Category: News

9 Days for Life: Day 7


Hello! Today is Day 7  of the  9 Days for Life novena, which you are automatically subscribed to receive because of your participation in other communications and prayer initiatives from the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

Intercession
May those who long to welcome a child into their family be filled with trust in God’s loving plan.Prayers
Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be
Reflection
It can be very difficult and painful when the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we hope. A couple that finds themselves unable to bring a child into the world through their loving union can experience this disappointment very deeply. During such times of trial, we may wonder why we face the particular challenges that we do. Yet even though suffering is often shrouded in a sense of mystery, we believe that the Lord loves us with great tenderness and compassion that is beyond our imagination. Knowing this, we can trust that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (
Rom 8:28). 
Acts of Reparation (Choose one.)Smile. Ask God today for the grace to be extra joyful and share Christ’s love with those who need encouragement the most today.
Offer the Prayer for Those Hoping to Conceive or Adopt a Child (
www.bit.ly/prayer-day-4), and spend some time reflecting on the accompanying excerpt from Psalm 145.
Offer some other sacrifice, prayer, or act of penance that you feel called to do for today’s intentio
n.
One Step Further
“Seven Considerations While Navigating Infertility” (
www.usccb.org/navigating-infertility) seeks to provide compassionate guidance that is both practical and informative for married couples who are walking on this road. Although geared to such couples, the article is also helpful for anyone to read, offering insight into the experience of infertility and giving awareness of the need for sensitivity in our relationships with those who may be affected.

A Part-Time Musical Director for St. John’s Parish

St. John’s Parish is seeking a part-time music director. The applicant must be available for weekend Masses and some office hours during the week. The position is approximately 10-15 hours per week.

The applicant must have significant choral experience, expertise with Catholic traditional and contemporary music and leadership and organizational skills. Musical directing experience is preferred.

Hourly wage will be determined according to prior experience.

Call the parish office for a full job description: 724-6332.

Morning Prayer, Psalm 92 & the Voice of Pope St. John Paul II

It never gets old hearing Saint John Paul II utter the beginning of this beautiful psalm in English in today’s Morning Prayer. 

We are featuring the video that was made of it, and thereby bringing you the opportunity to hear him again.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us this day and all days..

I

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,

to sing praise to your name, Most High,a

To proclaim your love at daybreak,

your faithfulness in the night,

With the ten-stringed harp,

with melody upon the lyre.b

For you make me jubilant, LORD, by your deeds;

at the works of your hands I shout for joy.

II

How great are your works, LORD!c

How profound your designs!

A senseless person cannot know this;

a fool cannot comprehend.

Though the wicked flourish like grassd

and all sinners thrive,

They are destined for eternal destruction;

but you, LORD, are forever on high.

10Indeed your enemies, LORD,

indeed your enemies shall perish;

all sinners shall be scattered.e

III

You have given me the strength of a wild ox;f

you have poured rich oil upon me.g

My eyes look with glee on my wicked enemies;

my ears shall hear what happens to my wicked foes.h

The just shall flourish like the palm tree,

shall grow like a cedar of Lebanon.i

Planted in the house of the LORD,

they shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall bear fruit even in old age,

they will stay fresh and green,

To proclaim: “The LORD is just;

my rock, in whom there is no wrong.”j

January 1: The World Day of Peace, Created by Pope Paul VI in 1968

Pope St. Paul VI

In 1968, Pope Paul VI called on all people of the world to  celebrate the Day of Peace on January 1. Since 1968, that day has been celebrated by Catholics and non-Catholics alike and is marked by a special annual peace message from the Holy Father.

According to Church teaching, peace is built on a commitment to love and justice and flourishes when all realize their responsibility for promoting it. True peace can only be attained when the dignity of each human being is respected.

The Church is called to be a sacrament and instrument of peace in the world and must work, along with its members, to promote peace and its foundations: love, justice, development, and reconciliation.

Words from the past:

“Men must always speak of Peace. The world must
be educated to love Peace, to build it up and defend
it.”

– Pope Paul VI, 1968
“If you want Peace, work for Justice.”

– Pope Paul VI, 1972
“Life is the crown of Peace. If we base the logic of
our activity on the sacredness of Life, war is
virtually disqualified as a normal and habitual means
of asserting rights and so of ensuring Peace.”

– Pope Paul VI, 1977
“Paul VI’s phrase – ‘Development is the new name
for peace’ – specifies one of the keys in our search
for peace. Can true peace exist when men, women
and children cannot live in full human dignity?”

– Pope John Paul II, 1987
“To say ‘peace’ is really to speak of much more than
the simple absence of war. It is to postulate a
condition of authentic respect for the dignity and
rights of every human being, a condition enabling
him to achieve complete fulfillment. The
exploitation of the weak and the existence of
distressing pockets of poverty and social inequality
constitute so many delays and obstacles to the
establishment of stable conditions for an authentic
peace.”

– Pope John Paul II, 1993

“Experience shows that disregard for the
environment always harms human coexistence, and
vice versa. It becomes more and more evident that
there is an inseparable link between peace with
creation and peace among men.” Pope Benedict XVI, 2007

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE PAUL VI
FOR THE OBSERVANCE OF A
DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 1968

We address Ourself to all men of good will to exhort them to celebrate “The Day of Peace”, throughout the world, on the first day of the year, January 1, 1968. It is Our desire that then, every year, this commemoration be repeated as a hope and as a promise, at the beginning of the calendar which measures and outlines the path of human life in time, that Peace with its just and beneficent equilibrium may dominate the development of events to come.

