Why pick this humble soul, who had been beatified over a century ago, for sudden notoriety and papal recognition? The answer is that he was profoundly devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, as were the other four people who were canonized with him at the end of the year of the Eucharist. I suspect there are other reasons as well. We live in a time that considers itself quite sophisticated. Everyone has an opinion, and all sorts of people have opinions that fall far outside the view of generally accepted Catholicism, or even of orthodox Catholic faith. One of those awaiting beatification at this time is Cardinal Newman, perhaps the greatest literary genius of the nineteenth century. A number of other extremely intelligent and intellectual people are in line as well. Why choose the humble Felix, whose vocation was that of an efficient beggar and friend of the sick, the poor, and the humble souls of his fairly humble city?
I think the answer is God’s Providence. God is telling us something. He is reminding us that the meek are blessed, that they shall inherit the earth, and that the poor in spirit enter the kingdom of heaven. Most of us have never even met a peasant brother or, in fact, any peasant. A peasant makes his living directly from the soil or the sea. No one today is identified as a peasant, although thousands of migrant workers might very well receive this noble classification. And yet, about ninety-eight percent of the people who read this message are descendents of European peasants. They were a great army of people who put the Catholic Church on the map during the immigration.
My Irish great-grandmother, Susie Murphy, who was only one generation from being a peasant herself, used to say, “Put a beggar on horseback, and he’ll ride himself to hell.” Catholicism in America is a rather dismal scene now with the collapse of most religious orders, apostasy among a great many Catholic colleges and universities, scandals in the priesthood and lack of faith and acceptance of some of the principal moral and dogmatic teachings of the Church. If we ask where we are headed, we may come to the conclusion that my great-grandmother was right in her homespun assessment of human nature.
The canonization of Saint Felix of Nicosia isn’t going to make a great splash. It wasn’t carried in any of the major newspapers. Unfortunately, little is probably known among the poor immigrants in the United States who would rejoice and be glad if they knew of this man and realized that “one of their own” received the Church’s highest honors. Just as Pope Pius XI used the beatification of Saint Conrad of Parzham to remind the Germans during Hitler’s time that they were not the master race, so this canonization may remind us all that it is the poor in spirit and the humble who enter the kingdom of heaven. If we want to get there ourselves, we had better — one way or another — get in line.
Monday, November 7, 2005
St. Felix of Nicosia
From Father Benedict Groeschel: