was taken ill and had to interrupt his preaching. Despite all his efforts to celebrate the Eucharist one more time and encourage the faithful to love Jesus, feeling his end was near, he expressed once again his missionary zeal, then withdrew in quiet prayer and reflection. A priest and two Sisters came in haste to accompany him in his final moments. On July 8, 1740, he went to join the One he had so loved, adored and served. His body was taken back to its final resting place in the little church in Boucieu where it remains to this day.


Biography of Future Blessed Sister Maria Ludovica de Angelis

"Do Good to All, No Matter Who it May Be"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 24, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the biography issued by the Holy See of Sister Maria Ludovica de Angelis (1880-1962), whom the Pope will beatify on Oct. 3 in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

* * *

Born on Oct. 24, 1880, in Italy, at St. Gregorio, a small village of Abruzzo, not too far from the city of L'Aquila, Sister Maria Ludovica De Angelis, the first of eight children, brought great happiness to her parents. On the same afternoon of the day she was born, she was carried to the baptismal font where her parents chose the name of Antonina for their firstborn.

Even as a very young child, Antonina loved nature, and, as she worked long and tirelessly in the fields, she felt right at home being so close to God's earth. A bright and honest child, Antonina grew into a sensitive and delicate yet very strong young woman. She was somewhat reserved, as was typical of the people of her native land. However, her penetrating and serious eyes conveyed boundless tenderness and this is how she looked upon all whom she met, especially the children.

On Dec. 7 of the same year on which Antonina was born, a great woman died in Savona. The woman of whom we speak had chosen to dedicate fully her own life to the following of Christ who said: "Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful..." and "All that you do the least of my brethren, you do to me...”

She was Saint Mary Joseph Rossello who began the Institute of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy, a Religious Family, her family that, having taken its first steps in 1837, was now spreading to various parts of the world as it engaged in the works of mercy.

This Religious Family, known for its good example and genuine religious lifestyle, was' attracting many other women to follow the same ideal.

Antonina, coming to know this religious family, immediately felt in her heart that her dreams were echoing the same dreams as those cherished by Mother Rossello. There was no need to search further. She entered the community of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy in November 1904 and, on the day of her reception, she received the name of Sister M. Ludovica. Exactly three years after her entrance, on November 14, 1907, in God's Providence, she set sail for Buenos Aires, arriving there on December 4. From this time she gave of herself unselfishly in uninterrupted service and ministered with complete dedication in whatever she was called to do.

Sister Ludovica did not have a formal education, but all that she accomplished through her own resourcefulness astounded everyone who lived with her and knew her. Although her Spanish was mixed with Italian, her native tongue -- an abruzzese dialect -- she understood well and was always able to make herself understood. She had neither the talent nor the ability to set up programs or to write goals and objectives. However, she gave of herself completely in her assignment at the Children's Hospital.

From her very first days in the Hospital she felt at home and took on the task of providing the meals for the children, Sisters and staff. Later, when she was named as manageress of the Hospital and Superior of the community, she was known as the untiring angel of the hospital staff that, through her loving efforts, was gradually becoming a strong and united family with a single goal in mind -- the good of the children.

Gentle in manner and determined in her commitment, she always had the Rosary in her hands, her gaze and heart turned to God, and a warm smile lighted up her face. Through her unbounded goodness, without being aware of it, Sister Ludovica became a constant instrument of mercy so that the message of God's love for each one of his children was touching everyone.

Her goal in life was repeated in the sentence: "Do good to all, no matter who it may be."

Heaven only knows how Sister Ludovica managed to procure financial help to build operating rooms, additional children's rooms, medical equipment, a building at Mar del Plata for convalescing children, a Chapel -- today a parish -- and even a flourishing farm, at City Bell, that yielded abundant produce so that her children could have good nourishment. All this was accomplished by this simple woman who was driven by love and complete dedication.

For 54 years, Sister Maria Ludovica was a friend, mother and counselor to countless numbers of people of every social condition.

On Feb. 25, 1962, her earthly journey ended as God summoned her to her eternal reward. However, her story did not end in death. For those who knew her, especially the medical personnel, were very mindful of all the good she had accomplished. They named the Children's Hospital after her, calling it "Superior Ludovica Hospital."


Pere Tarrés Aimed to Be a Holy Priest, at All Costs

John Paul II Recalls Catalan at Beatification

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II pointed to the testimony of Pere Tarrés i Claret, a doctor who became a priest on his way to beatification.

Born in Manresa, Spain, on May 30, 1905, Pere Tarrés was a member of the Federation of Christian Youth of Catalonia and of Catholic Action. He founded the sanatorium-clinic of Our Lady of Mercy in Barcelona.

"In the exercise of his medical profession, he dedicated himself with special solicitude to the sick who were poorest, convinced that 'the sick person is a symbol of the suffering of Christ,'" the Pope said during his homily at today's beatification Mass, celebrated near the Shrine of Loreto.

