Saints risk all for love of Jesus, pope says at canonization Mass

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Carrying Pope Paul VI’s pastoral staff
and wearing the blood-stained belt of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador,
Pope Francis formally recognized them, and five others, as saints of the
Catholic Church.

Thousands of pilgrims from the new saints’ home countries —
Italy, El Salvador, Spain and Germany — were joined by tens of thousands of
others Oct. 14 in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the universal recognition of
the holiness of men and women they already knew were saints.

Carolina Escamilla, who traveled from San Salvador for
canonization, said she was “super happy” to be in Rome. “I don’t
think there are words to describe all that we feel after such a long-awaited
and long-desired moment like the ‘official’ canonization, because Archbishop
Romero was already a saint when he was alive.”

Each of the new saints lived lives marked by pain and
criticism — including from within the church — but all of them dedicated
themselves with passionate love to following Jesus and caring for the weak and
the poor, Pope Francis said in his homily.

The new saints are: Paul VI, who led the last sessions of
the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation; Romero, who defended
the poor, called for justice and was assassinated in 1980; Vincenzo Romano, an
Italian priest who died in 1831; Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, a Spanish nun who
ministered in Mexico and Bolivia and died in 1943; Catherine Kasper, the
19th-century German founder of a religious order; Francesco Spinelli, a
19th-century priest and founder of a religious order; and Nunzio Sulprizio, a
layman who died in Naples in 1836 at the age of 19.

“All these saints, in different contexts,” put the
Gospel “into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without
calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all
behind,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

The pope, who has spoken often about being personally
inspired by both St. Paul VI and St. Oscar Romero, prayed that every Christian
would follow the new saints’ examples by shunning an attachment to money,
wealth and power, and instead following Jesus and sharing his love with others.

And he prayed the new saints would inspire the whole church
to set aside “structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the
Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to
the world.”

Among those in St. Peter’s Square for the Mass was Rossi
Bonilla, a Salvadoran now living in Barcelona. “I’m really emotional, also
because I did my Communion with Monsignor Romero when I was eight years old,”
she told Catholic News Service.

“He was so important for the neediest; he was really
with the people and kept strong when the repression started,” Bonilla
said. “The struggle continues for the people, and so here we are!”

Claudia Lombardi, 24, came to the canonization from Brescia,
Italy — St. Paul VI’s hometown. Her local saint, she said, “brought great
fresh air” to the church with the Second Vatican Council and “has
something to say to us today,” particularly with his 1968 encyclical
“Humanae Vitae” on human life and married love, especially its
teaching about “the conception of life, the protection of life

In his homily, Pope Francis said that “Jesus is

“He gives all and he asks all; he gives a love that is
total and asks for an undivided heart,” the pope said. “Even today he
gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in

Jesus, he said, “is not content with a ‘percentage of
love.’ We cannot love him 20 or 50 or 60 percent. It is either all or
nothing” because “our heart is like a magnet — it lets itself be
attracted by love, but it can cling to one master only and it must choose:
either it will love God or it will love the world’s treasure; either it will
live for love or it will live for itself.”

“A leap forward in love,” he said, is what would
enable individual Christians and the whole church to escape “complacency
and self-indulgence.”

Without passionate love, he said, “we find joy in some
fleeting pleasure, we close ourselves off in useless gossip, we settle into the
monotony of a Christian life without momentum where a little narcissism covers
over the sadness of remaining unfulfilled.”

The day’s Gospel reading recounted the story of the rich
young man who said he followed all the commandments and precepts of Jewish law,
but he asks Jesus what more he must do to have eternal life.

“Jesus’ answer catches him off guard,” the pope
said. “The Lord looks upon him and loves him. Jesus changes the
perspective from commandments observed in order to obtain a reward, to a free and
total love.”

In effect, he said, Jesus is telling the young man that not
doing evil is not enough, nor is it enough to give a little charity or say a
few prayers. Following Jesus means giving him absolute first place in one’s
life. “He asks you to leave behind what weighs down your heart, to empty
yourself of goods in order to make room for him, the only good.”

“Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do
we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him?”
the pope asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, including the 267 members
of the Synod of Bishops and the 34 young people who are observers at the

“A heart unburdened by possessions, that freely loves
the Lord, always spreads joy, that joy for which there is so much need today,”
Pope Francis said. “Today Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy,
which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow
him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way.”

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Contributing to this story were Carol Glatz, Junno Arocho
Esteves and Melissa Vida.

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