We think that this proposal interprets the aspirations of peoples, of their governments, of international organisms which strive to preserve Peace in the world, of those religious institutions so interested in the promotion of Peace, of cultural, political and social movements which make Peace their ideal; of youth, whose perspicacity regarding the new paths of civilization, dutifully oriented toward its peaceful developments is more lively; of wise men who see how much, today, Peace is both necessary and threatened. The proposal to dedicate to Peace the first day of the new year is not intended, therefore, as exclusively ours, religious, that is, Catholic. It would hope to have the adherence of all the true friends of Peace, as if it were their own initiative, to be expressed in a free manner, congenial to the particular character of those who are aware of how beautiful and how important is the harmony of all voices in the world for the exaltation of this primary good, which is Peace, in the varied concert of modern humanity.

The Catholic Church, with the intention of service and of example, simply wishes to “launch the idea”, in the hope that it may not only receive the widest consent of the civilized world, but that such an idea may find everywhere numerous promoters, able and capable of impressing on the “Day of Peace”, to be celebrated on the first day of every new year, that sincere and strong character of conscious humanity, redeemed from its sad and fatal bellicose conflicts, which will give to the history of the world a more happy, ordered and civilized development.

The Catholic Church will call the attention of its children to the duty of observing “The Day of Peace” with the religious and moral expressions of the Christian faith; but it considers it its duty to remind all those who agree on the opportuneness of such a “Day”, some points which ought to characterize it. First among these is: the necessity of defending Peace in the face of dangers which always threaten it: the danger of the survival of selfishness in the relations among nations; the danger of violence into which some populations can allow themselves to be drawn by desperation at not having their right to life and human dignity recognized and respected; the danger, today tremendously increased, of recourse to frightful weapons of extermination, which some nations possess, spending enormous financial means, the expenditure of which is reason for painful reflexion in the presence of the grave needs which hinder the development of so many other peoples; the danger of believing that international controversies can not be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.

The subjective foundation of Peace is a new spirit which must animate coexistence between peoples, a new outlook on man, his duties and his destiny. Much progress must still be made to render this outlook universal and effective; a new training must educate the new generations to reciprocal respect between nations, to brotherhood between peoples, to collaboration between races, with a view also to their progress and development. The international organizations which have been set up for this purpose must be supported by all, become better known, and be provided with the authority and means fit for their great mission. The “Peace Day” must honour these institutions and surround their work with prestige, with confidence, and with that sense of expectation that will keep alive in them the realization of their most serious responsibility, and keep strong the consciousness of the charge which has been entrusted to them.

A warning must be kept in mind. Peace cannot be based on a false rhetoric of words which are welcomed because they answer to the deep, genuine aspirations of humanity, but which can also serve, and unfortunately have sometimes served, to hide the lack of true spirit and of real intentions for peace, if not indeed to mask sentiments and actions of oppression and party interests. Nor can one rightly speak of peace where no recognition or respect is given to its solid foundations: namely, sincerity, justice and love in the relations between states, and, within the limits of each nation, in the relations of citizens with each other and with their rulers; freedom of individuals and of peoples, in all its expressions, civic, cultural, moral, and religious; otherwise, it is not peace which will exist – even if, perchance, oppression is able to create the external appearance of order and legality – but an unceasing and insuppressible growth of revolt and war.

It is, therefore, to true Peace, to just and balanced Peace, in the sincere recognition of the rights of the human person and of the independence of the individual nations, that We invite men of wisdom and strength to dedicate this Day.

Accordingly, in conclusion, it is to be hoped that the exaltation of the ideal of Peace may not favour the cowardice of those who fear it may be their duty to give their life for the service of their own country and of their own brothers, when these are engaged in the defence of justice and liberty, and who seek only a flight from their responsibility, from the risks that are necessarily involved in the accomplishment of great duties and generous exploits. Peace is not pacifism; it does not mask a base and slothful concept of life, but it proclaims the highest and most universal values of life: truth, justice, freedom, love.

It is for the protection of these values that We place them beneath the banner of Peace, and that We invite men and nations to raise, at the dawn of the new year, this banner which must guide the ship of civilization through the inescapable storms of history to the harbour of its highest destiny.

To you, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
to you, beloved sons, faithful children of our
Holy Catholic Church,

We extend the invitation which We have already announced: that of dedicating to thoughts and resolutions of Peace a special observance on the first day of the civil year, January the first of the coming year. Such an observance must not change the liturgical calendar, which reserves New Year’s Day for veneration of the divine motherhood of Mary and the most holy Name of Jesus; indeed, those holy and loving religious remembrances must shed their light of goodness, wisdom and hope upon the prayer for, the meditation upon, and the fostering of the great and yearned-for gift of Peace, of which the world has so much need.

You will have noted, Venerable Brothers and beloved sons, how often Our words have renewed considerations and exhortations upon the theme of Peace; this We do, not giving way to a facile habit, nor taking advantage of the mere interesting topic of the moment; but because We believe this is demanded by Our duty as universal Pastor; because We see Peace to be threatened so seriously and with intimations of terrible events, which may prove catastrophic for entire nations, and perhaps even for a great part of mankind; because, during the latest years of our century’s history it has finally become clearly evident that Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order – We do so because Peace is part and parcel of the Christian religion, since for a Christian to proclaim peace is the same as to announce Jesus Christ: “He is our peace” (Eph. ii. 14) and His good news is “the Gospel of peace” (Eph. vi. 15).

