Feast day – holy innocents

Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother, and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few. Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the new-born king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts, and warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt. Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob (Israel). She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

REFLECTION

God is light and in him there is no darkness… 1 John 1:5

As one who primarily thinks in images, I see a mom and her little boy walking on a dark night. The mother holds a flashlight with a strong beam that dispels the darkness. As long as the little guy walks close by her, he not only can see where they are going, he feels safe from harm. If, however, he falls behinds or steps off the path, the darkness will swallow him. No longer will he see clearly. He will quickly become frightened. Isn’t this the way when we are in a close relationship with God, who is light? With Jesus who is “the Light of the World”? By receiving the Eucharist and spending time in prayer and reflection, we are better able to stay close to him and not be “led into temptation.” Gracious God, help us remember that Christ is our light. May his light “shine in our hearts, shine in the darkness,” as we go about our days.

Feast Day – NOV 2, 2021

The commemoration of all the faithful departed is celebrated by the Church on November 2, or, if this falls on a Sunday or a solemnity, the feast is celebrated on November 3. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day, and all the Masses are to be of Requiem except one of the current feast, where this is of obligation.

The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsgiving and especially the sacrifice of the Mass.

In the early days of Christianity the names of the departed brethren were entered in the diptychs. Later, in the sixth century, it was customary in Benedictine monasteries to hold a commemoration of the deceased members at Whitsuntide. In Spain there was such a day on Saturday before Sexagesima or before Pentecost, at the time of Saint Isidore (d. 636). In Germany there existed (according to the testimony of Widukind, Abbot of Corvey, c.980) a time-honoured ceremony of praying to the dead on October 1. This was accepted and sanctified by the Church.

Saint Odilo of Cluny ordered that the commemoration of all the faithful departed be held annually in the monasteries of his congregation. From here, it spread among the other congregations of the Benedictines and among the Carthusians.

Of all the dioceses, Liège was the first to adopt it under Bishop Notger (d. 1008). It is then found in the martyrology of Saint Protadius of Besançon (1053-66). Bishop Otricus (1120-25) introduced it into Milan for October 15. In Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, priests say three Masses on this day. A similar concession for the entire world was asked of Pope Leo XIII; he would not grant the favour, but ordered a special Requiem on Sunday September 30, 1888.

In the Greek Rite this commemoration is held on the eve of Sexagesima Sunday, or on the eve of Pentecost. The Armenians celebrate the passover of the dead on the day after Easter.

REFLECTION

Today we celebrate and give thanks for the witness and companionship of those we call the saints. The communion of saints includes, in its broadest sense, not only those formally recognized by the Church but also the exemplary people of faith whom we encounter in our communities and our families. The saints – both those who have gone before us and those who walk among us still – are icons of holiness, windows through which we glimpse the face of God. All of us are called to holiness, to a life shaped by gospel values. Today’s reading of the Beatitudes offers us some guidelines. Bombarded by the lures of consumerism, we are called to be poor in spirit. In a world beset by war and violence, we are called to be peacemakers. In a society that prioritizes competitiveness and ruthless individuality, we are called to be humble. Where grief and discouragement prevail, we are called to be merciful. In the face of injustice, we are invited to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Today we pray for the grace to recognize that we are all called to be saints. In the words of the psalm, may we live with “clean hands and pure hearts,” as we look forward in hope to sharing in the light of eternal life.

Feast Day – NOV 01, 2021

Feast Day – All Saints – November 01

The Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on the first of November. It was instituted to honour all of the saints, both known and unknown, and, according to Pope Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year.

In the early days of the Church, the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of Saint Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration.

In the persecution of Diocletian, the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each, but the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find is in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of Saint John Chrysostom (407).

At first only martyrs and Saint John the Baptist were honoured by a special day in the Liturgical Calendar. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established.

Still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter. In the west, Pope Boniface IV on May 13, 609 or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of Saint Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for November 1.

A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on May 1. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on November 1 to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84).

