This morning, pilgrims from around the world gathered in St. Peter’s Square as the Holy Father canonized four saints. In his homily, the Pontiff recalled the lives and virtues of Gaetano Errico (1791-1860), Sr. Maria Bernarda (Verena) Butler (1848-1924), Sr. Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception (1910-1946), and Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran (1832- 1869).
Addressing the crowd in his homily, the Pontiff spoke of the lives of the newly canonized saints. He began with St. Gaetano Errico, an Italian teacher whose life was changed when St. Alphonsus Liguori appeared to him asking him to found the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.
The Holy Father spoke of St. Gaetano's dedication to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. "How many wounded souls did he heal by this sacrament! How many people did he bring to reconcile themselves with God through the Sacrament of forgiveness! Thus, St. Gaetano Errico became an expert in the 'science' of forgiveness, and taught it to his missionaries, urging them: 'God, who does not want the death of the sinner, he is always more merciful than his ministers; for this reason, be as merciful as you can be, because you will find mercy with God'."
Pope Benedict then recounted the life of the first modern Swiss woman to be canonized, St. Maria Bernarda Butler.
Born in 1848, St. Maria Bernarda Butler had a very early experience of deep love from the Lord. At the age of 19, Maria entered the Capuchin Maria-Hilf convent and was named mother superior only four years later.
At the age of 40, Maria received her missionary vocation and traveled to Ecuador and Colombia to establish a convent to spread her love for the Eucharist and to teach and care for children.
India’s first saint was also canonized this morning. St. Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception was born in Kerala, India in 1910 and died in 1946. Benedict XVI noted that her short life was marked with "extreme physical and spiritual suffering."
"This exceptional woman," he continued, "was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father."
"May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise."
The Holy Father then spoke of the young Ecuadorian woman Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán and her generous acceptance of the Lord’s will. After receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, ¨she clearly felt in her heart, the call to live a life of holiness and surrender to God." The Pope emphasized her passionate love for Jesus and her simplicity saying that this young saint ¨offers us a path of Christian perfection attainable for all the faithful."
"Dear brothers and sisters," the Pontiff concluded, "let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness that shines today in the Church with singular beauty." Jesus calls each of us to follow their example for encouragement, their teachings to "guide and comfort us," and their intercession to "support us in our daily struggles, so that we too may come to share with them in the joy of the eternal banquet in heaven."