October 6: The canonization ceremony

In the presence of several hundred thousand persons, the Pope solemnly proclaimed Josemaría Escrivá a saint on October 6, 2002. The canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square began at 10:00 in the sun—filled morning.

Forty-two cardinals, bishops and priests concelebrated with the Pope. Also taking part in the ceremony were more than four hundred cardinals, archbishops and bishops, 50 of whom were from Africa, 53 from Spain and 55 from Italy. The Archbishop of Moscow was also present as were several Maronite archbishops and one Chaldean archbishop from Lebanon, as well as two Cuban bishops. Numerous representatives from religious orders and apostolic movements also occupied prominent places close to the Papal altar.

The crowd filled St. Peter’s Square and the Via della Conciliazione, and overflowed into the adjacent streets. Nine huge video screens along the Via della Conciliazione and in St. Peter’s Square enabled everyone to follow the ceremonies. Twenty-nine television networks broadcast the ceremony live throughout the world. Many other television stations and networks broadcast it on a delayed basis. At ten twenty-five, the Pope proclaimed the formula of canonization: “For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the fostering of Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayers for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brethren in the Episcopate, we declare and define that Blessed Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer is a Saint and we enroll him among the Saints, decreeing that he is to be venerated in the whole Church as one of the Saints.” The “amen” intoned by the assembly and the applause raised to heaven from St. Peter’s Square all the way out to Castel Sant’Angelo expressed the crowd’s gratitude for the solemn declaration. Meanwhile, a relic of the new saint was placed next to the altar for the veneration of the Christian people.

After the readings, among them the Gospel in Greek as is customary in these ceremonies, the Holy Father gave his homily:

Canonization Homily of the Pope

1. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14). These words of the Apostle Paul, which we have just heard, help us understand better the significant message of today’s canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. With docility he allowed himself to be led by the Spirit, convinced that only in this way can one fully accomplish God’s will. This fundamental Christian truth was a constant theme in his preaching. Indeed, he never stopped inviting his spiritual children to invoke the Holy Spirit to ensure that their interior life, namely, their life of relationship with God and their family, professional and social life, totally made up of small earthly realities, would not be separated but would form one life that was “holy and full of God.” He wrote, “We find the invisible God in the most visible and material things” (Conversations with Josemaría Escrivá,no. 114). This teaching of his is still timely and urgent today. In virtue of the Baptism that incorporates him into Christ, the believer is called to establish with the Lord an uninterrupted and vital relationship. He is called to be holy and to collaborate in the salvation of humanity. 2. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). The Book of Genesis, as we heard in the first reading, reminds us that the Creator has entrusted the earth to man, to “till” it and “keep” it. Believers acting in the various realities of this world contribute to realize this divine universal plan. Work and any other activity, carried out with the help of grace, is converted into a means of daily sanctification. “The ordinary life of a Christian who has faith,” Josemaría Escrivá used to say, “when he works or rests, when he prays or sleeps, at all times, is a life in which God is always present” (Meditations, March 3, 1954). This supernatural vision of life unfolds an extraordinarily rich horizon of salvific perspectives, because, even in the only apparently monotonous flow of normal earthly events, God comes close to us and we can cooperate with his plan of salvation.

