October 15, 2006

Canonization in St. Peter’s Square

(See a photo gallery for this post)

Canonization in St. Peter's SquareOctober 15, 2006 is and will be a great day in the history of the Catholic Church in Indiana and, indeed, for all Hoosiers.  For it was on this day that Pope Benedict XVI, before a tremendous gathering of the faithful that filled most of St. Peter’s Square in Rome, solemnly declared Mother Theodore Guerin a saint—the first in the history of the Hoosier state.

The archdiocesan pilgrimage arrived at the square at 7:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. liturgy.  Although more than 2 hours early, the pilgrims joined thousands of other pilgrims from many different countries who were also making their way to the liturgy.

Because everyone going into the square had to go through metal detectors, there was quite a crush of people moving toward the entrances and many in the pilgrimage were cut off from each other.

That separation only increased when we finally entered the square and met other worshippers entering it from other locations.  My wife and I were able to get seats just 12 rows back from the front of the main seating area.  There were other folks near us from the archdiocese and others with a love of our newest saint.

I was expecting others from the pilgrimage to join us there, but that never materialized.  Halfway through the Mass I located a small group in the seating section behind us.  But I learned from them that others among the pilgrimage group were seated far back behind the obelisk in the center of the square.

Nevertheless, after speaking with many of our pilgrims after the liturgy, as well as some members of the Sisters of Providence, I quickly learned how moving a day this was for all of us.

Many spoke of great satisfaction at witnessing the canonization of Indiana’s first saint.  Others appreciated the presence at the Mass of so many people from so many parts of the world.  Finally, others valued being able to pray with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict.

He, too, both in his homily and in his closing remarks, had many words of praise for St. Theodora, spoken both in English and in French, her native tongue.

In addition to canonizing St. Theodora, Pope Benedict also declared to be saints Rafael Guizar de Valencia, the bishop of Veracruz, Mexico during great times of persecution in the 1920s and 1930s, Filippo Smaldone, an Italian priest of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the founder of a women’s religious community, and Rosa Venerini, an Italian lay woman of the 16th and early 17th centuries who was dedicated to the education of other women and opened the first public school for women in Italy.   

More can be read about this in the special Oct. 20 canonization issue of The Criterion.  That edition will also include many articles about important people involved in the canonization of St. Theodora as well as many, many pictures from the liturgy, the Vespers the evening before, and the Mass of Thanksgiving scheduled to be celebrated tomorrow morning at the majestic Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Following the liturgy, the pilgrims had lunch on their own and then went on a walking tour of the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona.

Because of the necessity of reporting on all of these historic events for The Criteirion, my wife (who also wanted to get some rest) and I returned to our hotel.

Posted by Sean Gallagher at 1:13 p.m. on Sunday, October 15, 2006


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