Sense of Life. Articles in English. SS John Paul II and John XXIII.
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SS John Paul II and John XXIII

On 27 April 2014, on the Sunday of Divine Mercy, in St Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors: Popes John XIII and John Paul II.

SS John Paul II and John XXIII

To witness this exceptional event, huge crowds of believers came to Rome from all corners of the world. Those who could not find enough space in St Peter’s square or on the streets leading to it followed the canonisation on seventeen large outdoor screens put up in various locations around Rome. The Mass was concelebrated by the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, who on 1 May 2011 had beatified John Paul II, his predecessor in the See of St Peter and friend.

After the canonisation formula had been pronounced by Pope Francis, the relics of the new saint popes – John Paul II and John XXIII – were brought to the altar. The relics of St John Paul II were carried by Floribeth Mora Diaz, whose medically inexplicable healing was considered a miracle required for the canonisation of John Paul II, while the French nun Marie Simon-Pierre, whose miraculous healing from Parkinson’s disease helped beatify John Paul II, read out one of the intentions of the prayer of the faithful.

In his homily, Pope Francis emphasised that both saint popes had shown exceptional openness to the Holy Spirit and helped renew and update the Church: “John XXIII was the pope of openness to the Holy Spirit. John Paul II was the pope of the family.”

Miraculous healing through the intercession of St John Paul II

For the beatification and canonisation processes to be completed, a miracle needs to be accepted in each case by the Church authorities as having occurred through the intercession of the prospective saint. For the purposes of John Paul II’s canonisation, the healing of theCosta Rican lawyer Floribeth Mora Diaz, inexplicable in medical terms, was selected. She had been miraculously healed from a dangerous cerebral aneurysm through the intercession of John Paul II on the day of his beatification, 1 May 2011. On 8 April 2011, she began to suffer very strong headaches, and soon after she was paralysed. She could not walk and could barely use her hands.

“John XXIII was the pope of openness to the Holy Spirit. John Paul II was the pope of the family”

Medical examinations showed that in the middle cerebral artery of her brain, there was a large fusiform aneurysm, which usually causes the rapid death of an affected patient. To make matters worse, it was inoperable, because it was located in a part of the brain inaccessible to surgical instruments. Doctors were helpless. Mora Diaz was given only non-invasive and pain-killing drugs. A neurosurgeon, Alejandro Vargas Roman, told Mora Diaz’s family that they should prepare for her oncoming death.

“Saints do not demand applause from us, but want us to follow them”

Mora Diaz was worried about her children and asked God for help. In late April, she returned home. With each passing day, she was increasingly weak. She prayed to be healed through the intercession of John Paul II, a picture of whom she always kept by her bedside. During Pope John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Costa Rica in 1983, Mora and her husband erected an altar to him on the porch of their house.

On 1 May 2011, the family of Mora Diaz went to the stadium to watch the broadcast from the Vatican of the beatification of John Paul II. Mora was left at home alone. She woke in the middle of the night and watched the beatification Mass on television. When the broadcast was over, she immediately fell asleep. When she woke up in the morning, she heard a clear voice: “Rise!” She was surprised, because there was nobody else in her room. She looked at the picture of John Paul II and again heard clearly the words: “Rise, do not be afraid!” While she was looking at the picture of the Holy Father with his hands raised, it seemed to her that the hands were “coming out” from the picture. In amazement, she stared at the figure of John Paul II in the picture and after a while she replied:

