The three coins above (all at a bargain for $4) depict Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, as well as a freshly minted Blessed Paul VI. These three Popes were celebrated this year for their holiness, and as the Church makes her way to All Saints Day this Saturday, these Saint-Popes lead the way. As we journey through this life we need the good example of our pastors to lead us to holiness. Of course, maybe we are used to the fact that the Popes of our times have been exemplary in holiness, but a glance at Church history shows that Saint-Popes are not a given. In fact, of the 92 Saint & Blessed Popes about half of them lived during the first 400 years of the Church’s history (most of them martyrs). See the List.
With the recent beatification of Pope Paul VI and the first celebration of the feast of St. John Paul II this month, I became more aware of the uniqueness of our times. An era of Saint-Popes is upon us, and this heightened presence of saints in our midst indicate great blessings from God, but also emphasize the urgency for holiness today. The Martyr-Popes led the Church in the first era evangelization, The Church Fathers-Popes (like Leo and Gregory the Great) defended the Church from heresy and physical attack. Why has the Church been given such holy Popes in recent years?
Certainly the turn of the millennium (What St. John Paul II called the “Great Jubilee”) is a factor here, as is the continued implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Above all, though, I think recent canonizations and beatifications point to the New Evangelization, heralded by all three of these Popes, one by convening an ecumenical council (St. John XXIII) another setting it in motion (Bl. Paul VI) and yet another to “show us how to the New Evangelization” by going out to the flock (St. John Paul II). We truly have been blessed with an era of “saints among us” and the only proper response is to follow them, by following the Master in our ordinary lives. Maybe I didn’t realize it my student days, when I met St. John Paul II in Rome, that I was called to be just as holy and committed to the Gospel as he was, but that look in his eye still moves me to try. Blessings!