S. John Paul II Homil. 1050

1050 The church we are in, and which is now consecrated for worship, is a sign of that other Church made of living stones, which are the believers in Christ wonderfully united by the spiritual "cement" of charity. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, the gifts and charisms of each member of the ecclesial community do not contradict, but indeed enrich the harmony of the one spiritual edifice of the Body of Christ. In this way, the material church expresses the interior communion of all who gather here to be taught the Word of God, as was recalled in the first reading: "The ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law" (Ne 8,3). Here the faithful will receive the sacraments, especially the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and will be able to express their devotion to Our Lady of Divine Love with greater intensity.

3. "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Ne 8,10).

In this way Nehemiah greeted the assembly of Israelites, who were gathered in one place to renew their covenant with God. Today I would like to greet all of you who are gathered in this Marian shrine with the same words.

I thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for coming here in great numbers. I affectionately greet the Cardinal Vicar, to whom I extend my gratitude for the sentiments he expressed to me at the beginning of the celebration. Together with him, I greet the Bishops, the priests and rectors of other Marian shrines who have come here. I greet the rector-parish priest of this shrine, Fr Pasquale Silla, who has done so much to reach this day, and all the sons and daughters of Our Lady of Divine Love who look after these places with great care. They are continuing the praiseworthy work of their founder, Fr Umberto Terenzi, who tenaciously wanted a new house here for the Blessed Virgin, the one we are dedicating today. I extend a special greeting to the parishioners of this parish-shrine, the direct witnesses to how the Roman people love Our Lady of Divine Love and come on pilgrimage to visit her often, trusting in her intercession.

Lastly, I greet those who planned and organized this work: Fr Costantino Ruggeri and the architect, Luigi Leoni, as well as all the benefactors, contractors and workers.

4. Today, the dedication of this new shrine partially fulfils the vow which the Roman people, at the request of Pope Pius XII, made to Our Lady of Divine Love in 1944, when the allied troops were about to launch their final attack on Rome, then occupied by the Germans. Before the image of Our Lady of Divine Love, the Romans prayed on 4 June of that year for the safety of their city, promising Mary that they would change their moral conduct, build the new Shrine of Divine Love and open a charitable institution in Castel di Leva. That same day, a little more than an hour after the vow had been read, the German army withdrew from Rome without offering any resistance, while the allies entered through Porta San Giovanni and Porta Maggiore and were welcomed with exultation by the Romans.

Today the shrine is a reality and the charitable institution is nearly finished: a home for the elderly not far from here. But the Roman people's vow included a promise to Blessed Mary that is unending and much more difficult to fulfil: the change in moral conduct, the constant effort, that is, to renew life and make it conform ever more closely to Christ's. Dear brothers and sisters, this is the task that the sacred building dedicated to God today recalls.

These walls surrounding the sacred space where we are gathered, and even more, the altar, the great multicoloured stained-glass windows and the other religious symbols, are meant as signs of God's presence among his people. A presence made real in the Eucharist, celebrated every day and kept in the tabernacle; a presence which shows itself living and life-giving through the administration of the sacraments; a presence which can be continually experienced in prayer and meditation. May this presence be a constant call to conversion and fraternal reconciliation for everyone!

5. "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb ... having the glory of God" (Ap 21,9-10).

The great vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, which closes the Book of Revelation, invites us to raise our eyes from the beauty and architectural harmony of this new shrine to the splendour of the heavenly Church, the fullness of love and communion with the Blessed Trinity, towards which the whole history of salvation has been aiming since the beginning.

As the Second Vatican Council states, Mary is the image and first-fruits of the heavenly Jerusalem, towards which we are journeying. "The Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God" (Lumen gentium LG 68).

1051 Let us turn our hearts confidently to Mary and invoke her motherly protection on everyone.

To you, Mother of Divine Love, we entrust the diocesan community, the continuation of the City Mission which ended just a few weeks ago, as well as this beloved city of Rome with its problems and resources, its worries and hopes.

To you we entrust families, the sick, the elderly and the lonely. In your hands we place the fruits of the Holy Year and, in a special way, the expectations and hopes of the young people who will come to Rome during the Jubilee for the 15th World Youth Day.

To you let us entrust the request I made to you earlier during my first visit to this shrine, that through your intercession the number of workers in the Lord's harvest will be increased, and that young people will appreciate the full beauty of the gift of being called to the priesthood and the religious life, which the world today so greatly needs.



Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Friday, 6 August 1999

Today, the Eucharist which we are preparing to celebrate takes us in spirit to Mount Tabor together with the Apostles Peter, James and John, to admire in rapture the splendour of the transfigured Lord. In the event of the Transfiguration we contemplate the mysterious encounter between history, which is being built every day, and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in heaven in full union with Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

We, pilgrims on earth, are granted to rejoice in the company of the transfigured Lord when we immerse ourselves in the things of above through prayer and the celebration of the divine mysteries. But, like the disciples, we too must descend from Tabor into daily life where human events challenge our faith. On the mountain we saw; on the paths of life we are asked tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel which illuminates the steps of believers.

This deep spiritual conviction guided the whole ecclesial mission of my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, who returned to the Father's house precisely on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 21 years ago now. In the reflection he had planned to give at the Angelus on that day, 6 August 1978, he said: 'The Transfiguration of the Lord, recalled by the liturgy of today's solemnity throws a dazzling light on our daily life, and makes us turn our mind to the immortal destiny which that fact foreshadows'.

1052 Yes! Paul VI reminds us: we are made for eternity and eternity begins at this very moment, since the Lord is among us and lives with and in his Church.

As we commemorate my unforgettable Predecessor in the see of Peter with deep emotion, let us pray that every Christian will know how to draw courage and constancy from contemplating Christ, who 'reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature' (
He 1,3), in order to proclaim and witness faithfully through his words and works.

May Mary, our tender and caring Mother, help us to be bright rays of the saving light of her Son Jesus.


Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Sunday, 15 August 1999

1. “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” (Lc 1,46)!

Today the pilgrim Church in history joins in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s canticle of exultation; the Church expresses her joy and praises God because the Mother of the Lord enters triumphantly into heavenly glory. The definitive fulfilment of the meaning of the words that Mary spoke in response to Elizabeth’s greeting at Ain-Karin: “He who is mighty has done great things for me” (Lc 1,49), appears in the mystery of her Assumption.

Through the paschal victory that followed Christ’s death, deeply united with the mystery of the Son of God, the Virgin of Nazareth uniquely shared in its saving effects. With her “yes” she fully cooperated with the divine will; she intimately shared in Christ’s mission and was the first to enter into glory after him, in body and soul, in the integrity of her humanity.

Mary’s “yes” becomes joy to all who were in darkness and the shadow of death. Indeed, through her the Lord of life came into the world. Believers rejoice and venerate her as Mother of the children redeemed by Christ. They contemplate her today, in particular, as a “sign of hope and comfort” (Preface) for every person and for every people on the way to the eternal homeland.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us turn our eyes to the Virgin whom the liturgy invites us to invoke as she who breaks the chains of the oppressed, brings light to the blind, drives away every evil and implores every good for us (cf. Hymn for Second Vespers).

2. “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”!

1053 At today’s solemnity the ecclesial community renews Mary’s song of thanksgiving: it does so as the People of God and asks every believer to join in the chorus of praise to the Lord. St Ambrose already urged this in the early centuries: “In each one may the soul of Mary praise the Lord and the spirit of Mary exult in God” (St Ambrose, Exp. Ev. Luc., II, 26). The words of the Magnificat are as it were the spiritual testament of the Virgin Mother. Therefore they quite rightly constitute the heritage of all who, recognizing themselves as her children, decide to welcome her into their homes as did the Apostle John who, at the foot of the Cross, directly received her as Mother from Jesus (cf. Jn Jn 19,27).

3. “Signum magnum paruit in caelo” (Ap 12,1).

In presenting the “great sign” of the “woman clothed with the sun” (ibid.), the passage from the Book of Revelation, which has just been proclaimed, says that she “was with child and ... cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (Ap 12,2). Mary, when she goes to help her cousin Elizabeth, as we heard in the Gospel, carries in her womb the Saviour, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Both representations of Mary, the historical one described in the Gospel, and the one mentioned in the Book of Revelation symbolize the Church. The fact that the condition of pregnancy, like the impending birth, the perils of the dragon and the abduction of the newborn child “caught up to God and to his throne” (Ap 12,4-5) also belong to the “heavenly” Church contemplated in the Apostle John’s vision, is very eloquent, and in today’s solemnity becomes a reason for deep reflection.

