18th April 1999: Canonization of Father Champagnat

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A heart that knows no bounds

On the 18th of April 1999, San Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Institute of the Marist Brothers, was canonized in the Vatican. “Dear young people who have come to express your devotion to the spirit of education given by Fr Champagnat, I encourage you to remain faithful in the path to which you are called by God”, Pope John Paul II said, in his welcoming speech to the pilgrims of different parts of the world, assembling in Rome for the canonization of Father Champagnat. 

The Marist family experienced the canonization as a special occasion, under the slogan “A heart that knows no bounds”. For the Marists of Champagnat, the canonization of Father Champagnat was “the official recognition of the Church that our Founder was a Saint, raised up by the Holy Spirit to help all those following in his footsteps on the road to sanctity. Also, he can be recognised as a reference point for our own lives, as a sure intercessor with God”, just as Brother Gabriele Andreucci, General Postulator, mentioned at that time.

The miracle of Father Champagnat 

The Marist Saint, raised to the altar after the recognition of a miracle: the inexplicable cure of Brother Heriberto Weber, whom the doctors, in May of 1976, diagnosed ” with an early, unknown growth which was transferring to the lungs”, and which they declared incurable. 

At that time, on hearing the news, the Brothers and students of the province of Uruguay – where the sick Brother resided – began a novena to ask for the intercession of Blessed Champagnat. When the devout Brothers and students finished their period of prayers, Brother Heriberto recovered and felt better. The miracle happened on 26th July 1976: the x-rays and medical analysis demonstrated that the illness had disappeared. 

Before the miracle, Brothers Agustín Carazo postulated the cause in 1985. On 26th June 1997, the experts, medical members of the Consultation considered that Brother Heriberto’s  illness was due “to serious pulmonary affection characterized by bilateral nodular dissemination leading to marked insufficiency in breathing with serious consequences for his general health”, and they concluded that such a cure was scientifically inexplicable.

One year later, on 20th February 1998, the Commission of Theologians of the Congregation for Holy Causes, recognized the cure of Brother Heriberto Weber as something preternatural and it attributed it to the intercession of Blessed Marcellin Champagnat. The Ordinary Congregation of Eminent Cardinals and Bishops expressed unanimously, on 2nd June 1998, that it was an authentic miracle, and it was decreed as such, by the Pope John Paul II, on July 3rd 1998.

Months later, the Pontiff would determine 18th April 1999 as the date for the canonization of Marcellin Champagnat. The much sought-after day had arrived! 

Pope John Paul II invites us to give thanks to God 

“We can give thanks for the numerous disciples of Fr Champagnat who faithfully fulfilled their mission (…) I cordially grant my Apostolic Blessing to all the faithful here and to all the Marist Brothers of the world, to those who work with them in the educational field and to all the young people who benefit from their apostolate”, the Pope expressed, two decades ago, in St. Peter’s Square, when canonizing the father founder of the Marists: Blessed and Saint Marcellin Champagnat.


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