Asking Pope Francis to Canonize Pier Giorgio Frassati

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-grffmiQlcI

I’ve had a devotion to Bl. Giorgio Frassati for over two decades and built the first web site dedicated to him (which now exists as part of this site).

This past May 20 marked the 27th anniversary of the beatification of Pier Giorgio and in that time, devotion to this remarkable young man has spread throughout the world.

Now, the Spirit has moved those closest to Frassati to ask the Holy Father to move to the next step, to canonize PGF, perhaps at the upcoming Synod on Young People in October 2018. This is part of the cause for canonization, showing evidence that devotion to the blessed has spread throughout the Church, which it most certainly has.

To that end, they have asked everyone to go to PierGiorgioLetter.org to sign the letter to the Holy Father and then to spread the word to let everyone know to do so. I hope you’ll join me in this effort.

The Heart of St. Padre Pio in Boston

Update: They did make it there!

Thousands of people in the Boston area, some even flying in from other parts of the country, are venerating the heart of Padre Pio this week. It is the first time a major relic of St. Pio has traveled outside of Rome and it is here in Boston at the request of Cardinal Seán, a fellow Capuchin, for the saint’s feast day in the Year of Mercy.

The Boston Globe covers the initial veneration in Lowell and it’s funny to read the outsider’s perspective. We, Catholics, are a peculiar bunch and I can see why others think it’s weird. But human beings are weird and quirky, especially when it comes to those we love who are no longer with us.

You have to see George Martell’s photos of the visit on the Archdiocese’s Flickr page. You can see the full range of experiences and emotions that were present.

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Melanie and the kids are going to the Pastoral Center in Braintree this morning for veneration. They’re bringing a picture of Padre Pio that came to us mysteriously. Several years ago, Melanie took the kids to daily Mass on Sophia’s feast day and as they come out after, a young man approached them with the picture and said that it was for them. Melanie had never seen him before and didn’t recognize him from the parish at all. The picture has been in the girls’ bedroom since then. They hope to touch the picture to the heart of Padre Pio today and make it a third-class relic.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I hope to swing by the Pastoral Center on my way home this afternoon, but my guess is that after the noon Mass until the end at 5pm the place will be crazy with people.

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St. Teresa of Calcutta and Me

St. Teresa of Calcutta relic

Back in 2000, I think, my parish at the time, Immaculate Conception in Salem, hosted Scott Hahn for a day of talks. As the recent graduate of Franciscan University and former student of Hahn, I was one of the organizers of the event.

And as usual with Scott, interest in his talk came from far beyond the borders of the parish. So I wasn’t surprised when we received a letter from the Missionaries of Charity house in Dorchester, in Boston, asking if they could attend gratis (given their Poverty) and if they could have a place to eat lunch apart from the crowd (given certain of their religious community requirements). So I arranged for them to have lunch in the rectory with Scott.

In their gratitude, I later received in the mail a holy card of Mother Teresa, who had died only a couple of years before, attached to which was a small square of cloth from Mother’s sari and several of her hairs.

Yes, a first class relic. It now sits in pride of place on our prayer shelf next to my relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Faustina. And today I am so pleased to be able to say, St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

More St. Teresa of Calcutta Connections

I should note that my affinity for and connections to St. Teresa’s and her order extend beyond that one event. In 1995, a group of friends from Franciscan University and I were traveling over the summer from Steubenville to Maine for a camping trip and stopped in my hometown on the way. Two events coincided in that stopover. The first was my job interview with Philip Lawler for his then-new and groundbreaking internet service Catholic World News and the second was the visit of Mother Teresa to Boston with a Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton. On the same day. My friends went to the Mass along with my sister and my five-year-old niece Mary, while I went to my job interview. I always felt like the events were connected somehow.

A couple of years before that, my household at school participated in a Lenten sacrifice that involved us setting aside some money as a group. When we heard a mutual friend was traveling to Moscow for a mission trip, we gave him the money which he conveyed to the Missionaries of Charity house there and gave as a donation in my name. And so weeks later, I received a mysterious letter in the mail from Moscow, which turned out to be a letter of thanks from the sisters for our generosity.

It seems my path has often crossed that of St. Teresa and her sisters, almost as often as it has with St. Francis’ brothers and sisters.

Mother Teresa’s Canonization Date Set for Sept. 4

On September 4, it will have been 19 years since Mother Teresa (and Princess Diana, by happenstance) died. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long. It’s hard to believe there are lots of young adults who don’t know a world with a living saint traveling about it, bringing the joy of the Gospel and the air of sanctity with her.

Consistory to approve canonization of Mother Teresa scheduled

The Vatican has announced that the consistory to finalize the cause for canonization of Mother Teresa and five other blessed will take place next Tuesday. This is the final step in the process before the canonization ceremony is scheduled.