Just as the risen Christ who has ascended into heaven forever bears the wounds of his redemptive death within his glorious body and his merciful heart, so his Mother brings to eternity “the pangs” and “anguish for delivery” (Ap 12,2). And as the Son, through his death, never stops redeeming all who have been begotten by God as his adopted children, thus the new Eve continues from generation to generation to give birth to the new man, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ep 4,24). This is the Church’s eschatological image, which is present and active in the Virgin.

4. At this moment in history, at the end of a millennium and on the threshold of a new and epochal horizon, this dimension of Mary’s mystery is more significant than ever. Our Lady, taken up into the glory of God among the saints is a sure sign of hope for the Church and for all humanity.

The glory of the Mother is a cause of immense joy to all her children, a joy that knows the far-reaching resonance of the sentiment that is typical of popular piety, even though it cannot be reduced to it. It is, so to speak, a theological joy, firmly rooted in the paschal mystery. In this sense, the Virgin is “causa nostrae laetitiae — the cause of our joy”.

Taken up into heaven, Mary shows us the way to God, the way to heaven, the way to life. She shows it to her children baptized in Christ and to all people of good will. She opens this way especially to the little ones and to the poor, those who are dear to divine mercy. The Queen of the world reveals to individuals and to nations the power of the love of God whose plan upsets that of the proud, pulls down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the humble, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich empty away (cf. Lk Lc 1,51-53).

5. “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”! In this perspective, the Virgin of the Magnificat helps us to understand better the value and meaning of the Great Jubilee now at our door, a favourable time when the universal Church will join in her canticle to praise the wonder of the Incarnation. The spirit of the Magnificat is the spirit of the Jubilee: indeed, in her prophetic canticle, Mary gives voice to the jubilation which fills her heart, because God, her Saviour, has looked upon his humble handmaid (cf. Lk Lc 1,47-48).

May this be the spirit of the Church and of every Christian. Let us pray that the Great Jubilee will be in every sense a Magnificat that unites heaven and earth in a canticle of praise and thanksgiving.



Sunday, 19 September 1999

1. "Let us now praise famous men.... Their posterity will continue for ever.... Peoples will declare their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise (
Si 44,1).

Sirach's words resound today in our assembly. Hearing them, we immediately thought of the persons belonging to this Slovenian people who were distinguished for their virtues: we thought, for example, of Bishops Friderik Baraga, Janez Gnidovec and Anton Vovk, of Fr Vendelin Vosnjak and the young Lojze Grozde.

We remembered in particular the man the Church proclaims blessed today: Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek, the first son of this Slovenian nation to be raised to the glory of the altars. Three years after my first visit, I return today to present him to you as a model of that holiness which holds the only power that can conquer the world, as I pointed out to you then. I am therefore pleased to meet you and to preside at this solemn Holy Mass.

I greet Bishop Franc Kramberger, Pastor of this Church, and I thank him for his words. I also greet the Cardinals, the Slovenian Bishops and the other Bishops who are concelebrating this solemn Eucharist. My greeting also goes to the clergy, to the religious and to all of you, dear faithful of this illustrious Church and of the neighbouring Churches, who have gathered here to pay homage to the new blessed.

I offer a respectful greeting to the President of the Republic and to the civil authorities who have wished to honour us with their presence, thereby adding to the solemnity of this celebration.

2. Today's Gospel, which speaks of the vine and the branches, reminds us that it is only by abiding in Christ that we can bear fruit. In this way Jesus shows us the secret to the holiness of Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek, whom I have the joy of beatifying today.

He was a vine which yielded abundant fruits of Christian holiness, of remarkable cultural richness and of lofty patriotism. This is why he stands before us today as a splendid example of one who put the Gospel into practice.

In the new blessed it is the values of Christian holiness which shine the brightest. In the footsteps of Christ he made himself the Good Samaritan of the Slovenian people. Attentive to the formation needs of the clergy and faithful, with an apostolic zeal that is still an example to us today, he never tired of evangelizing by conducting popular missions, founding numerous confraternities, preaching spiritual exercises and disseminating popular hymns and religious writings. He was a Catholic Pastor in the truest sense of the word, and was entrusted by his ecclesiastical Superiors with important pastoral tasks even in other regions of the State at that time.

