HOLY MASS FOR THE BEATIFICATION
HOMILY OF CARDINAL JOSÉ SARAIVA MARTINS, C.M.F
Cathedral of Brescia (Italy)
Your Most Reverend Eminence, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Your Most Reverend Excellencies, Bishop Giulio Sanguineti of Brescia, with the Auxiliary Bishop Francesco Beschi, Bishop Vigilio Olmi, President of the Committee for the Beatification, and the other Bishops present, Most Reverend Monsignors, Priests, Distinguished Civil and Military Authorities, Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, all of you who are present here for the Beatification of the Servant of God Moses Tovini.
It is right to celebrate festively the wonders that God works through his saints. Let us give thanks to the Lord for his many gifts of light and for the holiness with which he has accompanied the Church of Brescia in the course of her long history.
Jesus' personal and pressing invitation, proclaimed to us in today's Gospel, now challenges us concretely also by virtue of the new Blessed's example: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mk 8: 34-35).
The young Moses Tovini had the impression that this invitation was addressed to him, both from his upbringing at home and in the parish during his childhood years in Cividate Camuno, and ever more clearly, when the desire to enter a seminary to become a priest took root in his soul.
Docile to the Holy Spirit's action, at the end of a spiritual retreat in November 1895 when he was not yet 18 years old, he noted: "I want to follow Jesus among crosses and suffering, even if I could just as well lead an easy life. I desire to suffer and I will frequently implore this grace. Having obtained it, I will thank the Lord and ask him whether, if it pleases him, he will increase my sufferings and ensure its continuance, since suffering for love is a supreme charity and cleanses us of sin, earns us the greatest of merits for eternal life and conforms us to Jesus whose life was full of suffering".
Together with a real sensitivity to the advancement of the most deprived social classes, he developed the determination not to be content with a mediocre faithfulness but to dedicate all his resources to the glory of God and the good of souls.
He considered his uncle, also a Blessed, as the model of the Christian lay person who aspires to holiness. As the Servant of God John Paul II said on 20 September 1998 on the occasion of his Beatification, "His constant concern was to defend the faith, convinced that - as he said at a congress - "without faith our children will never be rich; with faith they will never be poor'" (Homily for the Beatification of Giuseppe Tovini, 20 September 1998; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 23 September, p. 2).
Although Giuseppe had to dedicate time and energy to his family, his profession and participation in social life, he never failed to cultivate his friendship with God through the Eucharist, meditation and devotion to Our Lady, from whom he drew vital nourishment for promoting important values such as the education of youth, the family, the Christian presence and freedom for teaching in schools.
Fr Moses lived his priesthood by daily renewing his resolution to deny himself and take up his cross in order to follow Jesus, fulfilling from time to time his tasks and assuming the responsibilities entrusted to him. At the school of Jesus he learned to be meek and humble of heart; and to be faithful to his promise of obedience to the Bishop, he requested admittance to the diocesan Congregation of the Oblates of the Holy Family.
His principal task was the formation of candidates to the priesthood by teaching mathematics, philosophy, apologetics and dogmatics at the seminary, and in the last four years, as rector. Knowing that "those who lose their own life for the sake of Jesus and his Gospel will save it", he crowned this resolution on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood with the total gift of himself, offering himself as a victim to the Merciful Heart of Jesus.
In the Gospel just proclaimed we heard a heartfelt plea and the related, impassioned response: ""But who do you say that I am?'. Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ'".
Peter's profession of faith in accordance with the mandate Jesus gave him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16-18), is the foundation of the profession of the Church's faith in every epoch.
In obedience to Jesus' command: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations", evangelization and catechesis have constituted down the centuries the primary role of the Church, through the work of preachers and missionaries, pastors and parents, catechists and animators, along the human journey, in parishes, in homes and in schools. Fr Moses, endowed with rare intelligence and culture, devoted himself to lovingly guiding people to the truth with reason and faith, using accessible language and with the intention of forming consciences at the school of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
This is confirmed by the testimonies of students and colleagues who agree in highlighting both the clarity of his explanation and the transparency of his example. To him can be applied the words of the Venerable Pope from Brescia, the Servant of God Paul VI: "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 41).
