VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The lives of the saints prove that holiness is not an unreachable goal accomplished by a select few but comes from acknowledging and sharing God’s love, Pope Francis said.
“Our Christian lives begin not with doctrine and good works, but with the amazement born of realizing that we are loved, prior to any response on our part,” the pope said in his homily during the canonization Mass in which he declared 10 men and women as saints of the Catholic Church.
“At times, by overemphasizing our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves, our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice in achieving a reward. In this way, we have turned holiness into an unattainable goal,” he said.
An estimated 45,000 pilgrims from around the world gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the beginning of the canonization Mass, and tens of thousands more arrived in time for the recitation of the “Regina Coeli” prayer afterward, the Vatican said.
Carmelite Father Michael Driscoll, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, was among the pilgrims who arrived early for the canonization Mass, which he said he has “been waiting for for 18 years” since his miraculous healing from advanced, metastatic melanoma. He had prayed for St. Titus Brandsma’s intercession, and his healing was accepted as the miracle needed for the Dutch Carmelite’s canonization.
Father Driscoll told Catholic News Service May 13 he was “very anxious and thrilled” for the canonization of St. Brandsma, who died in 1942 at the Dachau concentration camp after he “used his talents as a teacher, as a publicist and as a writer” to fight Nazi ideology.
“He fought with his mouth in the pulpit, he fought with his pen and typewriter way before the internet came along. He used all that was available at that time and rallied Holland,” Father Driscoll told CNS.
In his homily, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus calls on his disciples to love one another “as I have loved you.”
Christ’s call, he said, should be “the core of our own faith,” a faith that recognizes that “our abilities and our merits are not the central thing, but rather the unconditional, free and unmerited love of God.”
“Being disciples of Jesus and advancing on the path of holiness means first and foremost letting ourselves be transfigured by the power of God’s love. Let us never forget the primacy of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works,” the pope said.
Jesus’ call to love one another, he continued, is not solely a call to imitate his love for humanity, but a reminder that Christians “are able to love only because he has loved us, because he pours into our hearts his own Spirit, the Spirit of holiness, love that heals and transforms.”
To live one’s life according to that love, the pope said Christians must be willing to serve others, which clears one’s soul from “the poison of greed and competitiveness” and fights “the cancer of indifference and the woodworm of self-referentiality.”
Giving one’s life, he said, is “more than simply offering something of ours to others,” but rather it is a way of “surmounting our selfishness in order to make our lives a gift.”
Pope Francis said that the 10 new saints exemplified the Christian call “to serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters, to offer our lives without expecting anything in return, or any worldly glory.”
“They discovered an incomparable joy, and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history,” the pope said. “May we strive to do the same, for each of us is called to holiness, to a form of holiness all our own.”
The new saints are:
— Devasahayam Pillai, an Indian layman born in 1712 and martyred in 1752.
— César de Bus, the French founder of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine, who was born in 1544 and died in 1607.
— Luigi Maria Palazzolo, Italian founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor, who lived 1827-1886.
— Giustino Maria Russolillo, Italian founder of the Society of Divine Vocations for men and the Vocationist Sisters, 1891-1955.
— Charles de Foucauld, French priest and hermit, born in 1858 and killed in 1916.
— Anna Maria Rubatto, Italian founder of the order now known as the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto, who lived 1844-1904.
— Maria Domenica Mantovani, co-founder and first superior general of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, born in 1862 and died in 1934.
— Titus Brandsma, Dutch priest and journalist, who was born in 1881 and martyred in 1942.
— Carolina Santocanale, Italian founder of the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes, who lived 1852-1923.
— Marie Rivier, French founder of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. She was born in 1768 and died in 1838.
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