VATICAN CITY – In front of a crowd of nearly 35,000 pilgrims, Pope Francis canonized 35 new saints this week. Almost all of the newly canonized saints were martyrs. Pope Francis told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square that the lives of the saints offer models for those of us still striving towards Heaven.
“They did not say a fleeting ‘yes’ to love, they said ‘yes’ (to God’s love) with their lives and to the very end,” Pope Francis said.
A group of 30 martyrs canonized by Pope Francis were from Brazil and were referred to as the “Martyrs of Natal”. A group of both priests and lay people, they were persecuted by Dutch Calvinists in 1645. One of the Brazilian martyrs was a Jesuit, André de Soveral, martyred while celebrating the Mass when soldiers burst into the church, attacking parishioners.
Three more martyrs, a group of 12 and 13 year olds from Mexico, were also canonized after they refused to give up their Catholic faith. Cristobal, Antonio, and Juan were called the “Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala.” They were martyred sometime between 1527 and 1529, and were some of the first indigenous Catholics in Mexico.
The final two saints canonized were a Spanish priest, Faustino Miguez, and an Italian priest, Angelo of Acri. Father Faustino lived in 20th century, and Father Angelo was an Italian traveling preacher who died after serving some of the most remote parts of Italy.
During the canonization Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the parable of the wedding banquet. “At least once a day,” he said, “we should tell the Lord that we love him.” Without love, the Christian life is reduced down to just a collection of rules and regulations. But the call to sainthood is much more than just a rule book. Instead, we should see ourselves as wedding guests, called to the celebration of Heaven.
“We are the beloved, the guests at the wedding, and our life is a gift, because every day is a wonderful opportunity to respond to God’s invitation” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis also warned against settling into complacency in the spiritual journey. If we become distracted by pleasures or profits, we begin to think that those temporary joys can bring us eternal happiness. “We end up aging badly and quickly, because we grow old inside. When our hearts do not expand, they become closed in on themselves”.
All you holy men and women, pray for us!