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Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 28 April 2014

Senior Editor
’s Note:
Robert Royal wraps up his coverage from Rome of one of the most extraordinary events in the long history of the Catholic faith. I wont interrupt Bob’s reflections with another of my fevered pitches for donations to The Catholic Thing. But we do depend upon your support. Thanks for your help, and God bless you. Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, pray for us. Brad Miner

“When I met Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires – it was shortly after my conversion – my earlier life had been a mess. And I’ll never forget how he made me feel: like he was someone who loved me – and always had.”

As the events of the canonizations wound down this weekend, one of the most remarkable things about the atmosphere in Rome was not the usual Church politics of left and right, progressives and conservatives. It was the outpouring of a universal Catholicity that seemed to unite the two popes being canonized, the two living popes concelebrating – and to transcend all merely passing differences.

It’s good for us to remember this universal quality of the Church – the Church that has adherents in far-flung lands and that is able to draw even its highest leadership from countries as diverse as Italy, Germany, Poland, and Argentina.

I mentioned the striking statement above from a person who reformed his life and is now a Catholic – who is also a prominent political operative who would never be publicly identified with such an experience – because it seems to fit in with a number of other developments the last of these extraordinary days.

As I’ve written here before, I spent this weekend in the EWTN booth doing television commentary during the actual canonizations – which meant both that I had a privileged perch but didn’t really get much of a chance to move among the crowd. Still, from that perspective, at least a few things were evident.

As is always the case in Rome for events like this, you are surprised by the human gregariousness – the sheer joy of coming together for some great spiritual good – and the deep recollection, even in the midst of vast throngs. As times, I had to go with that Catholic spirit and just let wash over me the beautiful music that the Vatican choir produced all through the more than two-hour ceremony.

And really: in what other venue will you begin an event with a litany of saints sung beautifully, and in Latin, stretching back centuries to ancient times? Or those beautiful voices intoning the Creed, again in Latin, going phrase by phrase through a set of beliefs that have persisted through two millennia and inspired billions of lives in ways too various to describe?

Many paid special attention to the homily that Pope Francis delivered about his two great predecessors. He clearly wanted to say something in the way he spoke of them. He recalled that John XXIII was the great pope of “docility” (docilità) to the ways in which the Holy Spirit leads us as we would not have anticipated.

          Two young priests and two sainted popes: the Church renewed

It’s worth paying attention to this because the official translation of the homily, as is often the case, misrepresented the Holy Father’s words. Some translator apparently though that it was more colloquial in English to speak of John XXIII as the pope of “openness” – that empty and dangerous buzzword that sounds generous, but in fact leads us into vague inconsequence.

You don’t want to read too much into a few words in a brief homily, but Francis spoke of the great St. John XXIII in such terms. It would be good to see them repeated – and taken to heart – by the universal Church after years of distorting John XXIII’s record.

When Francis invoked St. John Paul II, he started by observing that John Paul wanted to be known as the “pope of the family.” The crowd, which had otherwise been quite tranquil, erupted in a wave of spontaneous applause at that point. A small thing, maybe, but – just maybe – also an indication of numerous faithful who want to see that side of St. John Paul II’s legacy honored, by continuing it.

My learned television colleague, Fr. Gerald Murray of New York (who wrote those moving personal reflections about JPII yesterday on this site), noted that the legacy of John Paul II on the family should only proceed from his forceful 1981 encyclical Familiaris Consortio.

Many of us who work on questions of family and culture have been worried about the Synod on the Family scheduled for this October. The worry stems not so much from what the Church will discuss during the synod as the ways in which various groups – the divorced, gays, lesbians, etc. – will take advantage of sympathetic secular media to try and build pressure for “change.”

Francis ended his homily Sunday with the observation that he was “particularly happy to point out [JPII’s desire to be remembered as the pope of the family] as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heave, he guides and sustains. May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey towards the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family.”

It might perhaps be thought too much to read a future agenda into this moment of celebration, in front of the relics of the two new saints, under Roman skies that co-operated by holding back rain until the sacred rites were over. Argentine friends in Rome this weekend assured me that reading things in that way would not be wrong – especially given Francis’s strong record in defending the family against a hostile government in his native Argentina.

And maybe it’s also reassuring that Jesus Christ, who is always the same – yesterday, today, and tomorrow – is now also inspiring the thought and plans of the Church through the lives of two new saints who were fearless in engaging our modern world.

           The EWTN team: Raymond Arroyo, Fr. Gerald Murray, and Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the Westnow available in paperback from Encounter Books.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (8)Add Comment
written by Jack,CT, April 28, 2014
I found much wisdom in your commentary as
i watched Mass on Sunday.I certainly have come away
with renewed respect for you and Father.

Anyway Many blessings to all as we have two more
Saints to pray to for intercession!
written by David Dickey, April 28, 2014
Robert, I must say that I feel much better about these two canonizations after watching the Mass. I was relieved that it was in Latin, and Francis was dressed better. I can live with his usually sloppy dress and residing in a guest house, as long as that does not become the norm for future Pontiffs. But it is long overdue for Pius XII to be beatified and canonized. Does Pope Francis have an email address?
written by Carlos Caso-Rosendi, April 28, 2014
@David Dickey: I cannot understand why Pius XII has not been beatified. I know there are some in the Jewish left that keep repeating the old canard that he was anti-Jewish. By now we know much better. I wrote a defense of his papacy "It's the season to accuse" a few years ago and many have mentioned the fact they did not know Pius XII have saved so many Jews from the death camps by hiding them in Roman churches. Then Cardinal Roncalli (now St John XXIII) also worked hard to save them when he was in Turkey during the war.
written by Famijoly, April 28, 2014
I never felt uneasy about the canonization of St. John Paul II, but like David Dickey, I did feel some relief about the whole situation after I watched the Mass. I appreciated that the majority of it was in Latin. It was the first papal ceremony I had watched since the early months of the current pontificate, and I was struck by how Pope Francis has not changed his personality but has allowed his liturgical MC and other aides to polish his style to be more papal. I did find the switching of audio feeds between EWTN and Vatican Radio to be disconcerting. The Vatican Radio people actually know what they're doing; they do this all the time. The EWTN talking heads took us away from the moment by romanticizing on Vatican II (never mentioning, of course, its hijacking by modernists and the disastrous gutting of seminaries, monasteries, convents and rectories and parish churches left in the wake of the hijacking) or whatever they just had to hear themselves say, such as the rumored beatification of Pope Paul VI. Why hasn't Pope Leo III been seriously considered for canonization?
written by Jack,CT, April 28, 2014
@Famjoly,Not Sure we were watching the same "Talking heads"?
written by schm0e, April 28, 2014
I'm sorry, I can't focus on this. I'm trying to rationalize the Holy Father's latest "Tweet".
written by Howard Kainz, April 28, 2014
@Famijoli: Leo III (9th century)??
written by Graham, April 28, 2014
As I watched the canonization Mass and ceremony live VERY early on Sunday morning before going to Mass, the name of Pope Pius XII also came to mind as everyone this week has talked of the two canonized popes as the "great popes) of the 20th century. In many ways, (and I'm a convert), the 20th century gave us popes better than we may have deserved but certainly who we needed. If I had a disappointment it was seeing that awful man Robert Mugabe in the reception line with his wife. I understand had the diplomatic world works -- and probably has to -- but did he have to be there?

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