“Each of us, through baptism, share in our own way in Christ’s priesthood,” Pope Francis said Oct. 18 during the canonization Mass for spouses Louis and Zélie Martin, Father Vincent Grossi and Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
“Consequently, all of us can receive the charity which flows from his open heart, for ourselves but also for others, and become ‘channels’ of his love and compassion, especially for those who are suffering, discouraged and alone.”
It was this thought, echoed in Pope Francis’ homily, that struck me most during what was mostly a quiet but joy-filled Mass in St. Peter’s Square. That “all of us” are called to be saints like the four who were being canonized. As Pope Francis pointed out, everyone, by virtue of their baptism, is called to the same sanctity, whatever his or her individual vocation.
It was impossible, praying alongside so many people in St. Peter’s Square, not to marvel at our universal Church. The last papal Mass I attended was a somewhat loud and chaotic event. The canonizations, by contrast, felt calmer and more prayerful. Throughout the liturgy, cameras and cellphones mostly stayed tucked away, and talking was limited to a whisper here or there.
People followed along with the Mass, celebrated in Latin, from printed booklets that gave Italian and English translations as well as the responses. The sung parts were led by a strong and beautiful choir. Pope Francis’ homily was given in Italian, a seminarian softly translating the pope’s words into English, as they were said, within earshot of the Catholic university students seated nearby.
It was moving to think, as I prayed during the Mass, that I am called to be a saint as much as the four whose relics were displayed next to the altar. That the person standing beside me, the couple from France in the row in front of me, the Spanish religious sisters, the mother and her two boys — every one of the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square — are called to live out their ordinary, daily lives in love and service toward others, as Sts. Louis and Zélie, St. Vincent Grossi and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception did.
Though that morning’s weather started out mostly overcast, with a slight chill in the air, it wasn’t long before the sun peeked its way through more and more until, by the point of the distribution of the Eucharist, it was shining down brightly.
When the Mass ended and the organ erupted into a joyful, if somewhat loud and dramatic, closing song, the crowd finally broke out of the sober emotion held during the two-hour-long Mass. People smiled and clapped, turning to look at and rejoice with their neighbors. The cameras and cellphones were then pulled out in abundance as people snapped photos of St. Peter’s Basilica in the beautiful Italian sunlight.
Groups of pilgrims waved their flags and banners in the air while people stood on chairs or moved toward the fenced-off paths to be near the pope when he rode through the crowd. The joy could be felt in the air.
Just as attending the profession of vows of a woman entering a religious congregation gave me a new understanding of religious life, attending a canonization has made me feel closer to the Church and to the entire Communion of Saints.
The open-air, multilingual Mass had the remarkable feeling of the comfort of home — St. Peter’s Square filled with one big, Catholic family celebrating the declaration of sainthood for four more brothers and sisters who were channels of Christ’s love while on earth — and, as we pray, will continue to be from heaven.
Hannah M. Brockhaus writes from Missouri and is a former OSV intern.