The phenomenon of holiness is a reality that has permeated and involved many religions since ancient times.
In the Christian tradition it shows “the efficacy of the Gospel”, as Benedict xvi recalled with a most felicitous phrase at his Meeting with the Dicastery of the Roman Curia concerned with the Causes of Saints, that is, with the complex procedures that have been elaborated over more than four centuries for the formal proclamation of sainthood by the Pope.
In brief, Saints are proof that Christ's presence in this world, the Pope explained, “is capable of transforming the life of human beings”, hence changing the imperfect reality that is marked by evil.
Also from the historical viewpoint, the possibility of defeating evil with good explains the ongoing fascination and exemplarity of these figures who, Benedict xvi stressed, carefully choosing his words, are not “representatives of the past but rather constitute the present and future of the Church and of society”.
Thus, the deepest experience of the Saints, that is, their relationship with God and the ensuing consequences of this in daily life, summed up by the Pope as: “the rejection of mediocrity”, explains why, from time to time, the Church holds up these men and women as models of Christian life to the faithful.
If the process of the purification of those who choose to imitate Christ is often lengthy, the way that leads to the ascertainment of sainthood is equally rigorous and complex.
A process of “great religious and cultural vitality”, ranging from popular piety to the “signs from on high” constituted by the miracles that Benedict xvi barely mentioned but that are well known to historians and theologians.
The fascination of holiness – that consists partly in miracles – which often impresses and attracts people who are distant, as Paul vi said when he noted the preference given today to those who witness to Christ in their lives.
It is consequently in the imitation of Christ, which can change the world, that the significance of holiness lies. And the Church looks to this above all, when she decides on the phases in the process that formally sanctions it: today, starting with popular figures such as Mary MacKillop, who will be the first Australian Saint, or the Polish priest and Martyr, Jerzy Popie³uszko. Or, again, Mary Ward, the English woman in the first half of the 17th century who began a pioneering experiment of female religious life with enthusiasm and courage; to the continuation of the Causes of two great Popes, such as Pius xii and John Paul ii, who were witnesses of Christ in the modern world.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 28, 2020
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