October 13, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

St. Theodora inspires us by her heroic faith

This is a particularly great week in the history of the Church in Indiana.

God willing, as The Criterion goes to press this week, I and hundreds of other pilgrims will be in Rome with the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for the canonization of St. Theodora Guérin.

Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, is a grand and solemn day for all of us!

What does canonization of a saint mean? The glossary of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults teaches that canonization is, “The name for the solemn declaration by the pope that a deceased member of the faithful may be proposed as a model and intercessor to the Christian faithful and venerated as a saint, on the basis of the fact that the person lived a life of heroic virtue or remained faithful to God through martyrdom” (p. 506).

The solemn canonization ritual of the Catholic Church is not conferred as a reward on a member of the faith. In other words, it is not a reward because Mother Theodore Guérin founded a religious community; it is not a reward because Mother Theodore founded Catholic education in Indiana; it is not a reward because she was a woman of extraordinary wisdom. Mother Theodore, by all accounts, was a woman of great accomplishments in trying circumstances. But that is not the substance of the Church’s formal recognition.

Canonization by the Church is a formal recognition by Pope Benedict XVI of her holiness. Canonization is recognition of Mother Theodore’s all-consuming love for God. Her canonization recognizes that she was a woman of faithful prayer.

I love the Prefaces offered for the celebration of the Mass for Holy Men and Women. In Preface I, we pray, “You are glorified in your saints, for their glory is the crowning of your gifts. In their lives on earth you gave us an example. In our communion with them, you give us their friendship. In their prayer for the Church, you give us strength and protection. This great company of witnesses spurs us on to victory, to share their prize of everlasting glory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Preface II is similar: “You renew the Church in every age by raising up men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses of your unchanging love. They inspire us by their heroic lives and help us by their constant prayers to be the living sign of your saving power.”

In our solemn and joyful prayer, we acknowledge a continuing relationship with members of the faithful who lived heroic spiritual lives. They continue to be our friends. They pray for us. What an extraordinary joy that we have a formally declared saint from our local Church in Indiana to spur us on to victory—and with her, to share the prize of everlasting glory.

St. Theodora inspires us by her heroic faith. If you will, we have our own saint who prays that our local Church might have strength and protection.

St. Theodora was a timely gift from God to renew the Church in its infancy in Indiana. The seeds of faith and holiness planted in this missionary territory through the agency of Mother Theodore have flourished.

She continues today as a witness of God’s unchanging love for us. It is awesome to reflect that God so loved our little part of the world that he gave us the remarkable Mother Theodore Guérin. He blessed her with extraordinary grace as a valiant missionary of faith in primitive times.

The morning after the canonization of St. Theodora, there will be a celebration of the Eucharist in her honor at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.

It seems appropriate to celebrate St. Theodora near the tomb of St. Paul, the premier missionary of the Church.

The canonization of St. Theodora is an awesome gift. It is only appropriate that a large contingent from our archdiocese should acknowledge God’s gracious gift as pilgrims in Rome.

The great Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier, is our patron since the founding of the Diocese of Vincennes in 1834.

Now we can look to the intercession and protection of two holy missionaries as we continue to carry forward the mission of Christ in the Church in central and southern Indiana. Let’s not take for granted what St. Theodora did and suffered for this mission.

As the Eucharistic Prefaces remind us, along with the countless other holy men and women, God gave us Mother Theodore’s life on earth as an example. This gift calls us to walk in her footsteps.

The Prefaces of the Mass for Holy Men and Women also remind us that the saints in heaven are our friends.

Spiritual friendship calls us to a communion and an exchange in prayer.

St. Theodora, pray for us! †

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