Pope canonizes seven saints who 'fought the good fight of faith'

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The seven new saints of the church
were holy not because of their own efforts but because of “the Lord who
triumphs in them and with them,” Pope Francis said.

Each one “struggled to the very end with all their
strength,” which they received through perseverance and prayer, the pope
said Oct. 16 at a canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

“They remained firm in faith, with a generous and
steadfast heart. Through their example and their intercession, may God also
enable us to be men and women of prayer,” the pope told the estimated 80,000 people present at the Mass.

Seven large tapestries bearing the portraits of the new
saints decorated the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, some representing specific
aspects of their lives that exemplified their holiness.

Argentine “gaucho
priest,” St. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero was portrayed sitting on a
donkey, his humble means of transportation when traveling thousands of miles to
minister to the poor and the sick.

St. Jose Sanchez del Rio,
a 14-year-old Mexican boy martyred for refusing to renounce his faith during
the Cristero War of the 1920s, was depicted holding a palm
branch and rosary while a trail of blood and a single bullet were at his feet.

St. Salomone Leclerq, who was killed after refusing to
renounce his faith at the height of the French Revolution, was shown with his
eyes fixed toward heaven as an angel carried a palm, symbolizing his martyrdom
for the faith.

The French Carmelite writer and mystic, St. Elizabeth
of the Holy Trinity, was shown seated in prayer, and St. Manuel Gonzalez
Garcia, a Spanish bishop who spent his life devoted to Eucharistic adoration, smiled

Brightly colored tapestries also featured the images of
two new Italian saints: St. Ludovico Pavoni, the founder of the Sons of Mary Immaculate, who dedicated
his life to the vocational and spiritual education of the poor and hearing
impaired, and St. Alfonso Maria Fusco, founder of the Congregation of the
Baptistine Sisters of the Nazarene and of the Little House of Providence, a
home for abandoned children.

The celebration began with
Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes,
requesting Pope Francis enroll the six men and one woman “among the
saints, that they may be invoked as such by all the Christian faithful.”

Following the singing of
the Litany of the Saints, the pope “declared and defined” their
sainthood which was met with applause from crowd, many waving banners and flags
in approval.

In his homily, the pope said the central theme of the
Sunday readings was prayer, an important aspect in the lives of the newly
canonized saints and something that obtained for them “the goal of heaven.”

He reflected on the day’s first reading which recalled Moses
raising his arms in prayer while the Israelites fought Amalek’s army. When
Moses’ arms would fall from weariness, the tide would turn against Israel.

Just as Aaron and Hur held Moses arms up until the
Israelites won the battle, the pope said, so should Christians “support
one another” in the “commitment to prayer.”

“Weariness is inevitable,” he said. “Sometimes
we simply cannot go on, yet, with the support of our brothers and sisters, our
prayer can persevere until the Lord completes his work.”

Like Moses who grew weary, yet was sustained by Aaron
and Hur, Christians must remember they are not alone in the church, the pope

“We are members of the body of Christ, the church,
whose arms are raised day and night to heaven, thanks to the presence of the risen
Christ and his Holy Spirit. Only in the church, and thanks to the church’s
prayer, are we able to remain steadfast in faith and witness,” he said.

Looking at the day’s Gospel reading, the pope said
Jesus’ parable of the widow who persists in seeking justice reveals “the
mystery of prayer” which involves crying out persistently and not losing

“To pray is not to take refuge in an ideal world,
nor to escape into a false, selfish sense of calm. On the contrary, to pray is
to struggle, but also to let the Holy Spirit pray within us,” the pope

Before the final blessing, Pope Francis led the faithful in
praying the Angelus and thanked the delegations as well as the pilgrims from
the various countries of the new saints for their presence. The official
delegations included Argentine President Mauricio Macri and cabinet
ministers from Spain, France and Italy. The official Mexican delegation was
headed by Roberto Herrera Mena, adjunct for religious affairs.

Pope Francis prayed that “the example and intercession
of these luminous witnesses sustain the commitment of each one in your
respective areas of work and service for the good of the church and the civil

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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