Pope Francis presided over the first canonizations of his pontificate at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday. With 802 canonizations, he raised to the altars the largest number of saints to be simultaneously canonized in the history of the Church.
Those declared saints were Mother Laura Montoya, the first saint from Colombia, Mother María Guadalupe García Zavala of Mexico, and 800 martyrs of Otranto, who were killed during a 15th century Turkish invasion of Italy when they refused to convert to Islam.
Reflecting on the readings in light of the newly declared saints, Pope Francis commented on St. Stephen, spoken of in Acts of the Apostles as a man “full of the Holy Spirit.”
“What does this mean?” the Holy Father asked. “It means that he was full of the Love of God, that his whole person, his whole life was animated by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, so much so that it led him to follow Christ in total fidelity, to the point of the gift of self.”
Recalling the martyrs of Otranto and their witness in refusing to deny their faith, Pope Francis said that their willingness to remain steadfast in the face of certain death came precisely from faith, which “permits us to see beyond the limits of our human vision.”
The Holy Father also prayed for those Christians suffering persecution and death for their faith in the world. “As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, in our own time and in many parts of the world, now still suffer from violence, and to give them the courage of fidelity and to answer evil with good,” the Pope said.
Drawing from the day’s Gospel, the Holy Father reflected on Colombia’s first saint, St. Maria Laura Montoya, whom he called “an instrument of evangelization” in her works as a teacher and as “a spiritual mother of the indigenous people.”
“This first saint born in the beautiful country of Colombia teaches us to be generous with God, not to live our faith alone – as if it were possible to live the faith in an isolated way – but to communicate it, to convey the joy of the Gospel with words and the witness of life in every place in which we find ourselves,” Pope Francis said.
“Wherever we live let us let this light of the Gospel shine! She teaches us to see the face of Jesus reflected in the other, to overcome indifference and individualism, which corrode Christian communities and corrode our heart, and she teaches us to welcome all without prejudice, without discrimination, without reticence, with sincere love, giving them the best of ourselves and above all sharing with them what is most precious to us, which is not our works or our organizations.”
Recalling the life of St. Maria Guadalupe García Zavala, Pope Francis emphasized the testimony the Mexican-born saint gave by denying herself a comfortable life. “How much damage is done by a comfortable life,” the Pope said. “ The ‘bourgeoisification’ of the heart paralyzes us.”
The Holy Father said that in giving up a comfortable life, Mother Lupita, as she is known in her native Mexico, taught the love of poverty, which in turn, allowed a greater love for the poor and the sick.
“The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this way of acting: do not be ashamed, do not be afraid, do not be repulsed by ‘touching the flesh of Christ,’” Pope Francis said.
“This new Mexican saint,” the Holy Father continued, “invites us to love as Jesus did, and this means to not shut up in ourselves, in our own problems, our own ideas, our own interests, in this little world that does so much damage to us, but going out and caring for those who need attention, understanding, help, to bring them the warmth and nearness of God’s love, through delicate gestures of sincere affection and love.”
Concluding his homily, the Holy Father said that in witnessing the love of God through the lives of the new saints allows us to pose questions regarding our own personal Christian life, thus allowing us to reflect on how one manifests their faith to others and helping those in most need of love.
“Let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the new saints, that the Lord fill our lives with the joy of his love,” the Pope concluded.
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For the full text of Pope Francis’ homily, go to