John Paul II Renews Universal Call to Holiness

Notes the Life of St. Seraphim of Montegranaro

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says the message and life of St. Seraphim of Montegranaro (1540-1604) is an "eloquent witness of the universal vocation to holiness."



The Pope acknowledged this in a message sent to Bishop Silvano Montevecchi of Ascoli Piceno, on the occasion of the celebrations of the fourth centenary, on Oct. 12, of the death of the Capuchin religious.

"With the passage of time, holiness does not lose its force of attraction; more than that, it shines with greater luminosity," the Holy Father wrote. "This is evident in the person of Brother Seraphim, a simple and illiterate man whom all, both the humble and powerful, regarded as a real 'brother.'"

"Precisely because of this," the "humble son of St. Francis" is "an eloquent witness of that universal vocation to holiness," on which the Second Vatican Council insisted, he continued.

It is "in this perspective that, at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I wished to propose again to the Church holiness as the "highest degree of Christian life,'" the Pope wrote.

Seraphim was born in Montegranaro, in the Marcas, in 1540. Because of his family's poverty, he worked for a farmer as a hired hand, taking care of the cattle as did his future religious brother Franciscans, St. Pascual Bailon and St. Felix of Cantalicio.

At age 18, after some difficulties, he was accepted as a religious, not a priest, in the Capuchin Franciscans.

St. Seraphim "had assimilated so profoundly the evangelical exhortation 'pray without ceasing' that his mind was habitually immersed in things of the spirit," John Paul II stated.

The saint contemplated "the divine presence in creation and in people" and "his prayer was prolonged for hours … before the tabernacle," the Pope recalled.

Moved also "by an intense love for the passion of Christ, he would pause to meditate on the Lord's sorrows and those of the Blessed Virgin." His spirit in the course of the years "made transparent the real greatness of his soul," the Holy Father wrote.

St. Seraphim of Montegranaro "had well understood the evangelical page that proclaims: 'Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.'"

In the posts he held as caretaker and alms-giver, he came in contact with the most varied people. This saint of the Marcas "loved to frequent the more underprivileged and marginalized sectors of the population to discover their hidden needs and to alleviate their physical and spiritual sufferings," the Pope said.

Moreover, "he was a great peacemaker in families, wisely tempering, according to the circumstances, strong reprimands, gestures of loving solidarity, and words of encouraging consolation," John Paul II emphasized.

From 1590 on he stayed in Ascoli Piceno. The city became so attached to him that in 1602, when the news spread that he was to be transferred, the authorities wrote his superiors to prevent it. He died in Ascoli Piceno two years later, at age 64. Seraphim was canonized by Pope Clement XIII on July 16, 1767.

In his message, the Holy Father expressed his hope that the celebrations for the centenary of St. Seraphim's death will be "an occasion to tend with ever greater determination to holiness, appreciating fully the different gifts and charisms that God does not cease to dispense to his faithful people."

"May the intercession and protection of St. Seraphim be for each one a consolation and incentive to follow Christ with generosity," the Pope added. "Thanks to the celebrations for the centenary," may "the ardor grow in all for evangelical perfection and the courage to witness the values of the spirit, which characterized the whole life of this saint."