Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Holiness: strength, evangelization and concern for the weakest

El Greco, El Expolio (1577-1579) 
Cathedral of Toledo (Spain)

The first saints canonized by Pope Francis on May 12 are almost 800 martyrs of Otranto (Italy), beheaded in 1480, and two religious women from Colombia and Mexico.

     The canonization of the martyrs of Otranto (beatified in 1771 by Clement XIV, Pope Franciscan) had been advanced by Benedict XVI at the same audience in which he announced his resignation (Feb, 11th, 2013).

    These martyrs, in the words of Pope Francis, “refused to deny their faith and they died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which permits us to see beyond the limits of our human vision, beyond the confines of earthly life, it permits us to contemplate ‘the heavens opened up’, as St. Stephen says, and the living Christ at the Father’s right hand”. This, notes the Pope, calls us to keep the faith as a treasure, because God will not let us missing or forces or serenity; at the same time we should implore for courage for the many Christians that still suffer violence.

Holiness involves transmittig the faith

    The first Colombian saint, Laura Montoya Upegui (1874-1949), was “an instrument of evangelization first as a teacher and then as a spiritual mother of the indigenous people, to whom she gave hope, welcoming them with God’s love and bringing them to him through an effective pedagogy that respected their culture and did not oppose it”.

    This saint, the Pope says, “teaches us to be generous with God, not to live our faith alone – as if it were possible to live the faith in an isolate 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”. And he adds: “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, no! Our most precious possession is Christ and his Gospel”.

Concern for the needy

     In Mexico, saint Guadalupe García Zavala ("mother Lupita": 1878-1963) gave up a comfortable life to bear witness to Jesus as God asked her to. So says the Pope Francis, underscoring that “the ‘bourgeoisification’ of the heart paralyzes us”.

     Specifically, “Mother Lupita knelt on the floor in the hospital before the sick and abandoned to serve them with tenderness and compassion. And this is called ‘touching the flesh of Christ’. 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’”.

     And so the Pope Francis invites us all –in very different ways, according with our circunstances– to love as the Lord has loved. “And this means not bring shuting ourselves up, 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 being for them the warmth and nearness of God’s love, through delicate gestures of sincere affection and love”.

    Fidelity (with strength if necessary to martyrdom), evangelization and charity. They are lessons of the saints who question our lives as Christians. So the Pope concludes with some questions to ponder during our journey: “How am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to manifest my faith with respect but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I recognize those in need, do I see everyone as a brother or sister to love?” (For texts, see,, 12-V-2013).

    In sum, on this historic day is manifested the unity of the See of Peter, with the call to Christian holiness: a holiness achieved and manifested in martyrdom, evangelization and charity.

(First version published in, 14-V-2013)

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