Vatican City, Nov 23, 2014 / 09:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of Christ the King, during the canonization Mass of six new saints, Pope Francis said that Jesus Christ’s kingdom comes through his works of mercy--works that Christians must imitate with tenderness.
“In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters,” the Pope said Sunday to myriad people in St. Peter’s Square. “If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what is most precious to us, Jesus himself and his Gospel.”
“Jesus is not a King according to earthly ways,” the Holy Father said. Rather, “his reign is not to command, but to obey the Father, to give himself over to the Father, so that his plan of love and salvation may be brought to fulfillment.”
Salvation does not begin with confessing Christ’s sovereignty, the Pope said, but with “the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom.” In so doing one opens “his heart to God’s charity.”
Tens of thousands of people attended the Nov. 23 Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, which featured the canonizations of six men and women. Four of the new saints were from Italy: Giovanni Antonio Farina, Ludovico da Casoria, Nicola da Longobardi and Amato Ronconi. The other two were from India: Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Eufrasia Eluvathingal.
Pope Francis’ homily discussed the Mass readings. The first reading from Ezekiel presents God as Shepherd and his people as his sheep. The Pope said the reading reveals the shepherd’s “care and love” for his flock: “to search, to look over, to gather the dispersed, to lead into pasture, to bring to rest, to seek the lost sheep, to lead back the confused, to bandage the wounded, to heal the sick, to take care of, to pasture.”
The Pope said Jesus “brought about his kingdom... through his closeness and tenderness towards us.”
Pope Francis then turned his reflection to the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew 25, where Jesus Christ commends those who have inherited the Kingdom: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
This reading “reminds us that closeness and tenderness are the rule of life for us also, and that on this basis we will be judged,” the Pope explained.
Pope Francis spoke of the new saints canonized at the beginning of the Mass. He said each of them “served the kingdom of God, of which they became heirs, precisely through works of generous devotion to God and their brothers and sisters.”
These men and women, he said, “sought and discovered love in a strong and personal relationship with God,” which in turn led to their love of neighbor, especially the poor.
“May our new saints, through their witness and intercession, increase within us the joy of walking in the way of the Gospel and our resolve to embrace the Gospel as the compass of our lives.”
Pope Francis then called on the faithful to imitate these new saints in “faith and love, so that our hope too may be clothed in immortality.”
“May we not allow ourselves to be distracted by other earthly and fleeting interests,” he said, concluding his homily: “And may Mary, our Mother and Queen of all Saints, guide us on the way to the kingdom of heaven.”
Before bestowing the final blessing at the conclusion of Mass, Pope Francis briefly welcomed the delegations from India and Italy who had come to Rome for the canonizations.
The four new Italian saints, he said, caring as they did for the people and working toward the common good, “trusted in the nearness of God who never abandons (us), even in difficult moments.”
Speaking of the two new saints from India, the Pope said through their intercession, “the Lord will grant a new missionary drive to the Church” in the country. He said India’s Christians can be “inspired by their example of harmony and reconciliation” and “continue along the path toward solidarity and fraternal coexistence.”
Pope Francis then led the recitation of the Angelus in Latin, after which he wished everyone a good Sunday, and asked them to remember him in their prayers.
Vatican City, Nov 23, 2014 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his ad limina address to the bishops of Zambia on Monday, Pope Francis urged them to continue to build upon the efforts of missionaries to the country, a quarter of whose people are Catholic, and who are nearly all Christian.
“Looking back to the beginnings of the Church in Zambia, it is well known that the rich deposit of faith brought by missionary religious from lands overflowing with growth prompted your forebears to respond with their own works of charity, whose effects are felt throughout your country today,” the Pope said Nov. 17 at the Vatican.
