All of us need models. I am not talking about supermodels or fashion models. I am talking about those men and women who inspire us to be and to do our best. They embody all that is noble and admirable in humanity. They challenge us to be better than what we are and to strive for excellence. They convince us that it is possible for ordinary human beings to reach for the stars.
Unfortunately the models that hog our attention and clamor for our loyalty are often sorry caricatures of humanity. Our society proposes them for our admiration and even emulation. Who are these models that particularly target our young people? They are the movie stars and pop singers, athletes and media personalities. Many of them lack the moral fiber to qualify to be our models. They often embody what is the worst in our culture. They encourage us to be lost in the ephemeral, fleeting pleasures and pursuits of this world.
As we continue our Easter festivities, we should contemplate the kind of models that we must follow and imitate in our lives. Against the background of our new life, what models will profit us for the long haul? The Church proposes to us the kind of models that will benefit us for all eternity. These models are the saints.
Saints are not merely our patrons to whom we pray in times of need and trouble. They tell us that it is possible for mere mortals to grow in the stature of Christ, our only true model. They demonstrate to us how we can live in the present world and at the same time become holy. They inspire and challenge us to practice the virtues to a heroic degree. Saints give us hope and encouragement. They give us the motivation to strive for perfection.
This Sunday Pope Francis will elevate to sainthood two great Popes: John XXIII and John Paul II. Many of us have known these holy men while they were on this earth. Some of us have even met them. I had the personal fortune of celebrating Mass with Pope John Paul II at St Peter’s Basilica on December 17, 1997. I consider that day to be one of the most memorable of my life. I never imagined that I was meeting a future saint.
These two Popes – John XXIII and John Paul II – came from two different backgrounds and from two diverse cultures. John XXIII hailed from an ordinary Italian family and served the Church as a diplomat. Among his many tours of duty were Papal Nuncio to Turkey and Holy See’s Ambassador to France. He had a great sense of humor and a down-to-earth approach to life. Once he was asked by an Italian journalist: “Holy Father, how many people work here in the Vatican?” The Pope replied: “About half.” His spiritual autobiography is entitled “The Journal of a Soul” which reveals his simple spirituality.
Pope John Paul II came from Communist Poland and he lost his parents while he was still young. His early ministry as a priest was spent with young people. He was an athlete who loved the outdoors. He wrote poetry and penned plays. He exuded a magnetism that drew huge crowds on his trip to Ireland and the US in 1979. Thanks to his indomitable leadership and his intense love for his native land, the Iron Curtain crumbled and Poland became free. His spirituality was anchored on the Eucharist and devotion to the Blessed Mother. He was the traveling Pope who became the most powerful voice of conscience for the entire world.
These two saints who had different visions of Church and authority, faith and mission, present two distinct portraits of Christ. They tell us that it is not our ideology or our theology that counts. It is the way we love the Lord that matters. It is the passion with which we suffer for Him that makes the difference. It is the zeal with which we preach the Gospel that saves us and the world.
Let us invoke these two saints. Let us follow their example. Let us ask them to bless the Church, our parish and our families!
St John XXIII and St John Paul II, pray for us!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...