An Apostle and a Pope

St. Luke the Evangelist. Pope John Paul 2

Two of the feast days occurring this week are October 18, St. Luke and October 22, St. John Paul II.

Not being one of the Twelve Apostles, Saint Luke did not accompany Jesus as he travelled through Palestine.  He was more likely a disciple of Saint Paul, who mentions a man called Luke being with him on his missionary journeys and at his imprisonment in Rome.  From his prison cell, Paul writes “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tm 4:11).  Little is otherwise known of Luke’s life except that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are attributed to him, together accounting for over a quarter of the New Testament and being foundational works for knowing Jesus and the early Church.

Although not a Gospel based on an eye-witness account, Saint Luke probably wrote for the non-Jewish community who could not read Hebrew and Aramaic.  This is likely because he changes into Greek those words that the other Gospel writers leave in their original language. To Luke alone we owe our knowledge of the Incarnation, he gives us the Virgin’s Magnificat and so the scriptural basis for the “Hail Mary”.  In contrast, his Acts of the Apostles is a diary of the early Church often written from a first-person perspective.  In it Luke gives us our knowledge of Pentecost and the workings of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.

We pray “Saint Luke, through your intercession in Heaven, we ask that the riches of your Gospel, especially your words about our Blessed Mother, may inspire us to be more faithful disciples”.

October 22 is the feast day of Pope Saint John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in centuries, who being Polish had experienced the effects of Nazism and Communism – both of which tried to design a “perfect” society without regard for God or man’s dignity. He had seen his country brought to its knees in humiliation.

An assassin’s two bullets almost killed him on 13 May 1981.   We recall that on that very day and to the very hour (5.19pm 13th May) some 64 years earlier, Our Lady had appeared to the children of Fatima, giving them certain warnings about wars, famines and the persecution of the church.  The “Third Secret of Fatima” concerned the 20th century persecution of Christians and implied its culmination to be an assassination attempt on the Pope.  John Paul II attributed his survival to the Blessed Mother’s intervention. The deadliest bullet was found to have been deflected, saving his life by missing vital organs.  One year to the day later, he went to Fatima, Portugal, to plant it in Our Lady’s crown where it still rests today.  He also visited the gunman (who became a Catholic!) in prison and forgave him.

After years of thorough investigation into the promises received from Christ by St. Faustina (see last week’s newsletter), John Paul II instigated the Divine Mercy Feast Day (based on these promises) to be a day of graces for sinners, whereby each of us can not only be forgiven our sins but have the slate wiped clean of any punishment due for them when we die.  On the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005, Pope John Paul II made his final confession, received the Blessed Sacrament and died as thousands gathered in prayerful vigil outside his window in Saint Peter’s Square.  He therefore died in a total state of grace with no purgatory due and so, by the teaching of our church, would have gone straight to Heaven.  Surely no coincidence that the man who instigated this Day of Graces should himself end his life on it with no stain on his soul!  He was canonized in 2014 and is buried in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

We pray “Oh, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the Church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading her along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and everyone to Jesus. Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream again, help them look up to the heavens again to find the light that illuminates the paths of life here on earth.

May you bless each and every family! You warned of Satan’s assault against this precious and indispensable divine spark that God lit on earth. St. John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the family and every life that blossoms from the family.

Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You opposed war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace.

Oh St. John Paul, from heaven’s window, where we see you beside Mary, send God’s blessing down upon us all. Amen”.   (Foundation of Dominican Friars.)