Interview with Br. Gabriele Andreucci, Postulator General

Marcellin Champagnat, a well-balanced man, a man of great prudence

The fact that Marcellin Champagnat is to be raised to the altars on April 18th this year is due in no small part to Br Gabriele Andreucci – to his conviction that Marcellin was a Saint, to his tenacity, to his hard work. The key point has been the recognition, after very hard work on the part of the doctors and of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, that Br Heriberto Weber’s cure was indeed a miracle. Br Gabriele tells us that the miracle was recognized because Br Heriberto, on the point of death, recovered his health in some way that science cannot explain.

Lluis Serra, Rome

Eight years ago, the Marist Superiors had sufficient confidence in Br Gabriele to give him the responsibility of giving the final push to the canonization process and raise Marcellin Champagnat to the altars.

Lluis Serra: Has this task been the most important one in your life?

Gabriele Andreucci: The most important task of my life has been to follow Jesus in the footsteps of Marcellin.

I found that I was going along a road already opened by one of my predecessors, Br Carazo, but the process had been abandoned because the short judgements given by the medical experts had advised against it, on the grounds that the diagnosis was not clear enough.

Then, one fine day I had a message from the Sacred Congregation: “You have a process which has been granted a certificate of juridical validity. Do you want to continue with it?” I heard the voice of the Lord telling me to carry on, and I presented the Positio, knowing that the recognition of the miracle would be difficult, but we must not lose heart in the face of adversity. Now what is important is that Marcellin will be declared Saint on April 18th. The outcome has been worth all the trouble, and the joy that we have in having collaborated in this process is ample recompense for all our work.

A gift from God

LS Why is there so much interest in the canonization?

GA: For any religious institution, to have a Saint among its members is a great occasion. To have a Saint is a gift which God gives to a religious family. And again, religious institutes have a moral duty to ask that their founder be put forward as a model for the whole Church. It is one way of helping many Christians along the road to their own sanctification.

A teacher for our own lives

LS: What does the canonization of their Founder mean for the Marist Congregation?

GA: The official recognition of the Church that our Founder was a Man of God, raised up by the Holy Spirit to help all those following in his footsteps to walk the road to sanctity. Also, he can be proposed as a reference point for our own lives, as a certain intercessor with God, and also, naturally, as a teacher, given that not only did he live, but he also taught a doctrine based on his charism and his spirituality. This doctrine, this teaching, is recognized by the Church as valid and sure.
In the case of our Founder, we do not possess a very extensive body of doctrine, but we do have the essential. We can be certain that all that he taught us about the religious life is in accord with the teaching of the Gospels. All that he taught us about Marian spirituality, summed up in his words “All to Jesus through Mary; all to Mary for Jesus,” is an evangelical road to holiness. All that he taught us about the education of the young is in accord with the teaching of the Church.

The Holy Spirit does not grow old

LS: What relevance has a Saint from yesterday for the young of today?

GA: I don’t like this phrase, “a Saint from yesterday”. The Holy Spirit does not grow old, and all the saints are under the influence of this same Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always young.
We have a duty to see and respond to the challenges which our Saints present to us. Our replies must be here and today, for in holiness there is no today and no tomorrow. Our Founder’s “up-to-date-ness” is seen in his language, just as valid for young people and religious of today as in his own time. The realities of today are found in those of yesterday, with their different manifestations and ways and means, and each of us must give our answer for our own time.

His humanity

LS: Which of Marcellin’s qualities would you draw attention to?

GA: Humanly speaking, he is psychologically well-balanced, and he demands the same quality from his followers – this is the first quality. In the second place, he is a man of great prudence, not only humanly speaking, but from the supernatural point of view also. And above all, his supreme goal is God, and the good of souls. In his biography they took out all that did not fit with the ideas of his time, and left us with a moral silhouette of a rigid sanctity, which overlays and almost hides all his human side.

LS: What does it cost to canonize someone?

GA: The biggest expense is the diocesan process, where the judges have to be paid. The witnesses, naturally, give their services gratis. The costs of printing the documentation must be covered. For the Positio, this cost almost 20,000$US. For the meetings of the theologians, we had to pay about 6,000$US, and for the medical experts, a total of 32,000$US. Then we will have to pay the various expenses connected with the ceremonies of the canonization.

Joy shared with others

LS: What will be the feeling on April 18th in St Peter’s Square when John Paul II declares Marcellin Champagnat a Saint?

GA: Great joy. The joy of knowing and feeling that we have a father who is pleasing to God, identified with Christ, put forward by the Church to be imitated by me personally and by all Christians.

I lived through the beatification of Marcellin Champagnat in school, with my pupils and their families, and, if God grants it, I will live through the canonization with my Brothers and with the whole Marist Family assembled in Rome.