Ten New Saints are brilliant reflections of the Lord of History

The lives of the saints prove that holiness is not an unreachable goal accomplished by a select few, but comes from acknowledging and sharing God’s love, said Pope Francis. “Our Christian lives begin not with doctrine and good works, but with the amazement born of realising that we are loved, prior to any response on our part,” the Pope said in his homily during the canonisation Mass in which he declared ten men and women as saints of the Catholic Church, including Blessed Devasahayam from India.

“At times, by overemphasising our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves, our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice in achieving a reward. In this way, we have turned holiness into an unattainable goal,” he said.

An estimated 45,000 pilgrims from around the world gathered in St Peter’s Square at the beginning of the canonisation Mass, and tens of thousands more arrived in time for the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer afterward, the Vatican said.

In his homily, the Pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St John in which Jesus calls on His disciples to love one another “as I have loved you.”Christ’s call, he said, should be “the core of our own faith,” a faith that recognises that “our abilities and our merits are not the central thing, but rather the unconditional, free and unmerited love of God.”

“Being disciples of Jesus and advancing on the path of holiness means first and foremost letting ourselves be transfigured by the power of God’s love. Let us never forget the primacy of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works,” the Pope said. Jesus’ call to love one another is not solely a call to imitate His love for humanity, but a reminder that Christians “are able to love only because He has loved us, because He pours into our hearts His own Spirit, the Spirit of holiness, love that heals and transforms.”

To live one’s life according to that love, the Pope said Christians must be willing to serve others, which clears one’s soul from “the poison of greed and competitiveness” and fights “the cancer of indifference and the woodworm of self-referentiality.” Giving one’s life, he said, is “more than simply offering something of ours to others,” but rather, it is a way of “surmounting our selfishness in order to make our lives a gift.”

Pope Francis said that the ten new saints exemplified the Christian call “to serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters, to offer our lives without expecting anything in return, or any worldly glory. They discovered an incomparable joy, and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history. May we strive to do the same, for each of us is called to holiness, to a form of holiness all our own.”

The new saints are:

— Devasahayam Pillai, an Indian layman born in 1712 and martyred in 1752.

— César de Bus, the French founder of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine, who was born in 1544 and died in 1607.

— Luigi Maria Palazzolo (1827-1886), Italian founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor..

— Giustino Maria Russolillo (1891-1955), Italian founder of the Society of Divine Vocations for men and the Vocationist Sisters.

— Charles de Foucauld, French priest and hermit, born in 1858 and killed in 1916.

— Anna Maria Rubatto (1844-1904), Italian founder of the order now known as the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto.

— Maria Domenica Mantovani (1862-1934), co-founder and first Superior General of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family.

— Titus Brandsma, Dutch priest and journalist, who was born in 1881 and martyred in 1942.

— Carolina Santocanale (1852-1923), Italian founder of the Congregation of the Capuchin Sisters of the Immaculate of Lourdes.

— Marie Rivier (1768-1838), French founder of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary.

(Guest Editorial) Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Devasahayam’s Canonization: A historic moment for India

Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam of India and six others will be officially declared saints at a canonisation Mass and ceremony in the Vatican on May 15, 2022.

The official declaration of an 18th century Indian Hindu convert to Catholicism as a saint by the Catholic Church is a “historic moment”, according to an official of the Catholic Church in India. "To many of us who have received the faith from our forebears, Devasahayam's testimony reminds us that the Gospel is a treasure to be discovered and to which to devote a lifetime,” said Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai Diocese, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI). Blessed Lazarus, known as Devasahayam, became “poor for the sake of the poor and had love for the poor, as Pope Francis says,” he told AsiaNews. The canonisation “is an encouragement to us to emulate Devasahayam.”

