Today, the Catholic church canonized Pope John XXIII along with Pope John Paul II. Although John Paul was pope for about half of my lifetime, it is John’s legacy that most shaped the church that I know.
Because I was born in 1960, the only church I have known is the Vatican II church. I don’t remember when the Mass was in Latin rather than the vernacular and the choir was the only one singing the responses. I grew up with the expectation that I would continue to study the Bible, theology, spirituality, and doctrine and be responsible for developing and acting in accordance with my own conscience. It would have been very different if John, elected at 78 and not expected to do anything of substance, had not had the vision and inspiration of the Spirit to convene the Council of the world’s Catholic bishops and invite observers from other faiths. He wanted an “aggiornamento” or updating of the church, to open the Church, which had not changed significantly in the centuries since the Council of Trent in reaction to the Protestant Reformation, to the modern world. This is the Church in which I was raised and which I continue to live out in my life to the best of my abilities.
Much of the secular media coverage talks about how the Church is “making” these two popes saints, but that is a mistaken characterization. Rather, the Church recognizes that these men are saints in heaven. God “makes” saints. Alleluia!