Sr. Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception (Anna Muttathupadathu) (1910-1946), of the Congregation of Claretian Franciscans
Tens of thousands of pilgrims from the four corners of the world crowded St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of an Italian, a Swiss sister, an Indian sister, and an Ecuadorian laywoman. They are Gaetano Errico (1791-1860), a priest and the founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary; Sr. Maria Bernarda (Verena) Bütler (1848-1924), founder of the congregation of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians; Sr. Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception (Anna Muttathupadathu) (1910-1946), of the Congregation of Claretian Franciscans; Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran (1832- 1869).
For the Indian Church, it is a first: Sr. Alfonsa is the first Indian woman saint, which is why there were thousands of Indians at the ceremony, especially priests and sisters, and all of the Indian flags waving each time the name of the newly canonized saint was pronounced during the liturgy.
In his homily, Benedict XVI recalled Alfonsa’s short life, marked by “extreme physical and spiritual sufferings.” “This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonized saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God’s grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ’s and now delights in the ‘rich fare and choice wines’ of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Is 25:6). She wrote, ‘I consider a day without suffering as a day lost.’ May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise.” In speaking of the “heavenly banquet,” the pope is referring to the liturgy of the day, the 28th Sunday in ordinary time, in which the Gospel reading tells about a king preparing for his son’s wedding, and inviting everyone to the banquet. But some “guests of the first hour” refuse, “because they are drawn by various interests.” The king then seeks new banqueters “to fill the room.”
“But the generosity of God,” the pontiff continues, “must meet with the free consent of man. It is precisely this generous path that those whom we today venerate as saints have traveled. In baptism, they received the wedding garment of divine grace, they kept it pure or purified it and made it splendid in the course of their life through the sacraments. Now they are taking part in the wedding banquet of heaven.” He recalls that the final banquet is anticipated by the Eucharist, at which “we must participate with the wedding garment of his grace. If it happens that we soil or even tear this garment through sin, the goodness of God does not reject us or abandon us to our fate, but offers us with the sacrament of reconciliation the possibility of restoring the wedding garment to the integrity necessary for the feast.” (Asia News)
H/T: Amy Wellborn