Blessed Lazarus, also known as Devasahayam, will be the first layperson and martyr of Indian origin to be officially declared a saint of the worldwide Catholic Church. He was martyred for his faith nearly 270 years ago in what is today Tamil Nadu state. On May 3, 2021, Pope Francis officially cleared Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam and six others for sainthood, but had not set the date for the canonisation ceremony because of the pandemic. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared on November 9, 2021 that the canonisation Mass will take place in the Vatican on May 15, 2022. The Pope will preside over the liturgy.

The Diocese of Kottar received clearance from the Vatican on December 22, 2003, to open the cause of Devasahayam’s martyrdom at the local level. At the start of the diocesan inquiry which took place from 2006 to 2008, Devasahayam was conferred the title ‘Servant of God’.

Thereafter, the process moved over to the Vatican under the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. On November 15, 2011, the documents were submitted for evaluation by the historical consultors, who concluded that the evidence collected was sufficient and reliable to demonstrate Devasahayam's martyrdom. On February 7, 2012, a special meeting of theological consultors took note of the historical reliability of the documents collected, which demonstrated both the “odium fidei” [hatred of the faith] on the part of the persecutors and its acceptance on the part of Devasahayam. An ordinary session of cardinals and bishops on May 8, 2012 gave its approval.

For a non-martyr candidate, a miraculous healing through his or her intercession has to be proved before beatification, which confers on him or her the title ‘Blessed’. However, a miracle is not required prior to a martyr's beatification, as was the case of Devasahayam.

On June 28, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree recognising Devasahayam’s martyrdom. On December 2, 2012, Italian Cardinal Angelo Amato, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the Mass of Beatification at Carmel Higher Secondary School campus in Nagercoil, Kottar Diocese, on behalf of Pope Benedict, conferring on Devasahayam the title ‘Blessed’.

Speaking at the midday Angelus prayer that day in the Vatican, Pope Benedict said, “Let us join in the joy of the Church in India, and pray that the new Blessed may sustain the faith of the Christians of that large and noble country.”

A miracle through a candidate’s intercession is needed for the person to be cleared for canonisation or final sainthood. In the case of Devasahayam, an enquiry was initiated in the Diocese of Kottar regarding a possible miracle. The Congregation identified it as “the resuscitation of a 20-week-old foetus of an Indian pregnant lady.” The medical board that examined the case on February 28, 2019 unanimously declared that the healing could not be explained by current medical knowledge.

On December 5, 2019, a special meeting of the theological consultors of the Congregation approved the miracle. Cardinals and bishops who met on February 18, 2020, also approved it. Three days later, on February 21, Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree officially recognising the miracle, which effectively cleared Blessed Devasahayam for sainthood.

(Guest Editorial) Robin Gomes,Vatican News

Marian Mantle for Protection and Peace

Fr Anthony Charanghat

Pope Francis tweeted recently, that the city that bears the name of the Virgin Mary - Mariupol - has become a martyred city. In doing so he reveals that the so-called limited military operation in Ukraine to avert a perceived existential threat to Russia, has turned out to be a ruinous war that is devastating. Mariupol, a ‘martyred’ city, is the embodiment of a humanitarian catastrophe and genocide of civilians of a scale unseen since World War II, which the current crisis has threatened to become. With a brutal invasion having been unjustly escalated, and now being savagely prolonged, Our Lady’s motherly assistance is required more than ever.

Russian occupation troops, under the direct orders of President Vladimir Putin, have been constantly shelling the cities, barbarously destroying residential neighbourhoods and civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, destroying their homes and committing human rights abuses that violate international humanitarian laws. The war in Ukraine is a spiritual, human and ecological catastrophe, and fighting should stop and the military troops attacking each other should go home.

Catholic moral theologians uniformly condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine but debate the proper response. This view is shared by Catholic pacifists, as well as followers of the just war theory. All agree there is no justification for the invasion. Where Catholic moralists begin to disagree, is about what means are appropriate in responding to the invasion? Peace advocates believe that a violent response of defence will make matters worse.