Faithful and docile to the Church, Slomsek showed he was profoundly open to ecumenism, and was one of the first in Central Europe to be committed to Christian unity. May his desire for unity stimulate the ecumenical commitment, so that the Christians of this Europe which was so dear to him may cross the threshold of the third millennium "if not completely united, at least closer to overcoming the divisions of the second millennium" (Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 34).

3. The new blessed also paid great attention to culture. Living in the middle of the last century, he was perfectly aware of the importance for the nation's future of the intellectual formation of its inhabitants, especially the young. For this reason, he combined pastoral action with commitment to the promotion of culture, which represents a nation's wealth and is the patrimony of all. Culture is the soil from which a people can draw the necessary elements for their growth and development.

1055 Convinced of this, Slomsek worked to open various schools for young people and saw to the publication of books useful for human and spiritual formation. He warned that if young people were corrupted, the fault could often be traced to the lack of adequate formation. Families, schools and the Church, he taught, must join forces in a serious educational programme, each preserving its own area of autonomy, but all taking account of the values they share.

Only with a sound formation can men and women be prepared to build a world that is open to the perennial values of truth and love.

4. The new blessed was also motivated by deep sentiments of patriotism. He was concerned for the Slovenian language, called for appropriate social reforms, promoted a higher level of national culture and did all he could to have his people occupy an honourable place in the concert of other European nations. And he did this without ever yielding to sentiments of short-sighted nationalism or selfish opposition to the aspirations of neighbouring peoples.

The new blessed is offered to you as a model of true patriotism. His projects left a decisive mark on your people's future and made an important contribution to the achievement of independence. In turning my gaze to the beloved region of the Balkans, unfortunately scarred in recent years by conflict and violence, extreme forms of nationalism, cruel ethnic cleansing and wars between peoples and cultures, I would like to call everyone's attention to the witness of this new blessed. He shows that it is possible to be sincere patriots and with equal sincerity to coexist and cooperate with people of other nationalities, other cultures and other religions. May his example and especially his intercession obtain solidarity and genuine peace for all the peoples of this vast area of Europe.

5. Dear brothers and sisters of beloved Slovenia! Follow in the footsteps of your upright and generous compatriot, who longed to know God's will and to fulfil it at any cost. His inner firmness and Gospel optimism were rooted in a strong faith in Christ's victory over sin and evil.

Imitate him, especially you, dear young Slovenians, and like him, do not hesitate to put your young energies at the service of God's kingdom and of your brethren. For you priests, may he be a model of zealous labour and the spirit of sacrifice. For you, responsible lay people, especially those who work in public institutions, may he be an example of honesty, impartial service and the courageous quest for justice and the common good.

Be builders of peace within Europe too! The process of unification to which the continent is committed cannot only be based on economic concerns but must be inspired by those Christian values which are its most ancient and authentic roots. A Europe attentive to the human person and to full respect for his rights: this is the goal for which we must strive! May the old Europe transmit to the new generation the torch of the human and Christian civilization which illumined the steps of our ancestors during the millennium now drawing to a close.

6. In this connection, I invite everyone to pray for the next Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be meeting in a few days to reflect on Christ, alive in his Church, source of hope for Europe. It is an important occasion for acquiring a deeper understanding of the particular mission of European peoples in the context of world relations: a Europe, teacher of civilization, which can appreciate the resources that come from West and East.

Here I would like to repeat the prophetic words spoken by Bishop Slomsek during a popular mission: "They say: "The world has grown old; the human race is adrift; Europe is coming to an end'. Well: yes, if we abandon humanity to its natural course, to its fatal direction. No, if the power from on high that is preserved in the religion of Jesus and in his Church is poured out anew on all ranks of the human race and restores them to life".

We can learn this important lesson from Bl. Slomsek. May he, a courageous servant of Christ, help us to be branches of the immortal vine, spreading the Gospel of hope and love everywhere.



Friday, 1 October 1999

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. "Jesus himself drew near and went with them" (
Lc 24,15).

The Gospel account of the disciples at Emmaus, which we heard a few moments ago, is the biblical icon that serves as the backdrop for this Second Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops. We open it with this solemn Eucharistic concelebration, whose theme is: "Jesus Christ, alive in his Church, the source of hope for Europe". We open it by entrusting to the Lord the expectations and hopes which are in all of our hearts. We gather round the altar, representing the continent's nations and united by the desire to make the proclamation and witness of Christ, alive yesterday, today and for ever, more and more effective and concrete in every corner of Europe.

