On Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will canonize two former popes, John XXIII and John Paul II. Each became holy by cooperating with God’s grace. Canonization affirms their holiness and lets Catholics know that both are with God in heaven, and that we may venerate them and emulate their spirituality.
Both popes made a great impact on Catholics during their papal ministries. Pope John Paul II gave us Divine Mercy Sunday, the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, and World Youth Days. He also canonized more than 100 saints. Pope John XXIII wrote the influential encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) about Catholic social teaching on war and peace. He is best remembered for planning and convening the Second Vatican Council, the most significant religious event since the Protestant Revolution of the 1500s.
We are more familiar with John Paul II than with John XXIII, because the former’s papacy lasted just over a quarter century in a time of instant communication and Internet access to papal documents and news. Pope John XXII, however, had a short papacy of only five years in a time when communication was not so speedy. Yet, all of us, whether we realize it or not, have been influenced by what this pope left as his legacy; namely, the Post-Conciliar Church.
If you would like to know more about Pope John XXIII, especially his spirituality, I can recommend the following two books: 1) Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII, a compendium of his diary entries from his seminary days to his years as pope, 2) John XXIII: Pope of the Century by Peter Hebblethwaite, an overview of the pope and his influence on the Church and the world.
Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, pray for us!