6 Jul 2013

Saints John Paul II and John XXIII

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum......
(I announce to you a great joy....)

Readers of the blog will have noticed that we have been offline for a few days but by golly did the news out the Vatican brings us back with a bang yesterday! Fr Lombardi (the spokesman for the Vatican) must have had a reel in his head dealing the good news stories that came flowing out yesterday following on a week of horrendous tales about the Vatican Bank.

Pope Francis first encyclical Lumen Fidei (the light of faith) was published today. The first encyclical (letter) of the new pontificate is generally seen as scene setter for the new pope but this is the first encyclical where it is officially acknowledged that it is written by two Popes as Pope Benedict had most of it written before his abdication in February as part of the things being done for the Year of Faith. Some highlights of the encyclical can be read HERE, HERE and HERE and we will do a post on it during the week.

But the news that has grabbed the media headlines (and which is some great news!) is the decision to proceed with the canonisations of both John Paul II and John XXIII.

The official announcements and a round of excellent links are below (highly recommend Phil's over at Blue Eyed Ennis as she went thralling through the archives for some great links especially over at EWTN).
Previous posts on SS102fm about these two men:

Rome Reports Coverage:

But on a personal level the canonisations have brought up a few thoughts.

John Paul II was my Pope - in the sense that he ascended the throne of St Peter before I was born so he was the only Pope I had ever known before he died. I had been to WYD2000 in Rome and had been inspired by his talks and homilies in many ways. While I was too young to appreciate the impact this colossus had in the early 1980's on the world stage and against the fight against communism, the example of his last years where he offered to the world an example of the right of life from conception to a natural death and the value of all life was truly an inspiring period for many catholics of my own age and generation. But personally I thought the speed of his beatification and canonisation was too fast, too hurried for a man who had been the successor of St Peter for so long and whose legacy was so recent and still with us. It was not to say he was not a holy man, faith filled, but one can not look at the catholic church around the world and wonder about his legacy and the time we would need to read, understand and adjust to the many great teachings he had left us. There was a lot to be said for the old wait under canon law of fifty years before a cause for sainthood could be opened and the need for the Devils Advocate to test the case of sanctity and holiness.

John XXIII - Goood Pope John, the smiling Pope. Another example held up by many to us JP2 catholics of what an open and friendly Pope should be - not like the grinches John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I got tired of being told how great he was and how poor his successors were so I went exploring the writings of this man and indeed found a great teacher and humble servant of the people of God. But I felt the comparisions between the Popes and especially the constant harking on to an either/or "spirit" of John XXIII and the council he convened to be ill advised and some what childish. You hear many invoking the spirit of the council for many things, but for those of us who didn't live through it, like all the other and equal church councils before it, we cannot depend on this"spirit" but rather on the Spirit who inspired and guided all councils from Jerusalem to Trent to Vatican II and we must look to the actual teachings - what the councils actually said as to what we think they said - as we move into the future. The divisions and disunity following the council have divided the church since it was unleashed by John XXIII in 1962. But the smiling Pope was a man of vision and openness and heart who could not but be admired.

There are pro's and con's to the canonisations of both men. As John Allen has pointed out, these are the role models held up in our bitterly divided church from the conservative and liberal sides, yet to paraphrase St Paul - " I am for Christ!". We need to strive for a unity in faith and live out what was best in both of these humble men who are now given as examples worthy of imitation to the christian faithful.

At the end of the day, God creates his saints, the church only recognises them! As someone who longs for a via media in the church where gregorian chant and roman gothic vestments are not seen as a stark other to the simplicity of folk masses and ceramic chalices but rather each has a place and where we have diversity in unity, I welcome the canonisation of both these men trusting in the Spirit that guides our church and pope in making this infallible decision. Once more the church is setting before us two examples of what it means to be church not an either/or situtation but rather that in this universal family of faith there is room for many. And so, when the offical decree is read in St Peter's Square and Pope Francis gives his official assent, I will join with the Church Universal in singing a Te Deum!

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