Canonisation of 2 Popes: John Paul II and John XXIII

07/05/2014

Catholic Outlook May 2014: Canonisation of 2 Popes
I was able to visit and pray at the tombs of St John XXIII and St John Paul II. I prayed for you and your intentions.

Originally published in Catholic Outlook May 2014

A historic event in the life of the Church took place on Sunday 27 April 2014 in Rome when Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were canonised. Half a million people attended the ceremony in St Peter's Square. Pope Francis presided at the Mass, which was concelebrated by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and hundreds of cardinals and bishops, including Bishop Anthony Fisher OP. In the lead-up to the canonisation, a blog by Bishop Anthony provided the faithful in the Diocese of Parramatta and beyond with a first-hand account of this momentous event:

Wednesday 23 April

Catholic Outlook May 2014: Canonisation of 2 Popes
Pope John Paul II twice visited Australia and established the Diocese of Parramatta.

Arrived in Rome and the city is buzzing with excitement.

Pope John Paul II established the Diocese of Parramatta in 1986 and visited it a few months later.

I was a novice then and saw him at a meeting with religious at the Opera House.

Now the pope who twice visited Australia will be proclaimed a saint.

John Paul the Great pray for us! Good Pope John pray for us!

Thursday 24 April

On Sunday I will concelebrate with Pope Francis, Emeritus Pope Benedict and hundreds of bishops at the canonisation Mass.

Millions of faithful are expected in Rome or will be joining by TV or online.

John XXIII was pope when I was born and baptised. I grew up in the Church post Vatican II – not the ‘post Vatican II Church’, for there's only one Church pre and post every Council.

Catholic Outlook May 2014: Canonisation of 2 Popes
Good Pope John was an inspiration for my parents' generation and is still much loved.

Pope John only glimpsed the many developments then coming for Church and society but with great confidence entrusted all to the Holy Spirit.

Good Pope John was an inspiration for my parents' generation and is still much loved amongst the faithful.

Good Pope John, pray for us!

John Paul II was pope when I entered religious life and priesthood, and I had the privilege of establishing the Melbourne campus of his Institute for Marriage and Family.

I met him many times, at meetings of the JP2 Institute or Pontifical Academy for Life.

I remember his clear sense of purpose, intellectual brilliance and teasing sense of humour in those meetings.

He appointed me bishop in 2003 and I met him a few more times before he died.

‘John Paul the Great’ was an inspiration for my generation and with John XXIII set the course of the Church for this new century. John Paul the Great, pray for us!

Catholic Outlook May 2014: Canonisation of 2 Popes
I met Pope John Paul II many times, at meetings of the JP2 Institute or Pontifical Academy for Life.

Friday 25 April

Two popes will be raised to the altars as saints in Easter week. They teach us many things about how to get ready for our own Eastering, when we too will be glorified with Christ.

John XXIII and John Paul II say this above all to us: worship God as your Father, talk to Jesus as your brother, call upon the Spirit as your inspiration. In other words: pray, pray, pray.

When John Paul returned home after one of his arduous international journeys his minders took him straight to his bedroom to rest. Next morning they found his bed untouched: he had spent the whole night on his knees in prayer.

As Parkinson’s disease confined him to his bed when minders could not, he asked that the Blessed Sacrament be kept in his room so he could be close to his Beloved

Habitual, dedicated prayer is the secret to our Eastering and joining the new pope-saints in heaven.

Saturday 26 April

How are we to understand the relationship between the four popes – the two new saints and the two living popes who canonise them?

Four men in dazzling white gather around the altar, two on one side still labouring with Church Militant on earth, and two others now “raised to the altars” and interceding with Church Triumphant in heaven.

According to the Book of Revelation, there are four dazzling creatures surrounding the throne of God, ceaselessly singing the Sanctus and Alleluia (Rev 4:6-9; 5:6-6:1; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4).

Our Catholic tradition knows them to be the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In traditional iconography they are represented by an angel, a lion, an ox and an eagle.

I want to suggest that our four popes are modern icons of those four evangelists around the heavenly altar …

Matthew: The climax of Christ’s teaching in Matthew’s Gospel is ch 25, where He teaches that whatever we do for those who are hungry, imprisoned or least in this world, we do for Christ. This text clearly inspires Pope Francis’ pontificate.

It was, in fact, on St Matthew’s Feast in 1953 that 17-year-old Jorge Bergoglio had a profound experience of God’s mercy; like Matthew the tax collector, he knew he was called and immediately made Confession and sought entry to the Jesuits. His motto is from St Bede’s Homily on the Call of Matthew in the Divine Office for the Feast.

Mark: The winged lion is the symbol of St Mark and of the City of Venice where he is buried. Angelo Roncalli was Patriarch of Venice before he was pope and he included a winged lion in his papal coat of arms.

Mark’s Gospel, like John’s pontificate, was short and sweet, yet it profoundly influenced subsequent Gospels just as John’s short pontificate inspired subsequent popes.

Remembered for his wonderful speeches and affable personality, Good Pope John used to sneak out of the Vatican at night to meet ordinary people on the streets of Rome: that got him the nickname ‘Johnnie Walker’!

Luke: St Luke is represented in iconography as an ox and John Paul was a great ox of a man. Luke wrote the longest Gospel by far and John Paul wrote more than any pope in history.

St Luke was particularly devoted to Our Lady as teller of her stories and painter of her image, and John Paul also had her front and centre – after her Son – in his preaching.

Of course, all the popes love Mary, but John Paul put a big M-for-Mary at the centre of his papal arms, made her Totus Tuus in his motto and was convinced her intercession saved him from assassination. A modern St Luke.

John: Finally, we come to John Paul’s great collaborator in proclaiming the truth, Benedict XVI, who like St John wrote wonderfully about the love of God and celebrated the light, glory or beauty of Christ. His motto ‘Cooperatores veritatis’ – collaborators in the truth – is from 3Jn 8. He is a worthy living icon of John the divine.

Four popes for four evangelists; four new evangelists of our age. Which invites questions:

  • Who are my role models?
  • Do I take my lead from stars of sport, music, fashion or movies, or do I set the bar a little higher?
  • Who inspires me enough to pattern my life after him or her?
  • And do I tell the Good News of Jesus Christ by my words and deeds, becoming a role model for others and a living Gospel?

Read Bishop Anthony’s blog 


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