The old saying is that all roads lead to Rome.
And that has been my experience being here over the last two days.The faithful are flocking into Rome from all corners of the globe, with various countries waving their flags, and every language imaginable being spoken.
Singing, dancing, praying — this is the response of hundreds of thousands of young people that have come to Rome for the first ever double canonization of two popes: John Paul II and John XXIII. The streets are packed; the buses are jammed full. There is something very tangible in the air.
One word summarizes the immense crowds during these days: Faith. The Faith of the Church in the Risen Christ is truly alive as we draw near to the end of the Octave of Easter.
What a day to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday! The Pope (John Paul II) who promoted the message of Divine Mercy and who made the Second Sunday of Easter officially Divine Mercy Sunday is being canonized a saint. It really does seem surreal.
I remember very well the day Bl. John Paul II died, April 2, 2005. It doesn’t seem like nine years ago. Time flies. I miss the frail, aged Pope, but tomorrow we will be celebrating the reality of the communion of the saints.
Pope John Paul II taught us about the value of every human being created in the image and likeness of God. He taught us more by his manner of life, than all his many writings. If you wanted to see what he believed, all you needed to do is watch how he lived and interestingly how he died. He taught us not to be afraid of death. He taught us how to die with dignity.
A canonization is ultimately a celebration of the reality of heaven, which is eternal life. That is where, God-willing, we are all headed and if we are not, maybe we should re-think our present course of action.
We are created to be saints. Sainthood is not for the few, but for the many.
Pope John Paul himself canonized more saints that any Pope in the history of the Church. Why? Simple. He wanted to show us that heroic charity and sanctity are possible in the difficult times that we find ourselves in.
I can hear the youth now chanting “Alleluia” from the balcony where EWTN is broadcasting the canonization coverage from Rome. I know that Blessed, tomorrow, soon-to-be Saint John Paul II must be smiling.
Young people, I believe, are trying to live what he proclaimed from the first moment he stepped out onto the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica — “Be not afraid.”
I can still hear his strong, aged voice telling young people — “Be not afraid.”
What did many young people say about this man, Pope John Paul II?
I can tell he loves me. He cares about me.
Father John Paul Mary Zeller is a Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word.
He writes from Rome, where he is covering the canonizations for EWTN.