Reflection

This feast first honoured martyrs. Later, when Christians were free to worship according to their consciences, the Church acknowledged other paths to sanctity. In the early centuries the only criterion was popular acclaim, even when the bishop’s approval became the final step in placing a commemoration on the calendar. The first papal canonization occurred in 993; the lengthy process now required to prove extraordinary sanctity took form in the last 500 years. Today’s feast honours the obscure as well as the famous—the saints each of us have known.

Saint of the Day OCT 31, 2021

Wolfgang was born in Swabia, Germany, and was educated at a school located at the abbey of Reichenau. There he encountered Henry, a young noble who went on to become Archbishop of Trier. Meanwhile, Wolfgang remained in close contact with the archbishop, teaching in his cathedral school and supporting his efforts to reform the clergy.

At the death of the archbishop, Wolfgang chose to become a Benedictine monk and moved to an abbey in Einsiedeln, now part of Switzerland. Ordained a priest, he was appointed director of the monastery school there. Later he was sent to Hungary as a missionary, though his zeal and good will yielded limited results.

Emperor Otto II appointed him Bishop of Regensburg, near Munich. Wolfgang immediately initiated reform of the clergy and of religious life, preaching with vigour and effectiveness and always demonstrating special concern for the poor. He wore the habit of a monk and lived an austere life.

The draw to monastic life never left him, including the desire for a life of solitude. At one point he left his diocese so that he could devote himself to prayer, but his responsibilities as bishop called him back. In 994, Wolfgang became ill while on a journey; he died in Puppingen near Linz, Austria. He was canonized in 1052. His feast day is celebrated widely in much of central Europe.


Reflection

Wolfgang could be depicted as a man with rolled-up sleeves. He even tried retiring to solitary prayer, but taking his responsibilities seriously led him back into the service of his diocese. Doing what had to be done was his path to holiness—and ours.

Saint of the Day OCT 30, 2021

Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer.

Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter, and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business, and with his young son, moved into his sister’s home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation.

At the death of his son years later, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations.

His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including Saint Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’ life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but centuries later he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems.

Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.


Reflection

We like to think that God rewards the good, even in this life. But Alphonsus knew business losses, painful bereavement, and periods when God seemed very distant. None of his suffering made him withdraw into a shell of self-pity or bitterness. Rather, he reached out to others who lived with pain, including enslaved Africans. Among the many notables at his funeral were the sick and poor people whose lives he had touched. May they find such a friend in us!

Saint of the Day OCT 29, 2021

St. Narcissus was born towards the end of the first century, and he was nearly 80 years old when he was named as the 30th bishop of Jerusalem.

In 195, he and Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, presided together over a council of the bishops of Palestine held at Caesarea around Easter. There it was decreed that the feast be kept always on a Sunday, and not continually with the Jewish Passover.

The bishop and historian Eusebius says the following miracle can be attributed to him: One year on Easter-eve the deacons did not have any oil for the lamps in the church, which was necessary at the solemn divine office on that day. Narcissus ordered those who had care of the lamps to bring him some water from the neighboring wells. This being done, he pronounced a devout prayer over the water. Then he bade them pour it into the lamps; which they did. The water was immediately converted into oil, to the great surprise of all the faithful. Some of this miraculous oil was kept there as a memorial at the time when Eusebius wrote his history.

The veneration of all good men for this holy bishop, however, could not shelter him from the malice of the wicked. Three incorrigible sinners, fearing his severity in the observance of ecclesiastical discipline, accused him of a terrible act. The sinners swore that they were right, adding the following to their testimony: One wished that he might perish by fire, another, that he might be struck with a leprosy, and the third, that he might lose his sight, if what they alleged was not the truth. Their accusations were false, however, and soon Divine Retribution called upon them. The first was burnt in his house along with his whole family by an accidental fire in the night, the second was struck with a universal leprosy and the third, terrified by these examples, confessed the conspiracy and slander, and by the abundance of tears which he continually shed for his sins, lost his sight before his death.

Narcissus either could not stand the shock of the bold calumny, or perhaps he made it an excuse for leaving Jerusalem in order to spend some time in solitude, which had long been his wish. He spent several years undiscovered in his retreat, where he enjoyed all the happiness and advantage which a close conversation with God can bestow.

