The joy to become a saint

30th anniversary of Marcel Calo’s Beatification        

available translations

Homily delivered by His Grace Pierre d’Ornellas, archbishop of Rennes, in Notre-Dame de Bonne Nouvelle’s church, on Sunday October 8th, 2017.

Isaiah 5, 1-7 / Psalm 79 / Philippians 4, 6-9 / Matthew 21, 33-43
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My friends,

The stone that was “discarded” and became the “corner stone” of the Church as an edifice, is doubtlessly Jesus Christ, the Crucified, risen from the dead, glorious, alive.

We can also say that this “vineyard”, the Church, has not been left to the care of homicidal vine growers, whether these homicides be real ones or, as mentioned by Saint Matthew(see Mt 5, 21-22), committed through a word, a look, a mere gesture or a thought that cannot be seen and which is however a deadly one for the other. No, God leaves his “vineyard” in the hands of those he never ceases to incite: the saints. Yes generation after generation God keeps inciting sanctity, the caretaker of his Church. Not the abstract notion of sanctity, but a genuine one, as lived in their flesh by men and women in the societal context they live in. Among these saints, men and women, to whom God has given the care of his “vineyard” Marcel is present.

Without any hesitation, I can say after having deeply studied Marcel’s own writings, that in the dramatic period in which homicidal vine-growers were in number, God incited the Blessed Marcel, a saint in heaven, among others. We can doubtlessly understand saint Paul’s address to the Philippians as being the very words of the Apostle, as well as being Marcel’s own words: “ What you have learned and received, what you have seen and heard from me, do.” (4, 9) What have we “seen and heard” from Marcel to put it in practice?

The responsibility of a Christian

This is what Marcel writes in his diary when 20: “ The Church is compared to a vineyard whose manager is the Christ, the Christians being the different shoots: the mystical body. We receive life from the Christ.” And he adds a most extraordinary thought, in a prophetic manner, years before what will be announced by the Vatican II council. Listen to this audacious young man, aged 20: “ We can see that the Church is organized into a hierarchy, the Pope, the bishops, the priests, the Christians; we, the “jocistes”[1] are the shepherds, the leaders of the working-class Church”. When writing these words he is a member of the JOC[2] movement, instead we could say, we the Scouts, or we, the members of such other movement. Let me make a remark. Maybe some Scout Groups could say: we as such, are the shepherds, the heads of the Scout’s Church. Maybe those in charge of the MEJ[3], or altar boys or gentlemen could say, we, as such are the shepherds, the heads of the Church of those who worship the Eucharist.

Marcel further writes:” The priests cannot visit all social environments and this is why there are catholic activists present in these environments. In a Parish the “jocistes” bear a responsibility.” The Vatican II council made it clear that laypeople share the responsibility of the salvation mission put in the hands of his Church[4] by the Christ. I can hear so many Christians saying : Father, tell us what we have to do, we will do it. Marcel  never asked the parish priest what had to be done. Marcel, aged 20, accepted his responsibility as a Christian. We shall see how he managed it. Here because of his dear mother who wanted to keep Marcel besides her, he joined the JOC movement. In a Parish the JOC members are in charge of the souls who constitute the communities of the Parish and this why, we, the leaders, must look after the activists’ education.” The term activist was used at that time. Today we would say : to educate “witnesses” of the Christ. Marcel goes on : “ On another ground we have a role to act in the rebuilding of the world, in the reconstruction of France.” He wrote these words in 1942. We all know what was going on in France and in the whole world in 1942! And he concludes : “ We are the essential members.” Such an eloquent expression !

The hate of evil

What can he see in this “vineyard”, in this mystical body? He can see people who do wrong. “ The causes are rooted in what we can find on dangerous occasions. Sin reduces our spiritual life, belittles us, prevents us from being active, from devoting ourselves. […] One must flee evil, must not play with fire, must hate it.” Marcel does not feel resentment nor bitterness against those who do wrong. He never spoke ill of the Germans. But to have “ the hate of evil” is essential. As magnificently pronounced by Father Jacques Hamel – what deeply moved the Archbishop of Rouen- saying nothing against those who had slit his throat : “ Satan go away!”

The Eucharist

Our dear Marcel immediately goes on: “ We will become good actors in the new city when the Christ is present in our life. To do so let us meet him regularly by sharing Communion.” God knows how important Communion was in Marcel’s life! The Eucharist! No doubt that Marcel who is telling us today “ what you have learned and received, what you have seen and heard from me, do” is inviting us to grow up in the love of the Eucharist. There is nothing greater than the Eucharist on earth! Whether we think of or meditate on the Eucharist and on the eucharistical Communion, here comes our dear Marcel’s invitation! “ To do so, let us go and meet him regularly by sharing Communion”. Marcel adds: “ Let us not be egoistic: the others come first.” The Eucharist is truncated when there is no charity to the others will say Benedict XVI.

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 At last, Marcel, aged 20, shows a very practical mind : “Let us have a precise work organization, let us follow a method in each task we perform.” And at the same time, exactly in Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s vein, Marcel expresses this nuance :” The negative must be replaced by the positive in our lives.” Doesn’t Saint Ignatius recommend to always focus on the positive aspects of the other? Finally this sense of responsibility :” A leader does not have to do things, but to have things done.” But his sense of responsibility is a christian one. And this is why he concludes with : “ Let us invite Christ in our whole life, in all our acts, because while inviting Christ inside us we will work for the community’s benefit. Each day must drive me closer to Christ.”