Some say, how far can we take the assumption that violence breeds more violence and permit indiscriminate massacre and devastation according to the whims and fancies of despots? There are some situations in which the only way out of the cycle of the violence is violence for the sake of justice.

Others do see signs of hope in humane endeavours to seek a resolution. A variety of creative, courageous, non-violent ways of resistance like sanctions that have been activated could be scaled up, and other ways include humanitarian assistance and caring for refugees, evacuations, etc.

Several military analysts have agreed that the non-violent resistance has been remarkable. It is admitted though economic sanctions are crucial, it will not succeed without the proportionate use of weapons to keep the aggressors at bay. But defensive military action to counter the aggression will not only keep the present war ongoing but entail horrific loss of life. Russia watchers expect the Russian President Putin not to stop at Ukraine. There is a streak of misplaced arrogance and defiance exhibited by the opposing leaders, both holding on to their intransigent ways stubbornly.

The Ukrainian President Zelensky displayed a Davidic defiance against the impudent Goliath-like Putin who seemed to be concerned to threaten, with his nuclear might, to decimate his opponents, while his bombs rained on the innocent. Negotiations for reconciliation for a cessation of war can only be realised only through seeking solutions in a human and spiritual partnership.

The other option is a religious-spiritual way forward. According to Orthodox tradition, Mary miraculously appeared at a church in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), when the city was under attack in the early 10th century. As the story goes, Mary prayed at the church’s altar, then spread her veil over the congregation, and the invading armies withdrew.

Ukrainian clergy demonstrating against the war in their country have appeared in media coverage carefully holding an image of the Virgin Mary of Ukraine, her outstretched hands lifting up the edges of a cloak. These pictures depict a particular religious icon known as the ‘Pokrova’ in which Mary’s veil – a ‘pokrova’ or ‘cover’ in Ukrainian – is a sign of protection and guarantee for peace.

At Fatima, Mary asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. We must implore Mary to cloak those who live in Ukraine with her protection and to lead them to Christ strikes us as so timely and necessary. With a brutal invasion having been unjustly undertaken and now being savagely prolonged, Our Lady’s motherly assistance is required more than ever.

Asking Mary’s intercession for the conversion of Russia has been a recurrent priority of the Church in the last 100 years. If we fail to do so, Russia may well achieve its changing goals – which is believed, it will, without military resistance along with other measures — and an entire nation will disappear from the heart of Europe.

Holy Mother of God, spread your maternal mantle over all Christians and over all people of good will who live in this great nation. Lead them to your Son, Jesus, who is for everyone the Way, the Truth and the Life.

An Inspiring Labour of Love

Fr Anthony Charanghat

St Joseph’s example of working as a Carpenter of Nazareth, to look after the Holy family as the spouse of Mary and foster father of Jesus, demonstrates the true nature of human work as a labour of love according to God’s plans for our happiness. In the life of St Joseph, we discover many inspiring aspects on how work forms our character and influences our relationship of love with God, family, and neighbour. From the humble and little known life of St Joseph in Scripture, we can develop a theology and spirituality of Labour, relevant to the Labour Day celebrations of our times.

When we look at the first chapters of the Bible, we see that God, as part of His original plan, gave us the ‘vocation to work’ so that we might cooperate with Him in bringing His creative plan to perfection. In the Book of Genesis, before sin entered the world, God specifically entrusted to man and woman to master and rule the work of His Creation.

Human beings were to fill the earth and subdue it, meaning to bring out all the potential God had put into Creation, like eventually making computer chips and glass out of sand, medicines out of plants, and other achievements, which we continue to see with wonder and gratitude in the fields of science and technology. Created in God’s image, we continue His work in the world He created from nothing (Gen 1:27; 5:1 and 9:6).