The neighboring bishops appointed a new pastor for his church until Narcissus returned. Upon his return, the faithful rejoiced and convinced him to once again undertake the administration of the diocese, which he did.

As he reached extreme old age, he made St. Alexander his coadjutor. St. Narcissus continued to serve his flock, and even other churches, by his assiduous prayers and his earnest exhortations to unity and concord, as St. Alexander testifies in his letter to the Arsinoites in Egypt, where he says that Narcisus was at that time about one hundred and sixteen years old. The Roman Martyrology honors his memory on October 29th.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

What comfort this gives me. I don’t believe that we begin our spiritual journeys on our own, but that the Holy Spirit attracts us to the path through people and events in our lives; through great love and/or great suffering. For me, it was an emptiness and a longing that only prayer could assuage. Thus, the very fact that I am on a spiritual path gives evidence that God did begin a good work in me. Having St. Paul express such confidence that God will continue to complete this good work in me always helps me take a deep breath. It boosts my faith when my prayer shifts from pleading God to work in me to increase my love for others to thanking God for all the love, courage and endurance I already have. Changing from pleading to gratitude always turns out to be the surest path into deep prayer.

Saint of the Day – OCT 28, 2021

St. Jude Thaddaeus

St. Jude, known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of St. James the Lesser, and a relative of Jesus. Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia. According to Eusebius, he returned to Jerusalem in the year 62 and assisted at the election of his brother, St. Simeon, as Bishop of Jerusalem.

He is an author of an epistle (letter) to the Churches of the East, in particular the Jewish converts, directed against the heresies of the Simonians, Nicolaites, and Gnostics. This Apostle is said to have suffered martyrdom in Armenia, which was then subject to Persia. The final conversion of the Armenian nation to Christianity did not take place until the third century A.D.

St. Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He would not manifest Himself to the whole world after His resurrection. Little else is known of his life, but legend claims that he visited Beirut and Edessa.

He was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded post-mortem in 1st century Persia. His relics reside at Saint Peter’s in Rome, at Rheims, and at Toulouse, France.

Saint Jude Thaddeus is not the same person as Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Our Lord and despaired because of his great sin and lack of trust in God’s mercy.

St. Jude Thaddeus is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them.

Therefore, he is the patron of desperate situations, forgotten causes, hospital workers, hospitals, impossible causes, lost causes, and the diocese of Saint Petersburg, Florida. He is represented as bearded man holding an oar, a boat, boat hook, a club, an axe or a book. Nearly every image of him depicts him wearing a medallion with a profile of Jesus. He usually has a small flame above his head and he often carries a pen.

We remember him October 28 in Roman Church, and June 19 in Eastern Church.

St. Simon the Zealot

Little is known about the post-Pentecost life of St. Simon, who had been called a Zealot. He is thought to have preached in Egypt and then to have joined St. Jude in Persia. Here, he was supposedly martyred by being cut in half with a saw, a tool he is often depicted with. However, the 4th-century St. Basil the Great says he died in Edessa, peacefully.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children… Ephesians 5:1

Child development research suggests that children learn how to behave by watching, and being watched by, their parents. When an infant looks into her mother’s eyes, and the mother looks back at her and smiles, the infant learns that she is a delight to her mother, that her existence is good. When a toddler runs to his father to be comforted after he falls down, he learns to empathize when someone else is hurt. We learn how to do things when someone else has done those things for us. If our parents have not been good models, we may still turn to our divine parent to know how to love. Our ability to imitate God takes more than just acting out the behaviours we associate with a benevolent deity. It takes our trust—a trust that we are wanted, loved and held as his children.