“Despite the sometimes painful meeting of ancient ways with the new hope that Christ the Lord brings to all cultures, the word of faith took deep root, multiplying a hundredfold, and a new Zambian society transformed by Christian values emerged. It is at once evident how plentiful the spiritual harvest in your vast land already is – blessed with Catholic-run clinics, hospitals and schools, many parishes alive and growing across Zambia, a wide diversity of lay ministries, and substantial numbers of vocations to the priesthood.”
A southern African nation, Zambia was colonized in the 19th century; it is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. It has 11 dioceses, and has been relatively untroubled by war since its independence.
Pope Francis noted that today, “Zambians continue to seek a happy and fulfilling future in the Church and in society, despite great challenges which militate against stability in social and ecclesial life, in particular for families. When family life is endangered, then the life of faith is also put at risk. As you yourselves have recounted, many – especially the poor in their struggle for survival – are led astray by empty promises in false teachings that seem to offer quick relief in times of desperation.”
He urged that the bishops support the family, “for it is here that the Church’s well-being in Zambia must grow and be fostered. I ask you, with your priests, to form strong Christian families, who – by your catechizing – will know, understand and love the truths of the faith more deeply, and thus be protected from those currents which may tempt them to fall away.”
“Affirm Catholic couples in their desire for fidelity in conjugal life and in their yearning to provide a stable spiritual home for their children, helping them to nurture the life of virtue in the family,” he exhorted.
The bishops, he said, are to be close to young people so as to help them find their vocation, whether it is in marriage or “the celibate vocations to the sacred priesthood or religious life .. encourage young Catholics by living lives of virtue to experience the liberating gift of chastity as adults.”
“In a special way invite those who have grown lukewarm and feel lost to return to the full practice of the faith. As pastors of the flock, do not forget to seek out the weakest members of Zambian society, among whom are the materially poor and those afflicted with AIDS.”
The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the nation is around 13 percent, and the adjusted per capita GDP is $1,700.
“Despite all that the Church in Zambia faces,” Pope Francis said, “it is a time not to be discouraged but rather to offer the true freedom which only the Lord can give, sustained by the sacraments.”
“I encourage you to remain sensitive as shepherds to the spiritual and human needs of your closest coworkers: never tire of being kind and firm fathers to your priests, helping them resist materialism and the standards of the world, while recognizing their just needs. Continue also to promote the treasure of religious life in your Dioceses, so that outstanding examples may be brought forth of Zambian men and women seeking to love the Lord with undivided hearts.”
The Pope noted the Oct. 28 death of Zambia's president, Michael Sata, and invited the bishops to “continue working with your political leaders for the common good, deepening your prophetic witness in defence of the poor in order to uplift the lives of the weak.”
“In all things, cooperate with the graces of the Holy Spirit, in unity of belief and purpose,” he concluded.
“The Lord of the harvest is preparing to send the rains he promises in due season; for you are cultivating his fields until he returns at harvest time. Until then, knowing well how much your work demands personal sacrifice, patience and love, draw on the faith and sacrifice of the Apostles to whose threshold you have come, in order to return strengthened to the Church in Zambia.”
Vatican City, Nov 22, 2014 / 05:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two new Indian Catholic saints to be canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday were known for their deep spiritual life and their intercession in helping families, say two Catholics who find deep inspiration in their sanctity.
Fr. Isaac Arickappalil C.M.I. told CNA Nov. 14 that the canonization of the soon-to-be saint Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara is “an inspiration for all of us.” He said the Nov. 23 canonization is an inspiration for the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, the order which Bl. Kuriakose founded, as well as for the Church in India as a whole.
“It gives us inspiration to be more spiritual,” the priest said, calling the canonization a time “to re-dedicate ourselves for the cause of the church, for the service of human beings and also (the) glory of God.”
The priest is a member of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, which Bl. Kuriakose founded in 1836. It is the first Catholic religious order founded in India. Fr. Arickappalil also serves as director of the Chavara Institute for Interreligious Studies in Rome, which is named after the religious order’s founder.
Bl. Kuriakose also founded an order of religious sisters called the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel.
