WHY DO CATHOLICS WORSHIP SAINTS!? This was a question I heard on one of the talk shows on April 27 when Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were declared canonized saints of the Catholic Church after leading good and worthy lives. As Catholics, we only worship God but we give honor to those who lived such good and holy lives among us. As Pope Francis said in his homily they were human who had their faults at times as any human does, but their lives of virtue are an example for us to follow. I was in grammar school when Pope John was elected in 1958. He was elected to be a short-term pope because of his age- 78- and not expected to do much. But he certainly did when he realized a need for Roman Catholics to take a new view of their church and as he called it to ”open up some windows and let in some fresh air.” He opened up the Second Vatican Council in 1962, but died in 1963.
All of us over nine years of age lived during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. His travels of over 750,000 miles around the world during 100 pilgrimages- as he called them- brought him and the papacy close to millions. It is thought that he spoke in front of more people than anyone in history with attendance at many Masses with over 1 million people. His was the third longest pontificate in Catholic history and 265 Popes. His election was at the young age of 58, but three years after he began he was shot in Vatican Square. His health began to deteriorate around 1995 with the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Coming to Rome with his background of WWII then the onslaught of Communism gave him a different perspective to the history of Europe and the world which served as a basis for many of his talks.
I was blessed to meet him seven times from 1990 – 1995 in Rome and in New York City. At that time. I realized his magnetic personality and holiness from celebrating Mass in his chapel, but in a million years would never have thought that I would be speaking with a canonized saint of the church. He urged all of us to “Be Not Afraid” as we take up the work of Jesus in leading our lives each day and speaking up for a greater concern and respect for life. We don’t worship him as a “god,” but honor and respect his words and holy life.
Fr. Robert Yetter
April 27, 2014