This is a very special morning. We have just received two new brothers into our community at a very special moment in the history of the Church. Never before in the history of the Church have we seen two pontiffs canonized in one ritual. In addition to that, their entrance into postulancy comes during the Easter Season, when the Church celebrates the glorified Christ who conquered death and restored us to life. Let’s not forget that this week we celebrate Mercy Sunday, which was decreed by St. John Paul II.
As I said in my homily during the Liturgy of the Hours, St. John Paul did not pull Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) out of his sleeve. On the contrary, throughout the Gospels we see Christ healing the sick, protecting the innocent, crying for Lazarus and restoring him to life. We hear Christ offering himself up as “life giving water” and “bread of life”. Christ offers himself up as the Gospel of Life, as Evangelium Vitae. He promised that all who believed him would have life in this world and the next.
Our Holy Father St. Francis heard these words and took them to heart. He embraced the Trinity with every fiber of his being and he became the great brother of all that is alive. Brother was not just an ecclesial title for Brother Francis of Assisi. Brother described what he was in relation to all created things, be they water, animals or people. Francis realized that we are sons of the one Father. We flow from the same source of life; therefore, we share one inherent dignity, the dignity of the sons of God, of whom Christ is the firstborn.
These new brothers have been called to discern the voice of God, to listen to his will for their lives. God does not call us to do anything in particular. He calls us to be what he created us to be, brothers to all men, from the richest to the poorest, the healthiest to the terminally ill, the neighbor to the foreigner, the preborn child to the elderly. God calls us to hear his voice, to learn how to follow suit, in line with men like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II and women like St. Giana Molla, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Edith Stine. This is quite a crowd. Each of these men and women spent his and her life in service to the voiceless. In his or her own way, each laid down his or her life as a testimony to the sanctity of human life. These new Franciscans of Life have been called to walk along with these men and women, to be brothers to all men and to do whatever is needed to make known to the world that life is a sacred gift to be protected and to be venerated. When we venerate life, we render unto God an act of worship and thanksgiving. To celebrate the Easter Season while ignoring the sanctity of life is meaningless. What is Easter if it’s not about life?
These new brothers have requested that we admit them to our fraternity druing Easter, the day after Mercy Sunday in which Christ promises eternal life to anyone who begs for his mercy, one day after the Church has solemnly and infallibly defined and declared that John Paul II, who was the pope of the family and the pope of life is a saint. We have welcomed them one day after the canonization of St. John XXIII, a bishop who was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust and who rescued a ship with 500 Jewish children whom no one wanted. These men are walking in the footsteps of greatness. It is an indicator that God has great plans for them, for all of us.
Now begins the work of formation. During the next few months, they will engage in a deeper study of our Holy Father St. Francis. The study of Evangelium Vitae will become paramount. We will try to lead them through a prayerful examination of our Catholic faith. Prior to moving on to novitiate, we must make certain that their faith is grounded in the solemn truths of the Church, free of distortion. It is important that they become familiar with Francis of Assisi, our teacher.
More importantly, now begins the period of silence. This must be a period during which they make time to listen to God. Not a day should go by when they do not invite the Lord to speak for his servant is listening, because he who is the Lord of Life has the words of eternal life. But we must ask the God of Life to open our ears that we may hear.
During this time of postulancy the new brother does not take his eyes off the voiceless of this world. Christ spoke to Francis through a leper. He will speak to each of us through the voiceless as well. When we run into a person who is voiceless, we do not pass without stopping. God is trying to speak to us. We listen with patience and love. We must never pass by a voiceless person without smiling. A smile is an invitation to the other person. It invites the other person to engage with us. To be true brothers of life, we must invite all men to engage with life. This is not something that we do with simple words, but with the power of a smile and an act of reverence for human dignity.
I invite the new brothers and all of our friends to look to those men and women that I mentioned above. Learn from them how to bring the Gospel of Life to all people. Become their students and their friends.
We welcome these new brothers to our fraternity. May the God of Mercy fill them with peace and with joy.