My wife, Pat, and I were recently in Rome to attend the Canonizations of Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII. This trip was also a Pilgrimage to expand and enrich our Catholic faith by visiting historical sites and viewing relics, paintings and mosaics that tell parts of the Church’s amazing history. It was made even more meaningful because each of these Saints lived in our lifetime.
Many of you will recall Pope John Paul II visiting San Antonio, Texas in 1987. It was my great pleasure to provide the land where the altar for the Mass was located. The following day we were in San Francisco, California, with the Supreme Knight and Supreme Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus to present the Vicarious Christi check of $1,000,000 to the Holy Father and have a personal visit with Pope John Paul II. It seemed only fitting to be present when this incredibly talented human being was made a saint.
Saint John Paul II dedicated his Papacy to Jesus Christ through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Pat and I have committed ourselves to helping make John Paul II’s vision come to reality through the work and mission of The John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic we founded in Austin, Texas, which serves women of all faiths with women’s healthcare, fully consistent with Catholic teaching, crisis pregnancy care using state-of-the-art sonogram machines (acquired with the assistance of the Knights of Columbus) ,and education on chastity and natural family planning (NFP).
We prayed at the Canonizations for the new Saints and for the Catholic Church with the hope that people will open their hearts and minds to learn and follow the Truths of the Catholic faith.
After arriving in Rome and getting checked in to our hotel, we attended Mass at St. Joaquin Church which displays several of Pope John Paul II’s favorite icons, including a mosaic of the Black Madonna, greatly loved by the Polish people. John Paul II had a deep personal devotion to Mary and we saw a number of her images in the various Basilicas and Churches in Rome.
It was up very early to get to St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ regular Wednesday audience where the Pope extends his Apostolic Blessing to the pilgrims from all over the world. We had bought and brought with us religious articles, which the Pope blessed. Pope Francis came to within 10 feet of where we were standing.
Father Rocky Hoffman, President of Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network that aims to bridge the gap between our faith and modern society, viewed the Papal audience with us. The pilgrims walked to many of the Holy sites including the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, where a picture of every Pope since St. Peter to Pope Francis can be seen.
The next day we attended Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica where the main celebrant was the Polish Archbishop. The Tomb of Saint John Paul II is inside St. Peter’s next to the famous Michelangelo sculpture, the Pieta. Pat and I laid beautiful yellow and white roses at his Tomb in thanksgiving for Saint John Paul II’s commitment to protecting the life and the dignity of each woman.
Pat and I got to take a few minutes two days before the Canonizations to stand in front of St. Peter’s, where large posters of Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII hung in preparation for the Canonizations.
The excitement was building each day until April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday, the day of the Canonizations.
We have never been in a crowd this big before. Up to two million people – 1,000 buses, 29 trains and 5 airplanes from Poland alone – there was great joy on people’s faces. However, I have to say it was scary being in the midst of so many people virtually unable to move forward or backward. It was quite an historic event; more than 500 years since a Pope had been made a saint. The first time two living Popes, the current Pope Francis was present and his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict, participated in a canonization.
For Pat and I, it was one of the most marvelous and memorable events during our lifetimes. I could not help but be struck by the contrast of this hopeful and loving event and what is going on in the world today, and particularly in the United States, as governments attempt to remove religion from people’s lives.
Today many people, including many who claim to be Catholic, shut their ears and encourage others to do likewise regarding the Truth of our Catholic faith. Let us consider the words from the Mass during the Canonizations, when it was said from the Bible, “The stone which has been rejected has become the cornerstone”.
Then in the second reading from the first letter of Peter, who, writing about salvation, said, “This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire….. You did not see Him, yet you love Him… and still without seeing Him…you believe.”
There is a battle raging inside the Catholic Church today – on one side you have the Truth reflected in the teachings of the Catholic Church and on the other side you have so called Catholics who wish to pick and choose what to believe of the Catholic Churches teachings which includes those who would rather be popular on earth than submit themselves to objective truth of Christ.
We are each challenged to be a voice for our Catholic faith. Let us all pray for more servants of Jesus Christ who will boldly speak out for the Truth. After all when we do speak boldly for the Truth, we do that not just for ourselves, but for all those to whom we are speaking.
May the abundantly talented life of Saint John Paul II be the shining example of service to others that each of us seeks to emulate.
Saint John Paul II Pray For Us . Saint John XXIII Pray For Us. Vivat Jesus!
Tim Von Dohlen, founder of The John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic, is reporting live from Rome for the Catholic Business Journal, as he and his wife, Pat, attend the cannonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.
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