Monday, April 28, 2014


Yesterday Pope Francis  (with Pope Emeritus Benedict present) canonized two pillars of the Catholic Church,  two popes who had an impact that goes beyond our Church and have influenced people around the world.

St. John XXIII
, known as “the Good Pope”  had a great sense of humor.  He was a man so comfortable about himself that he constantly made jokes about his height (which was little), his ears (which were big), and his weight (which was considerable). When he once met a little boy named Angelo, he exclaimed, “That was my name, too!, but then they made me change it!”.

Asked to describe the two new saints, Pope Francis said St. John was "a bit of the 'country priest,' a priest who loves each of the faithful and knows how to care for them; he did this as a bishop and as a nuncio. He was a man of courage... He was a man who let himself be guided by the Lord"  and like our present Holy Father he embraced the poor.

.From his teens when he entered the seminary, he maintained a diary of spiritual reflections that was subsequently published as Journal of a Soul (one of my all time favorite books).  The collection of writings charts his efforts as a young man to "grow in holiness" and continues after his election to the papacy.  It remains widely read to this day.

He initiated the Second Vatican Council from whence came changes that reshaped the face of Catholicism including,  a comprehensively revised liturgy, a stronger emphasis on ecumenism, and a new approach to the world.

Like St. John Paul, his feast day is not celebrated on the date of his death as is usual, but on the  October 11, the first day of the opening of Vatican II.

St. John Paul II
, known as a globetrotter, made 104 trips outside Italy. More than any pope, St.John Paul recognized the emotional and symbolic value of conferring sainthoods as he sought to spread Catholicism around the world. He canonized 482 saints- more than all his predecessors combined. To do this, he streamlined the canonization process, reducing to five years the waiting period after a person’s death before the canonization process can be initiated. Every country this day has a patron, thanks to him.

 St. John Paul II is recognized as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. He significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion.

As for St. John Paul, Pope Francis said, "I think of him as 'the great missionary of the church," because he was "a man who proclaimed the Gospel everywhere."  His feast day is to be celebrated  on the anniversary of his papal inauguration, 22 October 1978. 

Divine Mercy Sunday, the day of the canonizations, a celebration instituted worldwide by St. John Paul "showed his intuition that a new "age of mercy" was needed in the church and the world".

Pope Francis embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict before the Mass

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