How do these theological truths about human work in the divine plan play out in daily life? The life and example of St Joseph the Carpenter Worker (a ‘tekton’ constructor of homes) makes the theology and spirituality of work practical. He was not only a worker, but was chosen by God the Father to be the mentor of Christ the Worker and provide a home for the family of Jesus and Mary. Despite the condition of homelessness and being a migrant thrust upon them by a cruel despot, St Joseph, the just and faithful man was committed to his calling.

Christ learned how to be a carpenter at St Joseph’s side, and under his guidance. Christ’s understanding of work reflected St Joseph’s patient mentorship in the craft of building not only an earthly home, but the home of his heavenly Father. The sanctification of daily work in every context is evident in the relationship between Jesus and St Joseph in this way: “Joseph loved Jesus as a father loves his son, and showed his love by giving him the best he had by training him in the skills of a professional craftsman. So, the neighbours of Nazareth will call Jesus both faber and fabrifilius: the craftsman and the son of the craftsman (Mk 6:3; Mt 13:55).

On this feast day of St Joseph the worker, we pray for all those out of work that, through his intercession, they may find dignified jobs by which they can develop their gifts, serve others, and provide for their and others’ needs. We pray for our young people, including the youngest of all in the womb, that through St Joseph’s help and protection, they might come to use their gifts to help form a more free, just and virtuous society with special concern for those most vulnerable.

We pray for all those who have retired, that they may use the extra time they now have to pour themselves into the various forms of unpaid volunteer work that can give them an opportunity to use their wisdom, like St Joseph, to mentor others and strengthen our Church and society.

As we mark this Labour Day with the feast of St Joseph the worker, we pray for each other and for the whole Church, that each of us may apprentice ourselves to St Joseph and learn from him, as Jesus did, how to convert our daily labour, whatever form it takes, into opportunities to cooperate with God in the ongoing perfection of Creation and the continued harvest of the Redemption.

Lights and Shadows of the Divine Mercy

Look up at the blackness of space on a clear, cloud-less night, and you may be mesmerised and enraptured by the sight of millions of stars, twinkling in the night sky. The darkness and emptiness of space remains, and the stars are not powerful enough to dispel the darkness completely, yet the dark and despairing night is transformed into a canvas of beauty. Our attention is fixated not on the darkness but on the beauty of the light.

Christ’s Resurrection brought victory over death, and Light has dispelled the darkness, yet we may quite often continue to be saddened and discouraged by the prevailing evil that plagues humanity and our personal life circumstances. Yet every believer becomes a radiant star that reflects the Light of the Redeemer. The Easter mysteries reveal the fullness of God’s love for us, and when we embrace and live the fullness of life that only God can bring, we become ‘mini-lights’ that reflect the Light of the Saviour.

The enduring message of Divine Mercy Sunday which immediately follows Easter Sunday, is that inspite of the prevailing darkness, sin and evil in our lives and in the world at large, humanity must engage the fullness of God’s Mercy unleashed on the Cross and be transformed by the Light of His Resurrection. For the believer, this becomes an opportunity to see every evil as a potential for pouring out God’s Mercy; it makes us channels to transmit the Light of Christ to those still walking in darkness. In this way, even ‘shadows’ point to the ‘Light’, because shadows do not exist without light.

This is brought out powerfully in the readings of the Sunday, through two personalities, one of whom is Peter. We read of how the Mercy of God was made present in the early Church through the healing of the sick. They are cured of their maladies when just the ‘shadow’ of Peter falls on them. Just a short while ago, Peter had denied the Lord, yet by himself receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness, the apostle Peter becomes a ‘Vessel’ of God’s Mercy, in Jerusalem and to the whole world. Even sinners and sceptics become fonts of mercy.

Speaking of sceptics, Divine Mercy Sunday always reminds us of Thomas the twin who doubts the truth of the apostolic witness. He must see for himself the Jesus he knew and loved. Thomas’ incredulity should not be held against him, because the other disciples had been given the privilege of ‘seeing’ the Risen Lord. His ‘refusal to believe’ could also be interpreted as his deep longing to see and touch, to experience for himself what the others had experienced. He wanted to personally meet and encounter Jesus.

