It is indeed a time of great grace for us all to watch and witness the phenomenal unfolding of the days to come when two of our recent beloved popes, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, will be raised to the altar as saints.
I have heard it said that the life of a saint is much like the fragrant perfume that draws others to the words and way of Christ. And true to this description, the lives of these two holy pontiffs have touched, attracted and inspired people of every nation, culture, race, age, tongue and tribe.
They governed and directed the church at different times and under different conditions but their individual holiness, their strong visible Christian witness and the powerful light of their teachings would no doubt illumine the path of many for centuries to come.
As a catholic woman trying to navigate my way through life in the 21st century, I have found a lot of solace and direction in leaning on the insights of the church on women. Especially considering that in many parts of the world there is now an increasing distortion in the understanding of the role, vocation and dignity of women in family as well as society. In a cloud of confusion, the real beauty of femininity is lost and with it the splendour of marriage and motherhood is gradually ebbing away.
So the need to highlight the role of the woman in the world seems to be greater now than ever before. One wonderful outcome of the canonisations is that it brings about a perfect occasion for us to delve into all the numerous writings and teachings of the two holy pontiffs. And for me, my particular interest is in gleaning their insight not only on the life and role of women but also on closely related issues that inevitably affect women - the importance of the family, the sanctity of marriage and of course the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception.
Without having a lot of exposure to the full range of the teachings of Blessed Pope John XXIII, it is very encouraging for me to read in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, the clear description that he gave to the family as one grounded on marriage freely contracted, monogamous and indissoluble and in very unambiguous terms he stated that the family must be considered the first and essential cell of human society.
This nugget of papal wisdom resonates strongly in our time when marriage and family are being attacked and bombarded by those who wish to redefine, reshape and reconstruct it, so amidst this challenge it certainly would be a good time for us to take recourse to light of Blessed Pope John XXIII who was loved by so many during his time.
Having the blessing of reading some of Pope John XXIII's writings is one thing and I am so eager to delve even deeper into this teachings as I am sure his canonisation will encourage even more scholarship in and around the Catholic Church throughout the world.
However, what I have found more extensive and also readily available (probably because they are more recent) are the writings of Pope John Paul II on women. For me I have experienced these writings as deeply transformative and life changing. And as he is being raised to the altar as a Saint, my earnest prayer and hope is that these beautiful works and insights would be even more widely disseminated across the universal church.
His promotion of the reality of the feminine genius which brings to the fore a new and authentic feminism that is receptive, generous, sensitive and maternal in nature. In addition to the treasure throve of his writings on women are Blessed John Paul II's teachings on the sanctity of human life and marriage, the dignity of human sexuality and the irreplaceable structure of the family.
A renewed interest in these areas for women would bring light to a lot of darkening pathways in our modern culture today. In this way women from all walks of life would be tuned unto their rightful vocation which is to bring God's light and love into their sphere of life wherever it may be.
As we look forward to the canonizations, I pray that it will inspire a great missionary zeal and spirit in men and women alike. A zeal to share the radiant joy and truth of the Gospel with new ardour and new fervour with the appeal and intercession of our 2 holy pontiffs.
There is so much excitement and awe for many of us who are awaiting the festivities. We are grateful to God for the precious gift of such holy men as John XXIII and John Paul II. Their pontificates strengthened the Church, their writings have enlightened the faithful and their holiness is like the fragrant perfume that irresistibly continues to attract us to the way of Christ.
For all of this, I give thanks.
Culture of Life Africa