Message from Fr Josef Sciberras OSA, Postulator of the Cause of Joseph De Piro

On the 17th of September we celebrate the passage from this life to the eternal one of our Founder Joseph De Piro. It is one of the seven important dates that we as MSSP celebrate during the year. This particular day is a direct reminder of this holy man, his life given for others and his immense love for the poor.

This year, as part of our remembrance, we are sharing with you a letter which Fr. Josef Sciberras OSA, the Postulator of the Cause, has providentially sent us to encourage us as we journey together in the spirituality sowed in our founder.

This is a perfect reminder for us not only about the stages of the cause for beatification but more so about our commitment to carry forward the zeal and holiness that Joseph De Piro always showed.
I am sure that from heaven he is interceding for all of us, lay and religious, who cherish the missionary vocation. Let us trust him with our needs, even those which appear humanly impossible. He who on earth never gave up on the poor will surely not give up on us now that he is near the Father.

Fr Mark Grima MSSP

Back in 1978, a few months after the beginning of his pontificate, St John Paul II said : “A saint, in his life and his death, is a translation of the Gospel for his country and his time”. I believe that this truth could very well be affirmed for the Servant of God Joseph de Piro, your Founder and a great benefactor of the Maltese people.

The Society has received an enormous gift in the figure of the Founder, a compass for drawing up an evangelical map for all those, religious and lay, who are inspired by him, by his example, by his word, by his missionary zeal, by his life of faith, hope and charity.  With the conviction that all this is a sign of the work of God in the Founder, who allowed himself to be moulded by the spirit of St Paul, ago, to start the process for the beatification and canonisation of the Servant of God.

As you know, the cause is in its Roman phase, where the Congregation of the Causes of Saints examines the documentation collected and presented by the diocesan tribunal.

  1. When a case for beatification is opened, once the initial enthusiasm is over, unfortunately, there is a tendency to delegate the project to the “experts”, that is, he postulator and his collaborators. There is also a tendency to think of the process as something purely juridical, without any pastoral benefit.    The truth is quite the opposite. While it is true that the technical work must be carried out by the experts – and here I take this opportunity to thank Fr Tony Sciberras for his invaluable and incalculable work over may years, and to all those who supported and still support him in some way or other – it is equally true that the cause must be carried out with a sort of corporate responsibility,  born out of love for one’s own charismatic identity, the conviction of the Servant of God’s holiness and the desire to share this treasure of holiness with the universal Church.
  2. Work is currently proceeding at a good pace. Fr Sciberras, with the help of Fr Mario Zammit Satariano, are working hard on the preparation of the various parts of the Posito super vita et virtutibus, which the postulation submits from time to time for the evaluation of the Relator of the Relator of the Cause in the Congregation. It is a tedious, meticulous, long and sometimes frustrating job due to proceedings. Once this phase is over, the Posito will go through the evaluation stages, in the hope that everything goes well, and we arrive to the declaration on heroic virtues.
  3. Another aspect, equally important, is that of maintaining and increasing the fama sanctitatis et signorum, that is, helping the people of God not to forget the treasure of holiness recognized by all those who have known the  Servant of God, but instead making them more aware of this gift. It would be nice if the enthusiasm for all that De Piro represents to each one of the members of the Society is transformed into:
  4. A better knowledge of his life, of his writings and of his spirituality, in order to imitate one’s personal life;
  5. A concrete commitment from each and every one, according to his possibilities and responsibilities, to make De Piro known to the people with whom one works and has contact.

I am fully aware that the vice-postulation is working hard to promote the cause, but this is not enough. I firmly believe that more could be done at the level of personal responsibility of the members of the Missionary Family of St Paul to promote the cause. The lay associates can also be made more conscious of this so that they can also give their important part in this mission.

To this, we must add the fact that the causes of beatification of confessors of the faith include an accurate evaluation of a miracle, which is a work done by God, through the intercession of one of his faithful servants, outside from the order of the causes known to us. If the ascertainment of the heroic virtues of a servant of God is a work “from below”, the miraculous event is a work “from above”, a free intervention of God, which requires a scrupulous scientific and theological assessment of the truth of the facts.  Therefore, spreading the reputation of holiness more would help people to draw closer to him, and through him, to Our Lord, dispenser of all good, Therefore, any signs of specia graces shouldn’t be taken lightly and, after collecting first-hand information, should be brought to the attention of the postulation for a preliminary evaluation.

You are privileged custodians of a precious heritage that deserves to be better known, valued and shared. The risk is to reduce this patrimony of holiness, to a juridical procedure, not fully exploiting its spiritual, pastoral, ecclesia, educational, cultural, historical, social, missionary, potential. A cause and imitation of the virtuous heroism of the saints. It is an ecclesial action.  The pastoral and spiritual care of a cause is an authentic form of the pedagogy of holiness, to which we should be particularly sensitive and attentive.

The outcome of a cause for beatification and canonisation is an event of extraordinary importance and ecclesial value “The witness of the Blessed and the Saints – according to Pope Francis – enlightens us, attracts us and also puts us into question, because it is the word of God incarnate in history and close to us.  Holiness permeates and always accompanies the life of the pilgrim Church over time, often in a hidden and almost imperceptible way”.

As you all know, there was always a very good relationship between the Augustinian province and the MSSP, either with the formation of the early novices or with the theological formation at St Mark’s priory in Rabat. I am grateful and honoured to have the opportunity to continue this tradition and serve and help in this mission of the cause of De Piro’s vocation to holiness and true service of the Gospel with the local churches where his Society is making roots and beyond.

May the Virgin Mary, assumed in heaven, fill our hearts with the blessings of God.

Fr Josef Sciberras OSA

Postulator of the Cause of Joseph De Piro

Rome, 10 of September 2020