Pope: Church needs saints with unbridled desire to preach Gospel

Pope Francis meets with members of the Italian “Bearers of St. Rose” sodality, and encourage Christians to get off the couch and work to spread the Gospel of Christ.

By Devin Watkins

“We need saints even today: people who do not stay in slippers on the sofa but who, burning with an uncontrollable desire to live and proclaim the Gospel, passionately become contagious in holiness.”

Pope Francis offered that invitation on Thursday as he held an audience with the “Bearers of St. Rose”.

Based in the central Italian city of Viterbo, the Italian sodality dedicated to St. Rose of Viterbo was founded in 1978 but bears a heritage much more ancient.

In his prepared remarks, the Pope said the sodality draws on the spiritual heritage of St. Rose, whose body was transferred to what is now the Sanctuary of St. Rose in 1258, by order of Pope Alexander IV.

“The roots of your history take us back to the days when the Saint lived in Viterbo, where she had a mystical experience that made her a promoter of devotion and Christian vitality for the entire city,” he noted.

Saint ‘agitated by Holy Spirit’

Reflecting on her life, Pope Francis said St. Rose (1233-1251) dedicated herself to living in absolute poverty and dedication to charity at a very young age.

She drew many residents of Viterbo, then a part of the papal states, to a greater love of Jesus, even enduring exile along with her family due to her preaching which made local authorities “uncomfortable,” said the Pope.

“We could say she was an ‘agitated saint,’ who was so moved by the Holy Spirit that her inner experience could not remain hidden, but spread like the light of a lamp that illuminates the whole house,” he said.

The Pope upheld her example as an invitation for Christians of our own times.

United in solidarity

Pope Francis then turned to the “Bearers of St. Rose” sodality, and their tradition of carrying in procession a “machine” about 30-meters-tall topped with an image of the saint.

“It is a spectacular sign, which catalyzes the entire city around it and attracts crowds of pilgrims and visitors from all over the world,” he said.

Since 2013, the machine of St. Rose has been recognized by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body, as an “intangible heritage of humanity.”

The Pope pointed out that the sodality’s task of carrying St. Rose’s image goes beyond a mere cultural curiosity.

“This, then, is the most important thing: to make known the Gospel through Saint Rose; and to do it together, united and in solidarity, living its values with ‘faith, strength and will,’ ‘respect and humility’,” he said.

Processing together in life

In conclusion, Pope Francis recalled that religious processions are great enterprises that cannot be realized alone, just like our lives.

He encouraged the “Bearers of St. Rose” sodality to keep alive the tradition and spiritual heritage of St. Rose of Viterbo.

“Thank you for what you do,” he said, “and for the many assistance, cultural, and moral activities which you carry out in a tangible manner in the lives of people, especially those most in need.”