September 5, 2000
volume 11, no. 161

NEWS for Tuesday, September 5, 2000
Chaminade, Marmion, and Reggio Also Raised to the Altar


    The Church and the world have five new Blessed as of Sunday. This was the solemn proclamation made by John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, which was crowded with 100,000 faithful from all over the world, when beatifying five men of very diverse characters but united in their love for God and humanity.

    A veritable river of humanity flowed peacefully into the plaza enclosed by the Bernini colonnade. The majority of faithful were Italians, since the "Good Pope" left an indelible memory in Italy. However, by their voices and colors, groups from Spain, Argentina, Lebanon, Brazil, the United States, Chile, and Korea were also very much in evidence.

Five Very Different Personalities

    In addition to the two Popes who convoked the last two Councils, Vatican I and Vatican II, among the new Blessed are Tommaso Reggio (1818-1901), Archbishop of Genoa, founder of the first Catholic newspaper in Italy, and of the Sisters of St. Martha; William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), founder of the Marianist Family; and Irish Benedictine Abbot Columba Marmion (1853-1923), spiritual guide of generations of men and women consecrated to God in the 20th century.

Pius IX: Search for God in Midst of Love and Hate

    The Bishop of Rome began by recalling "the human and religious ups and downs of Pius IX, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti (1792-1878), the Pontiff who lived at the time of the Church's loss of temporal power over the Pontifical States, during the period of Italy's unification. His condemnation of some of the dominant ideologies at the time, and his opposition to the way that Italy's unity was imposed, earned him many enemies.

    However, John Paul II transcended the controversy unleashed by some groups on the eve of this beatification: "Sanctity lives in history, and no saint is exempt from the limitations and conditions proper to our humanity. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate his particular historical choices, but, rather, proposes him for imitation and veneration because of his virtues, for the praise of divine grace that shines in them," he explained.

    "In the midst of the turbulent events of his time, he was an example of unconditional adherence to the immutable deposit of revealed truths. Faithful in every circumstance to the commitments of his ministry, he always knew how to give absolute primacy to God and spiritual values. His long pontificate was certainly not easy, and he had to suffer much in fulfilling his mission of service to the Gospel. He was very much loved, but also hated and calumniated. However, precisely in the midst of these contrasts, the light of his virtues shone more forcefully," the Holy Father clarified.

    "The prolonged tribulations tempered his confidence in divine Providence, and he never doubted its dominion over human vicissitudes. From here was born the profound serenity of Pius IX, despite the lack of understanding and the attacks of so many hostile persons," the Pope insisted. It was with such conviction that Pope Mastai convoked Vatican Council I, "which enlightened with magisterial authority some questions then being debated, confirming the harmony between faith and reason," the Pontiff emphasized.

    At times of trial, Pius IX found support in Mary, and when he proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, "he reminded all that in the storms of human existence the light of Christ shines in Mary, a light which is stronger than sin and death," John Paul II said.

    The Bishop of Rome recalled the "profound veneration" John XXIII (1881-1963) had for Pius IX, "whose beatification he desired," as well as Pope Roncalli's "smiling face" and his "his two arms open wide to embrace the whole world," who conquered many people by the "simplicity of his spirit, coupled with wide experience of men and life."

    Cardinal Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope when he was almost 77. Journalists classified him as a "transition" Pope. However, he brought a "gust of novelty" that "did not affect doctrine, but, rather, the way it is presented." "He did it with a new style, he spoke and acted with a new style, his likableness and closeness to ordinary people and the powerful of the earth was new. It was with this spirit that he convoked Vatican Council II, with which he opened a new page in the history of the Church."

    According to John Paul II, Vatican II was "a prophetic intuition" of John XXIII, which, "in the midst of many difficulties, inaugurated a season of hope for Christians and humanity."

Reggio, Chaminade, and Marmion

    John Paul II went on to recall the example of the three other Blessed. He referred to Tommaso Reggio, Archbishop of Genoa and journalist, a "man of faith and culture," "an attentive guide for the faithful in every circumstance." "Sensitive to the many sufferings and the poverty of his people, he offered vigorous help in all situations of need."

    Hundreds of members of the Sisters of St. Martha gathered in St. Peter's square for the event, sometimes eclipsing the other groups with their shouts of joy. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, organized a special luncheon for them after the beatification in Paul VI Hall.

    Speaking of Fr. William Joseph Chaminade, who lived at the time of the French Revolution, the Pope recalled his commitment to come close to people who had left the Church, and he said that Chaminade's personality posits the need to pay "renewed attention to youths, who need educators and witnesses."

    As regards Benedictine monk Columba Marmion, born in Ireland, although he lived the greater part of his life in the Belgian Monastery of Maredsous, John Paul II said that with his life and works he taught "a way of sanctity, which was simple but exacting." According to the Pope, his secret was the following: "Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and source of all grace, is the center of our spiritual life, our model of sanctity."

    Following the solemn proclamation, the Holy Father indicated the day on which the feast of the five new Blessed will be celebrated: Pius IX on February 7, John XXIII on October 11, Tommaso Reggio on January 9, William J. Chaminade on January 22, and Columba Marmion on October 3. At that moment, the standards with the portraits of the new Blessed were unveiled on the facade of the Vatican Basilica.

    "May their love of God and their brothers and sisters illumine our steps in this dawn of the third millennium!" the Holy Father said during the Mass, summarizing the meaning of this Sunday's celebration. ZE00090302

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