This congregation will also receive a new saint, Bl. Euphrasia Eluvathingal, during the Nov. 23 canonization. Bl. Euphrasia, who died in 1952, served as the superior general for the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel for three years.
Among Bl. Euphrasia’s devotees is Sister Mary Julit C.M.C., who came to Rome from India in order to help the postulator of Bl. Euphrasia’s cause prepare for the canonization. The sister echoed Fr. Arickappalil’s excitement for the canonization of both her founder, as well as her order’s previous superior general.
The canonization of the two saints is a great moment for the Indian church, she said, because while the presence of saints and blessed is common in Italy, they are not as frequently found in Asian countries.
“I think there are many saints without calling them by name,” she said, adding that to have the official recognition of two saints from India is significant.
The religious sister praised Bl. Euphrasia’s spiritual life, saying “she lived the Carmelite spirituality and also humanity in its fuller sense.”
“It is said that another word for love is mercy and forgiveness, and she showed that a lot in her community life, to the sisters and the people she connected with,” she told CNA Nov. 17.
Bl. Euphrasia was “a real model” for the sisters of the congregation, Sr. Julit said. Although she mostly stayed inside of the convent for 50 years, she was able to attain the deep union with God implied in the phrase “be perfect as I am perfect.”
Known during her life as the “Praying Mother,” Bl. Euphrasia is frequently petitioned for problems with the family or fertility, Sr. Julit explained. She said that many childless couples who come to pray at the site of the blessed’s death end up having children afterward.
Sr. Julit recounted that when she traveled to the blessed’s place of death four months ago, she encountered an energetic little girl whose name was Euphrasia.
“I thought, in this age, why did her mother give her this name? And the mother told me they did not have children for 17 years, and then they prayed to (the saint) and the next year they had this baby-girl, so they vowed to give her the name of Euphrasia.”
Fr. Arickappalil explained that Bl. Kuriakose was a man similarly known for his efforts in building-up family life.
“He had a special devotion to the Holy Family. In another words, he was a person of families, he tried to renew them. He knew the Catholic life, the Christian life, is possible only if families are good,” the priest said.
Bl. Kuriakose gave parents concrete instructions on how to raise their children. He also instructed children about how to be obedient, devoted and respectful to their parents. He offered a series of retreats for families, particularly in schools and poorhouses.
“So he was very much devoted to families, and he tried to spread this devotion to the Holy Family and the Blessed Sacrament, and to Our Lady.”
Born in 1805, Bl. Kuriakose founded the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate with the help of a few friends. He was known for his efforts in bridging a schism that happened after the First Vatican Council, during which an unauthorized bishop came to India’s Kerala province and ordained priests without the Pope’s approval.
When Bl. Kuriakose saw what was happening, he fought against the bishop “for the unity of the church and he Catholic life,” Fr. Arickappalil observed. If the schism had not been eventually resolved in India, “the whole church in Kerala would have gone away from the Catholic church by now.”
“Only because of (Bl. Kuriakose’s) dedication, courage and selfless service to the Catholic Church, are Catholics still there in Kerala.”
It is important for the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate to have their founder canonized, the priest explained, because it means that the Church recognizes his spiritual accomplishments.
The two new saints are from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an India-based Eastern Catholic Church in union with Rome.
The Indian community has organized several celebrations for the event, including a prayer vigil the night before the Nov. 23 canonizations. Sr. Julit is preparing the vigil’s texts.
Fr. Arickappalil explained that close to 20 bishops are coming from India for the celebration, including Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, the major archbishop of India’s Syro-Malankara Church.
In addition to the bishops, nearly 800 Indian priests will concelebrate in the Mass, while an estimated 10,000 pilgrims will come from all across India, primarily from its Kerala province.
Festivities for the Indian saints will conclude with a Mass of Thanksgiving on Nov. 24, which will be celebrated at the Pope’s altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Francis will visit to greet the Indian community before the Mass.
Four Italians will be also be canonized on Sunday.