On Sunday Pope John Paul II canonized six new saints for the Church, including Don Luigi Orione, founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence, and Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian mother who refused to abort her fourth child even though it meant giving up her own life.
Before the more than 80,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father reflected on the witness of each of one of the new saints and asked that their example might lead the faithful to rediscover the beauty of religious and family life.
Apostle of Charity
Reflecting upon the legacy of Don Orione (1872-1940), priest and founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence and of the Congregation of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity, the Pope said he was “a man completely given over to the cause of Christ and his Kingdom. His apostolic ministry was marked by physical and moral sufferings, fatigue, difficulties, incomprehension, and obstacles of all kinds.”
The heart of this strategist of charity knew no bounds because it was open to the love of Christ. Passion for Christ was the soul of his courageous life, the inner force of an altruism without reservations, the ever fresh source of an indestructible hope,” he said.
Moreover, the Pope recalled that his humble son of a stone paver proclaims that ‘only charity will save the world’ and repeats to all that ‘perfect happiness is only in the perfect surrender to God and to man, to all mankind’.”
Holiness in prayer
Concerning St. Annibale Maria di Francia (1851-1927), priest and founder of the Congregation of the Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus and of the Daughters of Divine Zeal, the Pope underscored that “the love of the Lord led him to dedicate his entire existence to the spiritual good of others. In this sense, he experimented above all the urgency to fulfill the evangelical command” to pray for workers for the harvest.
He left the Rogationist Fathers and the Daughters of Divine Zeal the task of working with all their strength so that prayer for vocations might be ‘unceasing and universal’.” Father Annibale Maria Di Francia makes the same invitation to the young people of our time, unifying it with his usual exhortation: ‘Fall in love with Jesus Christ’,” he recalled.
The Holy Father added that “this providential intuition has given rise to a great movement of prayer for vocations in the Church,” and he asked that the example of Fr. Annibale Maria “guide and support also in this our time such pastoral action.”
An Apostle of the Family
Regarding St. Joseph Manyanet y Vives (1833-1901), priest and founder of the Congregations of the Sons of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Pope said he was a “true apostle of the family.”
“Inspired by the school of Nazareth, he fulfilled his plan of personal holiness and dedicated himself, with heroic selflessness, to the mission that the Spirit entrusted to him. To this end he founded two religious congregations. A visible symbol of his apostolic yearning is also the temple of the Holy Family in Barcelona,” he said.
Witness of Mercy
Speaking about St. Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini (1808-1858), priest of the Lebanese Maronite Order, the Pope called him a “man of prayer, in love with the Eucharist, which he loved to adore for long periods of time.”
He said St. Nimatullah is “an example for all the monks of the Lebanese Maronite Order, as well as for all his Lebanese brothers and for all Christians worldwide. He gave himself totally to the Lord in a life of great self-denial, showing that the love of God is the only true source of joy and happiness for man. He was determined to seek and to follow Christ, his teacher and Lord.”
Welcoming his brothers and sisters,” added the Pope, “he soothed and healed many wounds in the hearts of his contemporaries, witnessing to them the mercy of God. May his example shed light on our path, inspire in young people in particular a true desire for God and for holiness, to proclaim to our world the light of the Gospel!”
For the unity of the family
The Holy Father then spoke of St. Paola Elisabetta Cerioli (1816-1865), widow and religious, foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of the Holy Family and the Congregation of the Family of Bergamo.
The Pope said her “life was copious in good fruits.” In contemplating the Holy Family, “Contemplating the Holy Family, Paola Elisabetta recognized that family communities remain solid when the bonds of kinship are supported and cemented by the sharing of the values of the faith and of Christian culture. To spread these values, the new saint founded the Institute of the Holy Family.”
She was convinced that children need a healthy and united family which is generous and stable, in order to grow secure and strong. May God help Christian families to accept and witness in every circumstance the love of the merciful God,” he asked.
One of the most moving moments of the ceremony was when the Pope spoke of St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962), an Italian mother who was a “simple but particularly significant messenger of Divine love.”
In the presence of her four children and her husband Pietro Molla—now 91 years old—the Pope recalled the witness of Gianna that moved the world when she gave up her own life to save her unborn child, Gianna Emmanuella.
“Shortly before her wedding, in a letter to her future husband, she wrote: ‘Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has placed in the spirit of men,” said the Pope.
“Following the example of Christ, who ‘having loved his own ... he loved them to the end’ (John 13:1) this holy mother of a family was heroically faithful to the commitment she took on the day of her marriage. The supreme sacrifice that sealed her life testifies that only the one who has the courage to give himself totally to God and to neighbor finds fulfillment,” said the Pope.
The Pope asked that “our age rediscover, through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived out in response to the Divine call.”
With the Sunday canonizations, the Pope has proclaimed 483 saints during his pontificate.