Homily of Pope John XXIII

Below is the full text of the homily delivered by Pope John XXIII during the solemn ceremony of canonisation of Peter Julian Eymard, Anthony Mary Pucci and Francis Mary of Camporosso at St Peter’s Basilica on 9 December 1962. 

[Note: In the traditional language of sovereignty, Pope John XXIII uses variations of the majestic plural (pluralis majestatis), also known as the royal ‘We’, instead of the singular ‘I’ in references to himself. This form of language was abandoned by the papacy during the 1978-2005 pontificate of Pope John Paul II.]

The Solemn ceremony in which the supreme honours of the Church have been given to Blessed Peter Julian Eymard, Anthony Mary Pucci, Francis Mary of Camporosso, is one which very deeply moves Our soul. This rite, while performed by Us here below, is ratified by almighty God in heaven, which resounds with joy. It brings back to mind and, so to speak, sets before our eyes that note of holiness which marks the Catholic Church, the Spouse of Christ.

For Catholics it is a joy and pleasure to call our dearly beloved Mother the Church holy, as part of the very foundation of our belief. This is also strengthened by many good reasons. First of all, her Founder is holy. In very fact, He is the Source and Model of holiness. Next, we must esteem also as holy those means which she uses for the perfection of souls committed to her care – divine grace and the sublime sacraments. Her doctrine is holy, the one she received from Jesus Christ and which she keeps inviolate, defends with vigour, actively imparts to her children, and, as widely as possible, preaches to all nations. Furthermore, very many of her children who shone with marvellous virtue have now been publicly declared to be possessors of eternal glory.

All these things, We say, are held as certain and clear by all Christian men. But there is no one who will deny that by the striking scene that We are witnessing today, the notion of the Church’s sanctity strikes even more deeply into their souls.

It is also very fitting that the sacred ceremony occurs during the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council which has as its special purpose to see to it that the pearls of holiness belonging to the crown which encircles the head of the Church should sparkle and shine ever more and more. This extensive gathering of her holy shepherds united with the infallible successor of St Peter not only proposes and reaffirms once again the unchangeable truths left by the divine Master, but also clearly urges that daily, more and more, there be used those holy helps which make us possessors and sharers of divine grace. Furthermore, she enjoins on her children precepts designed to make the Christian way of life better lived.

The Council can therefore be said to have no other purpose than to show that here below, the Spouse of Christ possesses every kind of holiness both in deeds, in words, and in spiritual gifts of every kind; that here below she inspires her sons with that holy purpose of the Church expressed so clearly by the Redeemer of the human race: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt., 5: 48).

Once these things are understood, it is easy to see that Christians should glory in having such a mother whom everyone ought to admire because of her incredible beauty, divinely infused. Her grandeur does not shine because of gems or pearls that can be seen by human eyes, but rather glows in the splendour and grace which derive from the blood of her Founder and the marvellous virtue of many of her children. As a result, whoever calls himself a Christian ought to observe a way of life which in no way detracts from the supreme honour of their mother and which is not foreign to her precepts and teachings. No one can truly say that he loves his mother who is not afraid of dishonouring her beauty, even a little, by his way of life.

Venerable Brethren, beloved Sons.

We would like now to continue our discourse as a familiar conversation in Italian, in order to associate more closely to the intimate joy of Our heart the numerous faithful assembled in this basilica and all the others who are following this ceremony by radio.

Starting today, the whole family of the faithful behold three new brilliant stars in the heaven of sanctity: Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Saint Anthony Mary Pucci and Saint Francis Mary of Camporosso. And if three religious families, of ancient and new tradition – the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament, the Servants of Mary, and the Franciscan Capuchins – rejoice at the honour that befalls them, the whole Church, with them, joins in prayer to the new saints in order to receive the first fruits of their intercession and of their heavenly favours.

The luminous personality of each would deserve to be brought out immediately, and this will doubtless be done by orators and writers. For Our part, it pleases Us to signal at this time a certain significant affinity in the teaching and in the example of these three men of God who belonged to the same generation. Three things stand out in their existence on earth, in spite of their different occupations in line with their special vocation: their eucharistic life, their very tender piety for Mary, and their imitation of the Good Shepherd. There flows from these three examples an intensely moving message for the faithful and for all mankind.

The Eucharist, Source of Sanctity

1. Eucharistic life: The Holy Eucharist is the source and the nourishment of all sanctity. Our Predecessor, St Leo the Great, expressed this when he said: ‘The participation in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ has no other effect than to transform us into Him whom we receive.’

How visible is this progressive transformation into the very life of the divine Saviour, in the admirable development of the virtues of the saints canonised today! And what dealings of particular intimacy with Jesus Eucharistic do we not discover in their ascent to sanctity! The name of Peter Julian suffices to unveil to our eyes the splendid eucharistic triumphs to which, in spite of trials and difficulties of all kinds, he wanted to consecrate his life which prolongs itself in the family founded by him. This little child of five who was found on the altar, his forehead resting on the little door, was the same person who in time would found the Congregation of the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament and that of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, and who would radiate into innumerable armies of priest adorers, his love and tenderness for Christ living in the Eucharist. As for the holy pastor of Viareggio (St Anthony Pucci), had he not imbued the lay associations founded by him with the same deep eucharistic spirit which is the distinctive mark of the Christian? This thirst of eucharistic apostolate sprung from a heart full of love for Jesus Victim. Eyewitnesses have left us moving descriptions of this love for Christ in the Eucharist. An identical eucharistic piety also characterised the humble beggar Brother, Francis Mary of Camporosso, whom everyone called ‘the Holy Father’. And justly so, for his passing here below renewed the perfume of the Franciscan fioretti.

