A Roman pilgrimageI am writing this column over the Atlantic Ocean while flying home from a weeklong pilgrimage in Rome for the canonization of Brother (now “Saint”) Andre Bessette, CSC.Canonization MassOn Sunday, October 17th, over 80,000 faithful from around the world gathered in Saint Peter’s Square with the Holy Father to celebrate with joy the canonization of six new saints, including Saint Andre. I had a great seat in the first row of the bishops, right behind the row of cardinals. Happily I was seated next to Bishop Daniel Jenky, CSC, the Bishop of Peoria and former Auxiliary Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Many Holy Cross priests and brothers were present to see their congregation’s first saint canonized. In his homily, Pope Benedict said that “for Brother Andre, everything spoke of God and of God’s presence.” He described Brother Andre as “wholly inhabited by the mystery of Jesus.” As porter at the College of Notre Dame in Montreal and then as faithful custodian at Saint Joseph Oratory, Brother Andre lived a deep life of prayer that bore fruit in a life of “boundless charity.” This simple and humble Holy Cross brother was renowned for many cures that he attributed not to himself but to the intercession of his beloved Saint Joseph. He is now even more renowned as a canonized saint of the Church. May his example inspire us to be faithful to prayer and humble in Christian service!Also canonized at the Mass was a Polish priest of the fifteenth century, Father Stanislaw Kazimierczyk. I remember years ago Pope John Paul II speaking about this priest of the Order of Canons Regular of the Lateran who served in Krakow. Saint Stanislaw had an ardent love for the Holy Eucharist. For the past 500 years, there has been devotion to this holy priest who is now a canonized saint.The other four newly canonized saints were all religious sisters, three of whom were founders of religious congregations. One I had learned about when I was at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. Her name is Mother Mary of the Cross MacKillop. She is the first canonized saint of Australia. It seems that everywhere I went in Rome last week I met Australian pilgrims delighted with their new saint. They spoke with pride and admiration of Saint Mary of the Cross and her strength, zeal, and perseverance despite many setbacks. In the difficult terrain of rural Australia, Mother Mary MacKillop and her Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart were dedicated to the education of the poor. Celebrations in RomeAfter the canonization, I joined many pilgrims for a celebratory “pranzo” hosted by Father David Tyson and the Indiana province of the Holy Cross congregation. It was a wonderful dinner.The day after the canonization, pilgrims celebrating Saint Andre’s canonization gathered for a thanksgiving Mass at the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. Bishop Jenky, many Canadian bishops, and I concelebrated the Mass with Cardinal Turcotte, the Archbishop of Montreal. Dozens of Holy Cross priests, including many from our diocese, concelebrated as well. Father Richard Warner, the Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross, offered words of joy and gratitude at the end of Mass. On Tuesday, I celebrated Mass in the Irish chapel in the crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica with Father Jim Gallagher, the vocation director of the Indiana province of Holy Cross, Father Peter McCormick, associate director for campus vocations at Notre Dame, and about a dozen young men, seminarians and students from Notre Dame, who were also pilgrims in Rome for the canonization. It was very special to be with our Notre Dame students in prayer. I only realized after the Mass the significance of our celebrating the Mass in the “Irish” chapel!!!On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Miguel Diaz, and his wife Marion, both graduates of Notre Dame, hosted me, Father Jenkins and others from Notre Dame at a wonderful dinner in their residence on the Janiculum Hill. It was a delightful dinner and conversation as we discussed the important relationship between the United States and the Holy See and the cooperation that exists in various ways to serve the common good.
Papal AudienceAt the General Audience on Wednesday in Saint Peter’s Square, our Holy Father continued his series of catechetical talks on religious women of the Middle Ages. He spoke about the beautiful life of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. At the end of the audience, I was blessed to have a minute or two conversation with Pope Benedict. He asked me to share with you, the faithful of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, his greetings and blessing. What a gift our gentle and humble Holy Father is to the Church and each of us. After the audience, I was happy to meet four young women from Saint Mary’s College who were in Rome for a semester abroad. They too were excited to be there for the canonization and the papal audience.There is not enough space in this column to relate all the activities and events of my week in Rome. I visited many of my favorite churches. Since I was a student in Rome for seven years, I feel very much at home when I return there. Fortunately, my Italian comes back to me after a few days. I prayed for you at the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and offered Mass for all the faithful of our diocese at Mass in the crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica. May Saint Andre Bessette and all the newly canonized saints inspire us on the path of holiness and intercede for us!
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