“Yes, Lord.” She realised then that she had received the grace of healing. She rose and went to the kitchen unaided. There, she found her husband making breakfast for her and the children. When he saw her, he asked in surprise: “Darling, what are you doing here?” She answered that she had been healed and was all right. The detailed tests took doctors aback. The cerebral aneurysm had simply disappeared. After viewing the latest image of her brain, the neurosurgeon Alejandro Vargas Roman, who had consulted the case of Mora Diaz with other specialists and who had told her earlier that she had a month of life left, initially suspected that the test results had been confused. However, when he assured himself that Mora Diaz’s aneurysm had completely disappeared, he said in an interview: “I have found no scientific reason why the aneurysm disappeared. If this is a miracle, the voice in this matter belongs to the Church. I, as a Catholic, believe in it. The disappearance of so evident a new growth without any surgery or the insertion of a stent shows clearly that something divine has happened; something great has occurred, simply a miracle.” Before the miracle was finally accepted by the Vatican, Floribeth Mora Diaz had to undergo two weeks of examinations in the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome in October 2013. The examinations definitively confirmed her miraculous recovery.

“I am sure of it, that the greatest destroyer of peace in the world today is abortion” (St John Paul II)

Saints do not demand applause from us

On 28 April 2014, in a St Peter’s Square brimming over with pilgrims, during a thanksgiving Mass for the canonisation of John XXIII and John Paul II, Cardinal Angelo Comastri remembered the words of John Paul II: “Saints do not demand applause from us, but want us to follow them” and stressed that: “John Paul II had the courage to openly profess the faith in Jesus in the times of ‘silent apostasy’ on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist (Ecclesia in Europa, 9). […] John Paul II had the courage to defend the family, which is a divine plan clearly inscribed in the book of life: he defended the family when confusion and public aggression towards the family were ever more widespread in a mad attempt to write some ‘Anti-Genesis’, directed against the Creator.” In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, John Paul II wrote unequivocally: “At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family” (Familiaris consortio, 3).

In his book Memory and Identity, John Paul II pointed to the roots of contemporary aggression towards the family. He wrote: “Since man alone, without God, can determine what is good and what is evil, he may also decide that a certain group of people should be exterminated. […] Nor are other grave violations of God’s law lacking. I am thinking, for example, of the strong pressure from the European Parliament to recognise homosexual unions as an alternative type of family, with the right to adopt children. It is legitimate and even necessary to ask whether this is not the work of another ideology of evil, more subtle and hidden, perhaps, intent upon exploiting human rights themselves against man and against the family. Why does all this happen? What is the root of these post-Enlightenment ideologies? The answer is simple: it happens because of the rejection of God qua Creator, and consequently qua source determining what is good and what is evil. It happens because of the rejection of what ultimately constitutes us as human beings, that is, the notion of human nature as a ‘given reality’; its place has been taken by a ‘product of thought’ freely formed and freely changeable according to circumstances” (pp. 12–13).

The civilisation of death wants to destroy the purity of heart

“The culture of death wants to destroy purity of heart”, John Paul II warned, “One of its strategies is to deliberately create doubt about the value of the human attitude which we call the virtue of chastity. This is something particularly dangerous when the attack is aimed at the sensitive consciences of children and young people. A culture which in this way impairs or even destroys a correct relationship between individuals is a culture of death, for man cannot live without true love. […]

Guard your families against pornography, which nowadays under various forms affects people’s minds, especially those of children and young people. Defend the purity of morals in your homes and in society. Education in purity is one of the great challenges of the evangelisation now before us. The purer families are, the healthier the nation will be. And we want to remain a nation worthy of its name and its Christian vocation” (Sandomierz, June 12, 1999).

Saint John Paul II taught in his sermons that the human body with its sexuality is “the most original sacrament or the visible sign of the invisible mystery of love hidden in God, the mystery of the human spirit that shares in the truth, love and life of God himself. God has imprinted on the human body a calling to a complete and disinterested gift of oneself – to that kind of love with which he loves us and which exists in the interrelations between the three Divine Persons. Hence, through his sexuality, man ought to express the mystery of God’s disinterested love. In divine plans, sexual intercourse is to be a sacramental sign of love between the husband and wife; the love which has God himself as its source. Sexual intercourse should express a completely disinterested mutual spiritual and physical gift of spouses to each other and their becoming one body. It should represent their participation in the life and love of the Holy Trinity. God tells us, therefore, that sexual intercourse should take place only and exclusively within a sacramental marital union. Practised outside of it, sexual intercourse is a very grave trespass against the divine law of love. Adultery is one of the gravest sins destroying God’s plan and his laws, breaking the bonds of love that join man to God and other people.

