The rain was the most obvious protagonist of this morning’s canonization of 4 new saints, as it poured down relentlessly on the ocean of coloured umbrellas, on the sick, on the ministrants and bishops gathered in St Peter’s square. Every step of the ceremony, the readings, processions – with the exception of the rites preformed around the papal altar – were hindered by the opening and closing of the multi coloured umbrellas as they were passed from hand to hand, covering heads but drenching the shoulders and robes of the cardinals and 40 thousand faithful.
But the principal protagonist –said the pope – was “the Glory of God reflected in the lives of the saints”. Benedict XVI, thus united the solemn feast of the Holy Trinity – in which we “lift our gaze to the “open skies“ …to the profound depths of God’s mystery, who is one being in three persons – to the ceremony of the canonization of 4 blessed from Malta, Polond, Holland, France. They are George Preca (1880-1962), priest and founder of Societas Doctrinæ Christianæ Malta’s first saint, Szymon z Lipnicy (1435 ca.-1482), priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, and great preacher who died after caring for the sick during the plague in Poland; Karel van Sint Andries Houben (1821-1893), passionate priest, born in Holland but missionary in Ireland, the so called “healer” of Dublin; Marie-Eugénie de Jésus Milleret (1817-1898), founder of the Institute of the Sisters of the Assumption. All of these lived through times of great social tumult and de-Christianisation; all of these worked as missionaries, so much so that their work spread not only throughout their individual nations, but also abroad. The Pope defined them as “exemplary witnesses of the Gospel”.
Cardinals from across the world participated in the ceremony as well as the Presidents of Ireland, Malta, Poland and the Philippines : where the miracle which guaranteed sainthood for Sr. Marie Eugenie took place.
In his homily Benedict XVI, underlined that “God’s wisdom manifests itself in the cosmos, in its variety and the beauty of its elements, but his greatest masterpiece are the saints”. More precisely – explained the pontiff, inspired by the mass readings – “Every single saint participates in the richness of Christ, given to him from the father, through the Holy Spirit. It is always the Holiness of Christ that the Spirit plasmates in “saintly souls”, creating in them friends of Christ and witnesses of his Holiness”.
The pope then went on to reflect on the character and work opf the 4 new saints.
At the end of the celebration Benedict XVI greeted those present in different languages, thanking them for their “patience” for having put up with the ceaseless rain. “But water – said the Pope with a smile – is a precious gift and so we must also give praise for the water”. The faithful loudly applauded, waving flags, hats and rain-drenched umbrellas.