Moreover, everyone knew that Fr Moses arranged to celebrate the Eucharist in the middle of the day and alternated tasks and duties with moments of prayer and devotion, meditation and adoration, always keeping his thoughts fixed on Christ, the Teacher, the Saviour, the Pastor, to whom to open his mind and heart so as to encounter him later in the disciples and the poor.
The future Paul VI interpreted the secret of his heart well when he said: "The priest's steps are cautious, because he is moving on abysses: Mass, the Breviary, the administration of grace and of truth, the edification of the Church, friendship with suffering, the colloquium with Heaven. "Starting the day with the celebration of Mass' - I remember that Mons. Tovini once said to me - "is a joy, a great joy; for the other hours of the day are frequently quite different'".
We have just listened to the Second Reading, the words of James: "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?... So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (Jas 2: 14, 16).
Fr Moses, during the time he lived in the house of his uncle, Bl. Giuseppe, had experienced the great need for the union of faith and works! He had noted personally the great enthusiasm that his uncle devoted, not only to promoting Christian education especially in schools, but also to going to the aid of the weakest and poorest. He showed concern in responding, case by case, to the requests of individuals, but above all he felt the urgent need to further initiatives that had an effect on social structures.
As John Paul II was to say later: "His was a prophetic vision and he responded with apostolic daring to the needs of the times, which in the light of the new norms of discrimination required of believers a more incisive leadership in temporal affairs.... With humble means and great courage, he laboured tirelessly to preserve for Brescian and Italian society what was most particularly its own, that is, its religious and moral heritage".
Well, Fr Moses as a priest could not participate directly in his uncle's initiatives, but in his way he cooperated by caring in particular for the formation of lay people, so that motivated by strong convictions of faith they would be ready to act more directly in the concrete circumstances of the family and economic and social realities.
He therefore worked in the field of Catholic Action and of the renewal of catechesis, together with Mons. Lorenzo Pavanelli, and compiled a small manual of the Church's social doctrine as a help for lay people more directly involved in social and public life.
The beloved figure of Moses Tovini is now added to the Roll of the Blesseds. The Lord gave him to us so that he might return to be in the Church of Brescia a model of priestly life, a teacher of Christian life in difficult times and a shining sign of the continuous help of the Holy Spirit.
May the Lord hear our prayer that his example and intercession become encouragement and support for the entire Church of Brescia, so that, in communion with her Pastor and with Pope Benedict XVI, she may carry out with serene trust her activity of evangelization and human promotion, on the way marked out by her Fathers and her witnesses.
May the admiring witness of the future Paul VI, who as Archbishop of Milan sketched the figure of the new Blessed, be a stimulus and a comfort to us all: "A pious, learned and zealous priest; and one might add, a profusion of many other adjectives: affable, humble, calm, refined, generous, patient, loyal.... He was a priest through and through, as priests should be.
"Indeed, he had unique qualities: a strong speculative intelligence distinguished him from the ordinary; kindness, veiled by candour and timidity, on which he never went back; everything in him was so modest and thoughtful that to appreciate him for what he was worth, it was necessary to be close to him and to know him well. And after becoming acquainted with him and appreciating him, praise would not be so much confirmation of the uniqueness of his virtues as rather of the balance, harmony and range of his gifts, natural and acquired, that made the priest the rarest yet at the same time the most common man; the man relatively perfect to be admired. And all together accessible to all to be imitated".
Bl. Moses Tovini with his own features can now be added to the procession of the Saints and Blesseds of the Church of Brescia, beloved first and foremost to Valle Camonica, which in that period was blessed with the holiness and hard work of authentic witnesses of the faith; beloved by the entire Church of Brescia for his loving care of the seminary, the priests, the consecrated and the lay people, pressing everyone with his example, rather than words, to follow Christ, each one according to his own vocation.
Mary, Mother of the Church, help us to gather up his legacy and follow in his footsteps, so that we too may be granted to follow Christ on the narrow way that leads to salvation, certain that those who lose their life for love of Jesus and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.