I have a great love for John XXIII. He died in 1963, six years before I was born. My parents remember his election in 1958 and my grandparents loved his smile and his sanctity was obvious. I was almost 10 when Pope John Paul II came to Ireland and I saw him with my own eyes in the Phoenix Park on Sept 29th 1979 at the Papal Mass with my mam and my brother, Kevin. We all saw him later on that same evening in the Pope Mobile going down Thomas Street in the heart of Dublin. We were all horrified and numb when he was shot within inches of his life in May 1981.
These two popes have helped us to aspire to sanctity. They have shown us that although we are all sinners, we are called to be saints. It is only right that they themselves are canonized. As Pope, John XXIII called an Ecomenical Council (Vatican II - 1962 to 1965) to remind the Church that we are all a pilgrim people of God on our way to the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit is the force that guides and sanctifies the Church. Pope John Paul II reminded us all of the universal call to holiness. He beatified and canonized more saints that his predecessors. Sanctity is a call for all of us, not just for medieval monks and martyrs. It is for all; in factories, in fields, in schools, in kitchens, in prisons, in churches, in hospital beds. Pope John Paul also reminded us of the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. He called for a Gospel of Life and he even witnessed to this when he himself was sick and powerless. And even when he had no physical voice left.
Pope Francis will canonize these two saints of our time on Sunday (and I believe that Pope Emertius Benedict will attend the ceremony) I am hoping and praying that I will find a small corner of St.Peter's square stand in. I go to Assisi tomorrow morning to visit St.Francis, my Patron as a Capuchin and I will ask him to help! I will remember you all in prayer at the tomb of St Francis and then at the tombs of Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul II. "Do not be afraid."