Boulder, Colo., Apr 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope John Paul II’s love for young people and nature was based on a profound understanding of the link that both bear to God, say organizers of a Colorado summer camp named after the late pontiff.
“John Paul II understood our connection with creation on a deep and profound level,” said Annie Powell, founder and director of Camp Wojtyla.
“He told us that ‘our very contact with creation has a deep, restorative power,’” she said, quoting the Pope’s 1990 World Day of Peace address.
As a young priest, then-Fr. Karol Wojtyla – the man who would later take the name Pope John Paul II – began leading wilderness excursions for young people while teaching them about the faith.
“The wilderness not only communicated God’s greatness, but it was also a haven of pure goodness, community and the best possible environment for catechesis,” Powell explained to CNA April 23.
Powell said that the future Pope had a deep love for young people as he “understood the fire within young people; their passion and potential for greatness.”
“He saw in communist Poland how the courage of the young brought down the oppression of a powerful, atheistic and corrupt government,” she explained.
Today, young people growing up in a “culture of death” still need to have a place of refuge in nature where they can reconnect with God, she suggested.
“Because the wilderness communicates the Glory of God, just like JPII, we see no better environment to catechize and challenge the youth who come to us. We believe in their path to holiness and know they are capable of greatness.”
For the past eight years, Powell – along with her family and a handful of full-time staff members and summer counselors – has ministered to young people through Camp Wojtyla, a weeklong Catholic summer camp in the mountains of Colorado that offers catechesis through outdoor adventures.
Camp Wojtyla has begun expanding to offer family and year-round excursions, but their summer camp remains the most popular option for teenagers seeking to connect with God through outdoor adventures.
“The wilderness itself is giving them a space where they can be themselves free from the anxieties and pressures of the demands of home life and the noise of the culture back home with all of the lies and the pressures that are being spoken,” said Camp Wojtyla staffer Keenan Fitzpatrick.
The 23-year-old realized the importance that nature held in John Paul II’s life while attending a talk by papal biographer George Weigel, who recalled something the Holy Father had told him when asked about his formation as a priest.
John Paul II simply said, “If you speak with most popes, they’ll say that they received their formation from seminary. I, however, received my formation by bringing young people into the wilderness.”
“I got chills when I heard (Weigel say) it,” Fitzpatrick said. “He wanted people to experience the freedom that Christ is and one of those ways to experience that freedom is being in the freedom of the wilderness.”
At Camp Wojtyla, Fitzpatrick said that young people are given the opportunity to experience that kind of freedom and then apply it to their relationship with God.
“We give them very solid and memorable experiences so that they can then transfer it into their faith life,” he explained.
Rather than go on adventures just for fun, the campers are encouraged to reflect and discuss how the activities relate to faith.
He shared how one girl said that rock climbing helped her realize that she needed to trust in God as much as she trusted the rope that kept her safe as she climbed.
“(God) is someone who will hold her up and not let her down even if she cannot feel him holding her,” Fitzpatrick said.
Brooke Horner, who was a summer counselor for the camp in 2012, said that when society was “giving up” on the next generation, “John Paul II saw how vital they would be in the life of the Church” and challenged them to a “greater understanding of their role as a member of the Body of Christ.”
In the wilderness, she said, young people are similarly challenged when they are removed from the conveniences of modern life.
While difficult at first, Horner acknowledged, by the end of the week, campers are filled with “joy that is centered on Christ and virtuous relationships.”
“Without the comforts of home, the youth are completely vulnerable and must rely on God to get them through trials,” she said. “Through vulnerability, our Lord works.”
Vatican City, Apr 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In honor of the canonizations of Bl. John Paul II and John XXIII the Knights of Columbus donated two fields in Rome where Polish pilgrims can camp, also holding a Mass led by their Supreme chaplain.
“We had a tremendously close relationship with John Paul II during his papacy,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson told CNA April 24 regarding the Saints, “So, for the Knights of Columbus, this is a wonderful, wonderful day.”
The world’s largest fraternal service organization, the Knights of Columbus was founded by Venerable Fr. Michael J. McGivney in 1882 and has donated nearly $100,000 to support Vatican Television’s, CTV, broadcast of the canonizations.
In addition the Knights have also donated two of their sports fields in Rome to Polish pilgrims who traveled to participate in the canonizations. Some 1,000 pilgrims were expected to make use of the fields. A Mass was also held Saturday morning, which was presided over by their Supreme chaplain, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.
Recalling the first time he met Bl. John Paul II in 1981, Anderson explained that he has “had the opportunity to be with him many times since,” and was particularly struck by the pontiff’s “great leadership, his personal sanctity, his holiness.”
“So today is a dream come true to be here with his canonization,” he expressed, highlighting that for many years the Saint led “the renewal of the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.”
He then drew attention to the Polish Pope’s accomplishments in the areas of marriage and family, the new evanglization, his vision of unity for the Church in the Americas, the liberation of Europe and his great strides in renewing religious vocations.
“It is really the Pope and maybe even the Saint of the 20th century and we hope for the 21st century.”
“John Paul II told us that man is created out of love, for love. He is a being who's meaning in life doesn't have purpose or meaning, really, without love,” Anderson went on to say, reflecting that “this is the great legacy of John Paul II and if we become that kind of loving disciple, then we will have lives of joy.”
Speaking of the renewal process the Church is currently undergoing with Pope Francis, the Knight observed that “there is a great continuity between Saint John Paul II and Pope Francis.”
“Of the ‘Joy of the Gospel,’ of the way that the Pope becomes for the world a person of witness of the discipleship of Christ,” he continued, adding that “The courage, the hopefulness – all of this we saw in John Paul II with the vigor of a youthful papacy and now we see many of the same attributes with Pope Francis.”
“Bringing the message, opening the doors to Christ, having courage, not being afraid – not being afraid of the difficult questions. We are very, very lucky to be blessed with these holy Popes during our lifetime,” he affirmed.
Archbishop Lori, who is leading a group of about 40 pilgrims from his diocese in Baltimore, also reflected on the importance of the canonization of such significant figures, telling CNA April 24 that “It seems to me that John XXIII was the Lord's instrument in convoking the Second Vatican Council.”
The Council he noted, was “calling the Church to a new Pentecost and calling the Church to embrace its patrimony its teaching its inner life – and to bring that outward to the modern world,” adding that “I do believe that the Second Vatican Council is a focal point as we move forward.”
Referring to the legacy left by Bl. John Paul II, the archbishop explained that it is his “teaching and witness to the dignity of the human person in the context of the 20th century that is so important.”
“If you look back at his first encyclical, Redemptoris Hominis, it is in a certain sense the program of his papacy in a capsule form” he noted, drawing attention to the emphasis the pontiff placed on the dignity of human labor and the family.
He also gave a strong “witness to the dignity of the human person,” Archbishop Lori stated, affirming that “it's a legacy we need to return to again and again.”
Coupled with their presence in Rome, the Knights of Columbus will also be hosting celebrations for the canonizations across the United States, the largest being in Washington D.C, New Haven, Conn., and Los Angeles.
Vatican City, Apr 26, 2014 (CNA) -
The Holy See’s press office has announced that retired pontiff Benedict XVI will be a concelebrant at Sunday’s Mass and canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII.
“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has accepted the invitation of Pope Francis to attend the canonization. He will concelebrate the Mass, but not at the altar,” announced Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at a press conference on April 26.
The head of the Holy See’s press office went on to explain that due to his advanced age, the retired pontiff will be seated with the other cardinals under a special tent in case of inclement weather, rather than directly at the altar with Pope Francis.
The elderly former Pope resigned the papacy in February 2013 due to his age and deteriorating strength. He resides in a monastic setting behind St. Peter’s Basilica.
Sunday’s Mass of canonization will be held in St. Peter’s square. Fr. Lombardi announced today that St. Peter’s Basilica will be open after the mass until about 10 p.m.
Pilgrims will have the opportunity to visit the relics of the two saints in the basilica, and will see that the title written on altar where John Paul II is buried has been changed from “Blessed John Paul II” to “Saint John Paul II” in Latin.
During the Mass, the reliquary of John XXIII will be carried by four of his nieces and nephews, while those carrying that of John Paul II include Floribeth Mora, a Costa Rican woman who was healed from a brain aneurysm through the intercession of the late Pope.
French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose healing from Parkinson’s was acknowledged as miracle in the cause for John Paul II’s beatification, will read the prayers of intercession during the liturgy.
On Monday morning, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who is in charge of St. Peter’s Basilica, will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving particularly for the sainthood of John Paul II. The mass is especially for Polish pilgrims, and the choir of Krakow will sing.
Another Mass of thanksgiving, for John XXIII, will be held Monday at the church of San Carlo in central Rome. Pilgrims from Bergamo, Italy, the late pontiff’s home town, will be in attendance.
