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Blessed Elena Guerra will be canonized on October 20, 2024

The Holy Father Francis, on Monday, July 1, presided over the celebration of the Third Hour and the ordinary public Consistory for the canonization of fifteen Blessed

Manuel Ruiz López and seven companions, of the Order of Friars Minor, and Francis, Mooti and Raphael Massabki, lay faithful, martyrs to Muslims, killed for the faith on July 10, 1860. Joseph Allamano, priest, founder of the institutes of the Missionaries of the Consolata and the Missionary Sisters of the Consolata. Marie-Léonie Paradis, foundress of the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family. Elena Guerra, foundress of the congregation of the Oblates of the Holy Spirit. Carlo Acutis, lay faithful. Next October 20, Francis will inscribe these Blesseds in the roll of Saints, and on a date to be determined that of the young Carlo Acutis.

The inscription in the Roll of Saints is a collegial act, which personally engages the magisterium of the Pope. The purpose of this solemn act is to offer to the imitation of the faithful, to their veneration and invocation those men and women who have been “judged distinguished for the splendor of charity and all the other evangelical virtues.”

This is surely one of the most demanding acts, which the Church performs, always having, as its first end the glory of God and the spiritual good of all the baptized, who from the Baptismal Font, are called to walk in the way of holiness: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Along the path of holiness, we encounter no prohibition, with the exception of sin. There are no impossible traits, because to everyone the Father of perfection, in addition to the vocation to holiness, offers the gift of grace, which is necessary to make possible union with God, the exercise of evangelical perfection and the heroic practice of the virtues. Just as all the faithful are called to holiness, so all people are given by God the possibility of achieving it. Only docile cooperation with God’s Will is required.

Holiness is the work of the Trinity, and when the church proceeds to the canonization of one of its members, it recognizes and exalts in him the action of the Trinity. It is the Father who calls all men to enter this path of sanctification and offers the Son as Master and Model and sends the Holy Spirit to act inwardly in the human heart.

John Paul II opened the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister (Jan. 25, 1983) by reaffirming these principles, writing, “The divine Master and model of perfection, Christ Jesus, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is celebrated as ‘alone the holy one,’ loved the Church as a bride and gave himself up for her, in order to sanctify her and make her glorious in his sight. Therefore, having given the precept to all His disciples, that they might imitate the perfection of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit upon all, that He might move them internally, to love God with all their hearts, and to love one another, in the same way He loved them. The followers of Christ – as the Second Vatican Council teaches – called and justified in Jesus Christ, not according to their works but according to his plan and grace, in the Baptism of faith have been made truly children of God and sharers in the divine nature, and therefore truly holy” (Cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 40).

The Council recalled that all the baptized, are called to holiness, which is and must be manifested in the fruits that the grace of the Holy Spirit arouses in the faithful, offering each one a charism, for the common edification of the Church. Pope Francis in Gaudete et exsultate (March 19, 2018) writes, “To be holy it is not necessary to be bishops, priests, religious women or men. Many times we are tempted to think that holiness is reserved for those who have the ability to keep their distance from ordinary occupations, to devote much time to prayer. It is not. We are all called to be saints by living with love and each offering his or her witness in everyday occupations.”

John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte (Jan. 6, 2001), at the conclusion of the Great Jubilee had emphasized that the ideal of holiness to which the Second Vatican Council calls “should not be misunderstood as implying a kind of extraordinary life, practicable only by some ‘geniuses’ of holiness,” and that “the ways of holiness are manifold, and adapted to the vocation of each one (…) It is time to propose to all with conviction this ‘high measure’ of ordinary Christian life: the whole life of the ecclesial community and of Christian families must lead in this direction.”

Pope Francis, in Gaudete et exsultate speaks of the holiness of the “next door”: “in the parents who raise their children with so much love, in the men and women who work to bring bread home, in the sick, in the elderly religious who continue to smile…,” in the constancy of going forward day after day, in the everyday. In the apostolic exhortation, Francis again reminds that “holiness, after all, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”

The canonization of these Blesseds, and for the Lucchese of Blessed Elena Guerra, leads us to consider, before anything else, precisely the baptismal vocation to holiness. We must not think about the ‘genius’ or extraordinary characters of her life. We need to rediscover a spirituality that helps the faithful to pursue the path of holiness through daily and ordinary work.

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Blessed Elena Guerra, well aware of this truth, dedicated her small works of devotion precisely to people of all categories and backgrounds and ecclesial affiliations. She is certain that holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit, and that to Him, we must be docile: “In the great and most important affair of eternal health we are in relationship with the Holy Spirit, and we must work together with Him, cooperating in His grace.”

Understanding that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, she invited recourse to Him, and she herself did not cease to pray, “I beseech the Holy Spirit, the author of grace, and the sanctifier of men that He may wish to communicate with ever greater profusion to me…not only His grace, but Himself, who is the source of grace.” For Elena Guerra, the Holy Spirit acts and dwells, permanently in man, elevating his friendship with God to perfect union. Her soul desires nothing but God.

Mother Elena, to those who decide to walk the path of holiness, reminds that in this journey we must be well determined, not put off until tomorrow, as the Imitation of Christ teaches. We must recuse ourselves from spiritual laziness. “What deceives the lazy person,” writes Mother, “is his velleity, that is, that wanting to do, that wanting but not today, that false wanting which, unfortunately, is reduced to a true not wanting. Look at the saints: there is not one in heaven who has not had on earth a resolute, present, operative and generous will.” “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt7:21).

But what is the will of God? How can we know it? Mother Elena suggested to a friend, “Ask yourself often like this: what does the Lord want from me at this moment?” Answering these questions and realizing in concreteness what we come to know is holiness. The Blessed One says, “Holiness consists essentially in two efforts: that of knowing God’s will and that of doing it when one knows it.” In the path of sanctification the believer, comes to the perfection of holiness, when the will of man adheres perfectly to the will of God.

This consists,” writes Blessed Helena, “in a firm and quiet disposition of will that wants nothing that is not willed by God, and rejects nothing that God wills or permits. Thus it is a constant agreement of the soul with God; it can say, God and I always want the same!” To those who are interested in coming to perceive the voice of God’s will, “which in so many ways speaks to us, let us present it convenient attention,” Blessed Elena urges, “let us have recourse to the Holy Spirit, who is the Father of enlightenment”.

Elena in one of the meditations exclaims, “Happy, the soul that is taught by God through that inner word sent on the wings of Eternal Love, to the heart of man! […] Happy the soul that is made worthy of such a gift; happier the one that knows how to receive and appreciate it; happiest then the one that draws fruit from it!”

To be holy, and to walk the road of holiness, is to be happy. This road is not traveled by sad-faced men and women, by pessimists and melancholics, but by men and women, filled with happiness and joy. Holiness is joy of the Spirit!

Finally, we should not think that this voice of God is addressed exclusively to holy souls: “He spreads such treasure even to imperfect souls.”

May “our” Blessed Elena – soon to be canonized – teach and guide us in the search and actualization of God’s will, in order to reach the joy of holiness, where God shines, with His perfection and beauty, in the life of every man.

 

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