The next saints
Four days ago, at the central station of Milan, north of Italy.
– Where are you going?
+ I’m going to Rome.
– Rome? The trains to Rome these days are packed with travelers. It seems there will be some event there right?
+ Yes, a unique event in history. How about you?
– I’m going to Paris, a city of my dream since I was a little pupil in the primary school.
+ I went there last year. Beautiful and romantic with Eiffel Tower, Montmartre Hill and the Seine! It is an ideal place for tourism.
– What is the event in Rome please?
+ It is the canonization for the two well loved and admired popes: John XXIII and John Paul II.
– Oh, canonization? I was baptized when I was little but I haven’t practiced my faith, so I don’t understand its meaning. But I heard some friends saying that canonizing someone is making a human a god and therefore it is an insult to God.
+ Oh, perhaps there is a misunderstanding between the term “canonization” and the term “idolization”.
– What do you mean?
+ Very simple! Canonizing is acknowledging that the grace of God working in a human person, with the free will and free cooperation of that person, has reached a wonderful level. That person is honored as a lively testimony for the community of faith in terms of living his or her vocation as a faithful and holy disciple of Jesus. The canonized person could be compared with a finger which points to The Sun that is God so that God will be more praised, worshipped and glorified. On the contrary, idolizing a human person is making that person the center or the object of worship.
– Oh there is such a big difference! Thanks!
The two passengers met each other by chance. They only had a quick conversation and said goodbye.
Today, the second Sunday of Easter, the Sunday of the Divine Mercy, a day of canonization.
The morning in Rome has neither rain nor sun. Someone says the sky today is not ideally clear, but actually it is just perfect for millions of people gathered here to take part in the canonization Mass. The streets are overcrowded with people. Since yesterday, they have come here to pray and sing. Many have camped on the streets and pavements to have some rest before the ceremony. Such a lively, sacred and intimate atmosphere created by the people of God coming from many countries of different languages and cultures! In that united crowd, perhaps some have not known who Jesus truly is, perhaps some have never heard of him, perhaps some are rediscovering their faith and joy to be part of this living body. Hopefully none is feeling lost or disappointed.
The ceremony and Mass begin. Millions of hearts present here in Rome are joined by billions of hearts all over the world in the celebration of this joyful event. Faith and love mingle to create tears of happiness and gratitude. Deeply moved, Pope Francis proclaims that Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II are saints, for the benefit of the Church on earth. But who are these two Popes?
John XXIII was a loving person. From his youth he had shown great compassion for the suffering, especially prisoners. John was a man of listening and respectful dialogue. Many times he was a bridge for dialogue and reconciliation between religious groups, helping eliminate gaps due to differences. John was also a good shepherd in the footstep of The Good Shepherd Jesus. Many broken hearts were touched and healed by his fatherly heart. Furthermore, John was a person of peace. He not only loved peace but also helped keep peace for the world. At that period there was a pending war between the USA and Russia-Cuba. On October 25, 1962, thanks to his message asking the leaders of the world to “stop pretending to be deaf to the cry of humanity”, this dangerous war was avoided. Especially, John XIII was excellently sensitive to the needs of the contemporary world. As a result, he summoned the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) so that the Church could serve humanity the best.
John Paul II was a person of compassion. Growing up in wars and persecutions by the Nazis and the atheist regime in Poland, he understood what difficulty, suffering and danger meant. When elected to the mission of being the successor of Saint Peter, he unceasingly reached out to brothers and sisters everywhere in the world to bring them the Good News, to heal them from fears, to teach them the truth of faith that is able to liberate them from the culture of violence and death, and to reconcile conflicts in the human family. The world does not forget the day when John Paul II was shot by a professional gunman Mehmet Ali Agca (May 13, 1981) in Saint Peter’s square. He believed that Mother Mary had saved his life (May 13, 1917 was the day Mary appeared at Fatima for the first time). The world remembers the moment he asked people to pray for “my brother Agca”. And, the world will never forget the day John Paul II came to the prison to visit his assassin, forgave him although Agca did not ask for forgiveness, and requested that the Italian government release him. The Pope had followed the teaching of Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44) The health problems he suffered for many years later were a direct consequence of that assassination. When he died in 2005, Agca cried for him.
Lunch time at a pizzeria on Borgo Sant’Angelo near Saint Peter’s.
+ Hi, we met in Milan a few days ago, right?
– Yes. Wow, the globe is really round huh!
+ Aha, but I thought you were going to Paris.
– I decided to change my plan and bought a ticket to Rome in order to know the ceremony today. And I made a good decision!
+ Oh, I see. What do you think about it?
– I was moved.
The conversation between the two passengers continues in the delicious smell of their pizzas.
– I have a kind of silly question to ask you since I don’t know much.
+ Sure, no problem, please feel free.
– OK. Today we have two popes canonized as saints. I’m already married and our lifestyle is different from theirs. Are there any saints that can be a good example for husbands and wives to imitate?
+ Hmm… I’ve never thought of this. I know there are many canonized bishops, priests and religious, but I haven’t heard about particular saints for the life of husbands and wives. However, these two newly canonized saints showed their great care for the family life of the faithful.
– That’s true. I observed that many people clapped their hands when Pope Francis preached that John Paul II was a pope of families. It was great! However, they still led a religious lifestyle which is quite different from that of the marriage life.
+ Yes, I hope there are saints for husbands and wives but perhaps they are rare.
– The rarer – the more precious, right?
+ Ha ha ha…
– I’m sorry that your pizza got cold now.
+ No problem at all! On the contrary, I need to thank you for your question so I can update myself.
– Who are the next saints?
+ Oh this is unpredictable. It needs someone who is courageous enough to live for the will of God.
– I hope that the next saints will be those who live the family lifestyle so as to set good examples for husbands and wives because families of today have a lot of serious crises.
+ Yeah, you are reasonable. The world is in great need of them. But who will become such saints?
– Why not us, right?
The other friend smiles lightly, nodding his head, eating the last piece of his pizza, reflecting…
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.