The eucharistic life is the secret of the generous impulses which raised these three religious to the heights of sanctity.

Mary, Queen of Saints

2. Marian Piety: At the side of Jesus there stands His Mother, the Queen of all the Saints, the source of sanctity in the Church of God and the first flower of its grace. Intimately associated with the redemption in the eternal plans of the Most High, the Blessed Virgin, as Severiano di Gabala expressed it in song, ‘is the Mother of salvation, the source of light become visible’. Hence filial piety is pleased to consider her at the beginning of all Christian life to ensure its harmonious development and to crown its fullness by her maternal presence.

Thus it is not surprising to meet the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of the three new confessors whom she accompanies step by step. Saint Julian Eymard proposes her as a model to adorers, invoking her as ‘Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament’, Saint Anthony Maria Pucci, faithful to the traditions of his community, forms the seat of his apostolate into a City of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, by confiding to her every arduous undertaking of his ministry; Saint Francis Mary of Camporosso, with filial boldness, does not fear to send to her the unfortunate and suffering, telling them: ‘Go in my name to the Virgin of graces. Tell her that her servant Francis sends you’.

What devotion fired the saints in this supernatural transport of confidence in the intercession of the Mother of God and our Mother! This delicate Marian piety has certainly added to the joy of this day.

The Image of the Good Shepherd

3. Imitation of the Good Shepherd: Only one of the newly canonised has had direct charge of souls, reproducing on Italian soil the examples of the Holy Curé of Ars; but all three reflect with admirable fidelity the image of the Good Shepherd. This pastoral aspect gives us great consolation at the end of the first session of the Second Vatican Council that Our Lord has desired for a general renewal of all the forms of Christian life.

This pastoral radiance – the new saints prove it – can be described as the formation of good priests, with fervent souls of adorers, whose ranks have multiplied throughout the world and who offer these days in Rome in their International Congress the edifying spectacle of their piety. This radiance also expresses itself in the fervour of popular missions; a direct and effective form of catechetical instruction on the gospel, and in other institutions of a parochial nature which were as the dawn forecasting the organisations of Catholic Action. In simple terms, this radiance is called the apostolate of good example, exercised with untiring zeal for sowing in souls the love of Christ and for serious, solemn and solid resolutions. This constant solicitude of charity for the poor, of which the lives of the new saints give us moving examples, is itself a very high form of imitation of the Good Shepherd. It spreads His sweet influence in souls and constitutes a concrete and moving testimony in answer to the words of St Paul: ‘He has loved us and delivered Himself for us.’

Perfect Adorer of the Blessed Sacrament

We now desire to add a word for the French pilgrims who have come to assist at the glorification of St Peter Julian Eymard, priest, confessor, founder of two religious families consecrated to the worship of the Blessed Sacrament.

He is a saint with whom We have been familiar for many years, as We said above, when as Apostolic Nuncio to France, Providence granted Us the happy opportunity to visit his native land, La Mure d’Isère, near Grenoble.

We saw with Our own eyes the poor bed, the humble dwelling where this faithful imitator of Christ gave up his beautiful soul to God. You can surmise, beloved Sons, with what emotion We recall that memory on this day when it is given Us to confer upon him the honours of canonisation.

The body of St Peter Julian Eymard is preserved in Paris: but the saint is also somehow present at Rome, in the person of his sons, the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament; it is also a sweet memory for Us to recall visits that We used to make to their Church of St Claude-des-Bourguignons (San Claudio), to unite Ourselves for a few moments to their silent adorations.

Besides St Vincent de Paul, St John Eudes, the Curé of Ars, Peter Julian Eymard takes his place in the ranks of the incomparable glory and honour of the country that witnessed their birth, but whose beneficial influence extends far beyond, namely, to the whole Church.

His characteristic distinction, the guiding thought of all his priestly activities, one may say, was the Eucharist: eucharistic worship and apostolate. Here, We would like to stress this fact in the presence of the Priests and of the Servants of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in presence also of the members of an Association which is dear to the heart of the Pope, that of the Priest Adorers assembled at this time in Rome, who have come in great numbers to honour this great friend of the Eucharist.

Yes, dear Sons, honour and celebrate with Us him who was so perfect an adorer of the Blessed Sacrament; after his example, always place at the centre of your thoughts, of your affections, of the undertakings of your zeal this incomparable source of all grace: the Mystery of Faith, which hides under its veils the Author Himself of grace, Jesus the Incarnate Word.

Venerable Brethren and dear Sons, such are the lessons inspired by today’s triple canonisation. Our hearts are filled with joy and emotion and from Our lips praise and thanksgiving rise to the Lord who has given new splendour to the countenance of the Church in the year of the Ecumenical Council.

New Saint Confessors, Peter Julian Eymard, Anthony Mary Pucci, Francis Mary of Camporosso, stand by the altar of the confession of St Peter while Mass is being offered. Through your intercession maintain in our hearts the extraordinary fervour of this historical hour, by obtaining for mankind abundant gifts of heavenly peace which have their law and their security in Jesus Christ – gifts of peace which are the joy of the Church, the consolation of pastors, the honour of the clergy and of God’s holy people. Amen. Amen.

[Translation source: The Canonization of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Rome, December 9, 1962 (New York: Eymard League, 1962), F1644, Blessed Sacrament Congregation & St Francis’ Church Heritage Centre, Melbourne.]