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Saints Among Us: The Canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII


Entre Amigos – Opinion/Commentary

April 17, 2014
By Norma Montenegro Flynn

Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, will be a day of joy for millions of Catholics who will celebrate the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.

These canonizations will be particularly special for many of us because we will witness the rise to sainthood of two popes from our lifetime. Many of us in our 30s and older have treasured memories of Pope John Paul II and baby boomers and older may also remember Pope John XXIII. They will be saints who lived among us and with their actions have shown us what a saint is like.

At least 250,000 pilgrims are expected to fill St. Peter’s Square and nearby areas to watch the historic Mass presided over by Pope Francis. Both blessed popes have left us great and lasting legacies.   

Blessed John XXIII, who was nicknamed the “Good Pope” because of his humble and warm personality, was elected pope in 1958 and served until his death in 1963.  One of his greatest achievements was convening the Second Vatican Council, that achieved a renewal of the Church and paved a way toward Christian unity.

He also created the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, and wrote several encyclicals including Mater et Magistra, and Pacem in Terris, which advocates for human freedom and dignity in the world.

Two of his qualities that impressed me the most while reading his personal reflections in his “Journal of a Soul” are his humility and constant seeking of God’s will.  Prayer –particularly the Rosary – was a strong foundation in his life as was his constant reflection on his actions to discern and follow God’s will.

Pope John Paul II is remembered as the great evangelizer and communicator.  He was elected on October 16, 1978, and during his 27 years as pontiff, he brought his message of faith and peace to 129 countries around the world in 104 pastoral visits outside Italy; he visited the United States seven times.

Due to his love for young people he established the World Youth Day (WYD) in 1985, bringing together millions of people around the world. The eighth WYD was celebrated in Denver, Colorado, in 1993.  Pope John Paul II also created the World Meetings of Families in 1994 and celebrated the Great Jubilee in the year 2000. He was recognized by world leaders for his efforts to eradicate communism and dictatorships around the world.

He wrote 14 Encyclicals, 15 apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions and 45 Apostolic Letters.  He also celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies, proclaimed 1,338 blesseds and presided over 51 canonizations naming 482 new saints.

Pope John Paul II was beloved in Latin America, particularly in Mexico for his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  He visited Mexico several times, even as late as 2002, despite deteriorating health.

Pope John Paul II also encountered suffering throughout his life and even during those moments he continued to give us lessons of faith and hope. He lost his mother when he was about nine years old, and lost his father and siblings before he turned 22. One can only imagine how lonely he must have felt. And during the last few years of his life, he publicly endured Parkinson’s Disease. Many of us remember him struggling to say his message from his balcony before the crowds gathered at St. Peter’s Square. He faced his suffering with dignity and strived to bring us God’s message until his death.

In Blesseds Pope John XXIII and John Paul II we have perfect examples of modern men and saints.  May their legacies inspire us to lead lives of holiness; after all, the next generation of saints might be among us.
Norma Montenegro Flynn is assistant director of Media Relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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