When the Lord Jesus appears to Thomas the next Sunday, his words to him are not of rebuke but of invitation, “Doubt no longer, but believe!” Just as the Lord encountered the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are reminded that the Lord Jesus meets us in our moments of desperation, fear, anxiety, hopelessness – even unbelief and scepticism – and offers us the free gift of His Light and Love. All we need to do is keep our hearts and minds open in a spirit of seeking and surrender.

There is an element of denial and doubt in all of us, as we journey through life afflicted by the darkness of sin and suffering. Yet there is nothing that cannot be overcome by accepting God’s invitation of entering into a relationship with Him; there is no sin that cannot be overcome by mercy. If we open ourselves to the power of Christ, through prayer and the sacraments, we too will experience the Divine Mercy. Like Peter and Thomas, we too will be touched by Him and brought to the fullness of life.

May the Easter Season become for us a celebration of Divine Love! Happy are we who have not seen and yet believed!

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Echoes of the Easter Event

Fr Anthony Charanghat

These darkest days of mindless violence, catastrophic destruction, and incredibly savage massacres call us urgently to be Echoes of the Easter Event. The Resurrection of Christ reveals the reality of God’s New Creation and New Life that is indispensable to transform our broken world. Easter gives us the power of faith to go beyond the humanly possible. During overwhelming loss, it gives courage to struggle against odds. An Easter ethic gives us an indomitable spirit to reconcile polarising forces and unify divisiveness. This is central to the affirmation of our faith in the salvific mission of the Risen Christ to redeem and renew us as into a New Creation and a New Life.

John’s Gospel narrates the Easter event to offer deep insights into the meaning of the Resurrection life that we are called to witness. What is significant are the details of his reportage of the Easter episode: “on the first day of the week, Mary Magdelene came to the tomb, while it was still dark...” echoes the identical narration of the creation story from Genesis. The similarities in these closely linked stories throw light to help us understand that the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are a New Creation and a New Life.

John’s Gospel reading presents how Mary Magdalene, one of the main participants in the Easter event, a dear friend and faithful disciple of Jesus–mournful, broken-hearted, and fear-stricken – comes, while it was still dark, to pay respects to her friend and Master buried. She apparently “comes to the garden alone,” discovers that the tomb is unoccupied and runs to Peter and John with an improbable tale – Jesus’ body has disappeared. They come to investigate the incident but after seeking evidence, return perhaps to ponder on pragmatic action.

But Mary lingers on, continues seeking her teacher and faithful friend. She continues her relentless search and enquiries repeating “they have taken away my Master”. So, on this the eighth day of creation, when God revealed His new creation in the risen Christ, Mary Magdalene was not prepared for what she was about to witness. She was too distraught and overcome with grief to see what God had done, when she was asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

It is in the encounter with the One whom she thought was unknown that her life is transformed. The Risen Jesus calls her by name “Mary”, and her life is changed and is now in touch with reality. She is the first to witness His Resurrection. Though she cannot fathom the Resurrection, she believes and worships. Resurrection is grounded in the constancy of God’s future impinging on the present; yet it is something more, it is the radical leap beyond what we could ever imagine. Mary is addressed by her Lord once again. “Go to the others.” And, having been called by name, Mary is now sent to proclaim the wonder of what she has beheld.

Similarly, what prevents us from seeing the power of God at work in the world? Perhaps, for many of us, life has been so daunting at times that life in graveyards have become a common phenomenon, and we are unable to recognize God’s work in our lives and in the world. Yes, we are witnesses to the atrocities of Good Friday, and we saw the Lord of life bludgeoned to death in the situations around us. And for some of us, everyday living has become a very long Good Friday.