Rome, Italy, Apr 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Having traveled 20 hours for the canonization of Bl. John Paul II and John XXIII, Polish youth voiced their excitement for the event, saying that former pontiff is “someone special” for the country.
“I think that our Pope was someone special and he's our pride and we should be proud of such a great man,” Kasia Kozba, 18, told CNA April 25 following a Mass organized by the Knights of Columbus, who donated two of their sports fields in Rome for the pilgrims to camp at during the weekend.
Kozba explained that her group had traveled for 20 hours in order to get to Rome, and that the bus broke down in Austria, adding an additional four hours to the trip.
The global fraternity Knights of Columbus have donated two of their sports fields in Rome to Polish pilgrims who traveled to participate in the event, offering a special Mass for them Saturday morning which was presided over by their Supreme chaplain, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.
To be in Rome, Kozba reflected, “means a lot to me because I'm actually sick and I wanted to come here, but I don't feel really well. So it is difficult” to be here, but “it was my dream and it came true, so I'm really happy.”
Noting how this trip marks her first time in Rome, Kozba expressed that she “would really like” to tour around the city, but is worried that “we don’t have enough time to visit all of the places, and interesting things.”
However just to be present for the canonizations is exciting, because “Our Pope was someone special.”
“I remember when he passed away and it was a tragedy because we lost someone so dear to us,” but “we all know that he’s in heaven and he’s more happy now,” she continued.
Responding to an April 24 message that Pope Francis sent to the Church in Poland thanking them for the great gift of John Paul II, Kozba stated that they are “proud” of having “such a great man” come from their country.
“And I would like to thank Pope Francis because he's also someone special and I think that he’s also going to be a saint one day.”
Also present among the young pilgrims were friends Patrick and David, 23, who explained to CNA that they came to Rome this weekend “because John Paul II was a very important person” to them, adding that “the fact that he was Pope made us to come here for the canonization celebrations.”
Observing how they were “too young” to really know the Polish Pope and what he did, David highlighted that “he died when we were teenagers so we never knew him like our parents, but still we have the devotion to come here.”
Recalling the great emphasis John Paul II placed on the importance of youth in the Church and in society, David noted that this makes him feel close to the pontiff, “because his words are still alive in the Church.”
“Every priest keeps repeating them, so his teaching is, like I said, alive – still alive.”
Anticipating the canonization ceremony tomorrow, the youth laughed that they “are actually afraid because of the crowds,” but that “it’s a wonderful experience,” a “wonderful atmosphere,” and that they are “excited.”
Also speaking in regards to Pope Francis’ message to Poland, David voiced that “I think I can be proud to be Polish, to be a Pole, because of the huge number of Poles in Rome right now.”
“I may feel like somebody special here…and I'm really glad Pope Francis said those words to us.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A pilgrim group from Roncalli Newman Parish in La Crosse, Wis., has journeyed to Rome for the canonization of Pope John XXIII, whose baptismal name was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli.
As the parish celebrates the 50th anniversary of its church building, its pastor Fr. James Kurzynski felt “that it would be wonderful to have some parishioners go to Rome to be present at the canonization Mass to remember this great event in the context of our 50th anniversary.”
“I felt that it's not just a once in a lifetime opportunity but it made a lot of sense in terms of the different celebrations our parish is having - but also the celebration for the universal Church with the canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII,” Fr. Kurzynski told CNA April 26.
The dual canonization is particularly meaningful for the 40-year-old Wisconsin pastor.
“Up until Benedict, the only Pope I really knew was John Paul II,” he recounted. Thus, “as someone who would consider himself a JPII Catholic and a JPII priest, it means a great deal to me in terms of being here.”
Fr. Kurzynski noted that both John XXIII and JPII have been influential on his vocation to the priesthood.
One of the changes brought about by Vatican II, the ecumenical council called by Pope John XXIII, was a wider use of the vernacular language not only in the Mass but in seminary training.
“I am somebody that struggles with language and I know that for me – as much as I love Latin, I can sing Latin and I have a great love for the Latin tradition – I'm not sure if I could have cut the mustard grade-wise in languages in seminary,” the priest reflected.
But more importantly, he added, “is the simple mentality of John XXIII who, as he went to bed at night, would simply pray, ‘It your Church Lord, and I am tired.’ As a young priest, we can fall into a trap of thinking that the success of the Church falls on our shoulders. Instead, the role of the priest is faithfulness and Christ is the one who does the work.”
