"Zeal for your house will consume me" (Ps 69:9)

Thoughts of a parish priest…

SAINT JOHN PAUL II & SAINT JOHN XXIII

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Never before have 2 popes been canonized on the same day! In fact, only 80 of the 265 Successors of St. Peter have even been canonized.

On April 27th 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will declare that these two extraordinary leaders are in heaven and worthy of our veneration and that we may confidently pray for their intercession!

Many are probably more familiar with Pope John Paul II than they are with “il Papa Buono” (the good pope), Pope John XXIII who was only pope for about 4 years in contrast to John Paul II’s 27 ½ years, and yet made a huge impact upon the Church.

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After the long papacy of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) the mentality of the cardinals was to elect a “transitional pope” (someone to guide the church for a few years, but not someone who would make any huge impact). That is probably why many of them were shocked when only after 9 months as pope he announced that he was calling an Ecumenical Council, The Second Vatican Council.

The Council was his effort to help the Church more efficiently bring the ancient beliefs and traditions of the Catholic Church to the modern world. Pope John XXIII understood so well that the CONTENT of the faith doesn’t’ change, but the METHODS and language do change with each culture and generation.

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His opening address to the Council is worth reading: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?RecNum=3233

But more than his contribution to the Church with the calling of the Council, he was most loved for his pastoral sensitivity, his kindness and his down-to-earth way of speaking to everyday Catholics. He understood the mercy of God and how much it is needed in the world today! We are blessed to have him numbered among the saints!

Pope John Paul II’s legacy speaks for itself! There is nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said (and said much more eloquently!). I simply offer a reflection upon how he touched my life and inspired (and continues to inspire me).

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I was standing in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican on April 2, 2005 when he was called home to Father. At that moment, the only pope I had ever known had left us. Even though he had been sick for so long and his death was no surprise, there was no less difficulty saying good-bye to someone that I had loved and admired.

But I do remember the seemingly odd response to the announcement that he had passed away. After the silence that seemed to last for hours, there was an eruption of applause from those gathered in the Piazza. Later I realized that it was a true expression faith. Those gathered recognized that this spiritual father didn’t simply die, but that he had passed from this life to the next. And while that brings with it sorrow, we need to remember that there is no other way to get to heaven but through the threshold of death. This faithful servant had finished the race!

I had the extraordinary privilege of personally meeting him just a few months before his death. It remains one of the most powerful moments of my life, knowing all along that I was kissing the hand and staring into the eyes of a man who would eventually be declared a saint!

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So many remember only his last years when he had grown weak, struggling to walk and speak. Many forget how the young, first non-Italian pope in over 500 years brought youth and energy to the Church. He traveled the world more than any of his predecessors. He wrote more than any of them, he met more people than any of them too!

I worry that as time moves on, people will forget about his tremendous papacy and all that he did to bring the work begun by Pope John XXIII at the Second Vatican Council to completion! I think the canonization of these two men on the same day, and on Divine Mercy Sunday, invites us to recall what God has done in their extraordinary lives, but also what he wants to do in our ordinary lives, of how His mercy continues to invites us into greater communion with Him!

 

Pope Saint John XXIII, Pray for us

Pope Saint John Paul II, Pray for us!

 

 

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