VATICAN CITY — The April 27 canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII are a source of spiritual inspiration for young men on the path to priesthood.
The proclamation of the two popes as saints “reminds us, whether we’re popes or not, we’re all called to be saints,” reflected Deacon Marc Homesy of Leeds, England.
“Especially for me, becoming a priest, who is someone in the public eye, I must seek to be visibly configured to Christ and also in my ministry encourage others in their spiritual life and in helping to build the kingdom [of God],” he said April 27.
Deacon Homsey, who will be ordained to the priesthood in three months, said he was “inspired and encouraged by all four of the popes” associated with Sunday’s Mass.
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass canonizing John XXIII and John Paul II, and his retired predecessor, Benedict XVI, concelebrated, seated with the cardinals nearby.
This historic event “did strike home,” the English deacon reflected, noting its visible significance for the “chain of succession” in the See of Peter. “Who knows, in the future,” he added, “we may be witnessing their canonizations.”
Deacon Martin Dulchev of Bulgaria was also extremely moved by the canonizations. The young man, who credits his religious vocation to John Paul II, is studying for the priesthood in the Greek Catholic Church.
During John Paul II’s visit to Bulgaria, the young Dulchev was asked by his bishop to help arrange the pope’s encounter with youth. Though not particularly attentive to his faith at the time, Dulchev agreed.
Along with other young people, he participated in a play re-enacting the witness of three priests who were killed by the communist regime. Dulchev also prepared a speech that included two rhetorical questions for the pope.
“Why do we no longer see Christian witness” like that of the three priests? he asked. And why do so many young people engage in the virtual world with things like video games?
“I didn’t expect an answer,” Dulchev admitted. John Paul II was very frail at the time and appeared to be asleep during the young man’s speech in Bulgarian. But the aged pope was listening, and at the end, he sat up and began to reply to the questions.
“He said, ‘You young people are very sensitive of the reality which is sometimes very hard to live — that is because you are looking for a world, another world, maybe better,’” Dulchev recalled.
“But the virtual ones that you make, or that you’re living in, are not so good, because they take from you more than you think they take. Just try reality with the eyes of Christ — you will see it is beautiful. After that, if you do that, you will become the testimony that you are looking for,” the pope added.
The young deacon recounted that the pope’s words struck him to the core.
“In this moment, I was in front of the reality. He made me stay, stand in front of this reality and realize that Somebody calls, maybe not here in front of you, but in your heart. And I said, 'Okay, I will try' — and here I am, a deacon!”
Both deacons were able to sit in the clergy section at the canonization Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday.
“In my time in Rome, I’ve witnessed the beatification of John Paul II, the resignation of one pope, the election of a new pope and now the canonization of two popes,” Deacon Homsey said. “It really strengthens my belief that we belong to the universal Church and that the successor of Peter is always guiding God’s Church.”