-Pope John Paul II
For World Youth Day 2002, Pope John Paul II offered us some wonderful models of holiness: Agnes of Rome, Andrew of Phú Yên, Pedro Calungsod, Josephine Bakhita, Thérèse of Lisieux, Pier Giorgio Frassati, Marcel Callo, Francisco Castelló Aleu and Kateri Tekakwitha, the young Iroquois called "the Lily of the Mohawks". The World Youth Day 2002 National Team also turned often to Saint Gianna Beretta Molla for inspiration and intercession throughout the preparation of the great events of 2002.
One of the great efforts and gifts of Pope John Paul II has been his call for all Catholics to be saints. During his Pontificate, he beatified 1338 men and women and canonized 482 new saints. Holiness is not reserved for priests and religious alone. All people, no matter what their walk of life or background, are invited by Jesus Christ to follow Him perfectly. This conformation to Christ is the essence of a saint.
Pope John Paul II, in addressing this "universal call to holiness," has particularly encouraged young people to accept the invitation of Christ to become saints. As he said in his preparatory letter to WYD 2002, "it is the nature of human beings, and especially youth, to seek the Absolute, the meaning and fullness of life. Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals!"
To be a saint is no light undertaking, as the Pope is well aware. That is why one of his most repeated phrases to young people is "Be not afraid." No matter what the difficulties may be, the grace of Christ can overcome all objections and obstacles. Confidence in God's grace, not in ourselves, is perhaps one of the first steps that we can make in the road to sainthood. What exactly does it mean to be holy? Does it mean to say certain prayers? Is it merely doing good deeds? Holiness goes much beyond this. It is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavor. It is a continuous choice to deepen one's relationship with God and to then allow this relationship to guide all of one's actions in the world.
This call to holiness is not something alien to who we are as human beings. Rather it is the very goal and final fulfillment of our human personhood. Christ calls us to be the human beings we were meant to be. As the Pope so movingly said to young people in St. Louis: "Remember: Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you and he expects great things of you!"
In the coming days watch our blog for biographies on the patron Saints and Blesseds of Toronto's World Youth Day.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
Former National Director and C.E.O., World Youth Day 2002
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada