With the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' 2018 fall general meeting now in the rearview…
New blesseds provide perspective and hope for 2020
Two great events in the life of the Church this month have assured us that the Year of Our Lord 2020 won’t be all bad.
While the pages of history will remember these 12 months as being dominated by pandemic, social revolution, extreme political and religious division, election contention, copious natural disasters and whatever else happens between now and Dec. 31, the Church reminds us what the true prevailing focus of every human being should rather be: holiness and attaining eternal life with Christ. And while all individuals who have achieved the remarkable status of “blessed” are an inspiration to the faithful, the beatifications of Carlo Acutis and Father Michael McGivney offer particular graces at this time in our history.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs that through the canonization process, the Church “recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors” (No. 828). This is most certainly true for Blesseds Acutis and McGivney.
First, there’s 15-year-old Acutis, who said to his mother days before his death from leukemia in 2006, “I can die happy because I haven’t wasted even a minute on things that aren’t pleasing to God.” Instead, the young Italian, driven by a faith inexplicable even to his own mother, spent every day of his short life seeking to glorify the Lord.
In his homily at Acutis’s beatification, Cardinal Agostino Vallini said that Acutis serves as a model of virtue for young people today. “He gave witness that faith does not distance us from life but immerses us more deeply in it and showed us the concrete way to live the joy of the Gospel,” the cardinal said. “It is up to us to follow it, attracted by the fascinating experience of Blessed Carlo, so that our lives may also shine with light and hope.”
This witness could not have come at a more providential time. In an era when young people are abandoning religion, Acutis, who sought to love Christ through all he did, provides an acute contrast of what a young person on fire with faith can accomplish — not for himself, but for others. At a time when belief in the Real Presence is waning, Acutis called the Eucharist his “highway to heaven.” And at a time when the internet is being grossly misused for pornography, social media feuds and all other manner of repugnant behavior, Acutis used his programming skills to build a website devoted to exploring 150 Eucharistic miracles around the world.
He is an inspiration for young and old — a reminder that life can be rather simple, if we only realize what our true purpose is.
The beatification of Father Michael McGivney is another providential moment for the Church. Father McGivney, a parish priest and founder of the Knights of Columbus, offers hope and encouragement for priests who have been battered by another round of the clergy abuse crisis; who find themselves wrestling with a pandemic-driven financial crisis; who may find mission crushed under a long administrative to-do list; and who are in need of fraternity more than ever.
Father McGivney’s example of charity, ingenuity and holiness provides a model for priests to follow as they navigate the extraordinary challenges of the modern world.
“During his lifetime, people referred to him as saintly, someone who was a tremendous example of the good Samaritan,” said Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, in an interview earlier this year. “They recognized in him somebody who had devoted his life to the principles of charity and unity, as someone who was generous to a fault. With his reputation, he inspired not only members of the Knights of Columbus but really many of his priest-colleagues in Connecticut.”
The Catechism once again reminds us that “the saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.”
We are no doubt enduring difficult times. But Blesseds Acutis and McGivney remind us that these challenges are not what should monopolize our attention or drain our resources. Rather, we are called to love one another and the Lord, and to proclaim him to the world, as did these remarkable beati. They indeed are models of hope for all of us who seek to follow them to heaven.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young