As a refugee in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, Tarrés secretly took Communion to the persecuted. He also acted in his capacity as a field doctor, heroically caring for numerous wounded.

He returned home from the front in 1939 and entered the Barcelona seminary that same year. He was ordained a priest in May 1942.

Tarrés "consecrated himself with generous audacity to the tasks of his ministry, remaining faithful to the commitment assumed on the eve of his ordination: 'Only one purpose, Lord: to be a holy priest, no matter what it costs,'" the Pope said in the homily.

"He accepted with faith and heroic patience a terrible sickness, which led to his death when he was only 45," the Holy Father said. "Despite his suffering, he often repeated: 'How good the Lord is to me!' And, 'I am really happy.'"


Pina Suriano's Secret: "To Live for Jesus"

Pope Tells of Young Sicilian at Her Beatification

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II summarized the life of newly beatified Pina Suriano with the phrase, "I do nothing other than to live for Jesus."

The young Sicilian (1915-1950) had to give up the dream of her life -- religious consecration -- because of her family's opposition and practical problems. She then gave her life to God as a lay member of Catholic Action.

"She spoke to Jesus with the heart of a spouse," the Pope said today in the homily at the beatification Mass. He added these words of Suriano: "Jesus, make me ever more yours. Jesus, I want to live and die with you and for you."

"As a girl she was a member of the Feminine Youth of Catholic Action, of which she was later a parish leader, finding in the association important stimulus for human and cultural growth in an intense climate of fraternal friendship," the Holy Father said.

"She matured gradually a simple and firm will to give her young life to God as an offering of love, in particular for the sanctification and perseverance of priests," John Paul II concluded.

Suriano, known among her friends for her beauty, made a vow of chastity on April 29, 1932, in the Chapel of the Daughters of Mercy and of the Cross, social headquarters of Feminine Youth of Catholic Action.

On May 30, 1948, together with three friends, she offered herself as a victim for the holiness of priests.

Just over a year later, she developed a form of rheumatoid arthritis that frequently forced her to stay in bed, unable to move. She died of a heart attack on May 19, 1950, at 35.


Alberto Marvelli, a Politician of God

At Beatification Mass, Pope Recalls a Postwar Protagonist

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The secret of Alberto Marvelli, an Italian engineer and postwar politician, was the giving of his life for Jesus and his brothers, John Paul II said at his beatification.

In his homily at today's beatification Mass, addressed to 250,000 people gathered near the Shrine of Loreto, the Pope sketched the profile of this "strong and free youth, generous son of the Church of Rimini and of Catholic Action."

He "conceived the whole of his brief life of just 28 years as a gift of love to Jesus for the good of his brothers," the Holy Father said.

John Paul II recalled the words Marvelli wrote in his diary: "Jesus has enveloped me with his grace," "I see only Him, I think only of Him."

Alberto Marvelli was born in 1918. He was a childhood friend of film director Federico Fellini, and a member of Catholic Action. In 1941, at the end of his university studies in mechanical engineering, Marvelli had to enlist in the Italian army, even though he condemned the war.

Discharged from the front, he dedicated himself to aiding the poor during the conflict.

He succeeded in rescuing many young people from deportation during the German occupation.

"In the difficult period of World War II, which sowed death and multiplied atrocious violence and suffering, Blessed Alberto lived an intense spiritual life, from which arose that love of Jesus which led him to forget himself constantly to carry the cross of the poor," the Pope said in his homily.

After the city of Rimini was liberated in 1945, Marvelli's name was among the members of the first Junta of the Committee of Liberation. He was just 26, and became one of the protagonists of the postwar reconstruction of the city. He was a member of the Christian Democratic Party.

On the evening of Oct. 5, 1946, while he was riding his bicycle to an election meeting -- he was a candidate for the first communal administration -- he was struck and killed by a truck.

"Alberto made of the daily Eucharist the center of his life," John Paul II said during the Mass. "He also sought in prayer inspiration for his political commitment, convinced of the need to live fully as children of God in history, to make the latter a story of salvation."


LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily John Paul II delivered today in Loreto, at the beatification Mass for Father Pere Tarrés i Claret (1905-1950), Alberto Marvelli (1918-1946) and Pina Suriano (1915-1950).

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1. "What man can know the will of God?" (Wisdom 9:13). The question, posed in the Book of Wisdom, has an answer: Only the Son of God, made man for our salvation in Mary's virginal womb, can reveal God's plan to us. Only Jesus Christ knows the way to "attain wisdom of heart" (Responsorial Psalm) and obtain peace and salvation.

And what is this way? He has told us in today's Gospel: It is the way of the cross. His words are clear: "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).

"To carry the cross after Jesus" means to be ready for any sacrifice for love of him. It means to put anything or anyone before him, not even the persons most dear to us, not even our own life.

2. Dear brothers and sisters, gathered in this "splendid valley of Montorso," as described by Archbishop Comastri, whom I thank sincerely for the warm words he addressed to me. With him, I greet the cardinals, archbishops and bishops present; I greet the priests, religious, consecrated persons; and above all I greet you, members of Catholic Action who, led by the assistant general, Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi, and by the national president, Dr. Paola Bignardi, whom I thank for her warm greeting, wished to gather here, under the gaze of Our Lady of Loreto, to renew your commitment of faithful adherence to Jesus Christ.

You know it: To adhere to Christ is an exacting choice. It is no accident that Jesus speaks of the "cross." However, he specifies immediately after: "after me." This is the important message: We do not bear the cross alone. He walks before us, opening the way with the light of his example and the strength of his love.

3. The cross, accepted out of love, generates freedom. The Apostle Paul experienced this, "an old man and now a prisoner for Christ Jesus," as he describes himself in the letter to Philemon, but interiorly totally free. This is precisely the impression given in the page that was just proclaimed: Paul is in chains, but his heart is free, because it is full of the love of Christ. This is why, from the darkness of the prison in which he suffers for his Lord, he can speak of freedom to a friend who is outside the prison. Philemon is a Christian from the city of Colossae: Paul addresses him to ask him to liberate Onesimus, who is still a slave according to the law of the period, but a brother through baptism. Renouncing the other as his possession, Philemon will receive as a gift a brother.

The lesson from this episode is clear: There is no greater love than that of the cross; there is no greater freedom than that of love; there is no fuller fraternity than that born from the cross of Christ.

4. The three blessed, just proclaimed, made themselves humble disciples and heroic witnesses of the cross of Jesus.

Pedro Tarrés i Claret, first a doctor and then a priest, dedicated himself to the lay apostolate among the young of Barcelona's Catholic Action, of whom, subsequently, he was an assistant. In the exercise of the medical profession he dedicated himself with special solicitude to the sick who were poorest, convinced that "the sick person is a symbol of the suffering Christ."

Once a priest, he consecrated himself with generous audacity to the tasks of his ministry, remaining faithful to the commitment assumed on the eve of his ordination: "Only one purpose, Lord: to be a holy priest, no matter what it costs." He accepted with faith and heroic patience a terrible sickness, which led to his death when he was only 45. Despite his suffering, he often repeated: "How good the Lord is to me!" And, "I am really happy."

5. Alberto Marvelli, strong and free youth, generous son of the Church of Rimini and of Catholic Action, conceived the whole of his brief life of just 28 years as a gift of love to Jesus for the good of his brothers. "Jesus has enveloped me with his grace," he wrote in his diary. "I see only Him, I think only of Him." Alberto made of the daily Eucharist the center of his life. In prayer he also sought inspiration also for his political commitment, convinced of the need to live fully as children of God in history, to make the latter a story of salvation.

In the difficult period of World War II, which sowed death and multiplied atrocious violence and suffering, Blessed Alberto lived an intense spiritual life, from which arose that love of Jesus which led him to forget himself constantly to carry the cross of the poor.

6. Blessed Pina Suriano, a native of Partinico, in the Diocese of Monreale, also loved Jesus with an ardent and faithful love to the point of being able to write in all sincerity: "I do nothing other than to live for Jesus." She spoke to Jesus with the heart of a spouse: "Jesus, make me ever more yours. Jesus, I want to live and die with you and for you."

As a girl she was a member of the Feminine Youth of Catholic Action, of which she was later a parish leader, finding in the association important stimulus for human and cultural growth in an intense climate of fraternal friendship. She matured gradually a simple and firm will to give her young life to God as an offering of love, in particular for the sanctification and perseverance of priests.

7. Dear brothers and sisters, friends of Catholic Action, gathered in Loreto from Italy, Spain and so many parts of the world! Through the beatification of these three Servants of God, the Lord says to you today: Holiness is the greatest gift you can give to the Church and the world.

Carry in your hearts what the Church carries in her heart: that many men and women of our time be conquered by the attraction of Christ; that his Gospel may shine again as a light of hope for the poor, the sick, those hungry for justice; may Christian communities be ever more lively, open, attractive; may cities be welcoming and livable for all; may humanity be able to follow the ways of peace and fraternity.

8. It corresponds to you, the laity, to witness to the faith through the virtues that are specific to you: fidelity and tenderness in the family, competence in work, tenacity in serving the common good, solidarity in social relations, creativity in undertaking works that are useful to evangelization and human promotion. It corresponds to you also to show, in close communion with pastors, that the Gospel is timely, and that faith does not remove the believer from history, but submerges him more profoundly in it.

Courage, Catholic Action! May the Lord guide your journey of renewal!

The Immaculate Virgin of Loreto accompanies you with tender solicitude; the Church looks to you with confidence; the Pope greets you, supports you, and gives you his heartfelt blessing.