By José Antonio Varela
ROME, JUNE 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The founder of the Marianist spiritual family was born in France in 1761. As the religious and laypeople of his charism celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth, there is hope that he will soon be recognized a saint.
A cure from cancer of a St. Louis woman might be the step that brings about his canonization.
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850) was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000, at the same time that Pope John XXIII was beatified.
In his homily, the Polish Pontiff spoke of Blessed Chaminade as a model of evangelization. He “reminds the faithful that it is their task to find ever new ways of bearing witness to the faith, especially in order to reach those who are far from the Church and who do not have the usual means of knowing Christ,” the Holy Father said on that occasion.
ZENIT spoke with Father Antonio Gascón, general postulator of the congregation, about the canonization cause and other members of the Marianist family already recognized for their sanctity.
ZENIT: What significance is being drawn from the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Chaminade?
Father Gascón: It signifies a spiritual force in our life and mission, which we carry out in collaboration with hundreds of laypeople involved in our works and communities. It is a burst of enthusiasm for our Marianist identity in the Church.
ZENIT: What is the status of the canonization process for the founder?
Father Gascón: The case of a woman in St. Louis, Missouri, is being studied. She was cured of cancer in 2005. The diocesan process has already closed and the case is with the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
ZENIT: Tell us about this cure.
Father Gascón: It was a cure from cancer of a member of the Marianist parish of Our Lady of the Pillar in St. Louis. It was a rare cancer [and she was given just weeks or months to live]. However, when doctors announced this, her parents and friends prayed to Father Chaminade for her cure, and when the doctors operated on her again to extract as much of the tumor mass as they could, they found that the tumor was dead.
ZENIT: Which other Marianists are on their way to the altar?
Father Gascón: We have the seven Spanish blessed martyrs of the religious persecution of the 30s. There is another martyr of Nazism, Blessed James Gapp, killed in 1943 because he was a priest. We have opened the case of young Faustino Pérez Manglano, who died in 1963 and is already venerable. He was a pupil at the Marianist school of Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Valencia. It is a very interesting case because around him a pastoral and youth movement has been created with many followers.
We have Father Domingo Lázaro, an eminent Spanish pedagogue who died in 1935, whose cause has already been presented to the [Vatican] congregation. Last year the cause of another Spanish priest was opened, Father Vicente López Uralde, whose positio is being written. We also have the case of the founder of the women Marianists, Mother Adela de Batz de Trenquelléon, who is already venerable. Now it depends on a miracle for her to be declared blessed.
ZENIT: What has been a hallmark of the Marianist blesseds and venerables?
Father Gascón: We believe that the causes are a strong testimony of holiness, of our charism and the kind of Marianist life transmitted by God to Father Chaminade. I have seen that when a cause of canonization is opened in a diocese, everyone feels great joy and collaborates enthusiastically because they see that God has been present in that person; it is the passing of a saint through our lives. We are happy that these people exist because they are a very strong source of life and evangelical mission in our congregation.
ZENIT: What emphasis do you wish to give this 250th anniversary celebration?
Father Gascón: We would like Chaminade to help us strengthen our Marian-apostolic spirituality and our missionary impulse in this new globalized culture. And that it be done with a Marian sensitivity in our life, in our spirituality, in the communication of the faith. And to do this in ecclesial collaboration and communion with the laity involved in our works and communities who form part of the Marianist Family. We are interested in the world of young people. And in the countries of the Third World, we are interested in the social, economic, cultural and political development of human groups and societies, which is work with the poor, opening it to the whole society and not just as a sociological event.
ZENIT: How can the founder come to be better known?
Father Gascón: The way to get to know Father Chaminade is by maintaining contact with him on two levels — one intellectual: to read what he wrote or works about him. And another vital level is to maintain a contact of prayer, of spiritual communion, because he is a blessed and deserves the liturgical devotion of our religious family, and personal devotion. There should arise in the religious of the Marianist family a way of understanding and of living the Gospel, the Church, the mission, in the style of William Joseph Chaminade, who is a teacher of the spiritual life.
ZENIT: And the other venerables and blesseds?
Father Gascón: We have a duty to recognize and be grateful for the martyrdom of those who have already been declared martyrs. In Faustino’s case, this could be a great opportunity for pastoral work with adolescents and young people. Benedict XVI is very interested in child and youth ministry and there is a great challenge to reach the new generations. Fathers Domingo Lázaro and Vicente López Uralde are great witnesses of educational and pastoral work with young people. In the case of the founder of the women religious, it is a call to the evangelical life and to the mission, which must be motivated by the Marianist women themselves, with ministry centered on the testimony of Mother Adela.[Translation by ZENIT]