Pope Highlights a Devotion Shared by Newly Canonized Saints

Pilgrims Congratulate John Paul II on Eve of 84th Birthday

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Thousands of pilgrims sang congratulatory songs to John Paul II on the eve of his 84th birthday, during the audience he granted just 24 hours after canonizing six saints.

The Pope granted the audience today to groups of pilgrims who came to Rome in support of five of the new saints. On Saturday, he had already received the faithful who came to attend the canonization of Luigi Orione (1872-1940), founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence and of the Little Sisters Missionaries of Charity.

During today’s audience, the Pope recalled a common denominator of the newly canonized saints: “filial devotion to the Virgin Mary.”

Recalling Annibale Maria Di Francia (1851-1927), the Holy Father explained that the saint “was honored to bear since his baptism the name of the Virgin, whom he liked to call ‘my Mama.’ He had a very tender and ardent devotion for her, and invoked her as Mother of the Church and Mother of vocations.”

Father Di Francia founded the Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus as well as the Daughters of Divine Zeal.

Of St. Josep Manyanet (1833-1901), John Paul II said: “The ‘Gospel of the family,’ lived by Jesus in Nazareth together with Mary and Joseph, was the moving force of his pastoral charity” and “inspired his teaching.”

Father Manyanet founded the Sons of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as well as the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

John Paul II then mentioned the testimony of Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini (1808-1858), a priest of the Lebanese Maronite Order, saying that he “found in the Mother of God, the immaculate conception, the very model of faithfulness to Christ, to which he aspired.”

Of Paola Elisabetta Cerioli (1816-1865), a religious who founded the Institute of the Sisters of the Holy Family and the congregation of the Family of Bergamo, the Pope recalled that “in the school of Mary she was able to transform natural love into supernatural love, allowing God to expand her mother’s heart.”

Lastly, the Holy Father proposed the testimony of Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962), mother of a family and doctor, who at 39 took the risk of dying rather than aborting the child she was bearing.

“The reference to the Virgin is repeated in her letter to her fiancé Pietro, and in the following years of her life, especially when she was hospitalized for the removal of a fibroma without endangering the child she bore in her womb,” the Pope said.

“It was precisely Mary who supported her in the supreme sacrifice of death, confirming what she always loved to say: ‘Without the Virgin’s help, one cannot go to Paradise,'” the Holy Father said.

He concluded with advice for the pilgrims: “Follow their footsteps and imitate them, particularly their filial devotion to the Virgin, to advance always on the path of holiness.”

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