Thursday, March 8, 2018

Two New Miracles of Human Dignity and Solidarity

Blessed Pope Paul VI speaks with Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero
I have waited many years, hoping for the events that are now being prepared and that will probably both take place in 2018 (or early 2019). Two great bishops, two great witnesses to the faith of my youth, will be canonized as saints in the Universal Church.

One of them towered over my childhood years; he was the bishop who presided over the tumultuous period of my growing up. He saw to its completion the initiative of reform and renewal that was the Second Vatican Council—which was above all an expansion of the heart of the Church to embrace the whole world with a "new evangelization."

During his own life, this great ecclesial aspiration sometimes seemed obscured or even defeated by so much confusion and even betrayal by others who should have helped lead the way. Nevertheless the seed fell upon good ground, and even now it grows in many places and in many (sometimes still hidden) ways.

First, however, it needed to sink deeply into the earth of this dramatic period of human history, and it began to grow only through the tremendous, inexpressible suffering of the man whom God had called tend it: Paul, Bishop of Rome, Servant of the Servants of God.

Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Paul VI from 1963-1978: His suffering was palpable to those who loved the Church and were faithful to the Church. I was raised by people who felt that suffering and shared it with him, and through their solidarity with him my own faith was born.

The required post-beatification miracle has been approved for Blessed Paul VI, clearing the way for his canonization most likely at the end of the Synod of Bishops in October.

The other great bishop who will soon be named a saint was a true brother and faithful disciple of Paul VI, who carried out his ministry on my own continent, and consecrated its soil with his martyr's blood.

Under almost impossible conditions of political pressure and complexity, this bishop preached the gospel fully and in all its implications. He was not afraid to cry out for justice, to draw close to the poor, to challenge his people to heroic fidelity to their Christian vocation. At the same time, while insisting on the concrete implications of the gospel, he did not allow the Church to become a tool of any political agenda.

In the United States of America, some of us did not see his witness as clearly as we should have. But now everyone can be assured that his pastoral ministry was vital, lucid, and radically Catholic. The martyred Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero was not a bishop who cowered before the oppressive regime that killed him.

Neither was he an ideological revolutionary. He was not "the bishop of the left." He was the bishop of everyone.

He was a bishop of the Church.

The necessary miracle has been approved for Blessed Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador; Oscar Romero, Bishop and Martyr, a shining light in the Central American nation of El Salvador where there is still so much poverty and suffering, but also much great faith.

I look forward to the liturgical celebrations of these two heroes of the faith. Their suffering and their blood gives me joy in the present and hope for the future.

A couple of texts:
Concern for justice, the common good, and human dignity is a matter that concerns the whole world: "It is not just a question of eliminating hunger and reducing poverty. It is not just a question of fighting wretched conditions, though this is an urgent and necessary task. It involves building a human community where men can live truly human lives, free from discrimination on account of race, religion or nationality, free from servitude to other men or to natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily. It involves building a human community where liberty is not an idle word, where the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table" (Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio, 47).
"The Church is a lamp that has to give light, and therefore it must involve itself in tangible reality and thus be able to enlighten pilgrims who walk on this earth. This concern of the Church does not mean that it leaves its own sphere but that it perseveres in its difficult duty of shedding light on concrete affairs."
The Christian people in the world are called to give attention to the common good of society, to politics, and even to taking up political action. Nevertheless, "if both faith and political vocation have grown in a Christian, concerns of faith cannot be simply identified with a determined political concern.... One cannot insist that the Church or its ecclesial symbols become instruments of political activity. To be a good political activist one need not be a Christian, but Christians involved in political activity have an obligation to profess their faith in Christ and to use methods that are congruent with their faith." (Archbishop Oscar Romero, Homily, August 6, 1978).

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