At times when writing this column, I feel like a foreign correspondent! I am missing the National League finals, which is unfortunate but this trip was booked almost a year ago.
Today is a very special day in that two Popes are being canonized in Rome, Pope John Paul 11 and Pope John XX111 by Pope Francis. It is the first time in the history of the Catholic Church that two popes will be canonized simultaneously.
The official process for declaring someone a saint is called canonisation. The Catholic Church doesn’t make saints. However, Catholic saints are men and women who lived holy lives in obedience to God’s will, and they became saints at the moment they entered heaven.
However, the Church does recognize those souls that the Church can confirm are in heaven as saints. The process for being declared a saint is ancient, traditional, and often mysterious. Evidence must be presented to persuade Church officials that the person in question in fact lived a virtuous life, had faith, and had the support and help of God.
The Church also looks at miracles as evidence that God is working through that person. Miracles need to be documented and authenticated, so eyewitnesses alone are considered insufficient. Medical, scientific, psychiatric, and theological experts are consulted, and evidence is given to them for their professional opinion. If a scientific, medical, or psychological explanation exists for what had only appeared to be a miracle, then it isn’t an authentic miracle. Only immediate, spontaneous, and inexplicable phenomena are up for consideration as authentic miracles.
A group of Italian doctors (Consulta Medica) examine the healing miracles. Some of the doctors aren’t Catholic and some are, but all are qualified and renowned physicians. They don’t declare a healing a miracle, but instead say, “We can find no scientific or medical explanation for the cure.” There are other phenomena involved also but too detailed to include here.
The process of declaring a deceased Christian a saint usually takes from 5-50 years. Pope Benedict XVI announced that the normal five-year waiting period before beginning the cause of beatification and canonisation would be waived for John Paul II.
The link between Krakow and Pope John Paul is that he was Bishop and Archbishop here for a considerable time. He was born in a town called Wadowice which is approximately 30 miles from here. He loved soccer and was a talented goalkeeper. Pope John Paul II, both in his teaching and personal life, strove to live and teach the message of Divine Mercy.
As the great Mercy Pope, he wrote an encyclical on Divine Mercy. And this is the other link to Krakow and namely Lagiewniki. The Divine Mercy is a Roman Catholic devotion to the merciful love of God and the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s own heart towards those in need of it.
The devotion is due to the apparitions of Jesus received by Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), who is known as the Apostle of Mercy. She was born in Lodz in Poland and died here in Krakow after great suffering. It is no coincidence that she died at 33 years of age, the same age that Jesus died. Saint Faustina was a victim soul. In the Roman Catholic spiritual tradition, a victim soul is a person chosen by God to suffer more than most people during life, and who generously accepts the suffering, based on the example of Christ’s own Passion.
The Divine Mercy Sanctuary is located here in Lagiewniki where the remains of St. Faustina rest. She was canonised by Pope John Paul in 2000. When he canonized Sr. Faustina (making her St. Faustina), he also, on the same day, surprised the entire world by establishing Divine Mercy Sunday (the feast day associated with the message) as a feast day for the entire Church.
The feast day falls on the Second Sunday of the Easter season. On that day, Pope John Paul II declared, “This is the happiest day of my life.” Given all these connections to Divine Mercy and St. Faustina, is it any wonder that Pope John Paul II died on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday (the evening before the feast day), which fell that year on April 3. It is also no surprise that the Great Mercy Pope left us a message for Divine Mercy Sunday, which was read on the feast day by a Vatican official to the faithful in St. Peter’s after a Mass that had been celebrated for the repose of the soul of the Pope.
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday and it is certainly a happy day and a privilege and a blessing for me to be here. Keeping the faith!