This week I am writing you from Bogotá, Colombia. I have the privilege of taking part in the celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on the American Continent, convened by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin America Episcopal Council (CELAM).
It is a great meeting — hundreds of men and women from Canada, the United States, Central and South America and the Caribbean. I am joined by 15 cardinals and more than 120 of my brother bishops from every nation of the Americas.
During these days we will be praying together and reflecting on the great saints of the Americas and the challenges of evangelization and the Church’s mission of mercy.
This weekend, when I return home, I will be joining with the family of God here in Los Angeles for a special Mass giving thanks for the canonization of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who will be made a saint by Pope Francis on Sept. 4.
As you know, Mother Teresa is one of my favorite saints. She is witness to mercy and holiness, and one who inspires me in my spiritual life and in my ministry of service.
It is a joy for me to see her being raised to the altars as the newest saint in the universal Church. Following our special Mass, I will also be blessing a new chapel in our cathedral dedicated to our new saint. The chapel will include a first class relic along with photographs and other memorabilia from our new saint’s several visits to Los Angeles.
So I hope you will join me this Sunday afternoon, Sept. 4 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The Church is beautiful in her saints. One of the Church Fathers said that long ago. And it is true.
And as I have said before, it is beautiful to reflect how many Saints, Blesseds, Venerables and Servants of God have lived and worked and walked these streets here in Los Angeles.
This is truly a city of saints.
The saints are living witnesses to Jesus Christ in every age and every culture. They show us what following Christ looks like in “real life” and how to fulfill God’s plan for our lives — which is for each of us to become more like Jesus every day and to become saints ourselves.
The Church’s newest saint, St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata, was probably the most familiar Christian face of our generation. Her humble works of love, done for people who were abandoned and forsaken in a remote city in India, became a sign for the whole world of God’s tender and merciful love.
Mother Teresa gave up her privileged position and all her possessions to live as one of the world’s poor and forgotten and to bring them the light of Christ and the love of God. Her message to the rest of us was direct: we should seek our salvation in the God who comes to us in the poor and the outcast. We should seek Jesus at the margins of society in what she called “his distressing disguise.”
Again and again, Mother Teresa reminded us that our love for the poor would be the measure of our love for God. We love God as much as we love the most vulnerable and despised among us. What we give to them, we give to him. The love we refuse to them is the love we refuse to God.
Through her love for the poor and the dying, for the unborn and the handicapped, through her works of mercy and her work for peace and justice, she showed us the world as God intends it.
As St. Francis did many centuries before, Mother Teresa preached the Gospel with her life. And love was the language she used. She understood that love alone is credible in a world where more and more people have drifted from God and live as if he does not exist.
And that’s why the saints are so important. Because our world will be converted — not by words and programs — but by witnesses. By people who will testify — through the way they live — that Jesus Christ is real and that his Gospel has the power to change lives. Our world will only be converted by saints.
God calls all of us to holiness, to be saints. Maybe not saints who are known on the world stage, as Mother Teresa was. But God is calling all of us to be saints of the everyday — to bear witnesses to his love in the ordinary events and activities of our daily lives.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you.
And may we give ourselves to Our Blessed Mother Mary, as St. Mother Teresa did. And may Mary help us to love as St. Teresa of Kolkata loved — making our lives something beautiful that we offer to God.