When Holiness Is Joy

A Vatican Prefect Touches on Topic in New Book

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ROME, OCT. 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Far from being limited to suffering, «holiness consists in living the paschal mystery in fullness,» which also entails joy, says Cardinal José Saraiva Martins.

The prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes shared that observation with ZENIT last week as he revealed the content of his recently published book, which he presented in the Augustinianum Institute of Rome.

Entitled «Come si fa un santo» (How a Saint Is Made), published by Piemme, the volume is a long interview granted by the cardinal to journalist Saverio Gaeta, editor in chief of Famiglia Cristiana magazine.

Alluding to a question in the book, the cardinal acknowledged how difficult it would be to make an eventual choice of his favorite saints.

«In fact, all the saints are there to be loved because, as Benedict XVI said in Cologne, the saints point out the way to be happy and show us how we can be truly human persons,» the cardinal said.

«These are sacrosanct words which we should never forget,» because «as I have said, holiness is the fullness of humanity,» Cardinal Saraiva Martins, 73, continued. «Only the saint is truly man. The saints are really the great revolutionaries of history. Let us think of St. Francis.

«They are the ones who make history. They are the most concrete persons; they are the ones who have addressed the problems that have afflicted and beset man … and today in particular. They are not saints up in the clouds, but concrete; because to be saints means to believe, to believe in something real, historical, to believe in the mystery of Christ, in his resurrection.»


«Here the topic of joy is inserted,» the Portuguese cardinal added. «To be saints means to live the paschal mystery in all its radicalness, the mystery which is the source of Christian joy.

«[One] cannot believe in Easter and be sad. It would be contradictory, it would make not sense at all! Here is the human dimension of holiness! I would be really happy if this small effort of mine might contribute, at least in some way, to make better known this profoundly human dimension of Christian holiness.»

Reflecting further on the concept that «holiness consists in living the paschal mystery in all its radicalness,» the cardinal stressed subsequently to ZENIT that «the paschal mystery entails death, but also resurrection: Good Friday but also Easter Sunday. Therefore, it is not exhausted only in suffering.

«Suffering would have no meaning without the resurrection. Christ died to rise and we must live in the two aspects of Calvary and paschal joy: They are not two different realities; it is a unique paschal mystery.»

Cardinal Saraiva Martins has been prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes since 1998.

Under his tenure, until last Easter, there have been recognized 545 blessed and 203 saints — more than a quarter of the 2,932 men and women (2,153 blessed and 779 saints) raised to the altar since 1588, the year in which Pope Sixtus V established the curial congregation to handle the causes of beatification and canonization.

The journalist who compiled the book, Saverio Gaeta, said he «realized that it was worthwhile to study further and to know the motive and procedure — very curious and unknown by the majority — why some undertake the canonical path to holiness.»

When writing this work, Gaeta said he was impressed «by the great quantity of ordinary people who are considered worthy to intercede before God» and who are indicated as «beacons» and «models» of holiness.

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