Through His Sacrifice on the Cross, He brought about universal reconciliation, and we, as His followers, are called to be “peacemakers” (Mt. v. 9). In fine, it is only from the Gospel that there can spring forth true Peace, not in order to make men dull and soft, but to replace the impulses to violence and bullying in their minds, by the manly virtues of reasoning and heart characteristic of true humanism. We do so, finally, because We would not wish ever to be rebuked by God and by history for having kept silence in the face of the danger of a new conflagration between peoples, which, as all know, could take on sudden forms of apocalyptic awfulness.

Men must always speak of Peace. The world must be educated to love Peace, to build it up and defend it. Against the resurgent preludes to war (nationalistic competition, armaments, revolutionary provocations, racial hatred, the spirit of revenge, etc.), and also against the snares of tactical pacifism, intended to drug the enemy one must overcome, to smother in men’s minds the meaning of justice, of duty and of sacrifice – we must arouse in the men of our time and of future generations the sense and love of Peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love (cf. Pope John XXIII: “Pacem in terris“).

Let, then, the grand idea of Peace, particularly for us, the disciples of Christ, have its solemn Day, the beginning of the new year 1968.

We who believe in the Gospel can pour into this observance a wonderful treasury of original and powerful ideas, such as that of the intangible world-wide brotherhood of all men, derived from the one, sovereign, most lovable Fatherhood of God, and arising from the communion which, whether really or hopefully, unites all of us with Christ, as well as from the prophetic vocation which, in the Holy Spirit, calls the human race to unity, not only in conscience, but in works and in final destiny. From the Gospel’s precept to pardon and to have mercy, we can draw forces which will regenerate society. And above all. Venerable Brothers and beloved sons, we can possess a singular weapon for Peace, that is, prayer, with all its marvellous energies to raise moral tone and to invoke transcendent divine forces of spiritual and political renewal, and also the opportunity offered to each and every one to question himself interiorly and sincerely concerning the roots of rancour and violence which may lurk deep in his heart.

Let us strive, then, to inaugurate the year of grace nineteen hundred and sixty-eight (the year of the faith which is transformed into hope) by praying for Peace; praying all together, in our churches and in our homes-that is what We ask of you for now. Let no voice be missing from the great chorus of the Church and of the world, beseeching Christ Who was immolated for us to “Grant us peace!”.

May Our Apostolic Blessing descend upon you and remain always.

From the Vatican, 8 December 1967.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Importance of the Holy Hour

Archbishop Sheen:

“The Holy Hour is not a devotion; it is a sharing in the work of redemption. Our Blessed Lord used the words “hour” and “day” in two totally different connotations in the Gospel of John. “Day” belongs to God; the “hour” belongs to evil. Seven times in the Gospel of John, the word “hour” is used, and in each instance itfers to the demonic, and to the moments when Christ is no longer in the Father’s Hands, but in the hands of men.

In the Garden, our Lord contrasted two “hours” – one was the evil hour “this is your hour” – with which Judas could turn out the lights of the world. In contrast, our Lord asked: “Could you not watch one hour with Me?”. In other words, he asked for an hour of reparation to combat the hour of evil; an hour of victimal union with the Cross to overcome the anti-love of sin.

The only time Our Lord asked the Apostles for anything was the night he went into his agony. Then he did not ask all of them … perhaps because he knew he could not count on their fidelity. But at least he expected three to be faithful to him: Peter, James and John. As often in the history of the Church since that time, evil was awake, but the disciples were asleep. That is why there came out of His anguished and lonely Heart the sigh: “Could you not watch one hour with me?” Not for an hour of activity did He plead, but for an hour of companionship. ”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Treasure in Clay)

Adoration, P & W, & Reconciliation

Advent Event at St. Lawrence: Dec. 12, 7 PM

COMMUNITY WIDE ADVENT EVENT
ADORATION, WORSHIP, AND RECONCILIATION

YOUTH FOCUSED, BUT ALL ARE INVITED WEDNESDAY TO SAINT

LAWRENCE. COME PRAY WITH OUR YOUNG PEOPLE!!

6+ priests available for confessions.

All religious education programs are coming. Big thanks to all DREs, youth ministers,  and faith formation directors for doing this great evening for our youth and others again this year!

Mary Elsenrath, the Daughter of Ken & Gen Graves, and Their Journey with Ovarian Cancer

Mary Graves Elsenrath’s Journey

Ken and Gen Graves are long time members of St. John’s church.  Gen taught 3rd grade at St. John’s school.  We are honored to share this beautiful family story. 

Mary Elsenrath’s family is sharing their journey with ovarian cancer, to honor and remember her artistic and gracious soul. | Photo: Graves’ Family

From WDIO News on November 26, 2018

It’s been a year since Mary Elsenrath passed from ovarian cancer. A year of firsts without the Duluth woman who loved art, the outdoors, and her family. Her large and close family continues to grieve her loss. And they have used their tears, to tell a story of awareness.

Mary had gone into the emergency room for severe abdominal pain. She’d had some pain off and on for a few months. But this time, it was extreme. She ended up having surgery, and that’s when the surgeons found the cancer. It was everywhere.

Genevieve Graves remembers her daughter’s diagnosis. “Ken and I had been wintering in Puerto Rico. She was supposed to come visit us for a week. And instead, we came home to visit her.”

That was in February of 2016. Mary, with the help of her care team, including Dr. Sande, fought on with chemotherapy and surgeries. A final chemo was on the table in the summer of 2017. “It has a 15% success rate. And she wanted to go for it,” Genevieve shared. She did, but it wasn’t enough to beat the disease.

By then, Mary had moved back home into her parents’ place on Schultz Lake. She had grown weaker. It was time to stop the fight. She didn’t want to be a burden on her family at the very end, so she decided to go to hospice care. “It was a very, very hard day when she left here,” Genevieve said, speaking about their home.

Slowly and deliberately, Mary took in the sights and sounds of the place she loved, the lake and the land. “It’s something you don’t think ever can be replaced. She gave us a gift,” Genevieve recalled through tears.

Less than two weeks later, on October 1st, 2017, she passed away at Solvay House, at the age of 47. She was surrounded by loved ones. 

Genevieve said things were a bit of a blur after that. But that Christmas, mittens made them smile. Mary had so many sweaters, and Michelle made them into mittens. “All the girls in the family got mittens for Christmas, from Mary,” Michelle said.

During those months following Mary’s death, Genevieve began writing down what happened. “It’s helped me a lot. It helps me remember everything.”

The former teacher hasn’t finished her journaling. The story isn’t over yet. Because now they’re sharing about Mary, to help other women. “She said, ‘I just wish I didn’t have to put you through this.’ And I said to her, if it helps us understand what other people are going through, it may help us to help them sometime,” Genevieve said.

This past fall, Genevieve and another one of Mary’s sisters, Melissa, attended their first Light Duluth Teal event. “I could feel her presence there. It was bittersweet. It was also kind of a reality. That this did happen. And it’s part of the grieving. And it was a shared celebration. Now we have something in common with other families,” Melissa said. MOCA, the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, hosts the Light Duluth Teal event and other fundraisers in Duluth.

Mary had known about the tribute of teal the first year she was sick. By the second, she couldn’t make it down to see the aerial lift bridge or Enger Tower lit teal. So Melissa went down and took a picture, and brought it back to show her.

After her death, there have been many tough days and nights. But they are finding strength and some laughter, as they live through their memories of Mary. 

“I’ve learned a lot about how to give grace through adversity. How to love people and meet them where they are at. That’s who she was,” shared Melissa.

If you want to learn more about MOCA and to donate to help survivors, visit the Trees of Hope banner on our mainpage: http://www.wdio.com

Click here to view the story.

https://www.wdio.com/news/moca-mary-elsenrath-ovarian-cancer/5154855/

An Update from Justin Kostecka, Youth Minister

Justin Kostecka

An Intorduction to Justin Kostecka

Hi, my name is Justin Kostecka. I’ve been the youth minister here at St. John’s for the past 2 years and we are into my 3rd year now! I’m originally from the little town of Pequot Lakes, MN, which is in the Brainerd area. I love music, the outdoors, movies, and spending time with friends! 

 

When I was younger, I went to community college for a few years after high school to get my generals done, and then transferred to UMD here in Duluth to pursue my bachelor’s degree in economics along with a music minor. After becoming very involved at the Catholic Newman Center on campus and going on various retreats and encountering the person of Christ in beautiful ways, my faith and prayer life began to grow and mature. I fell in love with my faith and learning more about Christ, and continued to serve our Newman community through my gift of music and in other ways.

Along with this, I helped at St. Benedict’s as one of their religious ed. teachers and began to learn youth leadership skills.

 

After graduating from UMD I wasn’t sure what to apply my economics degree to, and was quite lost in what to do. After spending a lot of time in prayer and moving back home for a while to spend some time with my family and younger brothers who were still in high school, I found out from Kevin Pilon and others about the opportunity to be a youth minister at St. John’s. It felt like God provided this as the next step in my faith journey and career journey. It has certainly been a wonderful time the last few years. God has been molding me and has been showing me new things and equipping me in my faith and in reaching the hearts of others for Him!

St. John’s 6th-12th grade Religious Ed is off to a great start! We have about 50 youth in the program. We are so thankful for all the help from parents and teachers this year.
We are also enjoying having Father Drew at classes and are excited to have his priestly guidance.
Keep us all in your prayers as we continue to learn about our faith this year!

 

Religious Ed at St. John’s

Religious Ed at St. John’s

October 14, 2018: Celebrating One of History’s Most Refined, and Recognizably Human, Popes

Pope St. Paul VI

 

St. John’s celebrates the canonizations of Pope St. Paul VI & St. Oscar Romero, martyr on Sunday, October 14, at 10:00 am, Rome time (beginning at 3:00 am, CST).  Please refer to EWTN for up to the minute coverage of this event!

ROME – According to the Catholic theology of sainthood, canonization amounts to a judgment that a particular individual is already in heaven enjoying the beatific vision, meaning the unmediated presence of God – to quote St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, no longer seeing the splendor of God “indistinctly, as in a mirror, but face to face.”

As such, canonization means very little for the person getting the halo. A formal papal declaration does not “make” anyone a saint; it always comes ex post facto. By the time it rolls around, the saints are well beyond such earthly considerations.

Instead, canonization is for the rest of us. It’s a way of holding a particular figure up as an exemplar, someone whose example is worthy of being followed and whose intercession can be of help along the way.

A canonization, in other words, is a “teaching moment.”

It’s always instructive to ask, therefore, what exactly is being taught with any given canonization. It’s an especially apt question when the new saint is a pope, since it may be hard for ordinary folk to imagine there’s much they could emulate in someone whose life was, almost by definition, highly extraordinary.

Yet Pope Paul VI, the pontiff who famously described the Catholic Church as an “expert in humanity” in a 1965 address to the United Nations, was one of the most recognizably human figures ever to sit on the Throne of Peter – a pastor who both rejoiced and grieved in public, a man who felt deeply and thought widely, and a leader who sometimes struggled but, in the end, always found his inner compass.

Summing it all up, there are at least three lessons from Pope Paul’s life that would seem to be of broad application in the countdown to his canonization along with Archbishop Oscar Romero and five other new saints on Sunday.