This couldn’t be more timely given the martyrdom of four Missionaries of Charity in Yemen last week. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Four Missionaries of Charity Martyred in Yemen

This is awful. These four Missionaries of Charity, members of the order founded by Mother Teresa, were murdered along with the people they were caring for by members of an Islamic terrorist group in Yemen. As the vicar for Southern Arabia says, they were murdered in hatred of the faith, which makes them martyrs. A priest at the facility was taken by the terrorists.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Through the intercession of Blessed Mother Teresa, may they fly to the bosom of the Lord in heaven.

The Saints We Criticize

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These days, when I hear the stories of the outlandish behavior of the saints, the crazy ideas, the bucking of “the way we’ve always done it”, and the harrumphing criticism of the Wise Ones of their day who never recognized the sanctity in their midst, I think of the harrumphing critics of today and the objects of their criticism.

Certainly sometimes a tradition-bucking crank is just a crank and not a future saint. But sometimes the method to his madness will only be evident in the long run. Who’d ever thought that weird son of Bernadone who stripped naked in front of everyone and started hanging out with his weird friends and begging in the streets would end up being one of the greatest saints of all time?

Just because you can’t see the saint doesn’t mean, he or she isn’t there.

Book Review: St. Peter’s Bones, by Thomas J. Craughwell

The chapel in St. Peter's right above Peter's tomb
The chapel in St. Peter’s right above Peter’s tomb

It must be the fact that I was 12 years old when “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out, but it might also be that I’ve been a National Geographic magazine subscriber since about the same time, but I’ve always been a sucker for archaeology stories, especially those related to a fantastic treasure.

The relics of St. Peter, the first pope, aren’t the usual type of treasure in the sense of gold and jewels, but it is a treasure to the faithful. For 2,000 years tradition has held that the giant Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City in Rome was built above his final resting place, but for most of that time nobody really knew for sure. That is, until an excavation begun in the Grottoes underneath the basilica in the late 1930s uncovered a Roman necropolis.

In his new book “St. Peter’s Bones”, Thomas Craughwell provides a popular re-telling of the tale of the dig and what was found. It’s full of the usual intrigues, personal foibles, politics, faith, and unbelievable happenstance. But along the way, we don’t just learn how Pope Pius XII set in motion one of the great Christian archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, we also learn much more about the Church throughout the ages. We learn about St. Peter himself, how he came to Rome, and how he died there. The ancient burial practices of Romans, Christians, and others are explained. Myths about ancient Christian ways are exploded.

We see how the history of Christianity revolves around veneration of the places connected to Christ, Peter and the Apostles, and the early martyrs, including the catacombs of Rome and other excavations.

But it’s the main story that is most compelling. We start with four clerics tasked with the job of excavating by Pope Pius. Ironically, they were told to stay away from the the expected location of the tomb of St. Peter when they started, but as they discovered more and more of the necropolis, including evidence of Christian burials around the time of Christ and clear references to Peter, they were able to start digging toward the first Pope’s burial spot, which tradition had said was beneath the high altar, such that if you could drop a plumb line from Michelangelo’s dome, down through the high altar, down through the ground, it would land right in the middle of his burial spot. And, spoiler alert!, that’s where he was.

Of course, we didn’t know any of that because of a quirk of ecclesial politics. The digs were overseen by another priest, not one of the archeologists, but the one responsible for all of St. Peter’s Basilica. His main concern was that the remains of Christians being dug up by the explorers be respected and so every night he went to the digs with a workman and carefully gathered up all the remains they found and placed them in a storage area. So one night, they went into a newly opened space, one that the archeologists hadn’t explored yet, and removed a set of bones. Off they went to storages for years and years before they were brought out again and it wasn’t until decades had passed that enough evidence had been amassed to declare these the bones of St. Peter!

In his efforts to provide due respect, the poor priest had shoved the first Pope’s holy relics in a box in a storeroom where they were nearly lost.

There’s a lot of other great information in there as well, including how grafitti played a major role in identifying the remains as St. Peter’s. Just imagine! What we would call vandalism today was key to saving this location for us 2,000 years ago.

If I had any quibbles about the book, it was that it could do with some illustrations and maps. But there are some good resources online that helped, including an unofficial site dedicated to St. Peter’s Basilica that has some maps, illustrations, and photos of the Scavi (as the excavations are called); an entry on a blog that goes into great detail, including information on and illustrations of the previous churches built on the site; and Kathy Schiffer’s post from last fall about the exposition of the relics by the Vatican to end the Year of Faith.

By the way, Fr. Chip Hines and I interviewed the author, Thomas Craughwell, on our radio show The Good Catholic Life, a couple of weeks ago and you can listen an audio recording of the 1-hour-long interview.

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