With great joy and affection I offer each of your my fraternal embrace of peace. The Spirit has called us together for this important ecclesial event which, in continuity with the First Assembly for Europe in 1991, concludes the series of continental Synods in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Through you I extend my most heartfelt greetings to the local Churches from which you come.

2. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever" (He 13,8). As you know, this is the constant refrain that re-echoes in the Church as she advances towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Jesus Christ is living in his Church and, from generation to generation, he continues to "draw near" to man and to "walk" with him. Especially in moments of trial, when disappointments threaten to shake our trust and hope, the Risen One crosses the paths of human confusion and, even without being recognized, becomes our traveling companion.

Thus, in Christ and in his Church, God constantly hearkens to the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the human race (cf. Past. Const. Gaudium et spes GS 1), to which he wishes to send his message of loving concern. This is what occurred at the Second Vatican Council; it is also the meaning of the various Special Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops: the risen Christ, living in his Church, walks with the men and women who live in Africa, America, Asia, Oceania and Europe in order to instil or to reawaken faith, hope and charity in their hearts.

3. With the Synod Assembly that begins today, the Lord wishes to extend to the Christian people on pilgrimage in the lands between the Atlantic and the Urals a strong invitation to hope. It is an invitation that was expressed in a remarkable way today in the words of the prophet Zephaniah: "Sing aloud ... rejoice and exult!" (So 3,14). The God of the Covenant knows the hearts of his children; he knows the many painful trials that European nations have had to endure throughout this tormented and difficult century now drawing to a close.

He, Emmanuel, God-with-us, was crucified in the concentration camps and the gulags; he knew affliction under bombardment in the trenches; he suffered wherever the inalienable dignity of man, of every human being, was humiliated, oppressed and violated. Christ suffered in the many innocent victims of the wars and conflicts that have soaked European regions in blood. He knows the serious temptations of the generations that are preparing to cross the threshold of the third millennium: the enthusiasm aroused by the collapse of ideological barriers and by the peaceful revolutions of 1989 seems, unfortunately, to have been dampened by the impact of political and economic selfishness, and on the lips of so many people in Europe are heard the dejected words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: "We had hoped ..." (Lc 24,21).

1057 In this particular social and cultural context, the Church feels it her duty vigorously to repeat the message of hope entrusted to her by God. With this Assembly, she says again to Europe: "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty Saviour!" (So 3,17). Her invitation to hope is not based on a utopian ideology, like those of the last two centuries which ultimately trampled on human rights, especially the rights of the weakest. On the contrary, it is the timeless message of salvation proclaimed by Christ: the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel (cf. Mk Mc 1,15)! With the authority she received from her Lord, the Church repeats to today's Europe: Europe of the third millennium, "let not your hands grow weak!" (So 3,16); do not give in to discouragement, do not resign yourself to ways of thinking and living that have no future because they are not based on the sound certainty of God's Word!

Europe of the third millennium, the Church once again offers you and all your children Christ, the one Mediator of salvation, yesterday, today and for ever (He 13,8). She offers you Christ, the true hope of man and of history. She offers him to you not only and not so much in words, but especially with the eloquent witness of holiness. With their lives marked by the Gospel Beatitudes, saintly men and women constitute the most effective and credible vanguard of the Church's mission. 4. For this reason, dear brothers and sisters, on the threshold of the Year 2000, while the whole Church in Europe is represented here in the worthiest of ways, I have the joy today of proclaiming three new co-patronesses of the European continent.They are: St Edith Stein, St Bridget of Sweden and St Catherine of Siena.

Europe has already been placed under the heavenly protection of three great saints: Benedict of Norcia, father of Western monasticism, and the two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs. To these outstanding witnesses of Christ, I have wished to join the same number of women, to stress also the great role that women have had in the continent's ecclesial and civil history down to our day.

From her very origins, the Church, although conditioned by the cultures surrounding her, has always recognized the full spiritual dignity of women, beginning with the unique vocation and mission of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. From the very start, Christians have turned to women such as Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia and Anastasia - as the Roman Canon attests - with no less fervour than that reserved for saintly men.

