HOMILY OF CARDINAL TARCISIO BERTONE
"In that same hour he [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said: "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth'" (Lk 10: 21).
In this Holy Mass, at which I have the great joy to preside, concelebrating with my Brothers in the Episcopate and with many priests accompanied by numerous faithful from different parts of this Nation, I give thanks to the Lord for all those who have gathered here, forming a joyful multitude to take part in the Beatification of the Servant of God Zepherin Namuncurá. I greet all and express my great affection with a kiss of peace.
Together with Jesus and all of his Church, we also today exalt in the Holy Spirit, and we magnify the Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, who has revealed to little ones and not the wise of the world the profound mysteries of his life and his love (cf. ibid.).
To the little, the poor, to those thirsting for justice, the workers for peace, to the persecuted, to those committed each day to overcoming evil with good, God communicates his life, that is, holiness.
The dramatic episode of the burning bush, absolutely central in the revelation of the Old Testament, reminds us that an abyss exists, of itself impassable, between the creature and the Creator.
But in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who made himself little and poor and who humbled himself even unto death on the Cross, the abyss has been filled, and the one who believes in him can draw from the very life of God.
We are celebrating today this wonder of grace in a young Araucanian, Zepherin Namuncurá, son of the Mapuche Chief of the Pampas: Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thankful thoughts go, has desired that today this 19-year-old youth be inscribed in the Roll of the Blesseds.
But who is Zepherin, and what is the "secret" of his holiness?
Zepherin, as we well know, was born into a proud and generous family of the powerful tribe of the Araucanian Indians, in the land of Patagonia.
If holiness could flourish in him, it is because it found a fertile terrain in the human qualities belonging to his land and his race, qualities that he took on and brought to perfection.
It is a pleasure to see in Bl. Zepherin all the history, often dramatic, of his people. He summarizes in himself the suffering, the anxieties, the aspirations of the Mapuche, who precisely during the years of his childhood encountered the Gospel and opened themselves up to the gift of the faith.
Today, to magnify the Lord in Bl. Zepherin means also to actively and thankfully remember the ancient traditions of the proud and indomitable Mapuche People; and at the same time, rediscover the fertility of the Gospel, which never destroys authentic values that a culture bears but assumes, purifies and perfects them.
The very life of Zepherin is like a "parable" of this profound truth.
Zepherin never forgot that he was a Mapuche: his supreme ideal was to be useful to his people.
He chose Dominic Savio as a model for his life. This beloved student of Don Bosco was proclaimed a Saint by Pius XII in 1954, and together in some way the "simple recipe" of holiness was canonized, which the "father and teacher of youth" consigned one day to Dominic. A recipe that goes more or less like this: "Always be happy, do your duties of study and piety well; help your companions".
Above all, happiness. "He smiled with his eyes", Zepherin's companions said of him. He was the heart and soul of recreation, at which he participated with creativity and enthusiasm, sometimes even with impetuosity.
He knew how to do tricks that earned him the title of "magician". He organized various races and taught his companions the best way to prepare bows and arrows and then trained them in target shooting.
Don Bosco also recommended the duty of study and piety to Dominic Savio. In the Salesian boarding school at Villa Sora, in Frascati [Italy], Zepherin, although having some difficulty with the Italian language, rose in a few months to be second in his class. The scholastic records show his excellent marks in Latin: it was an important pre-requisite to becoming a priest.
Zepherin's piety was characteristic of the Salesian environment, strongly rooted in the sacraments and particularly the Eucharist, considered "the column" of the preventative method. This is why Zepherin gladly accepted the duty of sacristan. During the months of his sojourn in Turin, one could see him spend hours in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, in intimate dialogue with Jesus.
Lastly, Don Bosco recommended that Dominic help his companions. The testimony of a young Salesian, Fr Iorio, is impressive in this regard.
Three days before Zepherin died, Fr Iorio went to visit him at the "Fatebenefratelli" hospital on Tiber Island [Rome]. He heard our Blessed, already at the end of his life, say: "Father, in a little while I will be gone, but I entrust this poor youth, whose bed is near mine, to you. Come back often and visit him.... He suffers so much! He hardly sleeps at night, coughs very much...". And he said this when he himself, Zepherin, was in a much worse condition and could not sleep at all.
On entering the Vatican Basilica, one can see up above in the last niche on the right of the central nave, a large statue of St John Bosco, who indicates the altar and tomb of St Peter. Next to him are two youth, one a European and the other with somatic features typical of the South American people. It evidently refers to two young saints, Dominic Savio and Zepherin Namuncurá.
Thus fixed in marble, in the heart of Christendom, stands the example of young saints, and through them the perennial validity of the pedagogical intuitions of Don Bosco: a century and a half later, in Patagonia, as in Italy and many other parts of the world, the preventative method has matured bearing almost unhoped-for fruit, and has formed heroes and saints.
Bl. Zepherin, we now address ourselves to your powerful intercession: sustain our journey, so that we too can advance today along the path of holiness, faithful to the teachings of Don Bosco.
You have reached the heights of evangelical perfection, fulfilling your duties well each day. You thus remind us that holiness is not something exceptional, reserved for the elect few: holiness is the common vocation of all the baptized, and it is the demanding goal of ordinary Christian life.
Help us to understand that, in the end, only one thing counts: to be holy, as he, the Lord, is holy.