Homily by the Holy Father: 12 October 2008
Pope Benedict XVI
PAPAL CHAPEL - SUNDAY 12 OCTOBER 2008
Yesterday, 12 October 2008, XXVIII Sunday of ordinary time, at 10:00 am, the Holy Father Benedict XVI celebrated the Eucharist on the parvis of the Vatican Basilica and then proceeded with the canonization of the Blessed Gaetano Errico, priest, founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; Maria Bernarda (Verena) Bütler, virgin of the Congregation of the Franciscan Poor Clares; Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán, lay person.
Concelebrating were the members of the Papal Chapel and other 40 celebrants. Cardinals Deacons H. Em. Card. Jorge María Mejia and H. Em. Card. Georges Marie Martin Cottier, O.P. Among the concelebrants, the Bishops of the Cause for Canonization: H. Em. Card. Crescenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples; H. Exc. Mons. Antonio Arregui Yarza, Archbishop of Guayaquil; H. Exc. Mons. Jorge Enrique Jimenez Carvajal, Archbishop of Carthage; H. Exc. Mons. Joseph Kallarangatt, Bishop of Palai. The opening chant of“Viderunt omnes termini terrae salutare Dei nostri” (All the boundaries of the world have seen the salvation of our Lord) was sung during the rites of introduction to the Eucharistic Celebration.
HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER
During the Sacred Rite, after the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father gave the following homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Four new figures of Saints are proposed today for the worship of the universal Church: Gaetano Errico, Maria Bernarda Butler, Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception and Narcisa of Jesus Martillo Moran. The liturgy presents them to us with the evangelical image of the invited guests that take part in a banquet, in their wedding garments. The banquet image can also be found in the first Reading and in various other pages of the Bible: it is a joyous image because the banquet follows a wedding, the Covenant of love between God and His people. The expectancies of Israel were constantly pointed towards this Covenant by the Old Testament prophets. And in an era marked by trials of all sorts, when the difficulties risked discouraging the chosen People, the reassuring words of the prophet Isaiah could be heard: “On this mountain, for all peoples, Yahweh Sabaoth is preparing a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of succulent food, of well-strained wines” (25:6). God will put an end to the sadness and the shame of His people, who will finally live joyously in communion with Him. God never abandons His People: this is why the prophet invites all to rejoice: “Look, this is our God, in him we put our hope that he should save us... Let us exult and rejoice since he has saved us” (25:9).
If the first Reading exalts God’s faithfulness to His promise, the Gospel, with the parable of the wedding, makes us reflect on the human answer. Some of the guests refused the invitation, because they had other interests; others even went so far as to disdain the king’s invitation provoking a punishment that fell not only on them, but on the entire city.
However the king was not discouraged and sent his servants to look for other guests to fill the banquet hall. Thus the refusals of the first become an extension of the invitation to all, with a special preference for the poor and the disinherited. This is what happened in the Paschal Mystery: the power of evil is defeated by the omnipotence of God’s love. The Risen Lord can now invite all to the banquet of Paschal joy, providing the wedding garments Himself to the participants, symbol of the freely given gift of sanctifying grace.
However, the generosity of God must be answered by the free acceptance of man. This is the generous path that was trodden also by those we worship as saints today. In baptism, they received the wedding garments of divine grace, they kept them pure or they purified themselves and made them resplendent during their lives through the Sacraments. Now they take part in the nuptial banquet of Heaven. The banquet of the Eucharist anticipates the final feast of Heaven, to which the Lord invites us every day and to which we should participate with the wedding garments of His grace. Should we sully or tear this clothing with sin, the goodness of God does not turn us away nor does it abandon us to our fate, rather it offers us the possibility to restore the integrity to the wedding garments necessary for the feast through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The ministry of Reconciliation, therefore is an ever present ministry. The priest Gaetano Errico, founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, dedicated himself to this with diligence, assiduity and patience, without ever refusing or holding himself back. Thus he inscribes himself among the extraordinary figures of the priesthood who, unceasingly, made the confessional the place to dispense the mercy of God, helping men to find themselves, to fight against sin and to progress in the path of spiritual life. The road and the confessional were the privileged places for pastoral action of this new saint. The road allowed him to encounter the persons to whom he would address his usual invitation: “God loves you, when will we see you?”, and in the confessional he made it possible for them to encounter the mercy of the heavenly Father. How many injured souls did he heal like this! How many persons did he lead to reconciliation with God through the Sacrament of forgiveness! In such a way, Saint Gaetano Errico became an expert in the “scìence” of forgiveness, and he took care to teach it to his missionaries, recommending to them: “God, who does not wish for the death of the sinner, is always more merciful than his ministers; therefore be as merciful as you can, so that you will yourselves receive mercy from God”.
