Mission Sunday Saints

Mission Sunday 2012 saw the canonisation of seven new Saints by Pope Benedict XVI.

According to FIDES, the News Agency for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples this “happy coincidence” between the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization and World Mission Sunday, were highlighted by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI during the Mass he celebrated on Sunday, October 21 at St. Peter’s Basilica. The Word of God proclaimed in the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time “sheds light on both” subjects. “It shows how to be evangelizers”, the Pope said, “called to bear witness and to proclaim the Christian message, configuring ourselves to Jesus Christ and following his same way of life. This is true both for the mission ad Gentes and for the new evangelization in places with ancient Christian roots.”

The words of Jesus – “The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45)” “are the words which enshrine the meaning of Christ’s mission on earth, marked by his sacrifice, by his total self-giving” said the Pope. On this World Mission Sunday, “the Church listens to them with special attention and renews her conviction that she should always be fully dedicated to serve mankind and the Gospel, as the example of the One who gave himself up even to the sacrifice of his life.”

These same words were the blueprint for the lives of the seven new Saints, who “with heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren,” said the Holy Father, before reading some biographical details of the new Saints.

Jacques Berthieu (1838-1896), a French Jesuit priest, martyred in Madagascar. Speaking of him the Holy Father said: “may his example aid the many Christians of today persecuted for their faith! In this Year of Faith, may his intercession bring forth many fruits for Madagascar and the African continent.” The Holy Father concluded his homily with this wish: “May the witness of these new saints, and their lives generously spent for love of Christ, speak today to the whole Church, and may their intercession strengthen and sustaun her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.”

Pedro Calungsod (1654-1672), a Filipino lay catechist and martyr, aged 18 years old. In his homily Pope Benedict said of Pedro: “Pedro Calungsod was born around 1654 in the Visayas region of the Philippines. In 1668, he and other young catechists accompanied Father Diego Luis de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands to evangelise the Chamorro people. “Life there was hard and the missionaries also faced persecution arising from envy and slander”, the Pope explained. “Pedro, however, displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechise his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel. Uppermost was his desire to win souls for Christ, and this made him resolute in accepting martyrdom. … May the example and courageous witness of Pedro Calungsod inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the Kingdom bravely and to win souls for God”.

Giovanni Battista Piamarta (1841-1913), an Italian priest, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord;

María Carmen Sallés y Barangueras (1848-1911), from Spain, foundress of the Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching;

Marianne Cope (1838-1918), German-American religious of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis at Syracuse. Sr Marianne “willingly embraced a call to care for the lepers of Hawaii after many others had refused”. Later, on the island of Molokai, she nursed Father Damien and, following his death, continued his work among those stricken with leprosy. “At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm”.

Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) was born in today’s New York state in 1656 to a Mohawk father and a Christian Algonquin mother. … She was baptised at twenty years of age and, to escape persecution, took refuge in the St. Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal. There she worked, faithful to the traditions of her people although renouncing their religious convictions, until her death at the age of twenty-four. … Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other. May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. St. Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America. May God bless the first nations”.

Anna Schäffer (1882-1925), a German lay woman, from Mindelstetten suffered a serious accident which left her with incurable burns on her legs and forced her to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. “Her sickbed became her cloister cell and her suffering a missionary service”, said Benedict XVI. “May her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity”.

At the end of the Mass, before reciting the Angelus, the Pope invited all to pray for missionaries with these words: “Today we want to entrust to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, the missionaries – priests, religious and laity – who all over the world spread the good seed of the Gospel. We also pray for the Synod of Bishops, which in recent weeks is facing the challenge of the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith.”

Read English translation of Pope Benedict’s homily here.

(SL) (Agenzia Fides 22/10/2012)