You probably know that at the end of April Pope John Paul II will be canonized (made a saint). What you may not know is that there is another pope being canonized at the same time — Pope John XXIII.
Several years ago I was at a used book sale and I came across Journal of a Soul, a book which compiles all of John XXIII’s journals from when he was a seminarian, on to when he was a pope. They aren’t diary entries about the events of his life, but more reflections on the state of his soul and resolutions on how to grow in holiness.
After reading it he became one of my favorite saints.
So who was Pope John XXIII?
Pope John XXIII was born Angelo Roncalli in 1881 in Italy. He entered the seminary at a young age with the desire to be a simple, holy priest. One of his early assignments was as secretary to a bishop, then national director of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Then later he was a Vatican diplomat in Bulgaria, Istanbul and France. In 1958 he was elected pope.
Despite these rather important jobs he remained humble and entrusted everything to God and desired only to do His will.
This trust in the Holy Spirit helped him realize that the Church needed to address the changes the modern world was bringing, and so in 1962 he convened the Second Vatican Council, the first Council of its kind in over 100 years. The Council was an important moment in modern church history — it produced many documents on the modern world, turned a new page in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and emphasized the importance of the laity.
Pope John XXIII died in 1963, before the Council was completed. Following his death many people called for him to be canonized right away.
What did people think of him as pope?
John XXIII was very much like Pope Francis, in that he was very down to earth and interested in everyday people. He wrote, “It is commonly believed and considered fitting that even the everyday language of the Pope should be full of mystery and awe. But the example of Jesus is more closely followed in the most appealing simplicity.”
He was known as “Good Pope John.”
He was also known as a pretty witty pope. His most famous quip came after a reporter asked “How many people work in the Vatican?” John XXIII’s answer: “About half of them.”
Another time he met a boy who introduced himself as Angelo. “That was my name,” John XXIII said, then added conspiratorially, “but then they made me change it.”
People become saints because they live holy, virtuous lives, something which can be seen in Pope John XXIII’s humble demeanor and utter trust in the plan of God.
This is something which comes through in his journals and initially attracted me to this new saint. I hope that his canonization will lead you to take a closer look at his life and to follow his example.
Amazing John XXIII Quotes
“The secret of everything is to let oneself be carried by God and so to carry him to others.”
“Prayer is the raising of the mind to God. We must always remember this. The actual words matter less.”
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
“Whoever follows after Christ, the perfect man, becomes himself more of a man. For by His incarnation the Father’s Word assumed, and sanctified through His cross and resurrection, the whole of man, body and soul, and through that totality the whole of nature created by God for man’s use.”
“Direct all your actions and your sacrifices to this end: that they may all serve to make you more happy and content in Paradise.”
“It is natural that the souls created by God and destined for eternal life should seek to discover the truth, the primary object of the human mind’s activity. Why must we seek truth? Because truth comes from God, and between man and the truth there is no merely accidental relationship but one which is necessary and essential.”