5. The three saints chosen as copatronesses of Europe are all linked in a special way with the continent's history. Edith Stein, who came from a Jewish family, left a brilliant career as a scholar to become a Carmelite nun with the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and died in the death camp of Auschwitz, is the symbol of Europe's tragedies in this century. Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, who both lived in the 14th century, worked tirelessly for the Church, taking her fortunes to heart on a European scale. Thus Bridget, consecrated to God after having fully lived her vocation as a wife and mother, traveled Europe from North to South, working constantly for the unity of Christians and dying in Rome. Catherine, a humble and fearless Dominican tertiary, brought peace to her native Siena, Italy and 14th-century Europe; she devoted her energies unsparingly to the Church and succeeded in bringing the Pope back to Rome from Avignon.

All three marvellously express the synthesis of contemplation and action. Their life and works bear eloquent witness to the power of the risen Christ, living in his Church: the power of generous love for God and man, the power of genuine moral and civil renewal. In these new patronesses, so rich in supernatural and human gifts, Christians and Ecclesial Communities of every denomination can find inspiration, as can European citizens and States that are sincerely committed to seeking truth and the common good.

6. "Did not our hearts burn within us ... while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (Lc 24,32).

I ardently hope that the work of this Synod will enable us to relive the experience of the disciples at Emmaus who, filled with hope and joy after recognizing the Lord "in the breaking of the bread", hastened back to Jerusalem to tell the brethren what had happened on the road (cf. Lk Lc 24,33-35).

May Jesus Christ also allow us to meet him and recognize him at the Eucharistic table, in the communion of hearts and faith. May he grant that we can spend these weeks of reflection by listening deeply to the Spirit who is speaking to the Churches in Europe. May he make us humble and ardent apostles of his Cross, as were Sts Benedict, Cyril, Methodius, Edith Stein, Bridget and Catherine.

Let us implore their help together with the heavenly intercession of Mary, Queen of All Saints and Mother of Europe. May this Second Assembly for Europe lead to strategies for an evangelization that is attentive to the challenges and expectations of the younger generation.

And may Christ be the renewed source of hope for all who live on the "old" continent, where down the centuries the Gospel has yielded an incomparable harvest of faith, active love and civilization!






Sunday, 3 October 1999

1. "The vineyard of the Lord is his people".

We repeated this a few moments ago in the responsorial psalm. Today's Liturgy of the Word presents us with the image of the vineyard and highlights the love God has for his people. This allegory, present in both the first reading and the Gospel, becomes even more eloquent in this autumn season when grapes are harvested and the earth's fruits are gathered before winter.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, which in the Gospel parable is broadened to include the pagans too, precisely those "other tenants" to whom the owner will entrust his vineyard. This describes the Church's mission as the people of the New Covenant, called to bear fruits of truth and holiness.

At today's celebration we have the joy of seeing six faithful workers in the Lord's vineyard raised to the glory of the altars. They are: Ferdinand Mary Baccilieri, Edward Joannes Maria Poppe, Arcangelo Tadini, Mariano of Roccacasale, Diego Oddi and Nicholas of Gesturi. At various times and in different ways, each of them generously dedicated his life to serving the Gospel.

2. Ferdinand Mary Baccilieri, a priest, was a zealous worker in the Lord's vineyard through his parish ministry, which he carried out with an irreproachable life. A poor "country priest", as he liked to describe himself, he cultivated souls with vigorous preaching, in which he expressed his deep inner conviction. He thus became a living icon of the Good Shepherd.

A member of the Third Order of the Servants of Mary, with an intense and filial devotion to Our Lady, especially Our Lady of Sorrows, he wished to include Mary's name in the very title of the religious family he founded, the "Sisters Servants of Mary of Galeazza". Now Bl. Ferdinand Mary sings in heaven, as we heard in the passage from the prophet Isaiah, his "love song" for the vineyard of the Lord (cf. Is
Is 5,1).

3. "Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard". These words from the Book of Isaiah which we have just heard apply to Fr Edward Poppe, who consecrated his life to Christ in the priestly ministry. Today he becomes a model for priests, especially those of his country, Belgium. He invites them to conform their lives to Christ the Shepherd, in order to be, like him, "priests on fire" with love for God and their brethren. Pastoral activity is truly fruitful only in contemplation. It is nourished by intimate contact with the Divine Master, who unifies our inner being for the sake of doing his will. I invite priests always to put the Eucharist at the centre of their life and their ministry, like Bl. Poppe. It is from being enlightened by Christ that they will be able to transmit the light.