1. Passion for humanity

Although the story is apocryphal, it used to be said of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) that when he would use the telephone to contact one of his subordinates in the Vatican, the other person would drop to his or her knees to receive the call. The mere fact that myth caught on in many circles illustrates how popes used to be seen – almost as particles of divinity, somehow lifted out of the human condition.

All that began to change with St. Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), “Good Pope John,” who came across as an unpretentious peasant’s son from Bergamo who wanted to be the whole world’s beloved uncle.

In many ways, Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, the man who would become Paul VI, was an unlikely choice to continue this humanizing trend. He was born in 1897 into rarified circles, with a father who was a journalist and a member of the Italian parliament and a mother who came from rural nobility. He studied in Milan and Rome, entering the Vatican’s powerful Secretariat of State at the age of 25.

From there, Montini became the quintessential court mandarin, never once holding an appointment as a parish priest in his entire life. He founded a publishing house, became a patron of Italian intellectuals and university students, and a friend and admirer of renowned thinkers such as the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain.

He was the sostituto, or “substitute” under Pius XII, wielding power from the very pinnacle of the ecclesiastical system, yet Montini was also a thinker of the first order. When he was elected pope in 1963, the story goes that Montini had some 250 boxes of books shipped to Rome from Milan, where he had been the cardinal-archbishop.

The “common man,” in other words, Montini really wasn’t.

Yet Montini was also a deeply gracious soul, famed as a conversation partner with the widest possible range of people precisely because of his keen interest in the concrete individual in front of him, no matter what station in life or worldview they embodied. Monsignor Guido Mazzotta, a consultor to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints who worked on Paul VI’s case, said the most beautiful testimony they collected during the process came from people who had Montini as their spiritual director.

Because of his deep culture, Paul VI had a genius for being able to relate to what the outside world was feeling in a given moment. Consider, for instance, his famous July 1969 message for the Apollo moon landing: “Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon, pale lamp of our nights and our dreams.”

(The line is also a reminder that Paul VI was just a flat-out terrific writer, the true son of a journalist father.)

Despite his restrained veneer, Paul VI also gave the world occasional glimpses of his own heart. That was never more dramatically true than towards the end, when, in effect, he became the first pope to all but rebuke God in public.

On May 9, 1978, Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was executed by a left-wing Italian terrorist movement called the “Red Brigades.” Moro was a close friend of Pope Paul VI, who had made great efforts to save him, and he was devastated by the loss.

Three days later, the pope addressed himself directly to God in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, saying: “You did not grant our plea for the safety of Aldo Moro, of this good and gentle man, wise and innocent … who was my friend.” The question he left hanging, unstated but clear to everyone present, was, “Why didn’t you help?”

If that isn’t a recognizably human question, it’s hard to know what is. Paul VI showed the world not only that even popes wrestle with such existential doubts, but also that holiness and heartbreak sometimes go hand in hand.

2. Balance

As Mazzotta put it recently, “Probably if there had been no Montini, the council wouldn’t have happened,” referring to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), over which Paul VI presided and whose conclusions it fell to him to implement.

Beyond anything else, it was Vatican II which marked the real drama of Paul’s papacy, and which today represents the cornerstone of his legacy.

It may have been his predecessor John XXIII who once said “I have to be pope both of those with their foot on the brake and those with their foot on the gas,” but Paul VI was the one who really lived the motto amid the tensions unleashed during the council and which threatened to split everything to pieces afterwards.

All that, of course, played out against the backdrop of the upheaval of 1968 and everything that followed, from race riots and student protests to the ugliness of the Vietnam War and the disillusionment of Watergate, a time when, to quote Yeats, it seemed “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

In that context, the fact that Paul VI managed to hold the Church together now seems, all by itself, something of a miracle. Perhaps more than anything else, he pulled it off due to his keen sense of balance.

Facing a seeming intractable stalemate between progressives and conservatives, between aggiornamento and ressourcement (“updating” and a “return to the sources”), Paul VI always tried to do justice to the wisdom in both instincts.

The most celebrated example of that approach came in November 1964, when he issued his Nota Praevia, or “preliminary note,” prior to the vote in the Vatican over its dogmatic constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. In effect, the note reasserted the core principles of papal primacy, thereby balancing the document’s emphasis on collegiality. To put it all in crass political terms, publishing the note addressed the concerns of the conservatives; allowing the vote on the document to go forward satisfied the liberals.

Mazzotta described the note as Paul’s way of “ensuring the unanimity of the council’s vote” and a reflection of his “passion for unity.”

One measure of Paul’s success is that Vatican II was the lone ecumenical council in the history of the Church which wasn’t immediately followed by a schism. (Whatever one makes of whether the traditionalist Lefebvrist movement is or isn’t “schismatic,” the formal breach didn’t come until 1988 under St. Pope John Paul II.)

As another expression of that belief in balance, Paul VI was a man of dialogue to the very core. The classic expression came in the 1964 encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, in which he described patient, respectful dialogue not merely as a hallmark of good governance but an expression of God’s very nature.

“No physical pressure was brought on anyone to accept the dialogue of salvation,” Paul wrote. “Far from it, it was a tremendous appeal of love.”

Though the point may seem obvious, it may be worth spelling out anyway: In a polarized and angry culture, Paul VI’s gift for balance, as well as patience, may be more relevant than ever.

3. Courage

Paul VI was often described as a “Hamlet pope,” wracked by doubt and indecision, anguishing over every choice, with critics suggesting that he sometimes lost his nerve when walking up to the brink of making a significant decision.

