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An extremely rare event will occur next April 27 when two popes -- both living -- are expected to be at the Vatican for a major Church event: Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Nearly as unusual will be the event itself: canonization of two deceased Popes: Pope John Paul II and John XXIII.

Thus will we have a convergence of four Supreme Pontiffs at one place on one day, perhaps unlike anything that has previously occurred.

Adding yet more potency: the canonization of John Paul II, almost certainly adding a truly major intercessor to the altar of saints, perhaps one on the order of Saint Thérèse the Little Flower. Meanwhile, the second, John XXIII, will be known through Church history for Vatican Two (and its ecclesiastic impact).

We will be there, and invite all to join us as Spirit Daily leads a pilgrimage to Rome for the canonizations (see at bottom), organized by one of the world's leading Catholic travel agencies -- there (God willing) to seek the intercession of the new saints and to record and discern the dynamic happenings in Rome, which will come after another major happening: consecration of the world next week (10/13/13) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (What will be said at this new consecration? How will Francis relate to Fatima -- which was so close to the hearts of both Benedict and John Paul II? Will any nation in particular be mentioned in the prayer?)

A moment this is, when the fruits of Vatican II are still discussed, when reports continue to accumulate of miracles after seeking the help of John Paul II and when many still fondly recall the warmth of John XXIII. Will it become clear to us, in April, why they both will share the same day? Were there really two "Vatican Twos," as a bishop suggested to us recently: the one that occurred and the one reported upon by the media?

Moreover, the canonizations come at a time when great change again appears to be erupting within the Church.

How will the event be celebrated?

How will the Popes interact?

What will be said?

What will be felt? How will each canonized saint be presented and represented?

There is the Francis factor. His as-yet-young pontificate has been remarkable for the shift in Vatican tone, exhilarating many, unsettling others, causing all of us to look introspectively as we rush as conservatives to grasp a style never seen before and sure to be on display next April.

Is it even prophetic: two deceased Pontiffs -- one mystical and philosophical, the other immersed in the theology -- and two living Popes: one mystical and charismatic, the other deeply theological?

We will certainly be anxious to assess what is taking place. Never in our lifetimes has a Pope been so direct -- and seismic -- in public. Some compare it to the directness of Christ. Some perceive it as divergent. While devotional himself, Francis warns on devotions that are mechanical and without a direct connection to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. While he is strongly against abortion, homosexual marriage, and contraception, he admonishes the Church to focus also on other evils and not to bludgeon sinners, but rather to love them into the Church -- convert and heal them before all else; to join hands before lecturing. A cleric himself, he warns bishops and priests about clerical narcissism. Careful about staking too much on the "unusual," he has a devotion to miraculous events such as Fatima and the Virgin of Aparecida. He speaks in a way that is emotive, meant to shake up ways of thinking and convey an impression -- break down walls -- as opposed to be always taken verbatim.

If there are problems, he told the laity, they should contact their priests and bishops and "mess up" their dioceses.

It recalls how Jesus made powerful points by saying things ("If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple," Luke 14:26) that were meant to make an impression, not, perhaps, to be taken quite literally. He has thrown open the doors to our Church for the world at large and thus far the world is responding remarkably, in a way to which we are not accustomed. "Catholicism is the new cool," one major writer tweeted.

What else comes, however, with the mix? What else will he say in coming months? As we have often said: stay tuned.

At this juncture, it is not predictable.

In just six months, the public seems to have put much of the abuse scandal behind us. Suddenly, young people have renewed interested in the Church. What seemed to them an arthritic institution now seems more agile.

Understandably, this new approach -- from a new part of the world (Argentina) -- has caused consternation.

They speak differently in South America. They express themselves with casual histrionics. They speak not so much to communicate with words as with feeling. Does that explain the current confusion?

Is the Pope moving the Church away from condemnation of abortion, homosexual sin, and contraception? Is he, some have even fretted, an "anti-Pope"?

So powerful, untraditional, and jarring have been his actions -- walking among the common folk, washing the feet of women, using Hosts made by a prisoner, lifting up kids, calling people on the phone (without layers of bureaucracy), sleeping in what amounts to a dorm instead of the papal apartments, paying his own bills, sitting with cardinals instead of in a chair enthroned in front of them -- that some have been led to drastic conclusions.

Is it that, or simply exuding from the heart instead of the mind, bringing an effusive charism to the papacy -- one that many believe is transforming Catholicism?

We'll see. We'll report. You'll discern. In April, we'll record it all first-hand. An extraordinary event unfolds as four holy men, four extraordinary men, two living and two deceased, converge in the Eternal City for a canonization that may be the most memorable of our lifetimes.

To be present for the canonization of John Paul II -- who we have always regarded as the great hero of the Twentieth Century -- is a step beyond exciting.

He is a man we think will one day be called "John Paul the Great." We've called him that for years now.

[Those interested in the pilgrimage can click here, e-mail here; or call 1-800-206-8687; in addition to three days in Rome, an extension is available for those desiring to visit sites such as Assisi, San Giovanni Rotundo (where Padre Pio lived), Lanciano (where there is a Eucharistic miracle), the House of Loreto, the Cave of the Archangel Michael, and more.]

(We would also like to take this moment to announce a retreat this December 7 in Charolotte, North Carolina.)

[resources: Michael Brown retreat: Indiana]


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