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James Martin, S.J.April 28, 2011

E.J. Dionne, writing in the Washington Post today (and Commonweal) wants to fast-track the canonization of another pope: John XXIII, upon whose legacy John Paul built.  Absolutely.  May God grant a miracle in response to his intercession so that this extraordinary man may be venerated by all Catholics.  And while we're at it: Archbishop Oscar Romero, whose martyrdom should have placed him in the front of the line. Likewise for Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel and Ita Ford.  Likewise for the Jesuit martyrs of the University of Central America.  All of these martyrs should have been canonized long ago.  Santos subito!  

Here’s a prayer that Pope Benedict XVI uses this Sunday’s beatification ceremonies for John Paul in Rome to announce that the Vatican is eager to complete the saint-making process for the good Pope John, the church’s great modernizer who embraced democracy and religious freedom.

And there is a natural link between the two papacies. When historians look back, John Paul’s greatest achievements will inevitably be seen as liberal, in the broadest sense: his commitment to human rights and religious liberty, his calls for greater social justice, his embrace of workers’ rights (“the priority of labor over capital”), and his strenuous opposition to religious prejudice. Recall that John Paul was the first pope — not counting St. Peter — to visit a synagogue, where he issued a ringing condemnation of anti-Semitism.

None of these achievements would have been possible if Pope John had not ended Catholicism’s war with modernity by calling the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. John called upon Catholics to discern the “signs of the times” and upbraided “distrustful souls” who saw in the modern era “only darkness burdening the face of the earth.”

“I want to throw open the windows of the church so that we can see out and the people can see in” is an adage widely attributed to John. It’s a lovely idea still. Father Joseph Komonchak, one of the premier historians of the Second Vatican Council, likes to point to John’s view that “the church is not a museum of antiques but a living garden of life.”

Read the rest here.

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Daniel Horan
11 years 3 months ago
I completely agree! Especially about Romero being left unacknowledged for his martyrdom! And, in addition to the list of should-be beatified and canonized, I want to offer a shout-out on behalf of my Franciscan brother, Blessed John Duns Scotus (Beatified by JPII in 1992). I know several friars praying for others through the intercession of Scotus - hopefully he and John XXIII will have their canonization day soon!

Ora pro nobis! 
11 years 3 months ago
Just got an e-mail from an old friend about an "ecumenical canonization of Abp. Romero by the poor..." at the same time as the JPII affair.
Apparently this has a number of signatories from all lover.
My own opinion is that amany of us have our geros in the Church and Romero and John XIII are surely two of mine.
But I still think beatification of some (especialy if there is a political aroma to it) that divides people is not helpful.
Bill Mazzella
11 years 3 months ago
Canonization has never been helpful. Nor do we need it. Sure there were great followers of Jesus who have gone before us. But who are we to say they are saints. This encourages abuse of power which we have had abundance in the church. Canonization of has brought on more abuse. So many towns claimed to have the true body of Martin of Tours and nobody objected. The truth of the matter is there are serious doubts about many of the canonized. 

The canonization of saints is a fourth century phenomenon. Singling out saints became necessary because it was now fashionable to become Christian in name because it was politically correct. We should stop the practice. Here is the historian Markus with sound advice on the subject.

      " "As saints became ubiquitous, they also changed their functions. In theearly Christian community the living faithful prayed to God for their dead;now the dead saint is asked to pray for the living: a whole new liturgy cameinto being. As the martyr is , literally, detached from the place of hismartyrdom and made present wherever his relics have become the center of acult, so relics began to be seen in a new way.....relics soon  becamethemselves, the seats of holy power, God's preferred channels for miraculousaction. A new nexus of social relationships centered around their shrines;their cult provided ways of securing social cohesion in the locality, andone of the means on which bishops depended to consolidate their authority."The Oxford History of Christianity.pg90."

By canonizing saints we relieve ourselves of the mandate to become one and stay in mediocrity.  
david power
11 years 3 months ago

I disagree with your appraisal of St Augustine and think that the book by Peter Brown gives a unique glimpse into his life and times and shows what an incredible man he was.However,I agree with most of your statement.
St Josemaria of the much despised Opus Dei offered the example of a saint who rejected the milk of his mother's breast as an act of mortification.
This is an attack on the superficiality of sanctity that Wojtyla was to advance so much.
Ask a Priest ,including Fr Martin,what sanctity is and you will always find an unsatisfactory answer.They simply repeat Parrotlike what they have heard and read.
Is it simply a "doism"? What about scoundrels like Giussani?These are men who make men who are far from the Lord feel closer to Him ,feel His presence.
A Saint who sets conditions to the encounter with Christ cannot be taken serious as a Saint.
Time will dispense of the fakes and treasure the genuine  people. 
Despite everything the Saints still offer us a great model  and the piss-soaked drug addicts that fill the streets of Rome and New York offer the naked eye an evangelical scene every day.