A nation which kills its own children is a nation without a future

Rejecting the divine logic of love that involves the disinterested gift of oneself, instead concentrating on oneself, on experiencing one’s own pleasure, is brutal selfishness, the essence of the sin of adultery and other sins of unchastity committed consciously and voluntarily, such as premarital sex, homosexual practices, petting, masturbation, the use of contraceptives, watching pornography and various other forms of achieving sexual pleasure for its own sake. Through the sins of unchastity, man destroys love in himself, aggravates his selfishness and becomes addicted to sexual pleasures and enslaved to unclean spirits.

The measure of civilisation is its attitude to life

John Paul II employed incredible might and courage to make the modern world aware of the truth about the sanctity of human life. He stressed that abortion, euthanasia and other forms of killing were sins that cried out to God for vengeance. In the encyclical Evangelium vitae, he wrote that human life “belongs only to God: for this reason, whoever attacks human life in some way attacks God himself” (EV 9). In a homily delivered in Kalisz, John Paul II said: “‘The right to life is not a question of ideology, not only a religious right; it is a human right. The most fundamental human right! God says: “You shall not kill!” (Exod 20:13). This commandment is at one and the same time a basic principle and a norm of the moral code written in the conscience of every human being. The measure of civilisation, a universal and permanent measure which includes all cultures, is its relationship with life. A civilisation which rejected the defenceless would deserve to be called a barbarian civilisation, even though it had great successes in the field of economics, technology, art and science. […] I have said often, and I am sure of it, that the greatest destroyer of peace in the world today is abortion. If a mother can kill her own child, what is there to stop you and me from killing each other? The only one who has the right to take life is the One who has created it. Nobody else has that right: not the mother, not the father, not the doctor; no agency, no conference, no government … It frightens me to think of all the people who kill their conscience so that they can perform an abortion. When we die, we will come face to face with God, the Author of life. Who will give an account to God for the millions and millions of babies who were not allowed to have the chance to live, to love and be loved? […] The child is the most beautiful gift of God to a family, to a nation. Let us never refuse this gift of God”. This long quote is taken fromMother Teresa of Calcutta. I am glad that Mother Teresa was able to speak in Kalisz] […] From this place, I repeat once more what I said in October last year: ‘A nation which kills its own children is a nation without a future’” (Homily of John Paul II at the Shrine of Saint Joseph, Kalisz, 4 June 1997).

During the thanksgiving Mass for the canonisation, Cardinal Comastri remembered John Paul II’s shocking outburst in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento: “God said once: you shall not kill. No man, whoever he is, nor any human organisation […] can change or trample on this most holy law of God! […] What we need is a culture of life! In the name of Christ crucified and resurrected (and with his eyes he gestured to the crucifix he was holding), in the name of Christ who is Life, who is the Way, Truth and Life, I appeal to the responsible: reform! One day, God will sit in judgment!”

Look how great priesthood is! Do not destroy it!

