Two Sons of Mary
By Chris Sparks (May 1, 2014)
In May, the Month of Mary, we thought we'd share some stories on Our Lady and Marian devotion. Last month, Pope Francis canonized two of his predecessors: John Paul II and John XXIII. Here, we reflect on their legacy of Marian devotion:
I'm too young to remember John XXIII. Indeed, my whole life has been lived beneath the spiritual fatherhood of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. They have been "my" Popes and the Popes of my generation. And of course, John Paul II, a magnetic and visibly holy man, towers in the minds of the "JPII Generation." His long pontificate, so deeply tied into the history of the 20th century, addressed so many issues of such deep importance to our times. He was prophetic. He's a giant among men, among Popes, and we will all be living in his shadow (or perhaps radiance) for a long, long time.
And yet John XXIII was of no less consequence. John Paul II's papacy would not have been what it was without the Second Vatican Council, called by John XXIII. John helped ease the Cuban Missile Crisis, placing peace back on the table when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were on the brink of war. He was known as "Good Pope John" in an age that badly needed a kindly father, an age that needed a leader who wasn't wielding the weapons of war but rather offering mercy and peace. It's been widely overlooked that he also came bearing the medicine of penance for sins as a means of remedying many of the ills of modernity, or that he was a man of very traditional piety; just pick up his Journal of a Soul (product code: TH-JOAS) and you'll see what I mean. But there's time enough for us all to learn to love and follow these two new saints well.
Both men pointed us to the Mother of God over and over again, and we should follow their lead. Glancing through John's motu proprios, papal writings that enact changes in the laws and disciplines of the Church on the Pope's own authority, it's amazing to see the sheer number of documents that make the Blessed Virgin Mary the patroness of different churches or organizations, or that elevate Marian shrines and places of prayer to the status of basilicas. John Paul II's whole pontificate was lived Totus tuus, totally given to the Blessed Virgin Mary and lived beneath the shadow of the cross, modeling St. Louis de Montfort's total consecration to Jesus through Mary before the eyes of the world.
Both men pointed to the Rosary as the devotion of devotions, the crown and pinnacle of the Church's treasury of prayers outside the liturgy and the Sacraments. In his encyclical Grata Recordatio, John XXIII called all the faithful to pray the Rosary. He followed that up with Il Religioso Convegno, an apostolic letter on the Rosary, in which he offered a series of meditations on the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. John Paul II also wrote an encyclical on the Blessed Virgin Mary titled Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) and an apostolic letter on the Rosary called Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he gave us the Luminous Mysteries.
Two men, and yet in a lot of ways, one legacy. A legacy of loyalty and love, all given to the Catholic Church, all to the Blessed Mother, all to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Blessed Trinity, from whom all blessings flow.
As we celebrate their canonizations, let us ask these two holy Popes to pray that we may learn to love the Blessed Virgin Mary as they did. Let us follow their great examples of devotion to Mary, especially by praying the Holy Rosary, and commit to promoting Marian devotion with ever renewed fervor, wisdom, and love.
To learn more about the Popes, visit our resource page.