Second Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2014 Column Father De Celles

HE IS RISEN! HE IS TRULY RISEN! On this Octave day of Easter, I thank God for a truly blessed Lent, Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Sunday. I was once again overwhelmed not only by the size of the crowds on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Holy Saturday liturgies, but also by the devotion and piety of all present. I also want to thank so many people who helped make things so special this year. First, thanks Elisabeth Turco, Denise Anezin, and all our choir members for their hard and beautiful work! Also, thanks to our Altar Servers for their devotedness and reverence, with a special thanks to Mark Arbeen, our Master of Ceremonies. Also thanks to the ushers, headed by Paul DeRosa; to Nena Brennan (sacristan) and her family who spent so many hours preparing things behind the scenes; to Julie Mullen and Rosario Méndez and their many helpers who decorated the sanctuary so beautifully with flowers; to Phil Bettwy and Barbara Aldridge who organized the lectors and extraordinary ministers; to Bob and Bev Ward and  Mike Malachowski for their work with the RCIA; to Jeanne Sause and our Youth Group for their inspiring Living Stations of the Cross; and to the parish staff who worked so hard all throughout Lent and Holy Week. Last but not least, thanks to Fr. Kenna for his dedication, and to Fr. Nguyen, Fr. Scalia and Fr. Daly for their assistance.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention a lot of folks, so please forgive me. Thanks and God bless you all.

NEW SAINTS! Today in Rome Pope Francis will declare two Popes to be Saints of the Catholic Church: surely sharing in glory of heaven, worthy intercessors and heroic examples to all of us of the Catholic life.

St. John XXIII, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, was born in 1881 in northern Italy, the fourth child of fourteen, a sharecropper’s son. Completing seminary in Rome he was ordained for his home diocese of Bergamo in 1905. As a new priest he served as secretary to his bishop and taught in the seminary. During World War I he was drafted and served as a sergeant in the medical corps of the Italian army. Afterwards he returned to the seminary until 1921 when he was called to serve in the Roman Curia. In 1925 he was ordained a bishop and named as Apostolic Visitator (later Apostolic Delegate) to Bulgaria, going on to serve as Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, and Greece, and eventually Nuncio to France during World War II. In 1953 he was named Patriarch Archbishop of Venice, and raised to the cardinalate. In 1958, at the age of 76 he was elected Pope.

Succeeding Pope Pius XII, who seemed so very aristocratic and formal, Pope John XXIII’s smiling and amiable style captured the hearts of people around the world, and earned him the nickname “Good Pope John.” Elected as a comprise candidate, essentially to be a caretaker pope, Pope John stunned the Catholic world in January 1959 by announcing an ecumenical council—a gathering of all the bishops of the world—to update (“aggiornamento”) the Church’s methods of sharing our faith and teachings with the modern world. Sadly, Pope John was not able to see the completion of this work at the Second Vatican Council, or “Vatican II,” as he died on June 3, 1963, before 16 of the Council’s 17 documents were issued.

St. John Paul II, Karol Jozef Wojtyla, was born in Wadowice, Poland on June 20,  1920, one of three children, the son of a retired army officer. Young Wojtyla’s university studies and were interrupted by the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and he spent the next few years in forced quarry labor, until he entered the underground seminary. He was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946, and immediately went on to earn his doctorate in theology in Rome and his doctorate in philosophy in Lublin (Poland). He then served as a parish priest, university chaplain, and seminary and university professor. He was ordained auxiliary bishop of  Krakow on September 28, 1958, named Archbishop of Krakow (at age 43) in 1964 and became a cardinal in 1967. As a bishop and archbishop he took an active role at the Second Vatican Council. As the popular young Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow he became the nemesis of the Communist government of Poland.

During his years as a professor was dearly loved by his students. He also developed a unique approach to explain the Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person, his relationship to God and the meaning of family, marriage and sexuality. This later came to be known as the “Theology of the Body,” which he shared with the whole Church when he was elected Pope on October 16, 1978.

Being elected after the sudden death of Pope John Paul I (who reigned for only 30 days), along with being the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years, as well as his obvious physical vigor, keen intellect, and personal magnetism made him the instant focus of the world’s fascination. This fascination would continue throughout his 27 year pontificate which was marked by innumerable amazing accomplishments and historical events, including: miraculously surviving an assassin’s bullet (1981); being a critical figure in the fall of Soviet Communism; pastoral visits to 129 countries; clarification of Church doctrine in his many speeches and writings (including 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 45 Apostolic Letters, and 5 books); promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; complete revision of the Code of Canon Law; reform of the liturgy; establishment of World Youth Day; reorganization of the Roman Curia; beatification of 1,338 blesseds and canonization of 482 saints. His example of personal holiness and prayer was inspiring to all, as was his faithful endurance of years of suffering before his death on April 2, 2005. But perhaps the most amazing accomplishment was attracting millions of young people to devoutly embrace Catholicism: they loved him as he spoke the truth to them, in love.

There is not enough space here to explain what a great Pope he was. Suffice it to say that at the end of his funeral four million mourners gathered in Rome shouted out spontaneously, “Santo subito!”—“a saint right now!”

Beyond the fact that I now have 2 more patron saints (“Saints John”), I have many reasons to be personally delighted today. Born in 1960 during the pontificate of Pope John, my parents named me after him. As for John Paul II, not only was I formed by his theology and spirituality, I know I would not be a priest today had he not been pope.  I cherish my memory of concelebrating Mass with him in his private chapel in May of 1997, and speaking with him afterwards.

Blessed and Happy Easter to you all! St. John and St. John Paul pray for us!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles