Second Day of Reflection on Lay Holiness: “Sanctity, Marriage and Family” (Rome, May 26, 2022)

On May 26, a day of reflection on lay holiness was held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. This was the second such day, in continuity with the one in 2019 dedicated to seven lay people from the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st century, almost all of whom died at a very young age and whose canonization process has been opened. On this occasion, the ten persons held up as models of lay holiness were five married couples: Blessed Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini, Italians; Servants of God Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, Polish; Eduardo Ortiz de Landázuri and Laura Busca Otaegui, Spaniards; Franco Bono and Maria Rosaria De Angelis, Italians, and Cyprien Rugamba and Daphrose Mukasanga, Rwandans.

In addition to a speaker for each of the couples (usually a friend of the family, in some cases the postulator of the cause), Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, and Professor Carla Rossi Espagnet, from the university hosting the event, took part in the ceremony.

Introducing the day, Cardinal Semeraro said that “the holiness of spouses is certainly the holiness of two distinct persons, but at the same time it presents us with a holiness that we can call communitarian.” He also pointed to marriages in which one spouse lives the faith and the other does not, such as St. Monica and her husband, or Charles Péguy and his wife. When such a situation arises, he said, often the holiness of one leads the other to the faith. Quoting Pope Francis, he presented marriage as “an unstable but safe boat.” He added that the vocation to marriage is demanding, but it is a true vocation, that is, a divine call. In this context, he recalled St. Josemaría’s words: “You laugh because I tell you that you have a ‘vocation to marriage’? Well, you have just that: a vocation.”

Carla Rossi Espagnet offered some considerations on the permanence and growth of the sacramental grace throughout the entire time of the relationship between husband and wife, beyond the wedding day. She concluded by saying that marriage is an exciting adventure, in which, as the Pope likes to stress, one moves from “I” to “we,” and that therefore people naturally look with tenderness at elderly couples.

Professor Carla Rossi Espagnet’s talk was followed by a round table discussion in which the key elements of the witness to holiness left by the five couples were presented. Despite the evidence of certain common characteristics, such as praying together, love for the Mass and being open to life, it is not easy to find in their stories similar patterns or univocal “recipes” for marital holiness. Each of these couples, at a certain point in their lives (even after very difficult years for their marriage), made the firm decision to live the Gospel together day by day, and thus left a deep furrow of charity and fidelity around them.

“Their life was very ordinary, but they managed to put Christ at the center of their relationship because they received communion every day,” said Paola Dal Toso, a professor at the University of Verona, speaking about Blessed Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini. “They saw themselves as an indivisible union, striving to make the other person happy in this world.”

Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, known as “the good Samaritans of Markowa,” died as martyrs, along with their children, for having welcomed Jews into their home during the Nazi persecution. Father Witold Burda, postulator of their cause of canonization, said that they are a model of sanctity because “they were faithful to the Gospel not only in the final moments of their lives, but in every day of their marriage.”

Francesco Calogero, postulator of their cause and professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, spoke about Dr. Eduardo Ortiz de Landázuri and his wife Laura Busca Otaegui. “Laura, with a degree in Pharmacy, dedicated herself to raising a Christian family that welcomed many children. Her husband Eduardo worked as a doctor, always standing out for his charitable treatment of his patients.”

“In the diocese everyone spoke about Franco and Maria Rosaria after their death, and everyone spoke well of them. So something had to be done. They prayed insistently to God, through the intercession of St. Francis, that they would both attain sanctity,” said Pietro Romeo, vicar general of the diocese of Locri-Gerace and postulator of the cause of Franco Bono and Maria Rosaria De Angelis. Both practiced medicine in Locri: he as a cardiologist, in the hospital; she as a family doctor, in the homes of all those who needed her. They had five children.

Cyprien Rugamba and Daphrose Mukasanga were martyrs of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. They were killed, with six of their children, in their home, in front of the Blessed Eucharist, by soldiers of the presidential guard. At a time of fratricidal division between Hutus and Tutsis, their faith prevented them from choosing one ethnic group over the other, despite the negative consequences and even death that such a choice could entail. Belgian professor Jean-Luc Moens, an old friend of the family who has written a book about their life, spoke about their example of holiness.

After the round table, Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, Prelate of Opus Dei and Chancellor of the University, spoke briefly, as reported on in the “From the Prelate” section of this bulletin.

Romana, n. 74, January-June 2022, p. 101-103.

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