Today, Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints in St. Peter’s Basilica, including Fr. Damian of Molokai. During his homily, the Holy Father noted that all of the saints followed the invitation of Christ: "Come, follow me!"
Speaking to the faithful packed in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning, the Pope described the invitation of Christ, saying that he "invites his disciples to the total gift of their lives, without calculation and human self-interest, with a wholehearted faith in God."
This call, the Holy Father continued, is welcomed by the saints who "place themselves in humble obedience" to follow the Lord.
They no longer focus on themselves, the Pope explained, but by their "logic of faith." They choose "to go against the trends of the time living according to the Gospel."
Benedict XVI then gave a brief description of each of the five newly-canonized saints: a bishop, a Trappist brother, two priests and a nun.
Archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny Feliński of Warsaw, founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary, was committed to evangelization and support for the poor, defending the oppressed during the Russian occupation of Poland, and was sentenced to 20 years in exile in Jaroslaw on the Volga. "His gift of himself to God and man," the Holy Father said in Polish, was "full of confidence and love," and "becomes a shining example for the entire Church."
To those younger generations today who "are not satisfied with what they have," the Pontiff gave the example of Rafael Arnaiz Baron, who came from a wealthy family and was a bit "of a dreamer." A Cistercian oblate, he died when he was 27 years old, and is considered one of the greatest mystics of the twentieth century.
The Pontiff next spoke of Dominican Father Francisco Coll y Guitard, founder of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation Blessed Virgin Mary. Through his preaching, the saint spread his love of the Word of God and the Sacrament of Reconciliation among all people especially the young.
Father Damian, the famous apostle to the lepers, left Flanders, Belgium at the age of 23 to go on a mission to modern day Hawaii. "Not without fear and loathing," Pope Benedict underlined, "Father Damian made the choice to go on the island of Molokai in the service of lepers who were there, abandoned by all. So he exposed himself to the disease of which they suffered. With them he felt at home. The servant of the Word became a suffering servant, leper with the lepers, during the last four years of his life."
He continued, "To follow Christ, Father Damian not only left his homeland, but has also staked his health so he, as the word of Jesus announced in today's Gospel tells us, received eternal life."
The figure of Father Damian, Benedict XVI added, "teaches us to choose the good fight not those that lead to division, but those that gather us together in unity."
And finally, the Pope spoke of Jeanne Jugan. Referring to her by her religious name of St. Mary of the Cross, from the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Holy Father commented on her "wonderful work to help the most vulnerable elderly." He noted that her initiatives and goals are "still valid today, given that many elderly people suffer from multiple poverty and loneliness, sometimes even being abandoned by their families."
The Pope concluded by inviting all present "to allow themselves to be attracted by the shining example of these saints, to be guided by their teachings so that our entire lives become a hymn of praise to God's love."