Just a few days ago, on Divine Mercy Sunday (04/27/14), as the world watched and millions gathered (or attempted to) into St. Peter’s, Pope Francis canonized two of his predecessors. During the ceremonies, Pope Francis even concelebrated mass with his immediate predecessor, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. I think it goes without saying that this was quite a historic day in all of Christianity.
While Pope Saint John Paul II may appear to be more ‘famous’ than Pope Saint John XXIII, it can assured that this is more or less a generational perception. You see, Pope Saint John Paul II reintroduced the world to what it truly means to be human in his teachings on ‘Theology of the Body’ which immediately followed his influential writings on ‘Love and Responsibility’. As a convert, I knew nothing of Catholicism under JP2, but he was a Church figure that I would quickly become acquainted with upon my journey into full communion. Add to his theological contributions, the heroic virtue in which he lived out his daily life, and we are certain that even in time on earth he was a saint among us. I mean, this is a guy who lost most of his immediate family, lived under the oppression of the Nazi regime, went to seminary ILLEGALLY (according to Nazi rule), AND was an avid outdoorsman… COME ON!
All the while, we forget poor ol’ Angelo, the man who would become Pope John XXIII and eventually a saint. Now the ‘we’ is obviously referring to the millennials and possibly some of their parents. Most, if not all, of the emerging young Church belong to the JP2/Benedict XVI generation. So maybe on this subject you should talk to your grandparents or any Catholic who was within the age of accountability during the early 60’s about Pope Saint John XXIII. St. J23 (as he will be referred to hereafter) was instrumental in the opening and presiding of the Vatican II Council. Let me preface this by saying that this particular council was HUGE for the Church and her approach to the liturgy and evangelization. Most notably, it allowed the liturgies you experience to happen in your own vernacular. Many more changes came down the line as a result of this historic council BUT St. J23 wasn’t able to see the end results of it. You see he was only our shepherd for four and a half years before succumbing to stomach cancer. In his short span of time as our Pope, much was accomplished in the name of spreading the gospel to all people. These among many reasons are why St. J23 was beloved by many for his contributions to the Catholic faith.
During his earlier years in ministry, St. J23 was busy helping the Jewish refugees during the harsh times of WWII while young Karol was secretly studying for the priesthood. It is not a far cry to say that these two saints are cut from the same cloth, their ministry, papacies, and eventual sainthoods will forever be united in a love for people and a love for the Church. As we move forward and celebrate their feast days, ask them for their intercessions, and remember the Holy examples they were during their earthly lives let us be united to the cause of Christ a bit more intimately and strive together to love God, love his Church, and to live holy lives.