John XXIII: Meek and gentle spiritual giant
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was born in Sotto il Monte, in the Diocese of Bergamo, on Nov. 25, 1881. He entered the seminary of Bergamo when he was 11 years old. As a fourteen-year-old boy, he began drawing up the spiritual notes which he would keep in various ways until his death, and would later be collected in the Journal of a Soul.
He was ordained a priest in Rome on Aug. 10, 1904. Less than a year later, he was named secretary to the Bishop Giacomo Maria Radini Tedeschi of Bergamo. He served the bishop until 1914, taking part in numerous pastoral initiatives.
When Italy entered the war in 1915, he was called to military service as a sergeant medic, and later he was a military chaplain serving behind the lines. At the end of the war he opened a “Home for Students” and served as a chaplain for students. In 1919 he was appointed spiritual director of the seminary, and in 1921 he was named President for Italy of the central council of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
Then in 1925, he began his life of service as a bishop. He was ordained in 1925, choosing as his episcopal motto Obedientia et Pax (Obedience and Peace). That same year he was sent to be Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria. He also served as Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece (1935), and Apostolic Nuncio in Paris (1944).
In 1953, he was created Cardinal and named Patriarch of Venice. Five years later, on Oct. 28, 1958, he was elected Pope, taking the name John XXIII. During his pontificate he appeared to the world as an authentic image of the Good Shepherd.
Meek and gentle, resourceful and courageous, simple and ever active, he undertook various corporal and spiritual works of mercy, visiting prisoners and the sick, welcoming people of all nations and religions, demonstrating an exquisite sense of fatherhood to everyone.
His social magisterium was contained in the Encyclicals Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963), and he convened Vatican II.
He embodied, as the driving force behind a movement of renewal of the Church, the peace of one who trusts completely in the Lord. He advanced resolutely along the paths of evangelization, ecumenism and dialogue, and showed a paternal concern to reach
out to those of his children most in need.
He died the evening of June 3, 1963, the day after Pentecost, in a profound spirit of abandonment to Jesus, of longing for his embrace, and surrounded by the prayers of the entire world, which seemed to gathered at his bedside to breathe with him the love of the Father.
John XXIII was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on Sept. 3, 2000, in St. Peter’s Square, during the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
Based on the Booklet for the Celebration of the Canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, April 27, 2014
John Paul II: actor, scholar and pope
Karol Josef Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920. He was the third of three children born to Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska.
Karol lost his entire family before he was 21 years old. His older sister died before he was born, his mother died in 1929, and his brother Edmund died in 1932.
After completing high school, Karol and his father moved to Krakow in 1938 so he could attend the Jagellonian University of Krakow. His father died a few years later, in 1941. During World War II Karol worked in a quarry, and then in the Solvay chemical factory, to earn a living and to avoid deportation to Germany.
Feeling called to the priesthood, he began his studies in 1942 in the clandestine major seminary of Krakow. During that time, he was one of the organizers of the clandestine “Rhapsodic Theatre.”
After the war, Karol continued his studies and was ordained in Krakow in 1946. He was then sent to Rome to study for a doctorate in theology, which he completed in 1948.
Father Wojtyła returned to Poland to serve as pastor and university chaplain. He later became professor of moral theology and ethics in Krakow and Lublin.
In 1958, he was named auxiliary bishop of Krakow, and in 1964 appointed Archbishop of Krakow. Bishop Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and made a significant contribution to the drafting of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes. He was created Cardinal in 1967.
Cardinal Wojtyła was elected Pope on Oct. 16, 1978, which marked the beginning of the Pontificate of the one of the most traveled Popes in history. Pope John Paul II made 146 pastoral visits in Italy, and 104 international apostolic journeys.
Pope John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 45 apostolic letters, and five books. He also celebrated 147 beatifications, during which he proclaimed 1,338 blesseds, and 51 canonizations, for a total of 482 saints.
On May 3, 1981, he was shot in St. Peter’s Square. Saved by the maternal hand of the Mother of God, and following a lengthy stay in the hospital, he forgave the attempted assassin.
He proclaimed the Year of Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist as well as the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, in order to provide the People of God with particularly intense spiritual experiences. He also attracted young people by beginning the celebration of World Youth Day, and he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
No other Pope met as many people as Pope John Paul II. More than 17.6 million pilgrims attended his Wednesday General Audiences, and he met more than 8 million pilgrims in the Great Jubilee Year of 2000 alone.
Pope John Paul II died in the Apostolic Palace at 9:37 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, 2005, and he was beatified in St. Peter’s Square on May 1, 2011.
Based on the Booklet for the Celebration of the Canonization of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, 27 April 2014