The canonization in Rome of seven new saints on Oct. 14 was one of those moments that remind believers why we’re making this journey. With thousands of Catholics from around the globe gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis officially proclaimed the sainthood of seven individuals, among them the foundress of a religious order, a pope, a teenage layman and a martyred Salvadoran archbishop.
The first — Mother Catherine Kasper — reminds us of the role that religious have played in every age of the Church, cultivating the Spirit’s gifts and fostering renewal.
The second — Pope Paul VI — reminds us not only of the vital unity of the Body of Christ, but also of the power of the Gospel unleashed when we have the faith and courage to listen to the Spirit together.
The third — Nunzio Sulprizio — affirms that the call to holiness is indeed universal and that even the witness of an ordinary, devout teenager is capable of edifying faithful men and women nearly two centuries later.
The fourth — Oscar Romero — reminds us that following the Holy Spirit’s lead and being a prophetic voice for the Gospel has, from the Church’s beginning, carried with it the possibility of giving everything over to God. St. Oscar Romero was gunned down in a hospital chapel in El Salvador in 1980, and his bloodstained cincture was affixed to the waist of Pope Francis as the Holy Father raised him to the altars. Romero’s canonization in particular has been a clear sign of encouragement and galvanization for Catholics in El Salvador, throughout Latin America and even in the United States.
It’s a gift that these canonizations fall as closely as they do to the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. During a truly rough year for the Church, with the resurgence of sexual abuse scandals on several continents, there is real consolation in having “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) praying for the Church and supporting all of us with their prayers from heaven.
As our In Focus on the doctrine of indulgences covers in this issue (Pages 9-12), the holy witnesses of the saints are not frozen in the amber of the past. The graces of their merits still flow in the world and, thankfully, help to relieve the debt of our sinful failings.
The prayerful intercession of the saints can also help us to see with greater faith the supernatural realities of the Body of Christ we comprise. Reminded of this, we can embrace the signs of unity and communion with one another in this life. The saints remind us that the Church is God’s tool for carrying out the salvation plan and that, even when we struggle with pain and confusion, we do not struggle alone or beyond the reach of God’s providence.
And lastly, as we remember with joy and gratitude the saints in heaven, we also remember with love and thanksgiving — and often with the lingering sadness of loss — all who have gone before us. And just as the saints are praying for us, we should in charity be praying for them and for all souls. The full effects of these prayers and relationships are invisible to us, but this month’s canonizations are yet another reminder from the Church that we are awesomely bound together in ways we seldom appreciate.
As we pray to and for the dead, let us be ever more grateful to be caught up in this divine mystery.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young