Potpourri of Popery, SS Andre Bessette & Mary Mackillop Edition

Our brothers up north have a new saint today: Andre Bessette. Ditto our friends in Oz, whose Mary Mackillop was likewise canonized, along with four others. (I'm highlighting saints you can speak English to.)

The Montreal Gazette has a wonderfully done piece on how the Vatican recognizes miracles. It seeks outside Church circles for scientific explanations. The article quotes an atheist doctor who was consulted in one such case, without being told who was asking:
It was only after Duffin submitted her report that she learned the Vatican had commissioned her study to verify the story of an alleged miracle attributed to Marguerite d'Youville. Founder of the Grey Nuns, d'Youville was recognized as a saint -the first born in Canada -in 1990.
The Church wasn't looking for a rubber stamp.
"What the church was looking for from me was not to declare that it was a miracle, but to give a scientific explanation, and I didn't have a scientific explanation for why she was still alive," Duffin said. "If I could have provided a scientific explanation, then they would have moved on and looked for a different case."
Loads of other Church news. For example, did you think the Pope was resting at home after his highly successful (there's Benedict bounce and I have the fruits to prove it) trip to Great Britain? Wrongo! Two weeks later he was off to Sicily to confront the Mob --only slightly more smug & imperious than the BBC.

After acknowledging the hardships of living under mafia rule and expressing his desire to strengthen their faith by his presence, the Pope delved into the day's readings, which happened to be about faith and humility.
Jesus taught his disciples to grow in faith, to believe and to entrust themselves increasingly to him, in order to build their own lives on the rock. For this reason they asked him "increase our faith!" (Lk 17: 5). What they asked the Lord for is beautiful, it is the fundamental request: disciples do not ask for material gifts, they do not ask for privileges but for the grace of faith, which guides and illumines the whole of life; they ask for the grace to recognize God and to be in a close relationship with him, receiving from him all his gifts, even those of courage, love and hope.
Which by itself might be a bit bleak, but he goes on:
Jesus, without directly answering their prayer, has recourse to a paradoxical image to express the incredible vitality of faith. Just as a lever raises something far heavier than its own weight, so faith, even a crumb of faith, can do unthinkable, extraordinary things, such as uproot a great tree and plant it in the sea (ibid.). Faith trusting in Christ, welcoming him, letting him transform us, following him to the very end makes humanly impossible things possible in every situation. The Prophet Habbakuk also bears witness to this in the First Reading. He implores the Lord, starting with a dreadful situation of violence, iniquity and oppression. And even in this difficult, insecure situation, the Prophet introduces a vision that offers an inside view of the plan that God is outlining and bringing to fulfilment in history: "He whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith" (Hab 2: 4). The godless person, the one who does not behave in accordance with God, who trusts in his own power but is relying on a frail and inconsistent reality that will therefore give way, is destined to fall; the righteous person, on the other hand, trusts in a hidden but sound reality, he trusts in God and for this reason will have life. 
In a very lovely homily he says some things about humility and how God works in us, and concludes essentially by urging them to take back their streets:
Dear people of Palermo and dear Sicilians, your beautiful Island was one of the first regions of Italy to receive the faith of the Apostles, to receive the proclamation of the Word of God, to adhere to the faith in such a generous way that, even amidst difficulties and persecutions, the flower of holiness always sprang from it. Sicily was and is a land of Saints, belonging to every walk of life, who have lived the Gospel with simplicity and wholeness. To you lay faithful, I repeat: do not fear to live and to witness to the faith in the various contexts of society, in the many situations of human existence, especially in those that are difficult! May faith give you the power of God in order to be ever confident and courageous, to go ahead with new determination, to take the necessary initiatives to give an ever more beautiful face to your land. And when you come up against the opposition of the world, may you hear the Apostle's words: "Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord" (v. 8). One should be ashamed of evil, of what offends God, of what offends man; one should be ashamed of the evil done to the Civil and Religious Community by actions that would prefer to remain in the shade! The temptation of discouragement and resignation comes to those who are weak in faith and those who confuse evil with good and to those who think that in the face of evil that is often profound there is nothing that can be done. On the contrary, those who are firmly founded on faith, who trust totally in God and who live in the Church are capable of conveying the devastating power of the Gospel. This was how the Saints who flourished in Palermo and throughout Sicily down the centuries behaved, as likewise the lay people and priests of today who are well known to you, such as, for example, Fr Pino Puglisi. May they always keep you united and nourish in each one the desire to proclaim, with word and deed, the presence and love of Christ. People of Sicily, look at your future with hope! Bring out the full radiance of the good that you desire, that you seek and that you possess! Live courageously the values of the Gospel to make the light of goodness shine out! With God's power everything is possible!
Similar message for bishops, priests and religious -- except he tells them to be men and women of prayer so they will have something to communicate to others --and to keep alive the memory of many heroic Sicilian saints, especially: 
The Church of Palermo recently commemorated the anniversary of the barbarous assassination of Fr Giuseppe Puglisi, who belonged to this presbyterate, killed by the Mafia. His heart was on fire with authentic pastoral charity; in his zealous ministry he made a lot of room for the education of children and young people and at the same time strove to ensure that every Christian family might live its fundamental vocation as the first teacher of the faith to children. The same people entrusted to his pastoral care were able to quench their thirst with the spiritual riches of this good pastor, the cause of whose Beatification is under way. I urge you to keep alive the memory of his fruitful priestly witness, following his heroic example. 
Following his example...meaning, unto death if necessary. Strong words. Strong words for young people, too, though he takes a slightly different tack than usual. He tells the story of a recently beatified girl and her family to illustrate the power of faith and of family ties. After telling her story, he tells the young people that they know people like her:
In Sicily too there are splendid examples of young people who have grown up like beautiful, vigorous plants, after germinating in the family with the Lord's grace and human collaboration. I am referring to Bl. Pina Suriano, Venerable Maria Carmelina Leone and Maria Magno Magro, a great teacher; to the Servants of God Rosario Livatino, Mario Giuseppe Restivo and to many young people whom you know! Often their activities do not make the headlines because evil is more newsworthy, but they are the strength and future of Sicily! The image of a tree is very significant for representing the human person. The Bible uses it, for example, in the Psalms. Psalm 1 says blessed is the man who meditates on the law of the Lord: "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, / that yields its fruit in its season" (v. 3). These "streams of water" could be the "river" of tradition, the "river" of the faith from which to draw the vital sap. Dear young people of Sicily, be trees that sink their roots in the "river" of good! Do not be afraid of opposing evil! Together you will be like a forest that grows, silent perhaps, but capable of yielding fruit, of bringing life and of deeply renewing your land! Do not give in to the suggestions of the Mafia, which is a path to death incompatible with the Gospel...!

