Pope Benedict XVI has given us a wonderful early Christmas present in decrees moving a number of people along the path to canonization. Three of the many sites reporting were Whispers in the Loggia and Catholic Culture and Zenit.
“The Catholic Church believes not only that everyone is called to be holy, but that people who have lived lives of heroic sanctity should be publicly recognized.” That is how Fr. Wild, postulator of Servant of God Catherine Doherty’s cause, begins his explanation of Why Saints? Fr. Wild goes on to quote St. Gregory of Tours that writing about saints builds up the Church “but also excites the minds of listeners to emulate them.
Wikipedia has a concise explanation of the stages of canonization in the section Roman Catholic procedure since 1983, the four stages of which can be summarized as Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, then Saint.
Blessed Andre Bessette
With the liturgical season focusing on the Holy Family and birth of Jesus, it’s very apt that one decree was for Blessed Andre Bessette, who had a special devotion to St. Joseph. The site for his cause is here at the website of the beautiful St. Joseph Oratory in Montreal. The story of Blessed Andre’s, who is qualified for canonization in 2010, is a story of how prayer helps perservere through hardship and difficulty.
Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II
Much of the publicity of the decrees focus on the approval of miracles moving both Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II to the next stage of Venerable. The decree for Pope Pius XII was met with public controversy; the decree for Pope John Paul II with opposition from some Catholic circles.
Pope Pius XII
Here is his biography from the Jewish Virtual Library. A Sister Marcione starts his biography here. Unanimously elected pope on the eve of World War II, he is most remembered for his actions during that horrendous time. For the first 20 years after WWII, his actions were remembered in a positive light. That changed in the 1960s. This past February, Fr. Gumpel, the postulator of Pope Pius XII’s cause, described this anti-Catholic bias. Rabbi Dalin’s book The Myth of Hitler’s Pope refutes the charges of anti-Semitism. In today’s edition of Zenit is a piece that the “Hebrew-Speaking Catholic Vicariate in Israel (www.catholic.co.il) issued a statement today” affirming the heroic virtue of Pope Pius XII.
Pope John Paul II
Zenit also reports Carl Anderson’s comments regarding Pope John Paul II’s holiness. Although he met Pope John Paul II several times, I can only say what I find inspirational from his life and writings.
This is from memory, as I don’t have access to his biography at the moment. When Karol Wojtyla’s mother died when he was 8, he found solace in his devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and indeed, Totus Tuus is the motto he chose for his papacy.
Talk about having your world blown apart. Every member of his family had died by the time he was 21, the churches and seminaries had been closed down, and he had to hide in the basement from the police who were in the house above him.
While much could be pulled from his full life, the end of his life merits special note. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 12 years before he died, an athletic man who had to suffer with muscles that wouldn’t move when he wanted them to. There may be people who believe it “coincidence” that Pope John Paul II had a feeding tube inserted as Terri Schiavo died from the withdrawal of her feeding tube, but I’m not one of them. His entire life was a witness to life.
Even his death and funeral witnessed to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. In an unprecedented way, from the young people who thronged to Rome to the world leaders who momentarily put aside deep divisions, the entire world acknowledged the head of the Church.
In these three and in the others publicly acknowledged, Pope Benedict XVI has indeed given us role models to emulate.