May 1, 2011: Confluence of Events?

It has been well publicized that Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1. John Allen has noted what immediately struck me as no small coincidence when I went to add the date to my Liturgical Desk Calendar: not only does May 1 fall this year on the Second Sunday of Easter which has been observed since 2000 as Divine Mercy Sunday…associated with a 20th century Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, who was a visionary and mystic to whom John Paul II had a strong personal devotion but ironically, May 1 is also May Day, traditionally associated with the international Socialist movement, which is striking given that the collapse of European Communism is often flagged as John Paul’s central political accomplishment. One wonders what this coincidence of dates may indicate regarding the future positioning of the Memorial of Saint John Paul, Pope. The late pontiff was born to eternal life on April 2, 2005 which was in that year the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter cum Divine Mercy Sunday. Will we have (for the first time?) a saint whose memorial is tied to the temporal rather than sanctoral calendar? Or will we need to wait until 2095 to have such a coincidence once more?

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15 comments

  1. I begin to understand why so many Protestants feel that Catholics pay too much attention to saints, not enough to God.

  2. Here is an interesting comment from a biographer of popes, David Gibson:

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/

    Titled: “Vatican Letter to Irish Bishops on Abuse: Smoking Gun”

    Highlights from Gibson:

    “The 1997 Vatican letter seems to have two significant complicating factors now for the Vatican. One is that it casts a further shadow over John Paul’s administration even as Rome prepares for his beatification in May.

    Also, the letter seems to directly contradict Benedict’s own letter to Irish Catholics last year when the new revelations were roiling Ireland, and Rome.

    In that letter to Irish Catholics the pope expressed his sorrow at the abuse but also blamed the abuse on “fast-paced social change” and a lack of religious devotion by ordinary Irish Catholics, who until recent years have been the most devout Catholics in the world.

    Benedict’s letter also chided the bishops for the “often inadequate response” of Ireland’s hierarchy to the abuse and pointed to “a tendency in [Irish] society to favor the clergy and other authority figures.”

    But in this case it seems the Vatican was guilty of an inadequate response and was standing in the way of the local bishops who were trying to deal with the crisis.

    In the end, the Irish bishops backed down. If the message in this 1997 letter was something different than what it appears, then the Irish hierarchy apparently misread it back then, too.”

    So, before the liturgical questions: some may question, period, why this is even happening now?

  3. Fr. Allan – Mr. Allen seems to be on a roll this week in writing “apologetics” – see his column today about the Irish “Smoking Gun” letter and his basic dismissal of it; he plays the same card trick with his analysis and explanation of the beatification and dates for JPII.

    Not his finest moment as an analysist or writer.

  4. Spelling? You been sipping at the Kool-aid?

    Agree – his analyses are usually fair and balanced. But, I do not think that either of his two analyses this week measure up to his usual standards.

  5. What I found most interesting in the AP report was “the letter, which RTE said it received from an Irish bishop.” Especially in light of current investigation of the Irish bishops.

    Sounds a little bit like some Irish bishop is trying to make the point that Rome is just as much responsible for the sexual abuse mess as they are.

    However badly many bishops acted in transferring priests from parish to parish and diocese to diocese, when bishops as individuals or even as groups tried to get Rome to help solve the problem they were often unsuccessful. Whether it was the congregation for the clergy or CDF, the concern was frequently procedural. The Curia seemed to try to put as many obstacles as possible in the way of bishop(s) getting a handle on the situation. A lot of “no you can not solve the problem that way.” Very little , “we agree there is a problem and what can we do to help you solve it.”

    The real issue in this is probably more an organizational one of reforming the Curia than an issue about JPII and/or B16, although both could be tarnished by it.

    Rome should be careful about the beatification of JPII. The year of the priest backfired because of the sex abuse scandal. A longer string of questions around JPII at the time of his beatification ceremony could similarly transform that event. They might have been wiser to wait a few, even quite a few, years until the freqency of sex abuse stories subsides. Suppose PXII and JPII come to be viewed very critically after both are canonized. That might not be good for the future of the papacy. Guaranteeing that they are in heaven and that God hears their prayers may not guarantee their popularity in history here on earth.

  6. As for John Allen’s analyses.

    In his book The Future Church, which was supposed to guide us through the whole of this century, he dismissed the sexual abuse scandal because it was limited to Anglo-Saxon countries with our legal procedures that enable corporations to be held accountable, and because Third world countries really are not interested in children’s rights not to be abused. Both good observations.

    Well we have begun the second decade of the century, and the sexual abuse problem refuses to go away no matter how often people say it is past history, or that it is just the work of people who hate the Church. The reality is that there are many victims who are motivated to do something about this, and there are some highly motivated people (only a very small minority) who in collaboration with legal people and journalistic people are determined to expose everything that happened to be very sure that it never happens again. That could take us another couple of decades, given the level of resistance that guarantees the slowness of the process. When the story of the Church in the 21st century is written, the sexual abuse story could make in into the top 10 list.

    Harvey Cox’s The Future of Faith came out about the same time as John Allen’s Future Church. I think of the books as the view from Harvard and the view from Rome. Both emphasize how they have been at the center of action and how well traveled they are, and their views of the future. They even have similar views on some things, e.g. the Third World and Pentecostalism. Both have a problem of distancing themselves from their locations.

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