Saints of Varied Styles Show That Sanctity Is Attainable
Writer Comments on Holiness in Daily Life
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ROME, DEC. 23, 2001 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The Church shows its wisdom by honoring such diverse models of holiness as Josemaría Escrivá, Padre Pio da Pietrelcina and Juan Diego. So says Alfredo Cattabiani, who has written a number of works on saints.
John Paul II has often said that the variety of saints has a specific objective: to show that holiness is not an unattainable goal but a concrete possibility for every Christian. Last week he approved decrees for miracles attributed to Opus Dei founder Escrivá, mystic Padre Pio and Guadalupe visionary Juan Diego, opening the way for their eventual canonization.
--Q: Padre Pio and Escrivá are two figures with great popular following -- but profoundly different. How do they fit into this great design intended to propose holiness as an "ordinary" goal for all the faithful?
--Cattabiani: In a certain sense, they are two canonizations preceded by great popular devotion: two saints who succeeded in attaining the same goal, an exemplary Christian life, on different paths. They have given a highly effective example, as demonstrated by the thousands upon thousands of devotees and admirers they have in the world. Of course, in speaking of Padre Pio and Escrivá, I must admit my own emotional involvement.
--Q: Like millions of others, you have also invoked the friar of Pietrelcina?
--Cattabiani: Yes, in a very painful circumstance of my life. I was in eastern Gargano in 1967 with my wife and 6-month-old son. All of a sudden, the baby developed a high fever. He was taken to the hospital of San Giovanni Rotondo, but the doctors expressed pessimism immediately.
"Prepare yourself, because your son is dying and we cannot understand the reason," they said. I left the hospital and, looking at the basilica, I entrusted myself to Padre Pio, who at that time was still alive.
About 10 minutes later I returned to the hospital and I saw the same doctor coming toward me. "I don´t know how to explain what has happened. We haven´t done anything but the child is better, I would say he is out of danger." I had the precise feeling that Padre Pio´s supernatural intervention had been decisive.
--Q: What is your impression of Escrivá?
--Cattabiani: I think he anticipated Vatican Council II as regards his intuition on the sanctification of daily life. In this connection, his message is especially effective for us, the laity. It is very concrete but also very spiritual. He loved talking with his friends after dinner, but invariably at 10 p.m. sharp, he would bid everyone farewell, saying he had a most important appointment. It was time for evening prayer.
--Q: But next to a hero of the prodigious, such as Padre Pio, don´t you think that a figure like Escrivá, who was apparently less inclined to supernatural manifestations, confirms the thesis of the various ecclesial charisms directed toward a common objective?
--Cattabiani: Yes, Padre Pio is the answer to those who seek a totally rational faith, characterized strictly by intellectuality. Instead, by proclaiming Padre Pio´s sanctity, the Pope shows us that the dimension of mystery cannot be ruled out.
Moreover, Escrivá underlines another aspect: that of a very "lay" spirituality, very active, characterized by a style that is not just tinsel. St. Francis of Sales also affirmed that correction is the first rung of sanctity.
--Q: We have said that there is no model of sanctity that is valid for all, but who is the saint who is closest to your sensibility?
--Cattabiani: I think that examples, such as Pier Giorgio Frassati or the Beltrame Quattrocchi spouses are especially effective for us laity. Then I especially like the Piedmontese social saints, such as Don Juan Bosco, who were the only ones who really knew how to defend the poor in the liberal but profoundly unjust society of the 19th century.