St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary and St. Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad are key examples of how to unite oneself to Jesus’ Passion and death, as well as the power of his resurrection, Pope Francis said Sunday, after canonizing the two.
“In the Passion of Christ, we find God’s response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us,” the Pope said June 5.
Jesus, he said, tells us that “we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did. In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope.”
“This was the experience of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, who today are proclaimed saints. They remained deeply united to the passion of Jesus, and in them the power of his resurrection was revealed.”
Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary and St. Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, the first to be proclaimed Saints during the Jubilee of Mercy. The dates of their canonization were announced March 15 alongside that of Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who will be canonized Sept. 4, and Bl. Jose Sanchez del Rio, who will be canonized Oct. 16 alongside Argentine Bl. Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero.
Born in the small village of Faglavik, in Sweden’s western coast province of Alvsborg June 4, 1870, St. Maria Elisabeth was a nurse and a Lutheran convert to Catholicism. After her conversion, she went on to found a new order of Bridgettines, called the Most Holy Savior of Saint Bridget. She died in Rome April 24, 1957, and was beatified April 9, 2000, by St. John Paul II.
Maria Pilar, a Bridgettine nun from Spain, told CNA June 5 that the canonization of their foundress is not only a recognition of her sanctity, but also gives publicity to “the example of a person who lived for God and sought the truth since she was a child — she was Lutheran and sought the truth as a young girl.”
St. Maria Elizabeth “was called to offer a lot in the ecumenism of the Church, so that all religions would be one in Christ, not just in Spain,” she said, and prayed on behalf of her order that the Church would be “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.”
Similarly, Ulf Silverling, a layman from Stockholm, said the canonization means a lot to the local Catholic community in Sweden since “normally the Catholic Church is described as some exotic experience from immigrants.”
However, “this is a Swedish Saint, and it's the second Swedish Saint officially in history. She's a follower of St. Bridgette, who was also Swedish, so it's a restoration of the Catholic history in Sweden, actually.”
With nearly 300 people in his group alone, including non-Catholics such as Lutherans, Pentecostals and one Syrian-Orthodox priest, Silverling said the event also serves as a strength for the faith of immigrants, who live “in one of the most secularized countries in the world.”
The second Saint canonized by Pope Francis was Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczynski, a Polish priest born in 1631 and beatified by Benedict XVI in 2007.
Often referred to as the “Father Founder,” St. Stanislaus is known for his writings and constant encouragement to contemplate God’s mercy and to turn to Mary Immaculate for guidance and protection.
In addition to founding the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the saint also experienced visions of Holy Souls in Purgatory, and urged penance and prayers on their behalf.
In his homily for their canonization Mass, the Pope pointed to the images of death and resurrection in both the day’s first reading from the First Book of Kings and the Gospel of Luke.
The day’s first reading recounted how the prophet Elijah journeys to the house a widow and her only son, who becomes ill and dies during Elijah’s stay. Elijah’s words to the widow “give me your son” after his death are significant, Francis said, because they tell us something about our own death when and however it comes.
Rather than saying “hold on to it; sort it out yourself,” the prophet says “give it to me” before fighting with God about the “absurdity of that death” and returning the widow’s son to her alive.
Similarly, in the day’s Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus has compassion on a widow from Nain that he saw accompanying the procession of her adolescent son to his burial.
“God’s tenderness is fully revealed in Jesus,” who draws close to the widow, stops the procession and likely caresses the grieving mother’s face, Francis said.
“Jesus asks to takes our death upon himself, to free us from it and to restore our life,” he said, noting how immediately after telling the widow not to weep, her son woke up “as if from a deep sleep” and began to speak.
The Pope stressed that Jesus “is no wizard,” but rather “it is God’s tenderness incarnate; the Father’s immense compassion” which is at work in Jesus. Pope Francis said the same thing can be said of St. Paul, who went from being a fierce persecutor of Christians to a great witness of the Gospel.
“The experience of the Apostle Paul was also a kind of resurrection,” he said, noting how God the Father not only revealed his son to Paul, but in Paul, “impressing as it were in his own person, flesh and spirit, the death and resurrection of Christ.”
Because of this, the apostle was not just a messenger, but a witness, Francis said, explaining that this is the case with each and every sinner.
“Jesus constantly makes the victory of life-giving grace shine forth…He takes our sins upon himself, takes them away and gives us back alive to the Mother Church,” he said.
Pope Francis closed his homily noting that the saints canonized “are exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection,” and prayed that all would join the saints in singing the day’s responsorial psalm, “I will extol you, Lord, for you have raised me up.”
After concluding Mass, Francis greeted the official delegations who traveled to Rome for the canonizations, including those from both Poland and Sweden. The Polish delegation was led by the country’s president, Andrezej Duda.
He then greeted pilgrims present from various other countries around the world before leading them in the Angelus.