It was an amazing weekend visiting Washington D.C. for the canonizations of two new saints — Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday. These two men helped to bring the Roman Catholic Church into the modern world with great courage, love, joy, humor, grace, and humility. To celebrate this historic event, the John Paul II Shrine was hosting a series of events over the weekend.
It started with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament for three miles around the area in Washington, D.C. fondly known as “Little Rome,” because there are so many Catholic organizations, churches, and shrines in a concentrated area of the city. The procession went from the JPII Shrine to the Basicilca of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, then to Catholic University of America, then to the John Paul II Seminary, and returning back to the JPII Shrine. At each stop there was speech honoring both saints, and then time for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Many faithful devoutly joined this procession, despite having rain and wind to endure, nature was not going to stop this joyous occasion.
After the procession, there was a midnight Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, a Feast instituted by Pope John Paul II. There were about 1,000 people in attendance of this beautiful Mass celebrated by the chaplain of the John Paul II Shrine, Fr. Gregory Gresko. This temporary chapel was set-up for the weekend, and had a beautiful artwork in the background of Christ, and there were protraits of John Paul II and the Divine Mercy image on each side of the altar. There were TVs for viewing the Masses locally and in Rome throughout the facility, and a wall also had the live Twitter Feed from people posting from around the globe on #2PopeSaints.
There were two first class relics of Saint John Paul II that were taken out for veneration, one is a permanent gift from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a blood soaked cloth from the time of the shooting of JPII, and the other was on loan from the Knights of Columbus that is a vile of blood from JPII.
Fr. Gresko said that the walls will enclose this space and an artists is coming who had worked with John Paul II on some iconic art in Rome, and will be working on beautiful art to cover the walls of the new chapel opening in the Fall of 2015. The basement museum space is currently being overhauled, and will have a wonderful permanent interactive exhibit opening in July 2014. The exhibit will invite visitors to walk in the footsteps of of Saint John Paul II while exploring how his understanding of the dignity of the human person informed his life and papacy. It will also explore his teachings and spirituality through computer interactives, personal artifacts, and original artwork. This inspiring Shrine will always offer Mass, Confession, The Angelus, Adoration, and Veneration of JPII relics (see website below for schedule)
The crowds who came cheered when Pope Francis and Pope Bendict XVI embraced to start the Holy Mass for the Canonizations of these two holy men about to become saints. When it was official everyone rejoiced and the Holy relic if John Paul’s blood was processed out and people had opportunity to pray with the relic. Saint John Paul II was with us both in spirit and body during this special event in Washington, DC, where he designated the place for his own shrine to be during his lifetime. It is interesting that he did not choose Italy or Poland, but chose Washington, DC since he knew it was a place that welcomes all peoples around the world. You and your parish should make a pilgrimage to Washington, DC to see this inspiring shrine, which now also includes the nearby Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land & The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Catholic Celebrate the Canonizations from the Saint John Paul II National Shrine (Catholic News Service)
Saint John XXIII (1881-1963)
I made a short video to highlight the history and great contributions that the “Good Pope” gave to our faith.
Fr. James Martin, S.J. also shared the joy and humor and humility of Saint John XXIII. Fr. Martin also wrote an excellent article in The Washington Post called Do we still need saints?
Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)
Rome Reports offered a good short history of John Paul “The Great” who many called for his sainthood during his funeral in 2005.
Chris Stefanick walked the grounds near Denver’s World Youth Day and spoke about the powerful influences on youth Pope John Paul II made with so many.
Catholic New Media Coverage of the Canonizations
This was really the first canonization of a modern saint that had such modern media coverage with radio, tv, internet, and social media, that brought many more stories to light that was not true of any similar canonization before. It was also historic having two current popes in attendance who are canonizing two saint popes. Below are some of the best stories and media that I was able to see during this event that offer some unique insights and behind the scenes that you may not have seen just watching or hearing from one media source.
Behind the Scenes in Rome
It was fun to follow and number of great priests who were helping to tell the stories of the saints and what was happening in Rome.
Fr. Robert Barron was reporting for NBC News, but also was made five behind the scenes videos that are worth watching:
The Church’s One Purpose (Word From Rome #1) — more in link below.
Fr. Roderick VonHogen was reporting for SQPN and produced 18 videos (more in link below) showing how it was to be a pilgrim from the crowd perpective at the events in Rome. Fr. Roderick is a wonderful priest who started podcasting at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, and has grown a network of the best Catholic podcasters through work of many around the world and help from the Holy Spirit. Here he is visiting the tombs of both John XXIII and JPII.
Fr. Leo Patalinghug was reporting for Grace Before Meals, and cooked up a meal in honor of what the two saints would like to eat. Fr. Leo is an inspiring priest, chef, and media personality who helps preach his message of faith, food, and family.
Pilgrims, priests, sisters, and kids in Rome dancing to Pharrell Williams Happy:
Students from John Paul the Great Catholic University read the inspirational Letter to Artists by Saint John Paul II
Saint fans having fun with Social Media
Here is an entertaining cartoon regarding the two new saints by Jason Bach:
Here is a fun photo showing the Fab Four Popes walking a Roman Road to the Abbey:
Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Dies Domini
To end Divine Mercy Sunday, I attended an event hosted by the Institute of Catholic Culture at St. Veronica’s in Chantilly, Virginia. The speaker was my cousin, Monsignor Charles Pope, who offered a very insightful and heart-felt speech about this important papal document from Pope John Paul II. I urge you to please view this video, and the speech starts at the 11:30 mark
Divine Mercy (Marians of the Immaculate Conception)