Three New Saints

Tomorrow in Rome the Holy Father will canonize Blessed Pope Paul VI, who is remembered especially for his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. In it he reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on married love and her call to chastity, proclaiming that “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.” His canonization day might be a good time to read (or re-read!) Humanae Vitae. With its emphasis on the beauty of cooperating with God in order to create new life, it is of particular importance in strengthening the culture of life. “To experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception,” it says, “is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator.” Pope Francis built on these ideas on his encyclical Amoris Laetitia, in which he said:

The conjugal union is ordered to procreation 'by its very nature.’  The child who is born 'does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment.'  He or she does not appear at the end of a process, but is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself.  From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself.  Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life.

Pray for us, Blessed Pope Paul VI, to cooperate joyfully with God in living out our vocations.

Tomorrow is also the canonization day of Blessed Óscar Romero, martyred in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He was well known for his love of the poor and vulnerable in El Salvador, and for his outspoken criticism of a political system that failed to respond to their needs. He served the Church in a deeply polarized country, and he never stopped reminding listeners of the injustices that are inevitable when political gain becomes more important than public service. Cardinal Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said that Romero allowed his outrage at violence committed against the weak to foster his growth in the virtue of fortitude. Pray for us, Blessed Óscar Romero, to speak up faithfully in these polarized times for those who are vulnerable.

Additionally, tomorrow will mark the canonization of Blessed Vincenzo Romano (1751-1831). He lived in Naples during the 1794 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which destroyed the parish church along with a great deal of the town. As the death toll from Hurricane Michael continues to rise, his intercession might be especially appropriate. Just as those who live along the Gulf Coast know that hurricanes are an annual threat, those in the shadow of an active volcano also know that their lives might be disrupted — or even lost — with little warning. Hurricane Michael’s rapid and surprising escalation as it approached the coast caused immense damage, particularly in poor communities. Let’s ask Blessed Vincenzo Romano, who poured his heart into rebuilding his community and serving the vulnerable after a natural disaster, to pray for those affected. (Catholic Charities is accepting donations for hurricane relief as well.) As scientific consensus grows regarding the link between climate change and intensifying hurricanes, it is worth noting that the bishops have included environmental justice in their list of issues threatening human life and dignity. Pope Francis wrote about the link between environmental protection and pro-life convictions in Laudato Si’:

Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.

—Image of Pope Paul VI and Óscar Romero from Wikimedia Commons