By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learning from the Saints

It has been an eventful few days, full of God's blessings.

On Thursday evening we opened our fifth and final year of Nothing More Beautiful. In this year, focused upon the lay apostolate, we wanted to begin with the family as that place where the foundational apprenticeship for the apostolate should take place. We gathered on the Solemnity of All Saints, so what an extraordinary blessing it was to have as our witness the son of a saint! Pierluigi Molla traveled with his wife Lisi from Milan to be with us. He is the eldest son of Saint Gianna Molla, the last person to be canonized by Blessed John Paul II. He shared with us how his mother demonstrated by her entire life the inseparable link between holiness and apostolate. Deeply rooted in prayer, she sought to live her life coherently, that is to say, fully consistent with her Catholic faith. This coherence led to action in the service of others. This shaped all that she did as a wife, mother, doctor and lover of life. From Pierluigi's presentation it was clear to everyone present that Saint Gianna, together with her husband, had as their first priority the handing on of the faith to their children by giving personal witness in their actions to the truth and beauty of the faith they taught. Particularly striking to me is how natural this all was for Saint Gianna. The handing on of the faith in the home flowed naturally from her love of the Lord and His Church. This is an important lesson for all parents. They do not need to be expert catechists or theologians! What is necessary is that they grow in personal holiness by allowing the Lord to love them and by loving him in return. From this love all else will flow and the home will become that place of apprenticeship for the apostolate.

What is remembered most about Saint Gianna, of course, is her extraordinary witness to the dignity of every human life. Her last pregnancy was a difficult one, and she made it abundantly clear to her husband that, should there come a need to choose between saving her or her baby, they were not to hesitate: save the baby. She insisted on offering her life for the sake of that of her child, and that is, in fact, what she did. To hear this recounted by her eldest son was deeply moving for all of us.

On Sunday I was at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal for a special national celebration of thanksgiving for the canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. I was one of many Bishops who joined Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint Jean Longueuil for the celebration. The Oratory was filled to overflowing, yet one more sign of the great admiration that countless people have for our newest Canadian saint. In her own way, she, like Saint Gianna, teaches that we grow in holiness through coherence of life and action.

By the intercession of these two holy women, may we, too, offer authentic witness to the love of Christ.