The moment of identification by name becomes the rebirth of Mary Magdalene. The former mournful, fearful and grief-stricken Magdalene who entered the garden looking for a dead person, has received new birth and is now face-to-face with the risen Christ. In that moment, Mary Magdalene became a new creation. With this new birth, she can boldly proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!” The Magdalene can now see the new reality -- His Look of Love and Life. Jesus lives!

Today, we too, can open ourselves to resurrection power, and let it flow through us to all creation. Though beyond our control and untrammelled by our belief systems, we can awaken to resurrection in all the dead zones of life, trusting that God will revive us all, and be echoes of Easter bringing forth life in the high-control culture of death that confronts us and death-full situations in our time.

Bridging Palms and Passion

Fr Anthony Charanghat

Palm Sunday is the curtain-raiser to the Holiest Week of the Liturgical Year, which involves the interplay of celebration and passion. The Palm Sunday procession marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He is hailed with ‘Hosannas’ acclaiming Him to be a peaceful warrior; a leader who rules by a relationship of love, and not with coercion and self-centred despotism.

The celebrative parade and adulation, however, masks the underlying tension. Jesus’ entry is a prelude for conflict with the religious leaders and principalities and powers of the world. Passion Sunday focuses on life’s darkest hours, but the darkness reveals Jesus’ commitment to God’s realm and our salvation.

We are called to focus on both the celebrative spirit of Palm Sunday and ponder on the abandonment and the Passion of violence which are existential features of the history of every individual, community and nation. We must creatively embrace these aspects of Holy Week into a spirituality of our life that would be effective to meet the challenges we face today.

Psalm 22 proclaims God’s faithfulness. Despite the conflicts of life, the Psalmist affirms that we are in God’s hands. God’s love embraces us in every season of life. God sustains us as we travel through the valley of the shadow of death, whether personal or political, and God will not abandon us, but will meet us on the other side.

The gospel readings present Jesus’ saving ministry in the form of a crucifixion. Jesus is drawn towards Jerusalem and the Cross. Institutional misuse of power crucified Jesus. The Cross reflects the acts of irresponsible human decision-making and the intersection of the providence of grace. Jesus’ integrity, shaped by His faithfulness to God’s vision and His willingness to challenge the religious and political powers, transformed the Cross from an instrument of punishment to a means of our salvation.

Jesus could have chosen the expedient human way, but His integrity led Him to follow God’s vision by staying in Jerusalem, rather than choosing the path of mediocre compromise that would be of no consequence in the unfolding of human history. Jesus walked the path through the valley of conflict and persecution.

The Palm/Passion Sunday liturgy spans the entire gamut of our life – adulation and abandonment, celebration and conflict, integrity and suffering. We encounter the ambiguity of religious and secular institutions. As we witness daily, our institutions - intended for good - are often diabolical agents of destruction.

To make sense to twenty-first century people, Palm/Passion Sunday must be seen as a contemporary event, revealed in the machinations of political and religious leaders. That the fallen can be redeemed is the message of the prayers and readings of the Liturgy. In this era of immoral treatment of immigrants, xenophobic public policies, racism, etc., the message of Holy Week takes a very different path.

Jesus’ dynamic life-giving vision of Peace, and not destruction, shapes our lives today, challenging us to sacrifice for causes greater than ourselves, and confront the injustices of our world, rather than accepting them as normal.

As we walk the Palm Sunday procession this year, what we are participating in is not a folkloric staging of the gospel. Rather, it is remembering of what we are as a community of fragile, not yet fully committed people who have experienced the saving love of Christ. Metaphorically, what we must spread in the dust under the Master’s feet are not our clothes, but our very selves.

We would do well to call to mind the words of the hymn, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” which refers to our current situation. We are both faithful and fickle, and so turn our back on our Christian ideals and God’s dream for humankind and the Earth. We feel courageous, yet are overcome by fear. Still, there is hope in our ambivalence and weakness; God does not abandon us, even when we abandon God.