Pope Francis advances the Cause of the SMA Founder

Fr Bruno Semplicio SMA was, for many years, the priest responsible for promoting the Cause for the Canonization of our Founder, Bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac. His official title was Postulator for the Cause of the SMA Founder. On 26 May 2020, Pope Francis signed the Decree recognizing the Heroic Virtues of our Founder, which allows us to now call him Venerable.
The present Postulator, Father Andrea Mandonico SMA, asked Fr Bruno to share some thoughts about this important step on the road to Beatification and eventual Canonization. Fr Bruno writes as follows:

First of all: this approval by Pope Francis is not a simple formality that opens the door to beatification, which relies on a miracle granted through the intercession of our Venerable Founder. On the contrary, it is an act rich in meaning. It recognizes the high quality of de Brésillac’s teaching and personal spiritual experience. The written responses of the theologian consultors who examined our Positio [a book of several volumes which gathers together all the writings of and on the Founder] show this.  

One consultor wrote: “(Bishop de Brésillac) was a man gifted with a profound piety and interior richness, animated by the Word of God as well as by the theology and the spirituality of his time. His writings are rich in prayers linked to the events of his life and his missionary action. He thus presents himself as a valid example for those in the Church today who are dedicated to apostolic life and action and who need a particular spirituality to sustain them.”

In addition, for the writing of the Positio, we were also asked to present the relevance of de Brésillac’s message, both for his time and for us today. Here are two passages:

“The Servant of God [de Brésillac] knew how to work in the present while preparing for the future with a serious study of the environment, of the history of mission and by taking advantage of the effects of spiritual discernment which had become for him a way of life and a very important element in missionary activity” (p. 23).

“In the present world it is even more necessary than yesterday to know what we are and what we want to do. The Servant of God considered himself always and everywhere a man at the service of someone, a Christian at the service of God and God’s will, a disciple always committed to the best possible response to the call of his Master, Jesus Christ. He lived as a man called. […] In his life and in his action, he wanted to act with intelligence, creativity, a precise analysis of situations and competence. He liked work that was done well and, as much as possible, work that was the fruit of consultation and sharing with other protagonists of the mission. In a world that demands ever more specialization, his witness and his message are important. He loved the quality of the action. When he was looking for candidates for his congregation, he wanted men of good quality from all points of view” (p. 24).

At the time of the survey on our missionary life (cf. Passion for the Mission Today, 2005, p 185) one SMA wrote: “Too often, we approach our work and our mission as amateurs”. In the past there was much talk of holiness and of commitment to perfection. Today we can use other words. However, we cannot forget that in our world, specialization is increasingly developing in all areas and competition is very strong. Therefore, missionary skills and virtues exercised to the best possible degree are the essential condition for a serious and effective proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The parable of the talents always closely concerns us.

Other considerations:

  • At one time, among postulators, we discussed the ecclesial importance of a Servant of God, whose virtues were recognized as being “heroic”. We asked those in the Vatican Congregation of Saints whether a miracle was always necessary, even for beatification. The answer: the Church prefers to have a “divine guarantee” for beatification and for canonization!
  • This decree on the degree of his virtues tells us that de Brésillac is a gift of the Lord not only for us, but for the entire Church. It is up to us to make him known, especially in mission and in vocations animation. It is up to us to offer his intercession for obtaining the graces that many men and women in the world need. It is also useful for us to ask his help on behalf of Jesus and his Spirit for our life and our missionary action.
  • Of course, I am happy for this pontifical declaration. It also recognizes the specific commitment of a considerable number of people. Arriving at this result required a great deal of knowledge in many areas and a great deal of patience. At times, a good dose of courage was also required. It also took a lot of prayer: thanks goes out to all the confreres and to all our communities who, through the years, have recited the prayer for the beatification and canonization of our Founder. It is a prayer that we want to continue and to accompany with missionary action rich in passion and competence.

The saints of the Church are the most important commentary on the Gospel, because they are the interpretation incarnate of the Word Incarnate, and they are, therefore, truly a way to Christ” (Hans Urs Von Balthasar).

Fr Bruno Semplicio, SMA