His Holiness Pope John Paul II is now scheduled to be beatified on May 1st – which is wonderful news. John Paul II was pope when we converted, and his influence within and outside of the Catholic Church simply cannot be overstated. The gritty details of the May 1 activities can be found here, Beatification of John Paul is set: May 1, and detailed biography and canonization information.
The secular press will certainly make a point of emphasizing what they see as his weaknesses, most specifically his limited response to the child abuse scandal in America. Too bad – for without John Paul II, our culture and world would be a far more dangerous place than it is today, in many respects.
Here’s a related anecdote – on our first trip to Rome, we made a point to visit the Vatican immediately. Due to our fatigue, we seemed to have stepped into the wrong line and instead of entering the basilica, we were led into the Grottos of St. Peter’s. Remarkably, the plain and simple tomb of John Paul II had a large crowd around it, and was roped off to allow for visitors to spend time there and pay respect to his Holiness. Wow, it was amazing how quickly the emotions welled up in us and the people around us – to be within feet of this resting place of this amazing man. Remarkably, as we left, we saw people scurry by the tombs of some very famous people on their way to see John Paul II. He will be remembered and loved for many generations.
As noted in Catholic Culture, “The beatification will take place just a bit more than 6 years after the death of John Paul II. Ordinarily the Vatican imposes a 5-year waiting period after death before even opening the investigation that can lead to beatification. But Pope Benedict XVI waived that requirement for his predecessor. During the funeral of John Paul II in April 2005, thousands of people in the congregation had joined in the chant: “Santo subito!” (“Saint right now!”) calling for quick action to raise the beloved Pontiff to the altars.”
Much will be written regarding the speed of John Paul II’s beatification – key to the speed of this process is that today’s documentation is far superior, hence the speedy process. So be it!
Many Catholics remember John Paul II’s prayers and inspiration on television during World Youth Day in Denver in 1984 – how striking it was to see thousands of kids singing and praying in response to the Holy Father; his exhortation, “Be not afraid!” when elected by the College of Cardinals to the Pope’s Chair, his apostolic motto “Totus Tuus,” a Latin phrase meaning “totally yours” expressing his personal consecration to Mary, now displayed in a mosaic high above St. Peter’s Square.
On a business some time ago, I visited a small college known as John Paul II the Great in San Diego and I asked the provost about the name. “Isn’t it a bit premature?” I asked.
“Not at all,” he told me with complete confidence. “Not at all.”