In his homily on 28 April 2014, Cardinal Angelo Comastri said: “during the difficult vocation crisis in the priesthood, John Paul II had the courage to show the world his joy at being a priest, his joy at belonging to Christ and devoting himself entirely to the cause of his kingdom.” One day, an ex-priest who had reduced himself to living the life of a homeless person came to a papal audience in the Clementine Hall in the company of a priest friend. The pope had been informed about this and said he wanted to meet the former priest when the audience was over. What happened then? The pope knelt down and asked the man to hear his confession, in order to stir the awareness of the greatness of priesthood in his heart. Greeting him, he said: “Look how great priesthood is! Do not destroy it!” Words and gestures worthy of a saint. Finally, John Paul II had the courage to stand up to the cooling of Marian devotion, characteristic of the period following the Second Vatican Council. With determination and conviction, he proposed a renewal of Marian devotion as being inseparable from the Gospel, the work of salvation as performed by God in Jesus Christ: “On 13 May 1981, one hand held a gun, but another guided the bullet … I felt the incredible motherly care and protection that have proven mightier than the lethal bullet.” And on 24 February 2005,after a tracheotomy, which had taken his voice away, he wrote on a piece of paper: “What have you done to me?! But ‘Totus Tuus’,”Until the very end, John Paul II let himself be guided by the Virgin Mary along the path of faith, trust and a complete gift of himself. He was a saint! Saint John Paul II, pray for the Church that you loved so much and bravely propelled along the path of heroic faithfulness to Jesus.

Be not afraid to accept Christ

Witnessing the example of the life of St John Paul II, we become aware that every man is called to the community of life with God; what is more – to partake in the nature of God himself (cf. 2 Pet 1:4). Therefore, no one will attain the fullness of humanity if he does not unite with Christ and let himself be wrapped in his merciful love, which takes away all sins, breaks all bonds of evil, heals the most painful wounds and makes saints out of the worst sinners. A fascination with the sainthood of John Paul II ought to make us aware that Christ calls to sainthood also you and me, every sinful man without exception, and gives us all we need to become saints or fully happy. All he expects from us is our consent and collaboration. The sainthood and deification of man is the work of God, but it cannot be completed without the collaboration of man. Since his canonisation, St John Paul II has been appealing to all of us with even greater strength than he did during his earthly life. He calls to us through his spiritual legacy: be not afraid to open the door to your hearts to Christ! Be not afraid to give yourself up to the Virgin Mary as her exclusive property and keep telling her: Totus Tuus – All Yours, in order to learn from her how to be entirely devoted to Christ and have heroic faith to believe as she believed in hope against human hope; be not afraid to follow the road to sainthood: be not afraid to tell Christ every day “I wish to become a saint – one like you, Lord, want me to become”; be not afraid to follow Christ every day on the road of the Commandments and Gospel, the road of faith which acts through love; be not afraid to have complete trust in Christ, who loved us to the very end, taking our sins upon himself to cleanse us of them through his death and resurrection; be not afraid to confess your sins to Christ in the sacrament of penance and to trust his infinite mercy If you want to begin the incredible adventure that is following the road to sainthood, first go to confession and confess all your sins, then, and after receiving Holy Communion, tell Jesus that you want to walk through life with him, so that he can teach you how to love, free you from selfishness, heal you, transform you and make you holy. As John Paul II continued to do from childhood, entrust yourself completely to Jesus through the Virgin Mary. Entrust all your past, present and future, all that you are and that you have. In your daily prayer, repeat frequently: “Totus Tuus” (All Yours). Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). You must meet Him and come to love Him. This may come about through daily persistent prayer and in particular the Eucharist. Plan your daily schedule so that regular prayer comes first. Pray daily on the rosary, say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and read the Bible. Make the effort to attend Mass as often as you can, accepting Jesus into your heart, feeding on his body and fortifying yourself with his presence. He will fill you with his sanctity and his life, will show you the way and reveal to you the truth about his will, which is sometimes hard to accept but leads to the fullness of life. And now open yourself to the gifts of the Holy Spirit by saying the prayer which St John Paul II said every day since his childhood and which his father had taught him:

Holy Spirit, I ask you for the gift of wisdom for a better understanding of you and your divine perfections; for the gift of reason for a better understanding of the spirit of the mysteries of holy faith; for the gift of knowledge so that I can follow the principles of faith in my life; for the gift of counsel so that I will seek counsel with you in all matters and always find it with you; for the gift of piety so that I will always serve your majesty with filial love; for the gift of the fear of God, so that I will fear the sin which offends you, Oh Lord. Amen.


The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in September 2020.

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