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Be Not Afraid: The Memorial Feast of Blessed John Paul II Reignites the Cry of the Faithful, Santo Subito!
By Deacon Keith Fournier
October 22nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
There is no doubt that soon we will affirm what the multiplying miracles attributed to his continued intercession confirm and his extraordinary witness in life and death demonstrated, Blessed John Paul II is a Saint. Be Not Afraid!
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On October 22, 2012 the Catholic Church in the United States commemorates the first Memorial Feast of Blessed John Paul II. At the request of our Bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Pope Benedict XVI approved the insertion of the optional memorial of Blessed John Paul II in the liturgical calendar of the dioceses of the United States.
The priest presiding at Holy Mass prays during the Collect at our Liturgy, this prayer "O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind."
This date was chosen to memorialize Pope John Paul's inauguration as Pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter, on October 22, 1978. I vividly remember that day, when a young, vibrant Polish Pope stepped out on to the balcony in St. Peters Square and signaled his mission:
"Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development. Be not afraid!" That homily is included in the Office of Readings for this new memorail, in the Liturgy of the Hours, or breviary.
In announcing the decree establishing the Feast the Congregation proclaimed, "An exceptional character, recognized by the Catholic Church spread throughout the world, marks the beatification of Venerable John Paul II, of happy memory, which will take place May 1, 2011, in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, presided over by the Holy Father Benedict XVI. Given this extraordinariness, and following numerous requests regarding the cult of the new blessed, according to the places and forms established by law, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments is communicating in a timely manner what has been decided in this respect."
Along with Bishops conferences throughout the world, the Bishops of the United States sought approval to celebrate this Feast and it was granted. That request clearly reflected the sense of the faithful throughout the whole world.
Blessed John Paul's magisterium (teaching office) set a framework for what has become under his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, a new missionary age of the Catholic Church throughout the entire world. His teaching is helping to bring about an authentic renewal of the whole Catholic Church as it continues to be properly interpreted in the hermeneutic of continuity under the wonderful leadership of his friend and successor Pope Benedict XVI and worked as leaven into the life, ministry and work of the Church in the Third Millennium.
I was privileged to assist in writing a tribute to this marvelous Pope who took the names of his predecessors, to show his own commitment to such continuity. It is offered here on Catholic Online. From the moment he stepped out on that balcony, he demonstrated a courageous and heroic faith which did not fear the world but entered into it to continue the loving work of the Savior who came to redeem and transform it from within.
Blessed John Paul II reasserted the Catholic vision that part of the vital mission of the Church is to engage and transform all of human culture, including the arts, politics, the academy, and economic and political realm - because no area of human experience is off-limits to the influence of the Gospel and the Church.
Blessed John Paul II called all men and women to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He reminded us all that only in Jesus Christ can we discover the purpose and fulfillment of human life. He proclaimed that human existence itself is an invitation to communion with God and with one another.
He told an age bent of "self fulfillment" that true human fulfillment only comes from giving ourselves in love to God and to one another. He called us to live a unity of life, wherein the implications of the Christian faith inform the entirety of life with no contradiction or separation.
He confronted, exposed and opposed the "culture of death", wherein the human person is treated as an instrument to be used rather than an unrepeatable gift to be received. He proposed a different way, building a new "culture of life" where every human person, at every age and stage, is recognized as having an inviolable dignity and right to life, freedom and love.
He charted a path to peace and solidarity, proclaiming to all the nations that we are all our brothers' keeper and that we owe an obligation in solidarity to one another and, most especially, to the poor in all of their manifestations. He wrote of authentic freedom as a freedom "for" and not just a freedom "from", a freedom that must be bounded by truth and lived in accordance with the moral understanding of our obligation to do what is right.
He also exposed what he called in his monumental Encyclical, The Gospel of Life a "counterfeit notion of freedom" as a raw power over others. This is the root of the Culture of Death. And, as he so aptly proclaimed, procured abortion is its cutting edge.
He countered a false notion of the autonomy of the individual as the measure of a "freedom" to do whatever one wants by insisting that the path to human flourishing is communion and solidarity. He repeatedly reminded us that true freedom must be exercised with reference choosing what is true - and what is good - lest it become a counterfeit, an abuse of freedom, leading to the slavery of sin.
He proclaimed a new and true humanism, reaffirming that we were created in the Image of God and called to love as God loved. We are being re-created, in Jesus Christ. We LoveIncarante in Jesus Christ in whom the Father is revealed and man is revealed in his most high calling.
Entrusted for twenty six years with serving the Church and the world from the Chair of Peter, Blessed John Paul II was a prophetic Pope in both word and deed. From his first encyclical letter entitled "The Redeemer of Man" (Redemptor Hominis) to his last, the "Church of the Eucharist" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia) he proclaimed that the truth is, as he wrote in his profound Encyclical Letter on the Moral Life, a "Splendor". (Veritatis Splendor) In that letter on the Moral life, he laid the groundwork for what continues in a renewal of Moral Theology.
On April 2, 2005 at 9:37 p.m. this dearly beloved Pope, beloved by the Christian faithful, died in the Lord while the whole world watched, prayed and wept. Almost immediately upon his passing throngs of the faithful gathered in St Peters Square and began a chant which continues in the hearts of millions throughout the world "Santo Subito", Sainthood Now!
Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree recognizing the late Pope John Paul II's life of "heroic virtue" on December 19, 2009 and the late Pope was given the title of "Venerable." In April of 2009 Pope Benedict XVI, told Pilgrims gathered in Rome "With you, I pray for the gift of beatification". That prayer has now 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, 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 longed for this day. On April 3, 2011 at another Angelus, he told the faithful who gathered of his memories of the late John Paul II, "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."
The choice of the Feast of Divine Mercy, May 1, 2011 for the beatification was intentional. 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 noted, "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. Blessed John Paul II was 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.
He was raised to the Altar on the Feast of Divine Mercy and the faithful now call him "Blessed John Paul II." Today, we commemorate his heroic life and heroic virtue. Like the Master to whom he was so conformed, his life and death were like a grain of wheat which, having fallen to the ground, continues to bear a harvest.
The final step to his canonization is an attested second miracle. In an interview with the ZENIT news service last year, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator for the cause of the late Pope was asked whether other miracles were revealed during the process. He replied:
"There were so many graces and also alleged miracles. Some were examined more in-depth, because this is the practice. Before carrying out a study on a miracle, a prior study is done which in some way guarantees the process itself. In some cases we did further studies and the preliminary statements were good, but we did not continue to study them because the study on the miracle that had been chose was already under way."
He was asked a follow up question "Can you tell us in what countries these miracles happened?" Monsignor Oder replied "They were verified in France, in the United States, in Germany and in Italy." The postulator expressed what impressed him most about the inquiry into the life and ministry of the late Pope, "The aspect that amazed me, which also happens to be the most important aspect of his life, was the discovery that the source and origin of his extraordinary activity, of his generosity in acting, of the depth of his thought, was his relationship with Christ."
"What came to light was certainly a mystic. A mystic in the sense that he was a man who lived in the presence of God, who let himself be guided by the Holy Spirit, who was in constant dialogue with the Lord, who built his whole life around the question [asked to Peter]: "Do you love me?" His life was the answer to this essential question posed by the Lord. I think this aspect is the greatest treasure of the process."
There is no doubt that soon we will affirm what the multiplying miracles attributed to his continued intercession confirm and his extraordinary witness in life and death demonstrated, Blessed John Paul II is a Saint. Be Not Afraid: The Memorial Feast of Blessed John Paul II Celebrated in the United States of America Reignites the Cry of the Faithful, Santo Subito!
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