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4 August

St. John Vianney

Marist Calendar - August

Marist Bulletin - Number 34


Brother Giovanni Bigotto, as interviewed by Brother Lluís Serra

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Brother Giovanni was born in Italy. After working in Africa for 40 years – 33 in Madagascar and 7 in Kenya – he has returned home. As successor to Brother Gabriele Andreucci, who finished his term as Postulator with the canonization of our Founder, he works in the General Administration and takes care of preparing the causes of saints being promoted by the Institute.

John Paul II has beatified and canonized individuals and groups with relative frequency, but to what extent are people concerned about holiness?
It is true that John Paul II has canonized and beatified more people than any other Pope before him. That tells us that holiness is possible and within our grasp. Furthermore, procedures have been simplified, and modern means of communication facilitate bringing processes together and working on them.
Are people concerned about holiness? Notwithstanding a large number of people who may be indifferent, there are millions of pilgrims who visit sanctuaries of our Blessed Mother and the gravesites of saints.

People often say that having money one can buy anything, including sainthood. In your estimation, is that a true statement?
That’s a good question because often you hear people say, “You need money to make a saint!” There’s no doubt that money is needed, because you need to employ specialists – secretaries, theologians, bishops and cardinals – and in the case of verifying miracles, a series of doctors, from 9 to 12 specialists depending on the illness involved and when you want a definitive judgment. But the price of a canonization is less than what you would pay for a construction project of bricks and mortar, not always for a worthy cause. I would add that all costly canonizations and beatifications, such as those for Padre Pío, Josémaría Escrivá, and founders… are expected to offset at least 25% of the cost of advancing causes from poor areas, as is often the case concerning African saints. In 185 years of our existence, we Marists have had one person canonized.

Respectively, your predecessors, Brothers Alessandro and Gabriele, succeeded in having Marcellin beatified and canonized. They are from Italy just like you. Is it helpful for a postulator to be an Italian?
Not at all! Besides Italian, the languages used by the Congregation of the Saints are French, Spanish, English and German. When I studied to become a postulator, most of us who attended the course were from outside Italy. All things considered, Italians do have an advantage when it comes to the local culture and language, and a certain tradition in doing this kind of work.

Which Marist cause is the most advanced at this point?
That of Brother Bernardo, martyred in 1934. He was to be beatified this year, but the Congregation of the Saints has decided not to proceed with individual beatifications of Spanish martyrs, preferring to put them in groups. This explains the delay.

The most recent cause to be introduced, on June 5, 2002, is that of Brother Basilio. What is the reasoning behind that?
Basilio Rueda, a Mexican Marist brother, was our Superior General from 1967 to 1985. He died in 1996. We have opened his cause because all who knew him recognized that he was extraordinary in the human and spiritual realm, and many people pray to him every day. A church-related reason is that he was one of the great promoters of religious life according to the mind of Vatican II. He created a way of moving forward. He was also a man who had a tremendous impact on all of Latin America. For hundreds of millions of Christians he would be a good role model. Above all we know that he was truly a man of our times, through his culture, openness of spirit, and love for our world. His cause is that of a present-day saint: he tells us that God’s love can become a passion here and now. He died a mere 7 years ago.

The case of Brother Henri Vergès clearly seems to be that of a martyr.
19 brothers, sisters, priests, and bishops have been murdered in Algeria. Brother Henri Vergès and Sister Paul Helène head the list. They were murdered on May 8, 1994. Their assassins boasted of having killed 2 Christians. Among the many murders that have happened in Algeria, those of Brother Henri Vergès and Sister Paul Helène best illustrate the characteristics of martyrdom.

What are the other causes that you are working on?
All of them concern groups of martyrs. Documentation for the group of Brother Laurentino and 44 companions and the group of Crisanto and 65 fellow brothers and two lay people has already been presented to the Congregation of the Saints. We hope that Laurentino’s group will be beatified in 2004 or 2005 together with Brother Bernardo. The group of Brother Eusebio and 58 others is now in the hands of Brother Mariano Santamaría, our vicepostulator in Spain. Documentation for Brother Lycarion, a Swiss brother murdered in Barcelona on July 27, 1909, during “Tragic Week,” is also complete and will be added to that of Brother Eusebio’s group.

You were in Spain recently. What was your purpose in going there?
Yes, I was. I’m very happy about our visit to Barruelo where Brother Bernardo’s remains are kept. People there have a great devotion to this brother. They place lots of flowers on his grave, kneel and remain with him in prayer. I was similarly impressed in Torrelaguna where three brothers were murdered in 1936. Their remains lie in repose in the parish church. The priest and his congregation there are anxious to see them beatified. We also traveled to Les Avellanes, which is like a Marist shrine. Many brothers were murdered on that site and in surrounding towns and villages. In the monastery’s beautiful chapel lie the remains of some 30 brothers, and people come to visit and pray before them. Beatification in the hearts of local people always precedes the official ceremony in Rome.

What hasn’t the cause for the brothers murdered in Bugobe, the Congo been introduced?
You’re speaking of Brothers Servando Mayor, Miguel Ángel Isla, Fernando de la Fuente and Julio Rodríguez, all of them Spaniards. This is a very interesting cause for the people of Spain to pursue. We hope that our Marist Provinces there will ask for that cause to be opened.

Many causes hinge on miracles. Why? And what is a miracle?
For martyrs to be beatified, a miracle is not required. On the other hand, for confessors, one is required. However, for anyone, including martyrs, to be canonized, the Vatican does require a miracle.
So, why miracles? Miracles are real occurrences found throughout Scripture, and in the very life of Jesus. Miracles are signs of God’s presence – they express His love. For people who are gravely ill, the possibility of a miracle is like a window of hope that no one can withhold from them. Miracles do come about, inasmuch as there are beatifications and canonizations. And each case is examined, at different stages, by at least 9 medical experts who specialists in their field. No case is allowed to proceed without solid medical evidence. Keep in mind: only God performs miracles – Servants of God intercede with God to obtain them for us.

Do you believe in miracles? Would you advise making a novena for a case considered clinically hopeless?
Certainly I believe in miracles. But I have little faith in novenas: as a general rule they are done poorly, without any serious involvement on the part of those who make them. One must learn how to ask God, and this takes time. If I only ask for something when I’m in a perilous situation, how close is my friendship with God? He is our Father and not a machine for producing miracles. I believe strongly in novenas seriously done, but these are rare.

What service do saints render to society and the Church?
Before anything else, saints are “humans’ humans”, filled with respect for others. Saints live the Beatitudes, those great humanizing factors: they are unassuming, people who thirst for justice, artisans of peace, men and women poor in spirit, neither self-centered nor overbearing, masters at being human. Frequently they are people who do a lot for others, especially those most in need; just think about Father Champagnat. Above all, saints make God’s presence among us more intense, they bring God into our midst and show that it’s worthwhile to love Him, that it’s possible, exhilarating, to converse with Him. Saints reveal that God is the very source of their uplifting personality. This passion for God is what puts us in touch with the absolute meaning of life. Saints are men and women who show the way. They are the Church’s pride and joy, her most cherished sons and daughters. By their personal witness to the values alive in the Gospels, saints make Christ present today.

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