Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentecost: A Feast of All the Saints

There has been lots of “saint making” going on during the Easter Season. Beyond the highly anticipated beatification of El Salvador’s Oscar Romero and the canonization of four new saints on May 17, the Church celebrated the beatification of Blessed Luigi Bordino, an Italian member of the Brothers of St. Joseph Cottolengo, on May 2, Blessed Luigi Caburlotto, the Italian priest who founded the Daughters of St. Joseph, on May 16, and, on May 23—the same day as the beatification of Oscar Romero—Blessed Irene Stefani, a Consolata Missionary Sister who served in Tanzania and Kenya.

The Second Reading for the Pentecost Mass “During the Day” reminds us that, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We see this truth at work in the lives of the named and unnamed saints who have lived out their commitment to Christ through the ages. This certainly holds true for those women and men honored by the Church in the past few weeks.

Pentecost is that great celebration that reminds us that holiness isn’t the prerogative of only a few chosen souls. Each and every Christian is chosen by God, sanctified, and sent out to achieve some purpose especially entrusted to them for God’s glory and the good of others. We celebrate the saints of history because these are individuals who, basically, got it right. They recognized that God—working in and through them—was calling them to become more and to do more. And their love and faith manifested itself in tangible ways. No saint, no holy person, has ever horded the graces they have received. This is true from that moment in the upper room nearly two thousand years ago when Mary and the Apostles became enflamed with the power of the Spirit down to our own time. We need saints to remind us that we are a Pentecost people who have been entrusted with the same task of proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world that was entrusted to the first followers of Jesus.
"Pentecost" by Mark Wiggin

In his homily for Pentecost, Pope Francis reflected on this, when he said:
The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit. Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin. There are many ways one can close one’s self off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism—seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways. The world needs the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.

To be fruitful demands something of us. Or, to say it another way, Christians have responsibilities. And the call to holiness isn’t something unrelated to the demands of daily life. We have to “bloom where we’re planted.” And part of this responsibility is a willingness to actively listen to the whispers of the Spirit calling us out of ourselves and calling us to change and renewal each and every day.

As we celebrate the end of the Easter Season and transition back into the verdancy of Ordinary Time, think about what it would mean for you to pick a saint to be your companion over the next few months. Perhaps it might be one of the eight women and men honored by the Church this Easter Season, or another saint who has been a long-time friend. Let them guide you by their teachings and their way of life. How did they bear the fruit of the Spirit in their own lives, living out their unique vocation? How did they live the Resurrection of Jesus in the ordinary moments of their extraordinary life?

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!
Holy Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us.
Saint Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas, pray for us.
Saint Mariam of Jesus Crucified, pray for us.
Saint Emilie de Villeneuve, pray for us.
Saint Maria Christina Brando, pray for us.
Blessed Luigi Bordino, pray for us.
Blessed Luigi Caburlotto, pray for us.
Blessed Irene Stefani, pray for us.
Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us.
All you saints of God, pray for us!




Friday, May 22, 2015

Blessed Oscar Romero: Eyes That Have Cried

Tomorrow, May 23, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, will beatify the martyr Oscar Romero.

This highly anticipated event comes after decades of debate and discernment over the cause and meaning of Romero’s murder, which took place on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in the chapel of the La Divina Providenza hospital. The day before, he had called upon Salvadoran soldiers—as Christians—to stop carrying out the government’s oppressive and repressive violations and to obey God’s commands.

Personally, I’m gratified by beatification and believe that Romero is an important model for the Church’s pastors. He embodies the vision of pastoral care, outreach, and solidarity with the poor that so many celebrate in Pope Francis. After all, Romero is the man who taught us that “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”

I think the greatest tribute that we can offer to Blessed Oscar Romero (and to all the saints) is to reflect on their lives and discern how we can best imitate their faith and virtues. This holy bishop brought together a profound sense of God’s presence, a love for the poor and marginalized, a desire for justice, and a commitment to the Church that make him an especially powerful  example of how our individual faith should intersect with the work of the Church and the needs of society.  

As a way of preparing for the beatification, I’m happy to share this transcription of his final homily, given in the minutes before he was shot by a government-sanctioned assassin:

You have just heard in Christ’s gospel that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives, while those who out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others, will live, live like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. The harvest comes about only because it dies, allowing itself to be sacrificed in the earth and destroyed. Only by undoing itself does it produce the harvest...

This is the hope that inspires us as Christians. We know that every effort to better society, especially when justice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.... Of course, we must try to purify these ideals, Christianize them, clothe them with the hope of what lies beyond. That makes them stronger, because it gives us the assurance that all that we cultivate on earth, if we nourish it with Christian hope, will never be a failure. We will find it in a purer form in that kingdom where our merit will be found in the labor that we have done here on earth...

Dear brothers and sisters, let us all view these matters at this historic moment with that hope, that spirit of giving and of sacrifice. Let us all do what we can. We can all do something, at least have a sense of understanding and sympathy...

