VATICAN CITY — Blessed are those who pursue higher goals than merely making money.
That was the message Nov. 9 as a healthier-looking Pope John Paul II beatified five men and women before a spirited and joyful crowd in St. Peter's Square.
John Paul hailed the five 19th-century Europeans as models for a society that turns everything into “merchandise.”
The new blesseds challenge “present-day society, tempted at times to turn everything into merchandise and profit, neglecting values and dignity that have no price,” the Pope said.
Placing the blesseds firmly on the road to canonization, the Holy Father called their holiness the “fruit that came from the unceasing work of the Holy Spirit” and singled out each for their examples of sanctity.
First to be presented was Father Juan Nepomuceno Zegri y Moreno (1831-1905), a priest from Granada in Spain who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.
In his homily, the Pope said his life and the institution he founded “lives on, consecrated to the testimony and promotion of redemptive charity.”
Next to be beatified was Belgian Franciscan Father Valentin Paquay (1828-1905), who was known as a consummate preacher and confessor. “With his example,” the Holy Father said, “you can serve your brothers, giving them the joy of meeting Christ in truth!”
Brother Luigi Maria Monti (1825-2900) was from the Archdiocese of Milan and, despite being direction-less at age 32, carried out tireless work for the sick and orphaned children and founded the Sons of the Immaculate Conception. The Pope called him “a model of solidarity toward the needy [with] tender confidence in the Immaculate Virgin.”
Franciscan Father Massimilliano Taroni, who has written a small book on Brother Monti and comes from his parish, spoke of his delight at Brother Monti's beatification.
“He was very joyful,” he said. “He gave much to the children of God, and people will now see his life of good works.”
Spanish religious Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro (1837-1905) was next to be beatified. Sister Rodriguez taught poor jobless women a trade and formed them as Christian workers in order to keep them from danger.
“In this simple life,” the Pope observed, she found a model of work that brought “simple sanctification, joy and self-denial.”
The final beatification was that of Sister Rosalie Rendu (1786-1856), a French nun known for her brave and tireless help for the poor. Sister Rendu founded the Society of Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul and encouraged her sisters to “be a milestone where all those who are tired have the right to lay down their load.
“She saw in all people the face of Christ,” the Pope said. “Let us return grace with the witness of charity that the Vincentian family does not cease in giving to the world!”
“Her beatification gives us another saint to pray to,” said Sister Carmella Morini of the Society of Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in El Paso, Texas.
“The extraordinary thing about her was that the rich came to her for spiritual help and the poor came for material help — she would answer every call,” Sister Carmella said. “Her example is: If you have faith, love and trust in God, nothing can stop you.”
Particularly noteworthy was how many of the newly beatified had faced rejection, calumny, slander and humiliation yet fought on regardless. Both Blessed Rodriguez and Blessed Zegri y Moreno were victims of calumny resulting in their being expelled from the institutions they founded.
Speaking to the Register at the end of the ceremony, Father Michael Creagan from St. Paul, Minn., pointed out the “beautiful simplicity of the saints” and their “tremendous love of God.” They show that it's “not an extraordinary call to be holy — we're all called to be saints,” Father Creagan added.
“I'm always humbled to see how God works through people available at that moment,” said Father John Birkel of Lincoln, Neb.
After giving his apostolic blessing, the Holy Father was driven around the square.
“I had an audience with him in the 1980s,” said an onlooker from Hounslow in England. “He hasn't lost any of his cheerful brightness — the respect people have for him is wonderful.”
Indeed, the Holy Father's health seems to have improved recently, and although he read only part of his homily, his voice was strong and clear, he was able to sit with better posture and he even knelt in prayer during the consecration.
Dr. Hideaki Koizumi, a Buddhist who was attending a conference of the pontifical academies, was particularly impressed.
“I know his health situation has not been good lately,” he said. “But I was very much moved by the passion of the Pope.”
In his homily, John Paul compared the Church to a spiritual temple made of “living stones, that is, of the faithful united in one faith” and likened saints to “precious stones.”
The Holy Father concluded his 143rd beatification ceremony calling on the intercession of all the saints.
“We contemplate their glory in heaven,” he said. “May we all find ourselves in Paradise one day and in the joy of everlasting life.”
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.
(Zenit contributed to this story.)