Before his death in 2006, Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, who had been Pope Paul’s personal secretary, told me he rejected that image of his mentor as fundamentally false. Paul VI was perfectly capable of being resolute, Macchi insisted – and the fact that he didn’t disappoint people or cause them pain casually, he insisted, hardly should count against him.

In fact, one could make the argument that no pope of the modern era showed greater courage over the years than Paul VI, given the nature of the choices he faced and the deep uncertainty of their consequences.

That courage, for instance, was manifest in the way Paul VI consistently backed the liturgical reforms called for by Vatican II, despite the depth of opposition they aroused. On all the points that mattered, he never wavered from the council’s basic vision, and the renewed worship in the vernacular languages that three generations of Catholics now take for granted is the result.

Most famously, that courage was the basis for Humanae Vitae, Paul’s 1968 encyclical letter reaffirming the traditional Catholic opposition to artificial birth control.

Contraception was hardly the only concern of Humanae Vitae, which admirers describe as a compelling and original treatment of both the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage. Still given the cultural currents of the late 1960s and the sexual revolution, it hardly seems fair to describe a pope willing to buck all of that as timid or lacking fortitude.

Paul VI also had the courage to break the mold in a staggering variety of ways, despite being a consummate man of Catholic tradition. He became the first pope to travel overseas, the first pope to meet an Orthodox patriarch and begin the process of ecumenical healing, the first pope to renounce the papal tiara, and on and on.

It likewise required courage in 1967 to release Populorum Progressio, his social encyclical on development, which he knew full well would be criticized in some circles as a way of sprinkling holy water over socialist, liberationist and anti-colonial movements across the Third World. Yet Paul was unwavering, even plaintive: ““The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance …[they] ask each and every person to hear his brother’s plea and answer it lovingly.”

It also required a bold leader to stick to his policy of Ostpolitik, despite ferocious opposition from those who saw it as a form of appeasement and capitulation in the face of the Soviet Empire.

Most fundamentally, Paul VI had the courage to see Vatican II through to its completion, even though many observers thought the council might die with John XXIII, the pope who had summoned it, and the fact that Montini himself once told a trusted friend that his predecessor had “no idea what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.”

None of these were the actions of a weak-kneed, do-nothing pontiff. Far from being Hamlet, in other words, Paul VI actually could be seen as a profile in courage, and a reminder that doubt and weakness are not always the same thing.

A legacy of decency

In the finale of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “Newsroom”, the beloved veteran director of the news division has died and his protégé, the anchor of the main nightly news show, delivers a tribute. Perhaps the most moving line comes when he says of his mentor, “His religion was decency, and he spent a lifetime fighting its enemies.”

Pope Paul VI’s religion, of course, was not decency. He was an ardent Roman Catholic, profoundly convinced that Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks the mystery of the human heart. He believed, in tandem with his good friend Maritain, that “it is impossible for a Christian to be a relativist.”

Yet at the same time, Giovanni Battista Montini was a model of decency to all. He had an abiding respect for people with convictions that differed from his own, whether he found them inside or outside the Catholic Church. He was curious, attentive, and unfailingly gracious, whether addressing the Red Brigades or traditionalist opposition in his own fold. He was a “gentleman” in the fullest, most etymological sense of the term.

To be honest, that didn’t always serve him well. Paul VI reminds one of Pope Benedict XVI a bit in that regard, a leader who just never seemed to catch a break in PR terms. Ironically, he was often mocked for possessing qualities in abundance people typically say they admire – patience, forbearance, an unwillingness to close doors or end conversations until the very last possibility had been exhausted, and a deep confidence that some piece of the truth can be found virtually anywhere if one has but eyes to see.

The world of his day didn’t always want to see. So bad were things by 1967, even before Humanae Vitae appeared, that when the Beatles released “Fool on the Hill,” some rock critics actually thought it was a reference to the pope:

His head in a cloud
The man with a foolish grin is talking perfectly loud
But nobody wants to hear him
They can see that he’s just a fool

Had those same critics been able to anticipate how Paul VI would seem in retrospect, however, it might have been another couplet from the ballad that caught their attention:

And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Paul VI not only saw the world spinning around, but spinning out of control, fueled by the trajectories of ideological warfare and personal animosity as a spectator sport which have come to full flower in our day, in the era of Donald Trump in America, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and on and on.

Paul VI leaves behind a vast legacy for the Church he led, beginning with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the vast transformation in Catholic life that flowed, and continues to flow, from it. This month is a reminder of that heritage in Rome, as bishops from all around the world are participating in an event called a “synod,” designed to give them a voice in governance of the universal Church, founded by Pope Paul in 1965.

For the wider world, however, if Paul VI offers nothing else, perhaps it’s the example of a decent man who refused to lose himself in an increasingly indecent age. By now, that alone might be enough for many even outside the Church to join Pope Francis on Sunday in hailing him as a saint.

ROME – According to the Catholic theology of sainthood, canonization amounts to a judgment that a particular individual is already in heaven enjoying the beatific vision, meaning the unmediated presence of God – to quote St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, no longer seeing the splendor of God “indistinctly, as in a mirror, but face to face.”

As such, canonization means very little for the person getting the halo. A formal papal declaration does not “make” anyone a saint; it always comes ex post facto. By the time it rolls around, the saints are well beyond such earthly considerations.

Instead, canonization is for the rest of us. It’s a way of holding a particular figure up as an exemplar, someone whose example is worthy of being followed and whose intercession can be of help along the way.

A canonization, in other words, is a “teaching moment.”

It’s always instructive to ask, therefore, what exactly is being taught with any given canonization. It’s an especially apt question when the new saint is a pope, since it may be hard for ordinary folk to imagine there’s much they could emulate in someone whose life was, almost by definition, highly extraordinary.