Straight at 'em, once again. He makes an interesting remark at the beginning of that address, too.
The Bishop of Rome goes everywhere to strengthen Christians in the faith, but he then goes home strengthened by your faith, by your joy and by your hope! Therefore, young people and families, we must take seriously this gathering, this get-together, which cannot be solely an occasional or functional event. It has a meaning, a human, Christian and ecclesial value.
In other words, when you visit the Pope, you are not an autograph-seeker. You are seeking and having an authentic religious experience which will give you renewed spiritual energy. This is what the media --and its counterparts among those sour Traditionalists who never think the fuss is really worth the trouble-- miss. He is Peter, and his visits have a power to confirm the brethren, which is the purpose of his office. He picks this up again at the conclusion:
Dear Friends, I know your difficulties in today's social context. They are the difficulties of the young people and families of today, particularly in the south of Italy. And I also know the commitment with which you seek to react to and face these problems, supported by your priests who are authentic fathers and brothers in the faith to you, as was Fr Pino Puglisi. I thank God for having met you, because wherever there are young people and families who choose the path of the Gospel there is hope. And you are a sign of hope, not only for Sicily but also for all Italy. I have brought you a testimony of holiness and you offer me your own: the faces of the many young people of this land who have loved Christ with Gospel radicalism; your own faces resemble a mosaic! This is the greatest gift we have received: to be Church, to be in Christ a sign and instrument of unity, of peace, of true freedom. No one can take this joy from us! No one can take this power from us! Courage, dear young people and families of Sicily! Be holy! At the school of Mary, our Mother, make yourselves fully available to God. Let yourselves be moulded by his Word and his Spirit and you will be even more, and increasingly, the salt and light of this beloved land of yours.

"No one can take this joy from us! No one can take this power from us!"

Other big news: the Synod for the Middle East is underway. Here's the pope's meditation for the opening. A profound theological reflection on theotokos which I will have to ponder. I'm fascinated by a remark he makes about the 81st Psalm (because of number differences, I think it's this one), however, in connection with Christ's cross. He is speaking of Israel's gradual shift to monotheism:
In this Psalm, in a great concentration, in a prophetic vision, we can see the power taken from the gods. Those that seemed gods are not gods, lose their divine characteristics, and fall to earth. Dii estis et moriemini sicut nomine (cf. Ps 81: 6-7): the weakening of power, the fall of the divinities.
This process that is achieved along the path of faith of Israel, and which is summed up here in one vision, is the true process of the history of religion: the fall of the gods. And thus the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the loss of power by the forces that dominate the world, is a process of suffering. In the history of Israel we can see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition "Only He is God" is achieved with great pain, beginning with the path of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabeans, to Christ. And this process of the loss of power, spoken in the Book of Revelation, chapter 12 continues throughout history; it mentions the fall of the angels, which are not truly angels, they are not divinities on earth. And it is achieved truly, right at the time of the rising Church, where we can see how with the blood of the martyrs comes the weakening of the divinities, starting with the divine emperor, from all these divinities. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of Mother Church that brings about their fall and thus transforms the world. 
What follows made splashy headlines (as if the "anonymous capitol that enslaves men" might be Washington, DC) but he is speaking of mammon:
This fall is not only the knowledge that they are not God; it is the process of transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of witnesses of Christ. And, if we look closely, we can see that this process never ends. It is achieved in various periods of history in ever new ways; even today, at this moment in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the fall of the gods, with pain, the martyrdom of witnesses. Let us remember all the great powers of the history of today. Let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man which is no longer in man's possession but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power that threatens the world. And then there is the power of terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.
These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the Saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall.
Other addresses: to the media
And he's off again -- to Spain-- at the start of November.

And finally: nun fight