Following the example of the new blessed, may all who have a catechetical mission find the necessary time to meet Christ! Through their teaching and their way of life, they will bear witness to the Gospel and enable others, especially young people who are searching for truth and the source of life, to know the moral demands that lead to happiness. Fr Poppe, who knew suffering, has a message for the sick, reminding them that prayer and love for Mary are essential to the Church's missionary commitment. Let us beg the Lord to send priests like Bl. Poppe into his vineyard!

4. "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is who bears much fruit" (Gospel acclamation).
Union with Christ, a spirit of prayer and strong ascetic effort were the secret of the extraordinary pastoral effectiveness of another generous vineyard worker, the priest Arcangelo Tadini, whom the Church enrols today among the blessed. In the school of the Eucharist he learned to break the bread of God's Word, to practise charity and to respond with pastoral resourcefulness to the social and religious challenges that marked the end of the last century.

1059 Precisely because he was a person totally given to God, he could also be a priest totally dedicated to others. The needs arising then in the working world spurred his pastor's heart to search for new ways to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel. His ideal of life and the solidarity he practised towards the weakest groups in society continue today in the commitment of the religious congregation he founded, the Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth.

5. As for the life and spirituality of Bl. Mariano of Roccacasale, a Franciscan religious, it could be said that they are symbolically summed up in the Apostle Paul's wish to the Christian community of Philippi: "The God of peace will be with you!" (4: 9). His poor and humble life, led in the footsteps of Francis and Clare of Assisi, were constantly directed to his neighbour, in the desire to hear and share the sufferings of each individual, in order to present them later to the Lord during the long hours he spent in adoration of the Eucharist.

Bl. Mariano brought peace, which is God's gift, wherever he went. May his example and intercession help us to rediscover the essential value of God's love and the duty to bear witness to it in solidarity towards the poor. In particular, he serves as an example to us of showing hospitality, which is so important in the present historical and social context and is particularly significant in view of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

6. The same Franciscan spirituality, centred on a life of Gospel poverty and simplicity, characterized Bro. Diego Oddi, whom today we contemplate in the choir of the blessed. At the school of St Francis, he learned that nothing belongs to man except his vices and sins, and that everything the human person possesses is really a gift from God (cf. Regula non bullata XVII, in Fonti Francescane, 48). Thus he learned not to be anxious about anything, but to make all his needs known to God "by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving", as we heard from the Apostle Paul in the second reading (cf. Phil
Ph 4,6).

During his long service of alms-begging, he was a genuine angel of peace and goodness towards everyone who met him, particularly because he knew how to care for the needs of the poorest and most sorely tried. By his joyful and peaceful witness, by his genuine and convinced faith, by his prayer and tireless work, Bl. Diego pointed out the Gospel virtues that are the high road to achieving peace.

7. "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner" (Mt 21,42).

These words, which Jesus applied to himself in the Gospel, recall the mystery of the Son of God's abasement and humiliation, the source of our salvation. And our thoughts naturally turn to Bl. Nicholas of Gesturi, a Capuchin, whose life remarkably embodied this mysterious reality. A man of silence, he radiated an aura of spirituality and the powerful attraction of the absolute.

Affectionately called "Brother Silence" by the people, Nicholas of Gesturi displayed an attitude that was more eloquent than words: freed from the superfluous and in search of the essential, he was never distracted by what was useless or harmful, preferring to bear witness to the presence of the Incarnate Word beside every person.

In a world often sated with words but poor in values, there is a need for men and women who, like Bl. Nicholas of Gesturi, emphasize the urgent need to recover the capacity for silence and for listening, so that their whole life can become a "song" of praise to God and of service to their brothers and sisters.

8. "Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard" (Is 5,1). As we contemplate the marvels that God has accomplished in our brothers, our spirit breaks into praise and thanksgiving. We give you thanks, Lord, for the gift of these new blesseds. In their lives entirely dedicated to the service of your kingdom, we admire the abundant good fruits you have produced in them and through them.

May their example and intercession spur us to imitate them, so that we too, by our fidelity to the Gospel, may give glory to the One who is the "source of all good" (cf. Collect, Italian Sacramentary).

1060 May Mary, Queen of All Saints, intercede for us; may we be supported and encouraged by Bl. Ferdinand Mary Baccilieri, Edward Joannes Maria Poppe, Arcangelo Tadini, Mariano of Roccacasale, Diego Oddi and Nicholas of Gesturi, whom we contemplate in your heavenly glory.


S. John Paul II Homil. 1050