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Blessed John Paul II: All Eyes Look to Rome for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II
By Deacon Keith Fournier
May 1st, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Like all great Saints, John Paul was so configured to the Lord Jesus Christ that his life revealed Him to others. He had "put on Christ", (Rom. 13:14) as the Apostle Paul proclaimed and could claim those words written by the same apostle to the Galatians as his own "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20)
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - All eyes look to Rome today as millions of pilgrims, some on foot, many more in heart, gather for the Liturgy wherein their Champion, the Beloved and Venerable Pope John Paul II, will be raised to the altar by his friend and successor, Pope Benedict XVI. He will henceforth be known as "Blessed John Paul II. From the day when he passed to the Father and the crowds in Rome spontaneously shouted the prayer which has been raised to heaven ever since, Santo Subito, we have all longed for this day. We long for the one which is sure to follow, when the Church acknowledges that to which our faith already attests, John Paul II is a saint.
On April 2, 2005 at 9:37 p.m. Pope John Paul II died. In April of 2009 his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, told Pilgrims gathered in Rome "With you, I pray for the gift of beatification". That prayer has been answered. Friday, January 14, 2011 the Holy See released the "Decree for the Beatification of the Servant of God John Paul II". Sunday, January 16, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI, after praying the Angelus, announced "On 1 May I will have the joy of proclaiming the Venerable Pope John Paul II, my predecessor, as a blessed. The date chosen is very significant because it will, in fact, be the second Sunday of Easter which he himself dedicated to Divine Mercy and on the eve of which his earthly life came to an end. Those who knew him, those who respected and loved him cannot but share in the Church's joy at this event."
In the last ten centuries of Church history no Pope has beatified his predecessor. From the beginning of Pope Benedict's pontificate it has been clear that he has longed for this day. On April 3, 2011 at another Angelus, he told the faithful who had gathered "I remember him in prayer with affection as I think of you all. While we journey through Lent and prepare for the feast of Easter, we come with joy to the day when we will also venerate as a saint this great pope and witness of Christ, and rely even more on his intercession."
On April 9, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI attended a documentary film entitled "The Great Pope: Pilgrim in White", directed by the Polish director Jaropslaw Szmidt on the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. he noted, "This film ... sets out to faithfully render both the personality of the Pope and his tireless work throughout his long pontificate" and spoke of the "two pillars" of the life and ministry of his predecessor in office, "prayer and missionary zeal. John Paul II was a great scholar and great apostle of Christ. God chose him for the Chair of Peter and granted him long life in order that he might accompany the Church into the third millennium. By his example, he guided us all in this pilgrimage and continues to do so from above".
The choice of the Feast of Divine Mercy, May 1, 2011 for this beautification was intentionally chosen. Pope John Paul II had a deep devotion to his fellow Pole Sr. Faustina Kowalska and to the Divine Mercy devotion identified with her. In August 2002, in Lagiewniki, Poland where Sr. Faustina lived and died, John Paul II entrusted the entire world "to Divine Mercy, to the unlimited trust in God the Merciful." The Decree of Beatification notes, "Since the beginning of his pontificate, in 1978, John Paul II often spoke in his homilies of the mercy of God. This became the theme of his second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, in 1980. He was aware that modern culture and its language do not have a place for mercy, treating it as something strange; they try to inscribe everything in the categories of justice and law. But this does not suffice, for it is not what the reality of God is about."
There is no doubt that we had a saint in our midst. A man so filled with Jesus Christ that, like the Apostle Paul, he no longer lived but "Christ lived in him." (Galatians 2) The sentiment of the faithful expressed on the day on which his body was processed through the streets of Rome, "Santo Subito" has echoed as the Church has discerned the cause of his canonization. Now, he will is raised to the Altar on the Feast of Divine Mercy. We now call him "Blessed John Paul II." The final step to his canonization is an attested second miracle. Reports are that there many and I have no doubt. We will soon affirm what the multiplying miracles effected by his continued intercession confirm, John Paul II is a Saint.
Like millions, my life was forever changed by Blessed John Paul II. As a young man, it was his extraordinary writings which informed and re-formed my Catholic faith, life and mission. My sense of identification with him was much more than admiration for a Pope whose wisdom, wit, warmth and character won the heart of the world. It became - and remains - vocational. It led to my ordination to the Diaconate in Christ, graduate studies at the Institute which bears his name and my current work at the Doctoral level in his writings and their significant contribution to moral theology and theological anthropology.
His magisterium shapes the Third Millennium of the Church into which he led us - by the grace of God and through the intercession of Mary, to whom he devoted his service to the Lord and His Church. He openly attested in his prayer of consecration "totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt, accipio te in mea omnia" that he relied on her motherly care and he reminded us all continually that we can as well. I made that prayer my own many years ago. John Paul II claimed it was her motherly intercession which obtained for him the grace - on that day of her feast as the Lady of Fatima - to survive an assassin's bullet. I have no doubt.
Yet, his Marian piety revealed something even more profoundly important about him. Like all great Saints, John Paul was so configured to the Lord Jesus Christ that his life revealed Him to others. He had "put on Christ", (Rom. 13:14) as the Apostle Paul proclaimed and could claim those words written by the same apostle to the Galatians as his own "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20)
The highlight of my life was when my hand was embraced by this Saint on that crystal clear sunny day in Rome, and I encountered in those loving blue eyes the Jesus whom Pope John Paul II served. I would never be the same. In that encounter, a man who up till then had probably never been at a loss for words could not speak. I could only weep and fall to my knees. I knew then what the crowds will declare on May 1, 2011, this man was - and is - a Saint. He now calls us, through his life and death, to follow the same Way, the Way of the Redeemer whom he served with such beauty and devotion. Blessed John Paul II, Pray for Us.
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