Papal Homily at Canonization Mass

«Incredible Examples of Such Passionate Love»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2011 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s homily from a Mass he celebrated Sunday for the canonization of Guido Maria Conforti, Luigi Guanella and Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro

* * *

Venerable brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today our Sunday liturgy is enriched by several events that cause us to thank and praise God. Not only do we celebrate World Mission Sunday with the whole Church — an annual event that aims to reawaken missionary drive and commitment — but we also praise the Lord for three new saints: Bishop Guido Maria Conforti, Father Luigi Guanella, and Sister Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. I happily greet all of you present, particularly the official delegations and the numerous pilgrims who have come to celebrate these three exemplary disciples of Christ.

The Word of the Lord, proclaimed just a couple minutes ago in the Gospel, reminded us that the Divine Law can be summed up in love. Matthew the Evangelist tells how the Pharisees, after Jesus had silenced the Sadducees with his response, conspired to put him to the test (see Matthew 22:34-35). One of them, a doctor of the law, asked Jesus: «Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?» (Verse 36). Jesus responds with complete simplicity to the deliberately crafty question: «You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment» (Verse 37-38). Truly, the main requirement for all of us is that God be present in our lives. As the Scriptures say, he ought to permeate all the levels of our being and to fill us completely: Our hearts should relish him and be touched by him, as well as our souls, our wills, our minds and our thoughts. We should be able to say with St. Paul, «It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me» (Galatians 1:20).

And right away Jesus adds something that the doctor of the law hadn’t even asked for: «The second is similar: You shall love your neighbor as yourself» (Verse 39). By saying that the second commandment is similar to the first, Jesus implies that loving our neighbor is as important as loving God. In fact, love for our brothers and sisters is the visible sign of God’s love that a Christian can show to the world. It is very providential that precisely today the Church points out to all its members three new saints who were transformed by God’s love and who oriented their entire lives to it. In diverse situations and with different charisms, each of them loved the Lord with all their hearts, and they loved their neighbors as themselves, «so as to be examples for all believers.» (1 Titus 1:7)

Psalm 17, which we heard a short while ago, invites us to confidently abandon ourselves into the hands of the Lord, who is «faithful to his holy ones» (Verse 51). This attitude guided St. Guido Maria Conforti in his life and ministry. From his youth, when he had to overcome his father’s opposition in order to enter the seminary, he showed a firm decision to follow God’s will and to correspond entirely to the caritas Christi (love of Christ), which attracted him while he contemplated Christ crucified. He felt a strong need to announce Christ’s love to all who had not heard of it, and the motto Caritas Christi urget nos (the love of Christ impels us, 2 Corinthians 5:14), sums up the missionary institute that he brought to life when he was barely 30 years old. It is a religious family entirely at the service of evangelization under the patronage of St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the East. St. Guido Maria was called to live this missionary drive as a bishop in Ravenna and later in Parma. He gave himself entirely to help the souls of those entrusted to him, especially those who were far from the Lord. His life was marked by many trials, including several serious difficulties. But he knew how to accept each situation with docility, welcoming it as part of the path traced out for him by divine providence. In every circumstance, even in the most painful losses, he knew how to recognize God’s plan, which drove him to build up Christ’s Kingdom above all by denying himself and accepting God’s will each day with a trusting abandonment that grew more so each day. He first experienced and witnessed what he also taught his missionaries — that perfection consists in doing God’s will, according to the example set by Christ crucified. St. Guido Maria Conforti fixed his inner eye on the cross, which gently attracted him; in contemplating the cross, he saw the horizons of the world spread out before him, and he felt the urgent desire that is hidden in the heart of every person to receive and accept the only love that can save us.

The human and spiritual witness of St. Luigi Guanella is a special grace for the whole Church. Throughout his life he courageously lived the Gospel of charity, the «great commandment,» which today the Word of God has invited us to live. Thanks to a deep and continuous union with Christ in the contemplation of his love, Don Guanella followed divine providence and became a friend, teacher, comfort and support to the very poor and weak. God’s love stirred up in him the desire to do good to everyone entrusted to him in his everyday life. He gave careful attention to each person’s path, respecting each individual’s growth. At the same time, he firmly hoped that every person, created in the image and likeness of God, who savored the joy of being loved by him — the Father of all — would give the best of himself to others. Today we want to praise and thank the Lord because he has given us a prophet and apostle of charity in St. Luigi Guanella. In his example, which is full of kindness and care for the weak, we see a shining witness to God’s loving presence and action — the God who, as the first reading reminded us, defends the foreigner, the widow, the orphan, and the poor one who must pawn his own coat, his only covering for the night (cf. Exodus 22:20-26). May this new saint of charity be for everyone, and especially for the members of the congregation that he founded, an example of a deep and fruitful synthesis of contemplation and action, just as he lived it. The last words that he pronounced on his deathbed, «in caritate Christi» (in the love of Christ), sum up his entire human and spiritual experience. Christ’s love shines on the life of every person, showing that by giving ourselves to others we lose nothing, and in fact, find our true and complete happiness. May St. Luigi Guanella help us to grow in our friendship with the Lord in order to bring God’s love to everyone, to promote life in every condition and circumstance, and to help human society become ever more a family of the children of God.

In the second reading, we heard a passage from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, which uses the metaphor of manual labor to describe the work of evangelization. In a certain way, that metaphor also applies to the virtues of St. Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. When St. Paul writes this letter he is also working to earn his wages, and it seems clear from the tone of the letter and from the examples he uses that he preaches in his workshop and finds his first disciples there. This same attitude inspired St. Bonifacia, who, from the very beginning, united her daily work with her following of Christ. Work, which she had done since childhood, was not only a way not to be burdensome to others, but it also enabled her to fulfill her vocation and it offered her the opportunity to attract and form other women, who could likewise find God and hear his loving call in work, where they could discern their life project and learn to carry it out. This was how the Servants of St. Joseph was founded, in the midst of the humility and simplicity of the Gospel, which presents a school of Christian life in the home at Nazareth. In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul also says that his love for the community is tiring because it entails imitating Chr
ist’s self-giving to others, not expecting anything in return and not seeking anything but to please God. Mother Bonifacia, who dedicated herself enthusiastically to her apostolate and who started to see the first results of her labors, also lived this experience of loss and rejection, even by her disciples, and this was how she learned a new dimension of following Christ: the cross. She carried it with an endurance that gives hope, offering her life for the unity of the work she had started. This new saint is a perfect example of God’s work and an echo calling her daughters, the Servants of St. Joseph, as well as us, to receive her testimony with the joy of the Holy Spirit, without fearing opposition, and to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven everywhere. We entrust ourselves to her intercession, and we ask God to bless all workers, especially those who carry out menial tasks or whose work is not sufficiently appreciated. May they discover God’s loving hand in the midst of their daily work and witness to his love, transforming their tiredness into a song of praise to the Creator.

«I love you, Lord, my strength.» Dear brothers and sisters, we proclaimed this in the responsorial psalm, and these three new saints are incredible examples of such passionate love. Let us be inspired by their example and led by their teaching so that our lives may become a testimony of true love of God and of others.

May the Virgin Mary, Queen of all saints, and the intercession of St. Guido Maria Conforti, St. Luigi Guanella, and St. Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro obtain this grace for us. Amen.

[Translation by Michael Mernagh]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation