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"Friends of Jesus and Witnesses of His Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily delivered Sunday by Benedict XVI during the canonization Mass of Father George Preca, Father Szymon of Lipnica, Father Charles of St. Andrew and Mother Marie-Eugénie of Jesus.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,
 
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

After Eastertide, after having relived the event of Pentecost, which renews the Church's baptism in the Holy Spirit, we turn our gaze, so to speak, to the "opened heavens" to enter with the eyes of faith into the depths of the mystery of God, one in substance and three in persons: Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

As we allow ourselves to be caught up in this great mystery, we admire the glory of God which is reflected in the life of the saints; we contemplate it above all in those whom I have a short while ago proposed for the veneration of the universal Church: George Preca, Szymon of Lipnica, Father Charles of St. Andrew and Mother Marie Eugénie of Jesus.
 
To all the pilgrims who have come to pay homage to these exemplary witnesses of the Gospel, I extend my cordial greetings.
 
I greet, in particular, the cardinals, the presidents of the Philippines, of Ireland, of Malta and of Poland, my venerable brothers in the episcopate, the government delegations, and the other civil authorities who are taking part in this celebration.
 
In the first reading, taken from the Book of Proverbs, wisdom comes on the scene, standing at God's side as assistant, as "architect" (Proverbs 8:30).

The panorama of the cosmos seen with wisdom's eyes is stupendous. Wisdom confesses: "I played upon the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race" (8:30). Wisdom loves to dwell among men because in them she recognizes the image and likeness of the Creator.

This preferential relationship of wisdom with men makes us think of a celebrated passage in another sapiential book, the Book of Wisdom: "Wisdom," we read there, "is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing that is sullied enters into her. For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness. And she, who is one, can do all things, and renews everything while herself perduring; and passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets" (Wisdom 7:25-27).

This last suggestive expression invites us to consider the manifold and inexhaustible manifestation of sanctity in the people of God through the centuries. God's wisdom is manifest in the cosmos, in variety and beauty in its elements, but its masterpieces are the saints.
 
In the passage from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Romans we find a similar image: that of God's love "poured out into the hearts" of the saints, that is the baptized, "through the Holy Spirit" who has been given to them (cf. Romans 5:5). It is through Christ that the gift of the Spirit passes, "Person-Love, Person-Gift," as the Servant of God John Paul II defined him ("Dominum Vivificantem," No. 10).

Through Christ, the Spirit of God comes to us as principle of new, "holy," life. The Spirit puts the love of God in the heart of believers in the concrete form it had in the man Jesus of Nazareth. In this way what St. Paul says about "Christ in you, hope of glory" (Corinthians 1:27) is realized. The "tribulations" are not in contrast to this hope, indeed, they help to realize it through "patience" and "proven virtue" (Romans 5:3-4): It is the way of Jesus, the way of the cross.
 
In the same perspective, of God's wisdom incarnate in Christ and communicated by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel suggested to us that God the Father continues to manifest his plan of love through the saints. Even here there occurs what we have already noted about wisdom: The Spirit of truth reveals God's plan in the multiplicity of the elements of the cosmos and he does it above all through human persons, in a special way through saints.

In effect, "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) is properly only Jesus Christ, "the holy and just one" (Acts 3:14). He is wisdom incarnate, creator Logos who finds his joy in dwelling among men, in whose midst he has pitched his tent (cf. John 16:15). It pleased God to pour "every fullness" (cf. Colossians 1:19); or as he himself says in today's Gospel passage: "All that the Father has is mine" (John 16:15).

Each individual saint participates in the riches of Christ taken from the Father and communicated at the right time. It is always Jesus' own holiness, it is always him, the "holy one," whom the Spirit forms in "holy souls," making them into friends of Jesus and witnesses of his holiness.
 
George Preca was a friend of Jesus and a witness of the holiness that comes from him. George was born in La Valletta on the island of Malta. He was a priest wholly dedicated to evangelization: through preaching, through writing, through spiritual direction and the administering of the sacraments, and above all by the example of his life.

The phrase from John's Gospel "Verbum caro factum est" always gave direction to his soul and to his deeds, and thus the Lord was able to use him to give life to a meritorious work, "The Society of Christian Doctrine," which aimed at providing parishes with the service of qualified, well-formed and generous catechists.

A profoundly priestly and mystical soul, he overflowed with love for God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. He loved to repeat: "Lord God, how much I owe you! Thank you, Lord God, and forgive me, Lord God!"

Saint George Preca, help the Church to always be, in Malta and in the world, the faithful echo of Christ, the incarnate Word.

[In Polish the Pope said:]

The new saint, Szymon of Lipnica, great son of land of Poland, witness to Christ and follower of the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi, lived long ago, but is proposed to the Church today as a relevant model of a Christian who -- animated by the spirit of the Gospel -- is ready to give his life for his brothers and sisters.

Thus, filled with mercy that he drew from the Eucharist, did not hesitate to bring aid to those struck by the plague, contracting the sickness that also brought about his own death. Today in a special way we entrust to his protection those who suffer from poverty, sickness, loneliness and social injustice. Through his intercession we ask for ourselves the grace of persevering and active love for Christ and our brother and sisters.

[In English the Holy Father said:]

"The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us." Truly, in the case of the Passionist priest, Father Charles Houben of St. Andrew, we see how that love overflowed in a life totally dedicated to the care of souls. During his many years of priestly ministry in England and Ireland, the people flocked to him to seek out his wise counsel, his compassionate care and his healing touch.

In the sick and the suffering he recognized the face of the crucified Christ, to whom he had a lifelong devotion. He drank deeply from the rivers of living water that poured forth from the side of the Pierced One, and in the power of the Spirit he bore witness before the world to the Father's love. At the funeral of this much-loved priest, affectionately known as Father Charles of Mount Argus, his superior was moved to observe: "The people have already declared him a saint."
 
[In French he said:]

Marie-Eugénie of Jesus calls us above all to the importance of the Eucharist in Christian life and in spiritual growth. In fact, as she herself underlined, her first Communion had been the defining moment of her life, although she didn't realize it completely then. Christ, present in the depths of her heart, was working in her, he allowed time to pass according to its own rhythm, so that she could carry out her interior quest that led her to give herself completely to the Lord in religious life, in response to the needs of her times.

She perceived in particular the importance of transmitting to the young generations, and in particular to young girls, an intellectual, moral and spiritual education that would make them into adults capable of taking charge of a family, knowing that in this way they were offering their contribution to the Church and society.

Her entire life she found the strength to carry out her mission in a life of prayer, always associating contemplation with action. May the example of St. Marie-Eugénie invite the men and women of today to transmit the values that will help the youth to become strong adults and joyous witnesses of the Resurrection.

May young people not be afraid to accept these moral and spiritual values, and to live them with patience and fidelity. In this way they will construct their personalities and prepare themselves for their future.

[In Italian the Pope said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to God for the marvels that he has accomplished in the saints in whom his glory shines forth. Let us be drawn by their examples, guided by their teachings, so that our entire existence becomes, like theirs, a song of praise to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.

May Mary, the Queen of Saints, and the intercession of these four new "older brothers and sister," whom we venerate with joy today, obtain this grace for us. Amen.


© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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