So it is easier to understand what the Second Vatican Council affirmed: “there is no question, then, of the Christian message inhibiting men from building up the world... on the contrary it is an incentive to do these very things” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 34). 3. To raise the world to God and transform it from within: this is the ideal the holy founder points out to you, dear brothers and sisters, who rejoice today to see him raised to the glory of the altars. He continues to remind you of the need not to let yourselves be frightened by a materialist culture that threatens to dissolve the genuine identity of Christ’s disciples. He liked to repeat forcefully that the Christian faith is opposed to conformism and interior inertia. Following in his footsteps, spread in society the consciousness that we are all called to holiness whatever our race, class, society or age. In the first place, struggle to be saints yourselves, cultivating an evangelical style of humility and service, abandonment to Providence and of constant listening to the voice of the Spirit. In this way, you will be the “salt of the earth” (cf. Mt 5:13) and “your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (ibid., 5:16). 4. Those who want to serve the cause of the Gospel faithfully will certainly encounter misunderstandings and difficulties. The Lord purifies and shapes all those he calls to follow him with the mysterious power of the Cross; but “in the Cross,” the new saint repeated, “we find light, peace and joy: Lux in Cruce, requies in Cruce, gaudium in Cruce!” Ever since 7 August 1931 when, during the celebration of holy Mass, the words of Jesus echoed in his soul, “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself” (Jn 12:32), Josemaría Escrivá understood more clearly that the mission of the baptized consists in raising the Cross of Christ above all human reality and he felt burning within him the impassioned vocation to evangelize every human setting. Then, without hesitation, he accepted Jesus’ invitation to the Apostle Peter, which we just heard in this square: “Duc in altum!” (“Put out into the deep”). He transmitted it to his entire spiritual family so that they might offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service. Today this invitation is extended to all of us: “Put out into the deep,” the divine Teacher says to us, “and let down your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). 5 To fulfill such a rigorous mission, one needs constant interior growth nourished by prayer. St. Josemaría was a master in the practice of prayer, which he considered to be an extraordinary “weapon” to redeem the world. He always recommended: “In the first place prayer; then expiation; in the third place, but very much in third place, action” (The Way, no. 82). It is not a paradox but a perennial truth: the fruitfulness of the apostolate lies above all in prayer and in intense and constant sacramental life. This, in essence, is the secret of the holiness and the true success of the saints. May the Lord help you, dear brothers and sisters, to accept this challenging ascetical and missionary instruction. May Mary sustain you, whom the holy founder invoked as “Spes nostra, Sedes Sapientiae, Ancilla Domini!” (“Our Hope, Seat of Wisdom, Handmaid of the Lord”). May Our Lady make everyone an authentic witness of the Gospel, ready everywhere to make a generous contribution to building the Kingdom of Christ! May the example and teaching of Saint Josemaría be an incentive to us so that at the end of the earthly pilgrimage, we too may be able to share in the blessed inheritance of heaven! There, together with the angels and all the saints, we will contemplate the face of God and sing his glory for all eternity.

When the moment for communion arrived, 1040 priests, each accompanied by a young volunteer carrying a white umbrella to make it easier for people to find them, spread out among the faithful to distribute communion.

When the Mass ended, the Holy Father addressed a brief message in various languages to those taking part in the ceremony: Pope’s words after Mass of canonization

1. At the end of this solemn liturgical celebration, I wish to greet cordially all the pilgrims who have come from every part of the world. I direct a special greeting to the government delegation, numerous personalities and pilgrims from Italy, where the new Saint worked everywhere for the good of souls and the spread of the Gospel. 2. 1 cordially greet the French-speaking delegations and pilgrims who have come to the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá. May they find in the teaching of the new saint the spiritual elements they need to walk in the path of holiness in their daily lives. With affection I bless you.

I invite the members of the various delegations and all of you who have come from English-speaking countries to take to heart the lesson of the new Saint: that Jesus Christ should be the inspiration and goal of every aspect of your daily lives. I commend you and your families to his intercession and invoke abundant blessings on your commitment and apostolate.

Cordial greetings to the German-speaking pilgrims who participate in the celebration of the canonization of the priest Josemaría Escriváde Balaguer. May his word and example encourage you to strive for holiness. Fulfill the small things of every day with great love for God. May the Lord grant you his grace.

I greet all the official delegations and the numerous participants in the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, who have come from Spain and Latin America. Accepting like Peter the invitation of' Jesus to put out into the sea, be apostles in the setting of your daily life. On this path may the Virgin Mary and the intercession of the new saint accompany you.

I greet the Portuguese-speaking participants. May Saint Josemaría serve as a model of your dedication to sanctifying your work and your families. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ.

I cordially greet all the members of Opus Dei, those devoted to Saint Josemaría and all the pilgrims from Poland. May his intercession be for all a pledge of grace and may the charism of his life inspire you on the ways of spiritual progress. God bless you.

3. Love for our Lady is a constant characteristic of the life of Josemaria Escrivá and is an eminent part t of the legacy that he left to his spiritual sons and daughters. Let us invoke the humble Servant of the Lord so that, through the intercession of her devoted son, she may grant to all of us the grace to follow her with docility on the challenging path of evangelical perfection.

Finally, I cordially greet the Prelate and all the members of Opus Dei and I thank them for all that they do for the Church.

At the end, turning to the Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría, he said: “Thank you for all that you are doing for the Church.” He then prayed the Angelus and imparted his apostolic blessing.

The Pope, accompanied by the Prelate of Opus Dei, was then driven through the Square and along the Via della Conciliazione, to greet everyone present. Dozens of small children received a blessing and a kiss on the forehead from the Holy Father.

That afternoon, in the port of Civitavecchia, where eight ships had docked the previous day carrying over ten thousand people from Mediterranean countries who were coming for the canonization, a ceremony took place in which the local authorities dedicated one of the docks of the port to the new saint. The vespers of Saint Josemaría was prayed that evening for the first time in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Romana, n. 35, July-December 2002, p. 203-208.

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