.- Pope Francis Wednesday advanced the sainthood causes of five men and women, including an Italian teenager who died of a brain tumor in 2009, declaring them “venerable.”
After a May 5 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope approved the heroic virtue of Italian priests Francesco Caruso (1879-1951) and Carmelo De Palma (1876-1961), as well as the Spanish Redemptorist priest Francisco Barrecheguren Montagut (1881-1957).
Before becoming a priest, Barrecheguren Montagut was married (he was later widowed) and had a daughter, Maria de la Concepción Barrecheguren García (1905-1927), who was also declared venerable by the pope May 6.
The fifth sainthood cause to move a step toward canonization was that of Italian teenager Matteo Farina, who lived from 1990 to 2009.
Farina grew up in a strong Christian family in the southern Italian town of Brindisi. He was very close to his sister, Erika.
The parish where he received the sacraments was under the care of Capuchin friars, from whom he gained a devotion to St. Francis and St. Padre Pio.
The postulator of Farina’s cause for sainthood said that from a young age Farina had the desire to learn new things, always undertaking his activities with diligence, whether it was school or sports or his passion for music.
Starting at eight years old, he would receive the sacrament of reconciliation often. He was also devoted to the Word of God. At nine years old, he read the entire Gospel of St. Matthew as a Lenten practice. Farina also prayed the rosary every day.
When he was nine years old, he had a dream in which he heard St. Padre Pio tell him that if he understood that “who is without sin is happy,” he must help others to understand this, “so that we can all go together, happy, to the kingdom of heaven.”
From that point onward, Farina felt a strong desire to evangelize, especially among his peers, which he did politely and without presumption.
He once wrote about this desire, saying “I hope to succeed in my mission to ‘infiltrate’ among young people, speaking to them about God (illuminated by God himself); I observe those around me, to enter among them as silent as a virus and infect them with an incurable disease, Love!”
In September 2003, a month before his 13th birthday, Farina began to have symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as a brain tumor. As he was undergoing medical tests, he began to keep a journal. He called the experience of the bad headaches and pain “one of those adventures that change your life and that of others. It helps you to be stronger and to grow, above all in faith.”
Over the next six years, Farina would experience several brain operations and undergo chemotherapy and other treatments for the tumor.
His love for Mary strengthened during this time and he consecrated himself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In between hospitalizations, he continued to live the ordinary life of a teenager: he attended school, hung out with his friends, formed a band, and fell in love with a girl.
He later called the chaste relationship he had with Serena during his last two years of life “the most beautiful gift” the Lord could give him.
When he was 15, he reflected on friendship, saying “I would like to be able to integrate with my peers without being forced to imitate them in mistakes. I would like to feel more involved in the group, without having to renounce my Christian principles. It’s difficult. Difficult but not impossible.”
Eventually, the teenager’s condition worsened and after a third surgery he became paralyzed in his left arm and leg. He would often repeat that “we must live every day as if it were the last, but not in the sadness of death, but rather in the joy of being ready to meet the Lord!”
Farina died surrounded by his friends and family on April 24, 2009.
Francesca Consolini, the postulator of Farina’s cause, wrote on a website dedicated to the young venerable that in him emerged “a deep inner commitment oriented toward purifying his heart from every sin” and he experienced this spirituality “not with heaviness, effort or pessimism; indeed, from his words there emerges constant trust in God, a tenacious, determined and serene gaze turned to the future…”
Farina often thought about the faith and the “difficulty of going against the current.” Concerned about a lack of good faith education for young people, he undertook this task among his own peers.
He once wrote in his journal: “When you feel that you can’t do it, when the world falls on you, when every choice is a critical decision, when every action is a failure … and you would like to throw everything away, when intense work reduces you to the limit of strength … take time to take care of your soul, love God with your whole being and reflect his love for others.”