Reflections on the New Saints




Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was known as, “The Good Pope.” Born into a poor farming family, Pope John embraced his humanity with simplicity and humor and his Mission with a compassionate heart.

My first memory of Pope John is of my mother’s sadness when he died because of her affection for him as a real “people’s Pope.” She told me the story of the Pope’s first press conference and his quip as the paparazzi frantically photographed, “The Lord knew more than 76 years ago that I would be Pope. Could he not have made me a little more p hotogenic?”

Pope John convened the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965) and helped shape the direction of the synods. Vatican II shared Pope John’s spirit of aggiornamento , meaning rejuvenation. While preserving the Tradition and dogmas of the church, the C ouncil: expressed the Gospel truth in ways that embraced the role of the laity, secular culture and the world, moved to express diverse beauty in the liturgy and worked for a more pastoral approach within the church, with people of other faiths and to all people of goodwill. Pope John was clear about our mission as God’s people in the church, “We are not on earth to guard a museum but to tend a blooming garden full of life.”

I was only six years old when Pope John died, yet his life’s work laid the founda tion for my ministry in the priesthood. The essential focus of our Christian life, according to Pope John, is that, “Goodness is what must be proclaimed to the world.”

Pope John offers in his personal journal an example of an honest approach to God and p rayer. Some of my favorite quotes of his are the following:

  • “Concerning my prayer, it is humiliating to see what little progress I have made, but I am dedicated to keep trying and to grow in union with God.”
  • “Prayer is the raising of the mind to God. We m ust always remember this. The actual words we say don’t matter so much.”
  • “I want to continue believing in this presence of God. The one who strengthens, cheers and encourages me at all times.”

In the final moments of his life, surrounded by family and cow orkers Pope John summed up the “secret” of his ministry in this way. Pointing to the crucifix he said, “Look at it, see it as I see it. Those open arms have been the programme of my pontificate: they say that Christ died for all, for all. No one is exclude d from his love, from his forgiveness.” (Peter Hebbelwaite, John XXIII: Hope for the Century, 1995.)


Meditate before a crucifix. What part of yourself or your life do you not embrace? How is Christ holding you and healing you? Who are you being asked to embrace? How is Christ giving you the strength and grace you need to reach out to others in service?

Pope John XXIII – Prayer for Peace

Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of peace,
who are yourself our peace and reconciliation,
who so often said, “Peace to you,” grant us peace.

Make all men and women witnesses of
truth, justice and love.
Banish from their hearts
whatever might endanger peace.
Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee and defend the
great gift of peace.
May longed – for peace blossom forth and
reign always over us all. Amen.


On October 16, 1978, after the 33 day Papacy of John Paul I, Karol Wojtyla, Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, was elected to be the next Pope. On October 22, 1978 he was installed as the 264th Successor of St. Peter, the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. He chose the name of John Paul II after his predecessor, who chose two names in honor of his two predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. Shortly after I was born, John Paul II was in the United States. This was his fourth international trip in one year. He was the most traveled Pope in history, making 104 foreign trips, more than all of his predecessors combined. John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, two months before I entered the seminary. He was the Pope for my entire lifetime. I am truly what they call a John Paul II vocation.

I would like to offer a brief personal reflection on this man who this weekend has been canonized a saint. We all know a lo t about this man. He was a gifted speaker (of many languages), writer, poet, athlete, philosopher, theologian, and he had the unique ability to reach out and touch (evangelize) people of all ages, especially the youth. It was he who began World Youth Day. All of these traits are very admirable, but what I admire most about him was his simple holiness and his making holiness a real possibility for all people.

On his 50th anniversary of the Priesthood he spoke and wrote about how his vocation was a gif t and mystery. It was a gift from God and a mystery because God called him as a priest to do incredible things, difficult things, necessary things, mysterious things. God “gifts” us with our own unique vocations. He gives us the grace and strength that we need to live out that vocation. Our relationship with God is a mystery because we never know where he is going to ask us to go. John Paul II certainly didn’t know where his vocation would lead him, but he trusted in Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, and in the Blessed Mother. When his mother died as a young man he went to the church and asked Mary to become his mother. He entrusted himself to her… totus tuus. He lived his life this way, entrusting all to Jesus through Mary. He invited others, es pecially the young, to do the same. I believe that is why he had such an impact on young people and vocations.

Holiness and sainthood is a possibility for everyone. He canonized a record number of saints. They include priests, religious, married peo ple, and single people. Some criticized him for this, but I think that it shows that each of us are called to holiness as Vatican II reminds us (Lumen Gentium). All things are possible with God. Do not be afraid. The message that I heard from John Pau l II and I share with you is this: keep your eyes fixed on Jesus with the help of Mary and you can accomplish great things. Saint John Paul II…pray for us.

Totally yours,
Immaculate Conception, Mary my Mother,
Live in me, Act in me,
Speak in me a nd through me,
Think your thoughts in my mind,
Love through my heart,
Give me your dispositions and feelings,
Teach, lead me and guide me to Jesus,
Correct, enlighten and expand my thoughts and behavior,
Possess my soul,
Take over my entire personality and life,
replace it with Yourself,
Incline me to constant adoration,
Pray in me and through me,
Let me live in you and keep me in this union always.