On Sunday, the Church presented three more men and women as major models of Christian holiness as Charles de Foucauld, Maria Pia Mastena and Maria Crocifissa Curcio were all pronounced Blessed in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the Eucharistic celebration, during which he pronounced the words of Beatification--in the name of Pope Benedict--over the group.
Following the Mass, Pope Benedict himself arrived at the basilica to venerate the relics of the newly Blesseds.
There, he greeted the throngs of pilgrims present and also imparted his apostolic blessing.
Speaking in French, the Holy Father first gave thanks to God for the testimony of Fr. Foucauld, who lived from 1858-1916.
"Through his contemplative and hidden life at Nazareth," the Pope said, "he found the truth of Jesus' humanity, inviting us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation.”
“He discovered that Jesus - Who came to unite Himself to us in our humanity - invites us to that universal brotherhood which he later experienced in the Sahara, and to that love of which Christ set us the example.”
“As a priest,” Benedict noted, “he put the Eucharist and the Gospel at the center of his life."
The Pope then went on to note the modern relevance of Maria Pia Mastena (1881-1951) , foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Countenance who, "assimilated the Son of God's loving kindness towards humanity disfigured by sin, gave concrete form to His gestures of compassion, and devised an institute with the aim of 'propagating, repairing and restoring sweet Jesus' image in people's souls'."
Speaking finally of Maria Crocifissa Curcio (1877-1957), who founded of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, the Holy Father highlighted the fact that at the center of her life "was the presence of merciful Jesus, Whom she encountered and adored in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”
“True passion for souls”, he said, “was what characterized the existence of Mother Maria Crocifissa who enthusiastically cultivated 'spiritual repair' in order to repay Jesus' love for us. Her life was a continuous prayer even when she went out to help others, especially poor and needy girls."
65 cardinals and bishops, were on hand to concelebrate the Beatification Mass.
Among them were Cardinals Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, and Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Archbishops Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, France, and Vincent Landel S.C.I. of Rabat, Morocco; and Bishop Elias Lahham of Tunis, Tunisia.
During his homily, Cardinal Saraiva Martins pointed out that Fr. Foucauld, a French missionary who passed much of his life among the Tuareg, a nomadic people of the Sahara, "exercised an important influence on the spirituality of the 20th century.”
“At the beginning of this third millennium”, the Cardinal continued, “he continues to be a fruitful point of reference and an invitation to a radically evangelical form of life."
He said that the newly-Blessed stood out for his "acceptance of the Gospel in its simplicity, evangelizing without imposing, bearing witness to Jesus Christ while respecting other religions, and reaffirming the primacy of charity in fraternity."
Turning to the Italian nun Maria Pia Mastena, Cardinal Martins noted that her congregation has spread throughout Italy, Brazil and Indonesia, and that she herself made it her mission to take Christ to the poorest and most abandoned.
Her motto, he noted, was "when a brother is sad and suffering, it is our duty to bring a smile back to his face."
Finally, the cardinal remembered Maria Crocifissa Curcio who, he said, "was a simple and strong woman, seized by the love of God, stretching towards heaven while stooping attentively over the earth, especially over suffering and needy humanity."
Sunday’s beatifications were the latest in a string--particularly over the last few weeks--of men and women continuing paths to sainthood begun by the late Pope John Paul II.