[I]t is worthwhile to labor, because all those longings for justice, peace, and well-being that we experience on earth become realized for us if we enlighten them with Christian hope. We know that no one can go on forever, but those who have put into their work a sense of very great faith, of love of God, of hope among human beings, find it all results in the splendors of a crown that is the sure reward of those who labor thus, cultivating truth, justice, love, and goodness on earth. Such labor does not remain here below but, purified by God’s Spirit, is harvested for our reward.

The holy Mass, now, this Eucharist, is just such an act of faith. To Christian faith at this moment the voice of diatribe appears changed for the body of the Lord, who offered himself for the redemption of the world, and in this chalice the wine is transformed into the blood that was the price of salvation. May this body immolated and this blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain --- like Christ, not for self, but to bring about justice and peace for our people.

Let us join together, then, intimately in faith and hope at this moment of prayer...

[At that, a postscript reads thus: "A shot rang out in the chapel and Archbishop Romero fell mortally wounded. He died within minutes, on arriving at a nearby hospital emergency room."]

Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution: ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

The 21st day of May is the commemoration of a group of saints honored as the "Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution," including 22 Mexican priests and 3 laymen who were murdered between 1915 and 1928. As the Mexican government came to adopt anti-clerical attitudes, which were to become law in the Constitution of 1917, the Church was denied legal status and the clergy lost all political and civil rights. In response to the outbreak of widespread persecutions, the Mexican bishops suspended all public worship.

As tensions mounted, the bishops ordered all rural priests to go into hiding, officially denouncing any armed uprisings or resistance. Many priests in rural areas, however, remained dedicated to providing the Sacraments for their people, and were involved in the movement for religious freedom to some degree. It was because of the resistance soldiers' battle cry of  ¡Viva Cristo Rey! that this uprising has come to be known as the Cristero Wars.

St. Cristobal Magallanes Jara

The martyrs honored on May 21 represent a cross-section of the many Mexican priests and religious who gave their lives during the persecution. Among them is the pastor of the parish of Totalice, Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, who was killed by Revolutionary soldiers on May 25, 1921, as he traveled to say Mass at a local ranch. Before his execution he declared, “I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood may bring peace to divided Mexicans.”

The other martyrs celebrated on May 21 are:
Román Adame Rosales (1859-1928)
Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman (1875-1927)
Julio Álvarez Mendoza (1866-1927)
Luis Batis Sáinz (1870-1926)
Agustín Caloca Cortés (1898-1927)
Mateo Correa Magallanes (1866-1927)
Atilano Cruz Alvarado (1901-1928)
Miguel De La Mora (1874-1927)
Pedro Esqueda Ramirez (1897-1927)
Margarito Flores Garcia (1899-1927)
José Isabel Flores Varela (1866-1927)
David Galván Bermudes (1882-1915)
Salvador Lara Puente (1905-1926)
Pedro de Jesús Maldonado (1892–1937)
Jesús Méndez Montoya (1880-1928)
Manuel Morales (1898-1926)
Justino Orona Madrigal (1877-1928)
Sabas Reyes Salazar (1879-1927)
José María Robles Hurtado (1888-1927)
David Roldán Lara (1907-1926)
Toribio Romo González (1900-1928)
Jenaro Sánchez Delgadillo (1886-1927)
Tranquilino Ubiarco Robles (1889-1928)
David Uribe Velasco (1888-1927)

Other martyrs from the Mexican Revolution are also honored by the Church: in 1988, Saint John Paul II beatified the Jesuit Miguel Agustin Pro (celebrated on November 23) and, in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Anacleto González Flores and 12 others (celebrated on November 20).  

St. Toribio Roma González,
the martyred priest of Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico,
has become a popular patron of
Mexican immigrants
seeking to enter the United States
During the homily at the canonization of Saint Cristobal and his companions on May 21, 2000, Saint John Paul II reflected: “Most belonged to the secular clergy and the three laymen were seriously committed to helping priests. No abandonaron el valiente ejercicio de su ministerio cuando la persecución religiosa arreció en la amada tierra mexicana, desatando un odio a la religión católica. They did not abandon their brave work of ministry when religious persecution raged, unleashing a hatred of Catholicism, in their beloved land of Mexico. Todos aceptaron libre y serenamente el martirio como testimonio de su fe, perdonando explícitamente a sus perseguidores. All freely and calmly accepted martyrdom as a witness to their faith, explicitly forgiving their persecutors. Faithful to God and the Catholic faith deeply rooted in the ecclesial communities which they served, they are today an example for the whole Church and the Mexican society in particular... May the shining example of Cristóbal Magallanes and his companion martyrs help you to a renewed commitment of fidelity to God, a commitment able to continue to transform Mexican society in the reign of justice, fraternity and harmony among all.”
A Prayer in Honor of Saint Cristobal Magallanes and the Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution +
Almighty and eternal God who made the Priest Saint Cristobal Magallanes and his companions faithful to Christ the King even to the point of martyrdom, grant us, through their intercession, that preserving in confession of the true faith, we may always hold fast to the commandments of your love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)