Dear Friends of Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network,
I am presently attending the World Youth Day
2011 International Preparatory Meeting of the Episcopal Conferences of the World, leaders of International Youth Movements, and the Spanish National Team for World Youth Day 2011, taking place in the Royal Monastery of El Escorial in the mountains outside of Madrid in Spain. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
asked me to represent them at this international gathering of Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and several hundred youth leaders from every corner of the globe.
Today, shortly after noon, the meetings were interrupted and Cardinal Stanislas Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity at the Vatican, announced to the large assembly that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the miracle attributed to the Venerable Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, thus clearing the way for his Beatification. Cardinal Rylko then announced that Pope Benedict, himself, will formally proclaim Pope John Paul II “Blessed” on Sunday, May 1, 2011 during a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
This year, May 1 happens to be the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. Nor is it a coincidence that May 1, known as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker in the Catholic Church, is also known as “May Day” on secular calendars. Communists and Socialists around the world commemorate May Day with marches, speeches, and festivals. How fitting that in addition to being Divine Mercy Sunday this year, the man who was a unique instrument and messenger in bringing down the Iron Curtain and the deadly reign of Communism and godlessness, will be declared “Blessed” on May 1.
The news of Pope John Paul II’s imminent beatification was fitting in this assembly of youth leaders and shepherds who oversee pastoral ministry to young people throughout the world. Following Cardinal Rylko’s announcement, Bishop César Franco, head of World Youth Day in Madrid announced that one of the principal patrons of World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid would be Blessed John Paul II. A thunderous, sustained, standing ovation followed the announcement. Many sitting near me in the large meeting room in Spain’s “El Escorial” Monastery were weeping openly upon hearing this news.
Earlier in the day during the morning sessions, Spanish Bishop Jose Ignacio Munilla, Bishop of San Sebastian and head of Pastoral Ministry to young people in Spain, gave a very powerful talk on the Saints of Spain, particularly the patrons of the Spanish dioceses that will be welcoming young people from throughout the world to the “Days in the Dioceses” component of World Youth Day 2011. Bishop Munilla concluded his moving presentation by stating that ‘holiness is contagious,’ and that once it touches us, we are all caught up in its reality.
Both Bishop Munilla and Cardinal Rylko recalled that Spain is the only country to have been granted two World Youth Days: Santiago de Compostella in 1989 and the event planned for Madrid this coming summer. Along with the gift of World Youth Days comes the responsibility to transmit its contents, fruits and spirit to the entire country. It was in Compostella that Pope John Paul II first “coined” the expression: “Be saints of the new millennium.”
Salt + Light Television is a living tribute to Pope John Paul II. It is one of the most visible fruits of any World Youth Day. John Paul II was our inspiration at the beginning of this bold initiative in 2003 and blessed its humble beginnings. The Holy Father, himself, cajoled and encouraged me to accept the task of starting our television network in November 2002, after World Youth Day in Canada. He knew about us and watched our first documentaries, particularly “Love is a Choice”, the story of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the last saint that he canonized in 2004. He praised the efforts of the Gagliano family in launching this project for Canada and for the world. I have prayed to him continuously for the past six years, asking Pope John Paul II to watch over us, guide our efforts and send us donors and benefactors to make this project possible. I have every confidence that he will continue to bless us… abundantly.
Today’s announcement by the Vatican regarding Pope John Paul II is the formal confirmation of what many of us always knew as we experienced the Holy Father in action throughout his Pontificate, particularly among his “dear young friends.” One of the singular gifts of his Pontificate to the Church and to the world was the establishment of World Youth Days 26 years ago. They are privileged instruments of the New Evangelization. They serve to give flesh and blood to the words
of Pope Benedict XVI during the Mass to mark the beginning of his Petrine Minsitry in April, 2005: “The Church is alive. The Church is young.”
That a person is declared “Blessed” is not a statement about perfection. It does not mean that the person was without imperfection, blindness, deafness or sin. Rather, it means that a person lived his or her life with God, relying totally on God’s infinite mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving one’s enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. That person lets those around him know that there is a force or spirit animating his or her life that is not of this world, but the next. Such a person lets us catch a glimpse of the greatness and holiness to which we are all called, and shows us the face of God as we journey on our pilgrim way on earth.
In the life of Karol Wojytyla, the boy from Wadowice who would grow up to be a priest and Bishop of Krakow, the Bishop of Rome, and a hero for the ages, holiness was contagious. We have all been touched and changed by it. Pope John Paul II was not only “Holy Father” but “a Father who was and is Holy.” On April 2, 2005, he died a public, global death that stopped the world for several days. On April 8, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the world
that the Holy Father was watching and blessing us "from the window of the Father’s House."
On May 1, 2011, only six years after his return to the Father’s house, the Church will formally confirm what we knew for so long: not simply “Santo Subito” (“Make him a saint quickly) but “Santo Sempre” (Saint always.)
Venerable Servant of God, John Paul II, Pray for us.
PRAYER FOR ASKING GRACES THROUGH THE INTERCESSION
OF THE VENERABLE SERVANT OF GOD POPE JOHN PAUL II
O Blessed Trinity
We thank You for having graced the Church
with Pope John Paul II
and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit,
to shine through him.
Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd,
and has shown us that holiness
is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life
and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you.
Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will,
the graces we implore,
hoping that he will soon be numbered
among your saints.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
Top: CNS photo/Joe Rimkus Jr.