April 2nd, Monday of Holy Week, will mark the second anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s entry into eternal life. On that day, in Rome’s Cathedral Church, St. John Lateran, a special ceremony marking the close of the initial investigation into Pope John Paul II’s life and virtues will take place. Already a probable miracle due to his intercession is also presently under investigate – all this as a prelude to his possible beatification and canonization as a saint. While – at this point – no one can say when this will take place, the process towards it is well underway. The cries heard on the day of his funeral two years ago continue to reverberate throughout the Church: Santo subito! Sainthood, now!
Once, in catechism class, a little child was asked “what is a saint?” In a perfect illustration of that phrase “from the mouths of babes”, he replied a bit hesitantly: “A saint is a – uh – window”. His experience of saints was of those depicted in the stained glass windows of his parish church. But he had grasped a profound truth. Saints are indeed like windows – through them light shines, not the light of the sun but the light of the Son.
And in Karol Wojtyla, that light shone brightly! As he once looked out on the multitudes from his window at the Vatican or from the many altars in the countries he visited, he now looks down from heaven’s window. And, we can say that he himself is a window through which the light of Christ continues to shine on us.
In his ministry as Pope, he embraced the Second Vatican Council’s renewed emphasis on the universal call to holiness. Throughout his 26 years as Pope, he never tired of placing before us the radical demands of the gospel and he urged us not to be afraid to embrace them. By exhortation but also by example, an example given even with much pain and suffering, he reminded us that for a Christian “it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity.”
He canonized more saints than any Pope in history to underscore the fact that it is holiness which expresses best the mystery of the Church. Holiness is, he taught us, “a message that convinces without need for words and is a living reflection of the face of Christ.” John Paul II, in his word and in his life, gave us a message that is convincing, a message of hope, a message about Jesus Christ, the source of our hope, the hope that does not disappoint.
In his youth, Karol Wojtyla was an athlete and a sports’ enthusiast. It would be curious to know what he thought of the new “extreme sports” now popularized on T.V.: “extreme” golf, “extreme” skiing, etc. As one pundit said: This Polish Pope invented a new sport: “Extreme holiness”. But for John Paul II, holiness was not just a pastime; it was the pursuit of his life. And it should be ours as well.