Another month, another potential Pilipino saint
On January 11, 2013, at the Cathedral in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur Province, of the Philippines, His Excellency Ernesto Antolin Salgado, archbishop of Nueva Segovia, opened the beatification process of Bishop Alfredo Verzosa (1877-1954), former ordinary for the then-Diocese of Lipa.
According to the Manila Standard Today, “Bishop Verzosa was the first Filipino bishop of Lipa and the founder of the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart and his name is forever associated with the alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lipa in the late 1940s.”
More than this, he helped keep the Ilocos Sur Province Catholic. Around the time of Philippine independence from Spain, many Pilipino priests rebelled against the Church because while there were some very good Spanish clerics, there were more bad ones and native clergy found themselves blocked from ecclesial advancement simply because they were not from Spain. Not only did Bishop Verzosa combat this, but he had to work to fill the void when the Spaniards departed en masse, only to be replaced by Americans who looked upon Catholicism as a superstitious, foreign dominated religion to be opposed whenever possible. All of this he accomplished even though his own life was often threatened.
And yet accomplish it he did through promoting vocations, improving seminary training, founding more seminaries, better catechesis for the laity, and making local Church administration more efficient and thus effective.
When the Japanese captured the Philippines, they destroyed villages and massacred thousands of locals, including many priests and nuns. Bishop Verzosa led the reconstruction efforts and was somehow able to keep the sudden absence of clergy and religious from hindering the people’s spiritual development.
Despite his faithfulness, it is said he suffered “rejection and the denigration of his life’s work.”
What makes him such an outstanding figure in the Year of Faith is that he was doing the New Evangelization before there was such a thing. He had enormous faith, a “zeal for service, and a sense of community in pursuing this kind of mission: a steadfast faith in God in the face of constant challenges and adversity, zeal in evangelizing and promoting the faith, and [he worked] to zealously proclaim” so that people would “live the faith together” as Catholics.
“May we therefore take courage and strength from the example given to us by the Servant of God, Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, in pursuit of this mission to re-awaken the Catholic faith even within our social and business communities, which we can accomplish through Jesus Christ and with the help of Mary, our Mother ...”
Salesian saints, those that are here, those in the making
At the beginning of 2013, the Salesian order put out a listing of its Servants of God, Venerables, Blesseds, and Saints. It reported that it has 30 Servants of God, 10 Venerables, 116 blesseds, and nine canonized saints.
The order had two causes introduced, two positios forwarded to Rome, one female religious beatified by virtue of an approved miracle, a male religious beatified by virtue of his being recognized as a martyr, and the moving of Venerable Fr. Giuseppe Quadrio’s body from its original burial place in Turin into the order’s International Institute’s chapel in order to make him more widely known and thus advance his beatification cause.
Perhaps most importantly, yesterday was the 125th anniversary of the death of the Salesian order’s founder, St. John Bosco, beloved by many even today.
Cause of forbidden author accepted by Vatican?
Rumors have circulated since early last month that the Vatican has accepted the opening of the beatification cause of Maria Valtorta, author of the controversial Poem of the Man-God. Actually, these rumors have circulated for years. But what has given them added cachet is that renowned exorcist Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea says he was recently in Rome where he was assured that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had given its approval for the opening of Valtorta’s beatification process.
For those unaware of Valtorta or why this would be in any way news, she was the a 20th century Italian mystic who published a 5,000 page book called “Poem of the Man-God.” It was an instant sensation, as it purported to give personal revelations from Our Lord about His life that were recorded nowhere else. Because of this, some editions gave it the title, The Gospel As It Was Revealed to Me.
As you might imagine, this caused no small amount of controversy, and in 1949, the Holy Office confiscated the typed manuscript. Then, following the death of Pius XII, the book, which had subsequently been published despite official Church opposition, was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.
When Paul VI abolished the Index, Valtorta’s supporters said this made the book acceptable. However, the Church has never said any of the titles on the Index automatically became dogmatically orthodox somehow just because the Index was suppressed. For instance, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in 1985 that “the Index retains its moral force despite its dissolution.”
The last time any Church official made any official pronouncement on The Poem of the Man-God was in 1992, when Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi wrote that the he viewed the visions and dictations of Maria Valtorta as “simply the literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus” and that they “cannot be considered supernatural in origin.”