Yet Pope Paul VI, the pontiff who famously described the Catholic Church as an “expert in humanity” in a 1965 address to the United Nations, was one of the most recognizably human figures ever to sit on the Throne of Peter – a pastor who both rejoiced and grieved in public, a man who felt deeply and thought widely, and a leader who sometimes struggled but, in the end, always found his inner compass.

Summing it all up, there are at least three lessons from Pope Paul’s life that would seem to be of broad application in the countdown to his canonization along with Archbishop Oscar Romero and five other new saints on Sunday.

1. Passion for humanity

Although the story is apocryphal, it used to be said of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) that when he would use the telephone to contact one of his subordinates in the Vatican, the other person would drop to his or her knees to receive the call. The mere fact that myth caught on in many circles illustrates how popes used to be seen – almost as particles of divinity, somehow lifted out of the human condition.

All that began to change with St. Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), “Good Pope John,” who came across as an unpretentious peasant’s son from Bergamo who wanted to be the whole world’s beloved uncle.

In many ways, Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, the man who would become Paul VI, was an unlikely choice to continue this humanizing trend. He was born in 1897 into rarified circles, with a father who was a journalist and a member of the Italian parliament and a mother who came from rural nobility. He studied in Milan and Rome, entering the Vatican’s powerful Secretariat of State at the age of 25.

From there, Montini became the quintessential court mandarin, never once holding an appointment as a parish priest in his entire life. He founded a publishing house, became a patron of Italian intellectuals and university students, and a friend and admirer of renowned thinkers such as the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain.

He was the sostituto, or “substitute” under Pius XII, wielding power from the very pinnacle of the ecclesiastical system, yet Montini was also a thinker of the first order. When he was elected pope in 1963, the story goes that Montini had some 250 boxes of books shipped to Rome from Milan, where he had been the cardinal-archbishop.

The “common man,” in other words, Montini really wasn’t.

Yet Montini was also a deeply gracious soul, famed as a conversation partner with the widest possible range of people precisely because of his keen interest in the concrete individual in front of him, no matter what station in life or worldview they embodied. Monsignor Guido Mazzotta, a consultor to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints who worked on Paul VI’s case, said the most beautiful testimony they collected during the process came from people who had Montini as their spiritual director.

Because of his deep culture, Paul VI had a genius for being able to relate to what the outside world was feeling in a given moment. Consider, for instance, his famous July 1969 message for the Apollo moon landing: “Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon, pale lamp of our nights and our dreams.”

(The line is also a reminder that Paul VI was just a flat-out terrific writer, the true son of a journalist father.)

Despite his restrained veneer, Paul VI also gave the world occasional glimpses of his own heart. That was never more dramatically true than towards the end, when, in effect, he became the first pope to all but rebuke God in public.

On May 9, 1978, Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was executed by a left-wing Italian terrorist movement called the “Red Brigades.” Moro was a close friend of Pope Paul VI, who had made great efforts to save him, and he was devastated by the loss.

Three days later, the pope addressed himself directly to God in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, saying: “You did not grant our plea for the safety of Aldo Moro, of this good and gentle man, wise and innocent … who was my friend.” The question he left hanging, unstated but clear to everyone present, was, “Why didn’t you help?”

If that isn’t a recognizably human question, it’s hard to know what is. Paul VI showed the world not only that even popes wrestle with such existential doubts, but also that holiness and heartbreak sometimes go hand in hand.

2. Balance

As Mazzotta put it recently, “Probably if there had been no Montini, the council wouldn’t have happened,” referring to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), over which Paul VI presided and whose conclusions it fell to him to implement.

Beyond anything else, it was Vatican II which marked the real drama of Paul’s papacy, and which today represents the cornerstone of his legacy.

It may have been his predecessor John XXIII who once said “I have to be pope both of those with their foot on the brake and those with their foot on the gas,” but Paul VI was the one who really lived the motto amid the tensions unleashed during the council and which threatened to split everything to pieces afterwards.

All that, of course, played out against the backdrop of the upheaval of 1968 and everything that followed, from race riots and student protests to the ugliness of the Vietnam War and the disillusionment of Watergate, a time when, to quote Yeats, it seemed “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

In that context, the fact that Paul VI managed to hold the Church together now seems, all by itself, something of a miracle. Perhaps more than anything else, he pulled it off due to his keen sense of balance.

Facing a seeming intractable stalemate between progressives and conservatives, between aggiornamento and ressourcement (“updating” and a “return to the sources”), Paul VI always tried to do justice to the wisdom in both instincts.

The most celebrated example of that approach came in November 1964, when he issued his Nota Praevia, or “preliminary note,” prior to the vote in the Vatican over its dogmatic constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. In effect, the note reasserted the core principles of papal primacy, thereby balancing the document’s emphasis on collegiality. To put it all in crass political terms, publishing the note addressed the concerns of the conservatives; allowing the vote on the document to go forward satisfied the liberals.

Mazzotta described the note as Paul’s way of “ensuring the unanimity of the council’s vote” and a reflection of his “passion for unity.”

One measure of Paul’s success is that Vatican II was the lone ecumenical council in the history of the Church which wasn’t immediately followed by a schism. (Whatever one makes of whether the traditionalist Lefebvrist movement is or isn’t “schismatic,” the formal breach didn’t come until 1988 under St. Pope John Paul II.)

As another expression of that belief in balance, Paul VI was a man of dialogue to the very core. The classic expression came in the 1964 encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, in which he described patient, respectful dialogue not merely as a hallmark of good governance but an expression of God’s very nature.

