Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen And Heard (February 16, 2006)

Published February 16, 2006

Within the past weeks, two different people have asked me about the progress of the canonization cause for Pope John Paul II. A teenager who was about to be confirmed and a kind lady who was present at the celebration of the World Day of the Sick both asked me about the status of the process that will lead to the declaration of Pope John Paul II as a saint for the Church.

We grew accustomed to regularly having saints proclaimed during the pontificate of John Paul. He wanted to make genuine sanctity a more common experience for Catholics—and he did. Now he himself is the subject of the process that he approved so frequently. This flurry of new saints has made us all aware of the truly wonderful people who have lived in every nation during every moment of the Christian era—including our own. The Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, 40) highlights the call that we all receive at our baptism to strive for true holiness.

One of my favorite questions at confirmation is to ask our young candidates: Does God want all of us to become saints? The answer is obvious, unless of course you happen to be a 16-year-old facing the Archbishop in front of a full church! But we are all called to become saints. Perhaps we have a distorted notion that saints are those who lived many centuries before, founded religious communities, were clerics or Religious, lived in far away places in Europe, suffered terrible trials for their faith. If those are the categories for sanctity that you have in mind, then there are few saints indeed. But, in truth, we all live with many saints each and every day. They may not be all that obvious to many of us, but their lives are truly heroic and generous.

During the funeral for Pope John Paul, II there were signs and chants from the crowd: Santo subito (declare him a saint, immediately)! The people there and throughout the world recognize the extraordinary love and faith that marked this wonderful man’s life—a holiness that was obvious to the world. This spontaneous cry for canonization was really the original way that saints were made—they were acclaimed by the people. Yet the process that we have followed for about 800 years must continue since it allows not only popular acclaim to have a place, but careful scientific scrutiny of the person’s life, writings, friendships, activities and teaching.

Pope John Paul II is clearly moving quickly through the process. Although I don’t have any specific details of where the investigation is at this time, there is much interest (and I suspect tremendous support) that it proceed rapidly. We want to see this beloved man held up by the Church as a model of holiness. We would like to have the joy of having known, having seen, and for many people personally having met a real live saint in our own lifetime. I suspect, however, that we already have had that privilege—even here in North Georgia.

The challenge is for us to also realize that we are all in that race for holiness, along with even the world-famous people who capture the headlines and are the subject of the public media.

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