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Father Muench Says...

Saints remind us of our call to sanctity

Oct. 31, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The canonization of newly named saints is a powerful and important time for the Catholic Church. Recently, Pope Francis celebrated the canonization of seven saints. I also want to reaffirm that each day there are many new saints that enter Heavenly happiness. Most will not be canonized with a ceremony, but they are truly saints
Our Catholic Church celebrates certain saints with canonization – a time to celebrate their lives and declare them models and examples for the whole Church and the whole world. Two of the recently canonized are well known to us all. There is Pope Paul VI. He was the Pope during the Second Vatican Council. He became important in enacting the many decisions of the Council.

Pope St. Paul VI was well-known for his holiness and his constant concern for the poor and the needy of the whole world.

Also canonized this month was Archbishop Oscar Romero. He was Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital city of the El Salvador. Bishop Romero proved to be a bold and vocal defender of the poor, challenging the injustices of the national ruling party.

His Sunday homilies drew large crowds to his Cathedral and were a constant disturbance to the government. He was murdered while celebrating Mass by a death squad.

He was a martyr. His memory continues to be strong throughout the Americas, and he is a patron to so many.

Watching this year’s canonization ceremony, I remembered well that several years ago I attended a canonization Mass and ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. The Pope then was Pope Saint John Paul ll. I was on sabbatical at the North American College, the seminary for the dioceses of the United States in Rome. I was among the nearly hundred priests who had volunteered to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion at this Mass. I remember well the thousands of people that filled the square that day.

I do remember that one of those who were canonized that day was St. Baghita. Baghita was an African woman. She was thrown into slavery as a child, then saved and taken by a diplomatic family to Italy in their service.

There, she met the Canossian Sisters. She joined that religious congregation. She became well known for her holiness and her unselfish care for others. Since then, I have met some Canossian Sisters. St. Baghita continues to be honored in a special way.

My experience at that canonization Mass continues to be a very memorable for me. Each of us priests were given a ciborium filled with hosts. We stood around the Papal altar as Pope St. John Paul II celebrated the Mass.

At Communion time, we were then led out to bring Holy Communion to all those people. It was quite a day for me.

I want to add to this short meditation on canonization: canonization is not only for ordained clergy – Popes, Bishops, priests. Over the years, many lay Catholics have been recognized for their holiness and sanctity.

This year, one of the seven who was canonized was a young man, who died at the age of 19. He was an Italian named Nunzio Suprizio. I don’t know much of his story. He was obviously holy; he passed the various tests of the Congregation of his holiness. He is a reminder that we are all called to sanctity.

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