“No physical pressure was brought on anyone to accept the dialogue of salvation,” Paul wrote. “Far from it, it was a tremendous appeal of love.”

Though the point may seem obvious, it may be worth spelling out anyway: In a polarized and angry culture, Paul VI’s gift for balance, as well as patience, may be more relevant than ever.

3. Courage

Paul VI was often described as a “Hamlet pope,” wracked by doubt and indecision, anguishing over every choice, with critics suggesting that he sometimes lost his nerve when walking up to the brink of making a significant decision.

Before his death in 2006, Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, who had been Pope Paul’s personal secretary, told me he rejected that image of his mentor as fundamentally false. Paul VI was perfectly capable of being resolute, Macchi insisted – and the fact that he didn’t disappoint people or cause them pain casually, he insisted, hardly should count against him.

In fact, one could make the argument that no pope of the modern era showed greater courage over the years than Paul VI, given the nature of the choices he faced and the deep uncertainty of their consequences.

That courage, for instance, was manifest in the way Paul VI consistently backed the liturgical reforms called for by Vatican II, despite the depth of opposition they aroused. On all the points that mattered, he never wavered from the council’s basic vision, and the renewed worship in the vernacular languages that three generations of Catholics now take for granted is the result.

Most famously, that courage was the basis for Humanae Vitae, Paul’s 1968 encyclical letter reaffirming the traditional Catholic opposition to artificial birth control.

Contraception was hardly the only concern of Humanae Vitae, which admirers describe as a compelling and original treatment of both the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage. Still given the cultural currents of the late 1960s and the sexual revolution, it hardly seems fair to describe a pope willing to buck all of that as timid or lacking fortitude.

Paul VI also had the courage to break the mold in a staggering variety of ways, despite being a consummate man of Catholic tradition. He became the first pope to travel overseas, the first pope to meet an Orthodox patriarch and begin the process of ecumenical healing, the first pope to renounce the papal tiara, and on and on.

It likewise required courage in 1967 to release Populorum Progressio, his social encyclical on development, which he knew full well would be criticized in some circles as a way of sprinkling holy water over socialist, liberationist and anti-colonial movements across the Third World. Yet Paul was unwavering, even plaintive: ““The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance …[they] ask each and every person to hear his brother’s plea and answer it lovingly.”

It also required a bold leader to stick to his policy of Ostpolitik, despite ferocious opposition from those who saw it as a form of appeasement and capitulation in the face of the Soviet Empire.

Most fundamentally, Paul VI had the courage to see Vatican II through to its completion, even though many observers thought the council might die with John XXIII, the pope who had summoned it, and the fact that Montini himself once told a trusted friend that his predecessor had “no idea what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.”

None of these were the actions of a weak-kneed, do-nothing pontiff. Far from being Hamlet, in other words, Paul VI actually could be seen as a profile in courage, and a reminder that doubt and weakness are not always the same thing.

A legacy of decency

In the finale of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “Newsroom”, the beloved veteran director of the news division has died and his protégé, the anchor of the main nightly news show, delivers a tribute. Perhaps the most moving line comes when he says of his mentor, “His religion was decency, and he spent a lifetime fighting its enemies.”

Pope Paul VI’s religion, of course, was not decency. He was an ardent Roman Catholic, profoundly convinced that Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks the mystery of the human heart. He believed, in tandem with his good friend Maritain, that “it is impossible for a Christian to be a relativist.”

Yet at the same time, Giovanni Battista Montini was a model of decency to all. He had an abiding respect for people with convictions that differed from his own, whether he found them inside or outside the Catholic Church. He was curious, attentive, and unfailingly gracious, whether addressing the Red Brigades or traditionalist opposition in his own fold. He was a “gentleman” in the fullest, most etymological sense of the term.

To be honest, that didn’t always serve him well. Paul VI reminds one of Pope Benedict XVI a bit in that regard, a leader who just never seemed to catch a break in PR terms. Ironically, he was often mocked for possessing qualities in abundance people typically say they admire – patience, forbearance, an unwillingness to close doors or end conversations until the very last possibility had been exhausted, and a deep confidence that some piece of the truth can be found virtually anywhere if one has but eyes to see.

The world of his day didn’t always want to see. So bad were things by 1967, even before Humanae Vitae appeared, that when the Beatles released “Fool on the Hill,” some rock critics actually thought it was a reference to the pope:

His head in a cloud
The man with a foolish grin is talking perfectly loud
But nobody wants to hear him
They can see that he’s just a fool

Had those same critics been able to anticipate how Paul VI would seem in retrospect, however, it might have been another couplet from the ballad that caught their attention:

And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Paul VI not only saw the world spinning around, but spinning out of control, fueled by the trajectories of ideological warfare and personal animosity as a spectator sport which have come to full flower in our day, in the era of Donald Trump in America, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and on and on.

Paul VI leaves behind a vast legacy for the Church he led, beginning with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the vast transformation in Catholic life that flowed, and continues to flow, from it. This month is a reminder of that heritage in Rome, as bishops from all around the world are participating in an event called a “synod,” designed to give them a voice in governance of the universal Church, founded by Pope Paul in 1965.

For the wider world, however, if Paul VI offers nothing else, perhaps it’s the example of a decent man who refused to lose himself in an increasingly indecent age. By now, that alone might be enough for many even outside the Church to join Pope Francis on Sunday in hailing him as a saint.

John Allen, Jr.: Editor, Crux

Blesseds Paul VI and Oscar Romero are two of seven new saints Pope Francis will canonize Oct. 14 at the Vatican. They are pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/Equipo Maiz, courtesy CAFOD, Just One World)