Saint Anthony Mary Claret – Feast Day – October 24, 2021

Saint Anthony Mary Claret – Feast Day – October 24

Spanish prelate and missionary, born at Sallent, near Barcelona, 23 Dec., 1807; d. at Fontfroide, Narbonne, France, on 24 Oct., 1870. Son of a small woollen manufacturer, he received an elementary education in his native village, and at the age of twelve became a weaver. A little later he went to Barcelona to specialize in his trade, and remained there till he was twenty. Meanwhile he devoted his spare time to study and became proficient in Latin, French, and engraving; in addition he enlisted in the army as a volunteer. Recognizing a call to a higher life, he left Barcelona, entered the seminary at Vich in 1829, and was ordained on 13 June, 1835. He received a benefice in his native parish, where he continued to study theology till 1839. He now wished to become a Carthusian; missionary work, however, appealing strongly to him he proceeded to Rome. There he entered the Jesuit novitiate but finding himself unsuited for that manner of life, he returned shortly to Spain and exercised his ministry at Valadrau and Gerona, attracting notice by his efforts on behalf of the poor. Recalled by his superiors to Vich, he was engaged in missionary work throughout Catalonia. In 1848 he was sent to the Canary Islands where he gave retreats for fifteen months. Returning to Vich he established the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (16 July, 1849), and founded the great religious library at Barcelona which bears his name, and which has issued several million cheap copies of the best ancient and modern Catholic works.

Such had been the fruit of his zealous labours and so great the wonders he had worked, that Pius IX at the request of the Spanish sovereign appointed him Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba in 1851. He was consecrated at Vich and embarked at Barcelona on 28 Dec. Having arrived at his destination he began at once a work of thorough reform. The seminary was reorganized, clerical discipline strengthened, and over nine thousand marriages validated within the first two years. He erected a hospital and numerous schools. Three times he made a visitation of the entire diocese, giving local missions incessantly.

Naturally his zeal stirred up the enmity and calumnies of the irreligious, as had happened previously in Spain. No less than fifteen attempts were made on his life, and at Holguin his cheek was laid open from ear to chin by a would-be assassin’s knife. In February, 1857, he was recalled to Spain by Isabella II, who made him her confessor. He obtained permission to resign his see and was appointed to the titular see of Trajanopolis. His influence was now directed solely to help the poor and to propagate learning; he lived frugally and took up his residence in an Italian hospice. For nine years he was rector of the Escorial monastery where he established an excellent scientific laboratory, a museum of natural history, a library, college, and schools of music and languages. His further plans were frustrated by the revolution of 1868. He continued his popular missions and distribution of good books wherever he went in accompanying the Spanish Court. When Isabella recognized the new Government of United Italy he left the Court and hastened to take his place by the side of the pope; at the latter’s command, however, he returned to Madrid with faculties for absolving the queen from the censures she had incurred. In 1869 he went to Rome to prepare for the Vatican Council. Owing to failing health he withdrew to Prades in France, where he was still harassed by his calumnious Spanish enemies; shortly afterwards he retired to the Cistercian abbey at Fontfroide where he expired.

His zealous life and the wonders he wrought both before and after his death testified to his sanctity. Informations were begun in 1887 and he was declared Venerable by Leo XIII in 1899. His relics were transferred to the mission house at Vich in 1897, at which time his heart was found incorrupt, and his grave is constantly visited by many pilgrims. In addition to the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Heart of Mary (approved definitively by Pius IX, 11 Feb., 1870) which has now over 110 houses and 2000 members, with missions in W. Africa, and in Chocó (Columbia), Archbishop Claret founded or drew up the rules of several communities of nuns. By his sermons and writings he contributed greatly to bring about the revival of the Catalan language. His printed works number over 130, of which we may mention: “La escala de Jacob”; “Maximas de moral la más pura”; “Avisos”; “Catecismo explicado con láminas”; “La llave de oro”; “Selectos panegíricos” (11 vols.); “Sermones de misión” (3 vols.); “Misión de la mujer”; “Vida de Sta. Mónica”; “La Virgen del Pilar y los Francmasones”; and his “Autobiografia”, written by order of his spiritual director, but still unpublished.


