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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

General Audience on Saints as witnesses of hope

This morning's General Audience began at 9:10am in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope focused on the theme: Saints, witnesses and companions of hope (cf Heb 11:40-12:2).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On the day of our Baptism, people repeated the invocation of the saints.  Many of us were children at that moment, brought to the Church in the arms of our parents.  Shortly before anointing us with the Oil of Catechumens, a symbol of God's strength in the fight against evil, the priest invited the entire assembly to pray for those who were going to be Baptized, invoking the intercession of the saints.  That was the first time in our lives that we were given the company of elder brothers and sisters - the saints - who have also walked in our very footsteps, who have known our own labours and who now live forever in the embrace of God.  The Letter to the Hebrews defines this company that surrounds us with the expression multitude of witnesses (Heb 12:1).  This is what the saints are: a multitude of witnesses.

In our fight against evil, Christians do not despair.  Christianity cultivates an inflexible confidence: it does not believe that negative and disgraceful strengths can prevail.  The final word on the history of mankind is not hatred, not death, not war.  In every moment of life, we are assisted by the hand of God, and by the discrete presence of believers who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith (Roman Canon).  Their existence tells us above all that Christian life is not an unattainable ideal.  Together, we find comfort: we are not alone, the Church is composed of innumerable brothers, sometimes anonymous, who have preceded us, and who - through the action of the Holy Spirit - are involved in the affairs of those who still live here on earth.

Baptism is not the only time when the invocation of the saints marks the journey of a Christian life.  When two people consecrate their lives in the Sacrament of Matrimony, the saints are invoked once again for them, this time as a couple.  And this same invocation is a source of trust for the two young people who are beginning their journey in married life.  Those who truly love possess the desire and the courage to say forever - for always - but they know that they need the grace of Christ and the help of the saints in order to live married life forever.  It is not like some people say: as long as love lasts.  No: forever!  Otherwise, it would be better that you were not to be married.  Either forever or not.  For this reason, in the liturgy of a wedding, we invoke the presence of the saints, and in difficult moments, we must have the courage to raise our eyes to heaven, to think about the many Christians who have experienced the same tribulations and who have maintained the whiteness of their baptismal garments, washing them in the blood of the Lamb (cf Rev 7:14), as the Book of Revelation reminds us.  God never abandons us: whenever we are in need, his angel will return to us and console us.  Angels - at times with human faces and hearts, for the saints of God are always here, hidden in the midst of us.  This is difficult to understand and also to imagine, but the saints are present in our lives.  And when someone calls on a saint, it is precisely because the saints are close to us.

Priests also maintain a memory of the saints being invoked upon them.  This is one of the most touching moments of the liturgy of Ordination.  The candidates lie prostrate on the floor, with their faces toward the floor ... and the entire assembly, led by the Bishop, call upon the intercession of the saints.  A man would be crushed beneath the weight of the the mission entrusted to him, but knowing that all of heaven is behind him, that the grace of God will never fail because Jesus always remains faithful allows him to go forward with serenity and refreshed.  We are not alone.

And what about us?  We are dust aspiring to heaven.  Our strength is weak, but the mystery of grace that is present in our Christian lives is strong.  We are faithful on this earth, who Jesus has loved at every moment of our lives, but we know and we want to hope in the transfiguration of the world, in its definitive fulfilment where finally we will no longer experience tears, malice or suffering.

May the Lord give each of us the hope of being saints.  But someone among you may ask me: Father, can we be saints in everyday life?  Yes, we can.  But does that mean that we have to pray every day?  No, it means that you have to do your duty every day: pray, go to work, care for your children.  But we must do everything with our hearts open to God, so that our work, even our sicknesses and sufferings, even our trials can be open to God.  This is how we can become saints.  May the Lord give us the hope of being saints.  Let us not think that it is a difficult thing, that is is easier to be delinquent than it is to be saints!  We can all be saints because the Lord helps us; He is the one who helps us.

This is the great gift that each one of us can offer to the world.  May the Lord give us the grace to believe deeply in Him, to become images of Christ for our world.  Our history needs mystics: people who reject every domain, who aspire to charity and fraternity.  Men and women who live every day accepting a portion of suffering because they bear a part of the suffering of others.  Without such men and women, the world would have no hope.  This is my wish for all of you - and also for me - that the Lord may grant us the hope of being saints.

Thank you!

The above catechesis was then summarized in various languages, and the Holy Father offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from Scotland, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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