Headline: Of Sainthood And Saintly Popes

Posted on: 2014-02-20

No Endorsement for Sin
Sainthood is definitely meant for all God\'s children. God made no exceptions when Jesus Christ told us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:48). Jesus had no favorites in mind when he commanded \"Set your heart first in the kingdom and justice of God, and all these things will also be given to you\" (Matt 6:33). Jesus, the son of Sirach of the Old Testament, put it all in terse language. \"Life and death are set before man: whichever a man prefers will be given him...He (God) has commanded no one to be godless and has given no one permission to sin\"(Sir. 15: 17, 20). So, status, learning, position, tribe, language of condition cannot exclude anyone from the call to avoid and fight sin and evil. All are in it together.
Stop All Self-Deceit
In our times any excuse seems good enough for sinning. Sirach\'s words underline personal responsibility for sins committed. they need to be heard over and over again. When sin is called glamorous names like fun, politics, the Nigerian factor, fixing, indiscretion etc. the word of God opposes such suicidal self-amusement and self-deceit. The letter of St James still speaks powerfully: \"...welcome the Word that has been planted in you and has the power to save you. Be doers of the Word and not just hearers, lest you deceive yourselves. The hearer who does not become a doer is like that one who looked himself at the mirror. He looked and promptly forgot what he was like\" (Jms. 1:21-24). Obviously, for our every action and choice we will take full responsibility and will give account.
Sainthood by Popular Acclaim
The Church exists basically to encourage people gto embrace goodness and shun evil, to choose holiness rather than sin. The cult of saints in the Catholic Church serves this purpose among others, to attract people to holiness and make them emulate it. By the way, recognition of deceased Christians as saints did not begin through the Church\'s declaration but through popular piety. For almost a thousand years the Church had no canonization procedure. Believers simply venerated deceased Christians whom they considered holy and turned to them in prayer for favors and inspiration. How else would the early saints like Ireneaus, Polycarp and Ignatius, have become role models and saints till this day?
As in the Good Old Days
For many centuries now however, the Church has followed a strict, well-defined process for the canonization of deceased Christians of exemplary faith and lifestyle. Nonetheless, two exemplary Popes who have beaten the rule are about to be canonized, as we say in Nigeria, \"without following due process\". The good Pope John XIII, pope from 1958 to 1963 and the great Pope John Paul II, from 1978 to 2005, are to be canonized on April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, some rules of canonization having been waived for them. Why on earth? The reason simply is that lay people demanded their canonization. Even as Pope John Paul II lay dying, the crowd that gathered to keep vigil in St Peter\'s Square, Rome on April 2, 2005 cried out, \"Santo subito\" meaning \"Sainthood now\", requesting the Vatican to canonize him there and then. Millions who were not present could not agree any less and today the demand has not stopped for the canonization of this travelling Pope and pastor who made the entire world his parish and built bridges of reconciliation and forgiveness over political, religious and social gullies. Pope John XIII, on the other hand, fathered the second Vatican Council, arguably the greatest Ecclesiatical event in modern times. So well beloved by all as the humble and simple pope, John XIII asked the Church through the Council to make men, families and peoples turn their minds to heavenly things by updating herself where required. That calls still rings out today 50 years after the Council.
Treasure in Heaven
Millions of people today, model their lives after the teachings, witness and lifestyle of these two great popes. Both did great things for God. The world so badly needs such leaders today. According to the popular catholic periodical, The Word Among Us, Pope John called a council that opened the Church to the modern world, while Pope John Paul II became a traveling pope who preached Christ in every corner of the world. To further emphasize the universal call to holiness, Pope John Paul II in his pontificate, beatified 1, 340 people and canonized 483saints endorsing the eligibility of every race and nation for sainthood Understandably, the entire world honored the anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela of South Africa at his death, for his comparatively small 4million dollar worth personal fortune. Pope John Paul II at death had nothing but a few odds and ends to bequeath. Many who saw his wooden casket on the floor learnt more powerfully that being a saint is really about using our forces and resources in this world to acquire a fortune, there where our hearts and souls have a permanent home (Matt. 6:33). Ditto for Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Charles Lwanga, Cyprian Iwene Tansi, Isidore Bakanja and the like. Such people teach us repeatedly that sainthood is indeed for all.