Antonio María Claret was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

REFLECTION FOR THE DAY

… we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ… Ephesians 4:15

Christ is the template of our lives: our model, our example, the Way. It’s the small things that add up to make the whole person. We have choices. We can choose to make a negative remark or to hold it back, to smile when we want to frown, to shift our position just a few degrees to see if the situation might look different. We can binge-watch our favourite program, or we can take that time to make soup and deliver it to a friend who is ill. We can tell the bus driver what a great job he is doing and watch his smile light up his face and light up the day. We grow into Christ through a multitude of small choices: every day, every way. Lord, though I may suffer “growing pains” today, help me to grow into you.

Saint of the Day – OCT 23, 2021

On Oct. 23, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of Saint John of Capistrano, a Franciscan priest whose life included a political career, extensive missionary journeys, efforts to reunite separated Eastern Christians with Rome and a historically important turn at military leadership.

Invoked as a patron of military chaplains, St. John of Capistrano was praised by St. John Paul II in a 2002 general audience for his “glorious evangelical witness,” as a priest who “gave himself with great generosity for the salvation of souls.”

Born in Italy during 1385, John lost his father – a French or possibly German knight who had settled in Capistrano – at a young age. John’s mother took care to have him educated, and after learning Latin he went to study both civil law and Church law in Perugia. An outstanding student, he soon became a prominent public figure and was appointed governor of the city at age 26.

John showed high standards of integrity in his civic career, and in 1416 he labored to end a war that had erupted between Perugia and the prominent House of Malatesta. But when the nobles had John imprisoned, he began to question his life’s direction. Encountering Saint Francis of Assisi in a dream, he resolved to embrace poverty, chastity, and obedience with the Franciscans.

Abandoning his possessions and social status, John joined the religious order in October 1416. He found a mentor in Saint Bernardine of Siena, known for his bold preaching and his method of prayer focused on the invocation of the name of Jesus. Taking after his teacher in these respects, John began preaching as a deacon in 1420, and was ordained a priest in 1425.

John successfully defended his mentor from a charge of heresy made against his way of devotion, though he found less success in his efforts to resolve internal controversy among the followers of St. Francis. A succession of popes entrusted important matters to John, including the effort to reunite Eastern and Western Christendom at the Ecumenical Council of Florence.

Drawing immense crowds in his missionary travels throughout Italy, John also found success as a preacher in Central Europe, where he opposed the Hussites’ error regarding the nature and administration of the Eucharist. After Constantinople fell to Turkish invaders in 1453, Pope Nicholas V sent John on a mission to rally other European leaders in defense of their lands.

Nicholas’ successor Pope Callixtus III was even more eager to see the Christian world defend itself against the invading forces. When the Sultan Mehmet II sought to extend his territorial gains into Serbia and Hungary, John joined the celebrated general Janos Hunyadi in his defense of Belgrade. The priest personally led a section of the army in its historic victory on Aug. 6, 1456.

Neither John nor the general, however, would survive long past the battle.

Weakened by the campaign against the Turks, Hunyadi became sick and died soon after the victory at Belgrade. John survived to preach Janos Hunyadi’s funeral sermon; but his own extraordinary life came to an end after a painful illness, on Oct. 23, 1456. St. John of Capistrano was canonized in 1724.

Saint of Day – Oct 22, 2021

Saint John Paul II

“Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass where he was installed as pope in 1978.

Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father, and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology.

Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon Fr. Wojtyla earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin.

Communist officials allowed Wojtyla to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong!

Bishop Wojtyla attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later.

Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations.

John Paul II promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s main synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations, and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria.

The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his papacy.

“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of John Paul II’s 1979 encyclical, Redeemer of the Human Race. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.”

His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. John Paul II began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union, but the governments in those countries prevented that.

One of the most well-remembered photos of John Paul II’s pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983, with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier.

In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014.


Reflection

Before John Paul II’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square, hundreds of thousands of people had waited patiently for a brief moment to pray before his body, which lay in state inside St. Peter’s for several days. The media coverage of his funeral was unprecedented.

Presiding at the funeral Mass, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—then dean of the College of Cardinals and later Pope Benedict XVI—concluded his homily by saying: “None of us can ever forget how, in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi (‘to the city and to the world’).

“We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”