Tania Santander Atauchi
11 years 3 months ago
Good point but the arguments are flawed.  Contrary to some US Catholics’ thinking, canonization is not based on a person being or not liberal.  Nor does the kind of dead one dies or how popular (populist) one is makes him/her eligible for canonization.  The rationale for canonization goes beyond political and social(ist) thinking; far beyond mere advocating for human rights or religious freedom. “Advocating” for “human rights” is not enough.  “Religious freedom” and “human rights” are nothing if they are not accompanied by the quality of spiritual life led by some like John Paul II.
Bill Mazzella
11 years 3 months ago
'“Religious freedom” and “human rights” are nothing if they are not accompanied by the quality of spiritual life led by some like John Paul II.'

This is another mishap of the hierarchy. Prayer alone does not make the spiritual life. Jesus chided the pharisees for praying in public. John Paul did some great things as pope, Ecumenism, the Jews, the Assissi prayrer, apologizing for the sins of the hierarchy. Ecumenically he was sensational. Within the church he was horrible.
Jim Kempster
11 years 3 months ago
Thanks James!
John XXIII, Romero, Donovan... You've named several of the people who are the reason I've had any faith at all throughout my life. Canonized or not, they are MY saints, with all the affection, power and communication that sentiment implies.
I agree with several of the commentaries here that canonization has been very historically and politically influenced over the centuries, and that the practice itself is at times flawed and archaic. One cannot help but ask how certain European monarchs who were canonized rose above other people of faith in their time, or how a young woman who lead her country to war fits into Jesus' example in the gospels. The canonization process is indeed a process. It's something the Vatican must follow because it is indeed making an institutional statement, and institutional statements should not be made lightly or without due diligence. But with all due respect to the process, it does not change the influence certain leaders, writers, martyrs and people of service have had and will continue to have on my life and my faith.
I mean no disrespect when I say I treat news of modern canonization like that of the Academy Awards. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not so right. Several issues seem to come into play: Was she looked over in previous years? Is this for lifetime achievement more than his most recent role? Is this just a sentimental vote? An Oscar is a great honor that affects an actor's career and legacy. Tatum O'Neal gets to have ''Academy Award Winner'' as a prefix to her name forever. And ''Forrest Gump'' plays every year at Oscar time, whether or not I would ever watch it again.
But ultimately, my favorites remain my favorites. The ones that inspire me will continue to inspire me. I will watch for a moment with the rest of the world the news media attention and predictions about an award ceremony or a canonization with the same strategic analysis of a bettor or a news commentator. And I'll feel a little pride if for a moment history is aligning with my personal opinion and affections. But in the end, I return to those who have influenced my life and my growth as a good human being the most. And they accompany me on this path, with or without an official hallo bestowed upon them.
david power
11 years 3 months ago
I know that nobody will agree with me but I do not see any of these as Saints.
Pope John was a great man and a great Pope ,perhaps the best of the 20th century but also a very wily character.
He might be the closest to sanctity of those mentioned.
Pope Paul was also a man of profound Faith but a diplomat ,an Italian diplomat at heart.He hedged his bets too often to imagine that he was truly overcome by God.Still a great Pope.
Oscar Romero was a courageous man , who stood up to the plate and in his final years and seems to have undergone an inner  revolution as a Jesuit writer has shown, but sainthood ?  
Pope John Paul was also the first Pope in history to kiss the Koran.I have been in about three synagogues in my life does that mean a halo hangs over me?A political or ecclesiastic act should not be seen as a sign of sanctity.
Pope Pacelli was a Prince of Power and a very intelligent and devout man. A good priest and his encyclicals are at least readable. I also think history shows him to have been a heroic character in  a very subtle way.A Saint?I think not.
Mother Teresa was of course a showstopper.A woman who gave her life serving others in a way that would make Martha look like a slouch.But she did not feel the grace of God for 50 years.She had to put on  happy face.
There is so much neurosis in all of these people that Freud would probably have topped himself sooner if he had dealt with them.
Alberto Hurtado seems to me to be the sanest and simple example of sanctity.
Wojtyla and Hurtado were both asked the same question by their younger priests.The question was "What should I specialize in?"
Wojtyla gave his seminarist the advice to study "Ecclesiology".
Hurtado met with the same question responded "You should specialize in Jesus Christ!"

God always has an ace among the pack.     

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