Today the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with Pope Benedict’s XVI authorisation, promulgated decrees regarding a goodly number of causes currently before it. Two names grabbed the attention of this reader.
The first was that of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose Heroic Virtue was declared. who died in December 1979, after a long and frutiful career as a teacher of the faith. He was a tele-evangelist before there were tele-evangelists, and his TV show, Life is Worth Living, followed later by The Fulton Sheen Show, were watched by millions. He is the only bishops to have won an Emmy award (two of them in fact). He was rather flamboyant by modern standards, but his appearance in full episcopal regalia, complete with ferraiolo, commanded attention, and was offset by his more down-to-earth method of using chalk and chalkboard to explain his points. Life is Worth Living is available on DVD, but much of it can be found on Youtube if you search a little. Though he held a doctorate from Louvain, his genius really lay in his ability to present the truths of the faith in a clear, accessible, amusing and uncompromising way, and to make the spiritual life attractive to the ordinary person at a time when “spiritual lives” were seen more as the preserve of priests and religious. He raised millions of dollars for the missions and expended himself unto death in service of the Church. A superb preacher, his last homily was recorded in 1979, months before he died, and can be seen in two parts here and here. You can see more on his cause for sainthood at its homepage.
The second name was that of Fr Pino Puglisi, a Sicilian diocesan priest, who was murdered in 1993. By its decree today, the Congregation has declared that he was killed in hatred of the faith, and thus his murder was martyrdom. He was martyred by the Sicilian Mafia on account of his outspoken opposition to the control wielded by the Mafia over the everyday lives of his parishioners. He had taken a parish in a rough area of Palermo, having refused the offer of more congenial parishes. He worked actively to encourage people to resist the Mafia, and tried to keep youth in school and away from Mafia influence. On his 56th birthday, in 1993, he was gunned down in front of his church, greeting his assassin, “I have been expecting you”. You can read more about him at the official website for his cause (in English also!).
By today’s decrees, both Archbishop Sheen and Father Puglisi are confirmed as Servants of God and are accorded the title “Venerable”. It now remains for a miracle to be confirmed as being wrought by means of their intercession before the throne of God. When such a miracle is confirmed for each man he can then be beatified.
So we must pray; pray firstly to God that the cause of both Venerabili might prosper, and secondly to them if there is some great grace we wish for them to beg from God on our behalf. In the case of the Venerable Fulton Sheen, the official prayer (very much in the style of the previous Missal!) is:
Heavenly Father, source of all holiness, You raise up within the Church in every age men and women who serve with heroic love and dedication. You have blessed Your Church through the life and ministry of Your faithful servant, Archbishop Fulton J Sheen. He has written and spoken well of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and was a true instrument of the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts of countless people.
If it be according to Your Will, for the honour and glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the salvation of souls, we ask You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For the Venerable Pino Puglisi I cannot find an official prayer, so something along these lines could be prayed:
Almighty God, source of all holiness, who raise up within the Church in every age men and women who lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel, and who have blessed Your Church through the martyrdom of Your faithful servant, Pino Puglisi, whose devoted care for the flock you entrusted to him never wavered in the face of the evil that men do;
grant, we beseech You, if it be according to Your Will, that for the honour and glory of the Most Holy Trinity, for the salvation of souls and for the edification of Your Church, You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.