On Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church celebrated the canonization of two new saints, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Towards the end of week, pilgrims from all over the world began arriving in Rome. By Saturday afternoon, St. Peter’s and the surrounding area were already filled with thousands of people camping out for Mass the next morning. Throughout the city, many of the churches hosted Eucharistic Adoration and prayer vigils in anticipation of the canonization. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to some of these vigils and be present for the Celebration in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday morning.
My initial intentions for going to the Canonization and my partaking in the events leading up to it were actually quite shallow. I saw it as something to check off the “bucket list”. While it’s certainly not bad to have something like this on your bucket list, God had much greater plans for me. At midnight, I walked over to St. Peter’s to get in line with the rest of the pilgrims and was met with people from all walks of life and from all over the world. There were elderly people, infants, priests, police officers, and people waving flags from countries that I had never even heard of! Despite the lack of sleep, the enthusiasm and excitement were ever present.
In preparation for the Mass, several volunteers distributed booklets containing biographies of the two saints. I was struck by how God worked through these two strikingly different men in such incredible ways. Although they grew up in different countries, had distinct personalities, and served the Church at separate times, they both entrusted themselves to God, and in turn, He did great things through them.
The Holy Cross Constitutions remind the faithful that, “Our mission is the Lord’s and so is the strength for it” (2:20). John XXIII and John Paul II, despite their frailty, recognized God’s universal call to mission, and relied on His strength to carry it out. Their examples have, and continue to shape the lives of the faithful. Through them, God performed miracles, prompted them to put forth new writings, and allowed them to respond to the needs of the Church during their respective times.
So, while the Church certainly gathered to celebrate the lives of these two men, it was much more than that! It was a reminder that all people are called to embrace God’s call, and then rely on His strength to live it out. The Church’s two newest declared saints responded to this call, and we are blessed with two more beautiful examples of what this response actually looks like. May we follow in their footsteps, allowing God to use our strengths and weaknesses, so as to grow in holiness and lead others to Him.
St. John and St. John Paul, pray for us!
Mr. Charlie Skinner is in his third year at Old College Undergraduate Seminary on the campus of Notre Dame. He and his fellow Old Collegians write post each month for this blog, sharing thoughts on their life and formation in Old College. Charlie studies political science at the University of Notre Dame, but is currently studying for a semester in Rome. Read more about life in Old College, and meet the current Old Collegians who are in formation for priesthood and religious life in Holy Cross.