Maria Bernarda Bütler, born in Auw, in the Swiss Canton of Argovia, experienced the deep love for the Lord when she was very young. As she said, “it is almost impossible to explain it to who has not experienced it personally”. This love led Verena Bütler, as she was called then, to enter the monastery of the Capuchins of Mary Auxiliatrix in Altstätten, where at the age of 21, she took her vows. At the age of 40, she received her missionary vocation and went to Ecuador and then to Colombia. Because of her life and her commitment in favor of people, on 29 October 1995, my venerable predecessor John Paul II elevated her to the honor of the altars as Blessed.
Mother Maria Bernarda, a fondly remembered and greatly loved figure in Colombia especially, understood profoundly that the feast the Lord had prepared for all peoples is represented in a special way by the Eucharist. In this, Christ himself welcomes us as friends and gives himself to us to eat in the form of bread and the Word, entering into an intimate communion with each of us. This is this new Saint’s source and rock as it also was of the missionary impetus that led her to leave her homeland, Switzerland, to open new evangelical horizons in Ecuador and Colombia. Throughout the terrible adversities she had to face, including exile, she carried impressed in her heart the exclamation of the psalm we heard today: “Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side.” (Ps 23:4). In this way, obedient to the Word of God, following the example of Mary, she did as the servants who were spoken about in the Gospel passage we just heard: she went everywhere proclaiming that the Lord invites all to his banquet; thus allowing others to participate in the love of God to which she dedicated herself with faithfulness and joy throughout her life.
“He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Is 25:8). These words of the prophet Isaiah contain the promise which sustained Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception through a life of extreme physical and spiritual suffering. This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonized saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God’s grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ’s and now delights in the “rich fare and choice wines” of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Is 25:6). She wrote, “I consider a day without suffering as a day lost”. May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise.
The young Ecuadorian lay woman, Narcisa of Jesus Martillo Moran offers us a complete example of a prompt and generous answer to the Lord’s invitation to participate in His love. Even at a young age while receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation she clearly felt in her heart the call to live a life of sanctity and of offering to God. To serenely follow the action of the Holy Spirit in her soul, she always looked for advice and guidance from good and expert priests, considering spiritual direction as one of the most effective instruments to achieve holiness. Saint Narcisa of Jesus shows us a path of Christian perfection that is accessible to all the faithful. Despite the abundant and extraordinary graces received, she lived her life with great simplicity, dedicated to her work as a seamstress and to her apostolate as a catechist. In her passionate love for Jesus, which led her to follow a path of intense prayer and mortification and to identify herself for evermore with the Mystery of the Cross, she offers a fascinating witness and a complete example of a life totally dedicated to God and to others.
Dear brothers and sisters, we give thanks to the Lord for the gift of sanctity that shines today in the Church with a singular brilliance. Jesus invites each of us to follow it, as these Saints did, in the path of the Cross, so that we may then inherit the eternal life that He, in dying, gave to us. May their example encourage us; their teachings guide and comfort us; their intercession sustain us in the daily struggle, so that we too, one day, can attain and share with them and all the saints the joy of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem. May we achieve this grace above all through Mary, the Queen of Saints, whom we venerate with particular devotion in this month of October. Amen.
[Original text: plurilingual]