The new Saints… and the real ones


Two recent Popes were officially declared as Saints on April 27. Here is the flier which we Catholics could pick up yesterday at Mass, probably at all churches: Sts Jn XXIII and JP II001.

They’re very different folks, these two new Saints. John XXIII would be my fave by far. He became Pope five months after I started college, and gave meaning to the word “ecumenical”. Back in those good old days of the 1940s and 1950s, being Christian didn’t mean getting along in any sense of the word. Denominations emphasized the differences, and did things to ensure that their young uns had little to do with each other. Until mobility started mixing nationalities, even Catholic Churches (and others, too) were largely ethnic: Norwegian Lutheran; French-Canadian Catholic, etc. Times have changed, thank goodness. Things aren’t perfect by any means, but better, in my opinion.

I got closest, physically at least, to John Paul II. In the fall of 1998 I was in Rome, and managed to get a place next to the Pope’s route through St. Peter’s Square and got a closeup view of this increasingly infirm man. Two years later, late in the evening of early May 2000, enroute to Krakow Poland with a group of Catholics and Jews on pilgrimage to holocaust sites, soon to include Auschwitz-Birkenau (at Oswiecim), I convinced the tour leaders to have the bus go through Wadowice, Poland, to the very near proximity of the place where John Paul II grew up.

We didn’t stop, of course, it was late at night. Later I was to learn that Oswiecim (Auschwitz) and Wadowice (John Paul II’s home) are only 20 or so road miles apart, with Auschwitz actually a few miles closer to Wadowice. Of course, the Polish Jews were essentially obliterated by WWII; Polish Catholics were also killed by the millions. And after the war, Poland became a satellite Communist state of the Soviet Union.

One can understand how JPII’s attitudes developed (and were, in my opinion, manipulated) by the anti-Communist forces. He was never viewed as a particular friend of Liberation Theology in the Global South, for instance; and his ultimate successor, Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, was even less so. As I say, “Communism” was a useful word….

But that’s a debate for someone else, some other time.

There are two new official Saints in the Catholic Church, both with their fan clubs.

Another publication caught my eye at Basilica yesterday.

It was the usual weekly newsletter and the cover story, by Janice Andersen, Social Justice coordinator, bears reading. Jackie under the bridge001.

We lose something in the adulation of certain individuals who are set apart to symbolize something or other, as is the case with the two Popes who were just canonized.

In small and large ways, every day, everywhere on earth, there are endless examples of ordinary people, Christian or not, doing extraordinary things, and thinking nothing at all about it. It is just who they are.

My guess is that most all of us once in awhile are in this category of “saint”. There are no books of miracles attributed to us; that’s not the point.

We put one foot in front of the other and do our best.

That’s sainthood to me.