A Deserving Saint
Posted on May 2, 2011The highlight of my career as a Congressional staffer was when I accompanied Speaker Hastert to the Vatican as he awarded Pope John Paul II the Congressional Gold Medal.
The Holy Father wasn’t physically strong at that time. He shook visibly from Parkinson’s disease. His voice quavered when he spoke. But his spirit was strong, as was his love for America. He was exceedingly generous with his time and he spoke from the heart when he addressed us. I remember distinctly as he backed out of the room, saying over and over “God Bless America.” It was a very moving experience for an Irish Catholic boy like me, and for the rest of the delegation, which included Congressman Joe Moakley, among others.
John Paul II was beautified yesterday in a ceremony that inspired and thrilled millions of Catholics around the globe. Beautification is one very important step on a long road to being officially recognized as a Saint. The Vatican's complicated saint-making procedures require that a miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession be confirmed before beatification, and a second one for canonization.
John Paul II is moving faster to sainthood than anybody else in history. And while you may or may not buy into all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Catholic Church, you have to respect the Pontiff’s impact on history.
He traveled the globe, visiting 127 countries, spreading his message of faith and freedom. He worked with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to undermine communism, and free millions of people who were enslaved by Communist Russia.
He had his critics, but these days, that is no surprise. The nation’s media culture is not friendly to the Catholic faith or to believing Catholics. And the Church has made its fair share of mistakes, especially when it comes to the sexual abuse scandals.
Put into a broader context, John Paul II’s contribution to both Church history and political history is immense. More than any other figure, JP II reinvigorated a Catholic faith that badly needed the help. And by offering hope to the millions of Catholics that were abandoned behind the Iron Curtain, he helped bring down a system that was so brutal, evil and dangerous that it now only exists in places like North Korea and Cuba.
John Paul is a deserving Saint, and I am grateful that the Church is moving quickly to give him that recognition.