“What unites us is much greater than what divides us.”
Saint John XXIII was born towards the end of the 19th century when the world was on the cusp of experiencing many dramatic changes. With two World Wars approaching, the line of good and evil had never been more clearly drawn. When the church needed a prudent leader more than ever, God gave us a gift: Pope Saint John XXIII.
Born in 1881 in the northern part of Italy, Saint John XXIII was born to a peasant family with the name Angelo Roncalli. He entered the seminary when he was a teenager and expected nothing else than to serve as a parish priest in Italy. God had greater plans for Father Roncalli. He was sent to the battlefields during World War I as a medical worker. Witnessing great suffering, Father Roncalli incorporated corporal works of mercy by tending to the sick and injured and burying the dead. During his travels to Bulgaria and Turkey, Father Roncalli practiced the spiritual acts of mercy such as instructing and advising. These countries had very few Catholics; he was a representative of the church during his stay.
Upon his return to Italy, he was appointed the archbishop of Venice. In 1958 at the age of 76, Father Roncalli was elected Pope John XXIII. He attacked his duties with an energy expected of a man half his age. He would go into Rome and mingle with the people, even visiting children’s hospitals to spend time with the sick children. After spending one half of a century in war, Pope John XXIII believed the church needed to speak with a stronger voice so that it could protect the world from war, violence and poverty. He wanted to open the church up to the world so that it could spread the good news of Jesus’ love in a way that made sense to those living in the 20th century.
Pope John XXIII believed the church should adapt to the modernizing world. In 1962, he called the historic Second Vatican Council. Sadly, he contracted stomach cancer and died before he could see the Vatican Council to completion.
Pope John XXIII was canonized by Pope Francis in April of 2014. We celebrate his feast day not on the date of his death, but on October 11, the day of the first session of the Second Vatican Council.
Feast Day: October 11