Register Radio - Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II

This week on Register Radio, Jeanette De Melo got a preview of events in Rome for the canonization of popes John XXIII and John Paul II and Dan Burke spoke with Anthony Lilles about the spirituality of the Church’s newest pope-saints.

A Preview of Events in Rome with Edward Pentin

In the first segment of this week’s show, Jeanette De Melo speaks with the Register’s Rome correspondent Edward Pentin. Pentin has covered the Register’s Vatican news for the last ten years. Before that, he reported for Vatican Radio. His work has appeared in a number of places, including Newsweek and Newsmax

The atmosphere in Rome has been “building all week,” Pentin said. There are “lots of Polish people, of course,” he said, “but also people from all over the world, especially those who were particularly touched by John Paul II in their lives.”

Estimates from Wednesday by the Rome authorities had the number of pilgrims expected to be between 500,000 and a million people, but Pentin said he expects more than that. “Some are estimating seven million,” he said, “but nobody really has any clue. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

EWTN is covering the canonization event live and the Register will have it on livestream on the homepage at

On Saturday, Pentin said, there will be prayer vigils and liturgies in various languages in eleven churches in the center of Rome. There will be a chance for confession and to pray for the future saints, as well as the Divine Mercy Chaplet in honor of Divine Mercy Sunday.

On Monday, following the canonization events on Sunday, there will be a Mass of thanksgiving.

Both John XXIII and John Paul II were known as great diplomats and something like 20 heads of state are expected to attend, Pentin said. There are 54 different delegations from different countries that will attend as well. 

“The Vatican actually has the policy of not inviting heads of state, but they are free to come if they want,” Pentin said, adding that no one actually knows who the heads of state are until they arrive.

The press briefings all week were designed to update the details of the canonizations, but also to educate everyone about the process. They were really to “help everyone better understand the process,” said Pentin.

Some of the updates included the information that there are 700 coach loads of pilgrims coming from Poland, Pentin said, which is an enormous amount.

Check out the Register’s coverage of these two popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, over at

Anthony Lilles on the Spirituality of the Newest Pope-Saints

In the second half of the show, Dan Burke spoke with Dr. Anthony Lilles. Dr. Lilles is founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he served as Academic Dean for nine years and is a scholar and author in the field of spiritual theology. His recent book Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer, is a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students and contemplatives about the spiritual life.

There was a Carmelite monastery in the town where John Paul II grew up, and Dr. Lilles conjectured that that may have influenced his Carmelite leanings and spirituality. While he was growing up, the entire Polish world was turned upside down by the invasions of Germany and Russia. Trying to make sense of that “opened up some deep spiritual questions,” Lilles said.

Lilles shared about the connection between the future Pope John Paul II and a mentor in his town. John Paul II eventually attempted to enter into Carmelite religious life. He was questioned by both the Carmelites and the priests in his life, because of his energetic and culturally engaged personality. The feeling was, Lilles said, that his gifts were better for the diocesan priesthood.

“He carried that Carmelite heart with him into the diocesan priesthood, and I think that’s what gave him a little extra depth in his own formation and pathway to the priesthood and the beginning of the ministry. He had this deep love for the contemplative tradition the Carmelites witnessed to him,” Lilles said.

Pope John Paul II’s doctorate focused on the spirituality of John of the Cross. Lilles thought that this was because both of them were poets and John Paul II understood the poetic language John of the Cross used. The doctrine itself, Lilles said, would have also resonated with him. John of the Cross proposes that faith alone provides the solid ground to stand on when the world turns upside down.

When we believe in the love of God anyway, despite the world being chaotic and crazy, we have the confidence to proclaim that love of God. This idea gave John Paul II the confidence to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, according to Lilles, even when the whole world was falling apart. He was confident that the Word of the Lord stood firm.

John Paul II’s Marian spirituality ties in with his Carmelite spirituality, Lilles explained. “In a very real way, [John Paul II] believed that Mary mothered him in the faith, that her maternal love formed his heart so that he could stand there with her,” Lilles said. Lilles thinks that an early consecration to Mary by his father after his mother died and an introduction to Marian spirituality, including choosing Total Consecration to Mary, both impacted this viewpoint and formed him.

Dr. Lilles has given a series of video lectures which can be found at (here’s a link to the first one, and you can find the rest here). Over at, Dr. Lilles has written a review of Journal of a Soul, a book about John XXIII’s generous service.

Listen to this week’s show online or on your mp3 player.