History Won’t Forget the Canonization of Pope Paul VI
This has been a very good year for people like me who are close followers of the papacy. (As readers know by now, I am enamored with the papacy, its history and the unique details surrounding the men who have held the position of “Vicar of Christ.”)
We are still in the time of arguably one of the more popular popes in a generation. Everyone loves to hear the stories of Pope Francis calling on regular folk and watching to see what he will do next.
It was also unprecedented when Francis canonized two popes at once — the beloved Saints John XXIII and John Paul II. And just recently, on Oct. 14, Pope Francis canonized Pope Paul VI (1963-1978).
I am afraid Pope Paul VI will be mostly remembered as the pope who closed the Second Vatican Council, reigned over a very tumultuous time after the council and confirmed the long-standing prohibition on artificial methods of birth control in his beautifully written encyclical “Humane Vitae.”
Because Paul VI was surrounded by the much bigger personalities of John XXIII before him and John Paul II after him, we might think that Paul will be forgotten in history, but nothing could be further from the truth. Here is one thing to consider: Among the many cardinals he made in his 15-year reign were the next three popes. If not for Paul VI, we would never have had a John Paul I, a John Paul II or a Benedict XVI. That is what you call having a massive impact!
Paul was a rare “inevitable” candidate to be pope. It is uncommon for the favored candidate before the papal election to actually become the candidate of choice, but such was the case with the cardinal from Milan. For every papal election, the papal tailor Gammarelli produces three white cassocks, small, medium and large, since no one knows who will be pope, let alone what size he will be. For the 1963 conclave, however, it was so certain that Cardinal Montini was going to be elected that the tailor produced four white cassocks — the traditional three and the fourth in Montini’s measurements.
Both the beginning and the end of Paul’s life include unique coincidences which may not be coincidences at all. He was baptized on Sept. 30, 1897, the very same day that the future St. Therese of Lisieux died in the agony of tuberculosis, foreshadowing a different kind of agony Paul was to suffer during the widespread dissent and rejection in the church during his reign. No modern pope has suffered in his ministry more than Pope Paul VI.
When Paul VI died at 9:41 p.m. on August 6, 1978, a most unusual thing occurred: his personal alarm clock, which had not been set, rang the very moment he breathed his last. He purchased the clock in Poland in 1923, a clock he took with him everywhere he traveled. Perhaps this was a foreshadowing of the Polish pope who was to travel the world over?
I would like to share some of the more memorable quotes from Pope Paul VI, many of which I am afraid may be memorable but not widely known.
“Idleness or boredom has no place in the life of a Christian.”
“Let us strive to be true Catholics, convinced Catholics, unwavering Catholics, good Catholics. Ours cannot be watered down, approximate and camouflaged Catholicism.”
“Every believer ought to be an active member of the Church. Every Catholic layperson is invested with the right and has the duty to work in order to testify to the spread of the Kingdom of God.”
“Let no one be under any delusion. Christ is demanding. Christ’s life is the narrow way. To be worthy of him, we must take up our crosses. It is not enough to be religious; it is necessary to carry out the Divine Will in actual fact.”
“Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy.”
“The Church knows men’s weaknesses, has compassion on the crowd, receives sinners; but she cannot renounce the teaching of the law which is, in reality, the law proper to a human life restored to its original truth and conducted by the spirit of God.” —Father Richard Kunst
Pope St. Paul VI, Pray for Us!