“With John Paul II, the influence from him is really his zeal, his love, and his simple phrase that he would speak over and over again, ‘fear not,’” he added.
Another member of the Roncalli Newman Parish pilgrim group was Dewey Bjorkman, a former Lutheran pastor who converted to Catholicism seven years ago.
“John XXIII is very special to me for many reasons,” he noted, adding that the Pope’s statement on ecumenism at Vatican II in particular “was fundamental to me eventually moving into fellowship in the Catholic Church.”
“As someone who’s just seven years a Catholic, I’m continually discovering the depths of diversity within the Church, the various themes of the gospel that are picked up by various leaders and popes throughout the years,” he added.
Gregory Wegner, professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, also joined the parish pilgrimage.
Wegner is a Holocaust historian who is currently engaged in research on John XXIII’s time as the papal nuncio to Turkey in the 1940s.
“I’m deeply interested in people like John XXIII in the Roman Catholic Church, who risked a good deal to rescue Jews,” he explained, noting that the then-Roncalli helped to save 24,000 Slovakian Jews, “people who most certainly would have been sent to Auschwitz,” by aiding them to get immigration visas.
The Roncalli Newman parish will follow the footsteps of its namesake in reaching out to their Jewish neighbors. On May 1, the parish will celebrate an interfaith prayer service with the synagogue across the street.
The local rabbi told Fr. Kurzynski that “for the Jewish people, two of the most beloved Popes are John XXIII and John Paul II...their example as Popes, first of all, but also their fighting against the Holocaust, against the Nazis: their standing for human dignity in the face of hatred that they both endured.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Parishes throughout the city of Rome were filled the evening of April 26 with pilgrims spending the night in prayer in anticipation of the next day’s canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.
More than a dozen churches were open for adoration, Mass, confession, and private prayer, as Catholics from around the world joined locals in the candle-lit parishes, with backpacks and flags by their sides.
One Italian pilgrim, Massimo, attended a vigil with fellow Christians at the church of San Marco in the center of Rome.
“If we are brothers and sisters in Jesus, well, people have the right to see that we love each other. And our mutual love has to be something real, something that they can touch in order to believe,” he told CNA.
He said that he hopes “to share with everybody the experience” of the canonizations, which “has been (a) very nice, very strong experience because they (John Paul II and John XXIII) gave us so much and we, all of us, really can share together, and some beautiful witnesses from them.”
Richard Marsden, a seminarian from England, said that the Popes’ examples of sanctity were an inspiration for his own journey of faith.
“I didn’t meet John Paul II - obviously I saw him on TV and grew up with him as the Pope. It’s amazing to be able to witness somebody become a saint in front of your eyes, because every Christian person is called to be a saint. And to have these examples – like John Paul II, like John XXIII – to try and emulate is a fantastic thing and a great boost to the spiritual life.”
In Piazza Navona, two pilgrim brothers walked across the piazza waving a huge Mexican flag as Polish pilgrims gathered outside the Church of St. Agnes singing hymns. The excitement was evident.
“You see a lot of people from all over the world - it’s just amazing - the other flags from other countries, and you see all the people united in one place,” said Juan Pablo enthusiastically.
His brother, Jesus, who studies and works in Guadalajara City, added, “It’s going to be a huge event. I think that it’s something very important because it’s going to be a saint that we’ve met. I actually met (John Paul II) at the canonization of St. Jose Maria (Escriva).”
Although Juan Pablo never met John Paul II, his mother did - 24 years ago when she was pregnant with her son. “The Pope, gave her a blessing, and that’s why my name is Juan Pablo, John Paul,” he explained.
Pilgrims said the influence and example of John Paul II and John XXIII remain alive in their hearts.
One Polish woman noted John Paul II’s “example of sanctity: human sanctity, simple sanctity… he was the Pope of my whole childhood, so he is an example for me,” she explained.
Giorgio, an Italian man who travelled to Rome from Turin, spoke of John XXIII’s “great courage. He left the Vatican walls and met with people. One rarely sees a Pope like that.”
His fellow Italian Massimo said that the influence of the two Popes is in “what they did and what they lived.”
“It is something that we already have in our hearts, but they gave us a big hand to take it out from our inner selves.”
“What we have to do is to live the mutual love and to give witnesses of this, that is basically the secret of the Trinity, you know, the mutual love. And everybody has the right to share and to live this. Otherwise we are a disaster,” he noted.
“And Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, they showed us how to do it. With young people, but basically with everybody. They made the road, the direction. Now it’s up to us.”