The apostle, “ an essential member”

Marcel comes close to what Pope Francis tells us today. What does it mean to be a Christian for Marcel? It means “ to be an apostle”. Pope Francis says : what does it mean to be baptized? It means “to be a missionary disciple”[5]. It is impossible to live one’s Christening without willing to bear witness to God. Here is the Christian’s responsibility! Here are the “essential members” of the “vineyard”. And for those who do not take up with this responsibility they will be replaced by others , incessantly called by God.

Marcel writes : “ One cannot be a Christian without being an apostle. We cannot love God if we do not love our fellow men and women. The Christian, the JOC member, is the middleman between God and the people. The Christian is not worthy of this name if he isn’t an activist. He must be an apostle. An apostle is a man who dedicates himself to a cause, to fulfill God’s will on earth. Therefore if we cannot see the Christ in all our brethrens, we are not one of the apostles. We cannot be an apostle if we don’t pray, nor share Communion for the others and consequently don’t deserve Heaven if we don’t.”

The Martyr

He adds this mere nuance, which is an extraordinary one he discovered while reading the Gospel : “ We can see that Christ was not very demanding for the masses, he came to meet them ( the adulterous woman, the Samaritan, Mary Magdelene ), mainly to meet the sinners. On the contrary the Christ was quite demanding for his apostles , without sparing them a number of hardships, he asked them to leave everything, he even told them that perhaps they would die for him, and they died martyred.”

As if the Christ shone in Marcel’s heart to make him conscious of his responsibility as a Christian , as “an essential member” for the beauty of his “vineyard”, as an “apostle” and finally as a “martyr”. We cannot avoid to think that what he wrote as a personal note for himself, when 20, came back to his memory at Mauthausen ! Thirty years ago Saint John Paul II fully recognized him as a martyr. Like the Apostles, he is indeed an “apostle”, a Christian who accepted his responsibility as such till the end.

The overflowing love

Last night we listened to an extract of the prayer he had made his, inspired by one of Pope Pius XI’s prayer. Here is what Marcel wrote : “ O Christ Jesus, I acknowledge you as King of the Universe. Everything that was created is your creation. I am yours, totally, as you may wish. I am renewing the promises I made the day I was baptized.” What follows was written between brackets : “ A moment of silence : to think about my christening and also about the renewal of my promises made on the day of my first communion.”

In Marcel’s view, his christening was not a past event, it was a present one! Hence this moment of silence when he thinks about his christening and about the renewal of the promises he made on the day of his first communion. Baptism and Eucharist were closely linked and so present in his mind.

The prayer goes on like this : “ In a very special manner, I offer, according to my capacities, to give victory to God’s rights and to his Church…” What is the utmost means? The prayer says : “ With my heart overflowing with love for my brethrens, I wish to win the young workers’ hearts.” The Vatican II council declared that sanctity is the full expression of charity[6]. The great medium is love, as expressed in Marcel’s prayer.

The peace of God

My friends, while thanking God not only for Marcel Callo’s Beatification, but for Marcel himself, for his joy, we can listen again to Saint Paul’s words, linking them with what Marcel tells us today :” What you have learned and received, what you have seen and heard from me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you.” How can we but think that Saint Paul’s address to the Philippians found a perfect echo in Marcel’s heart? As we were told during last night’s vigil, nothing came out of Marcel’s heart, lips or eyes, that would have been wrong, bitter towards those who had led to Zella Mehlis, to Gotha and to Mauthausen. The one who witnessed his death deeply felt that the look in his eyes was different. In Marcel’s eyes, there was something else, probably this “ new city”, which is the “holy city” ( Ap 11.2 ; 21.2.10 ).

How can we but think that this address delivered by Saint Paul Apostle to the Philippians became a reality for Marcel : “ The peace of God [- in the ghastliest conflicts -] which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” ( 4,7 ) The peace of God kept Marcel within Christ Jesus’ heavenly home and he became another Christ because the Christ himself made him ready and conscious of the grandeur of his Baptism and of the Eucharist, of the grandeur of his responsibility as an apostle, of the grandeur to be a Christian as an “essential member” in the Lord’s “vineyard”. Yes, with some others , he was an “essential member” in the hellish world of Mauthausen. In the darkness he was put into, because of him, light triumphed. Rejected, he joined the “corner stone” represented by Christ Jesus, a tool of peace.

Let Marcel, who will doubtlessly be canonized one day, pray for us and receive from God the grace to acknowledge the grandeur, the beauty and the joy of our mission as Christians. Let Marcel receive from God, the grace to acknowledge the joy to become a saint, man or woman, to work with love in the Lord’s “vineyard”.

Traduction : Jacques EVEN, professeur d’anglais à l’Université de Rennes 2

[1] TN-jocistes = members of theJOC movement

[2] TN- JOC = Young Catholic Workers  Movement = Jeunesse Ouvrière Catholique

[3] TN- MEJ = Eucharistical Youths Movement = Mouvement Eucharistique des Jeunes

[4] See – Constitution dogmatique sur l’Eglise, 21 novembre 1964, n. 33 ; décret sur l’apostolat des laïcs, 18 novembre 1915, n. 2-3

[5] See- Exhortation apostolique La joie de l’Evangile, 24 novembre 2013, n. 119-121

[6] See- Constitution dogmatique sur l’Eglise, 21 novembre 1964, n. 39-40

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Les personnes ayant reçues des grâces par l’intercession du Bx Marcel Callo sont invitées à en avertir le diocèse de Rennes :

Postulation Marcel Callo
45 rue de Brest
F-35042 Rennes Cedex