I have the firm conviction that, since at least 1939, the Church of Rome has been led by saints in the persons of the Roman Pontiffs. Some may mock it, deride it, think it naive, or whatever they like; but it seems right and fitting to me that the Lord would ensure us such holy leadership in such an unprecedented time of cultural, social, philosophical, theological, and anthropological, upheaval. In other words, right when we need saints most.
If anyone wonders why I am quick to defend Pope Francis or his predecessor, it is precisely because of this conviction. I truly believe that we are inestimably blessed to live alongside two saints, two men who will and should be canonized one day (God willing, in my lifetime), and who have shown me the path to Jesus more clearly than I could have ever asked or deserved. I entirely missed out on the pontificate of St. John Paul II, because I was young and a Protestant; I will be damned if I miss the sanctity of the men put before me. If it were not enough that Christ promised that the ministry of St. Peter shall not fail, He has also made the Successors of Peter saints for just a time as this.
None of these popes have been without their mistakes. In this respect, they are not only no different from any other human being, but also from any other saint. Yet their lives show forth such a splendor of Christ’s love and truth that I cannot help but be convinced that they are holy men, sent to guide the Church through such trying times, in order that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be shown with ever more radiance and clarity.
Each day, I pray to those popes who are already canonized (John XXIII, John Paul II); I pray for the canonization of those who are not (Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul I), and for the hope of good reward for those still with us (Benedict and Francis). I pray that God may strengthen Pope Emeritus Benedict’s ministry of prayer for the Church and the world. I pray that God may keep and protect Pope Francis for many, many, many years and give success to his apostolic work. Each of these pontiffs is dear to my heart, shows me Christ, and gives me peace.
If this is not the case for others, I do not know what to say. If these men are not holy, I do not know what holiness is. But the Church has declared some of them saints, proposed others for our profound respect, and others are on the way to being canonized soon. I trust the Church more than I trust myself. Why would I trust myself more? I know myself too well by now, thanks be to God. I know nothing of God, nothing of holiness. I know only that the Church knows God and sanctity. When She tells me what either are, I lovingly obey. Such it is to be happily Catholic.
I am suspicious of any suspicion of the Church. I am wary of any wariness of the Pope or the college of bishops. And why should I not be? Would not the entertainment of such misgivings be only my old Protestant attitudes born anew to wreak havoc upon my faith and peace of mind? Is the attitude of mistrust towards the Successor of St. Peter and the successors of the apostles anything less than a satanic infiltration into the heart of faith? Is it anything other than an old error born anew; the fault in the human heart that defies God in favor of one’s own skewed loves? Has or has not God set up the Church to guide us, by the Holy Spirit, into all truth? That, for me, is the question to settle all things.
None of this means that my mind is absent or inattentive. Anyone who knows me knows that that is simply impossible for a personality such as mine; my mind is active to the point of its own detriment. But I cling to that maxim of St. Ignatius of Loyola, that saint I have not and still do not entirely like (yes, it is possible not to like the saints!): if the Church told me that black is white and white is black, I would believe it.
And why do I believe it? Not because I am some unthinking slob; not because I am some drooling ingrate. Because I have come to the conclusion, through exhaustive intellectual inquiry and spiritual journeying, that the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other Church founded by Christ. There is no other Faith handed down from the apostles. There is no other communion which can rightfully promise to Her members a happy life and eternal salvation.
Does this make me seem a peasant to some? So be it. The Church and Her Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God (may He have mercy on us), is foolishness to the world. Christianity in the West today has become sensible to the world, and as sensible as it is, I am tempted to say that that is so far as it is false. I am not afraid to say that I am Catholic, in happy communion with the Church of Rome, obedient as I can be to Her statutes and decrees, trustful as I can be to Her proclamations. With Chesterton, I do not want a religion that is right where I am right, but a religion that is right where I am wrong! And how wrong I am: daily, hourly! I am the most tide-drowned man who has ever lived!
Why am I a Catholic? Why do I love the Pope, the Successor of St. Peter? Why do I love the bishops, the successors of the Twelve Holy Apostles? Why do I submit to Holy Scripture, to Holy Tradition, to the Church founded by Jesus Christ?
I again echo Chesterton! There are ten thousand reasons all adding up to one reason: it is true.
And if it is not true, then damned be life! Sad and empty and pointless is life! Wretched and empty is life! Cursed be life, absurd and devoid of hope! Cursed be hope, nothing but a shell of deception!
But this is not so. This is simply not so. “Credo in unum Deum”– “I believe in one God”– that and what follows, that is my manifesto. It is the only manifesto I have to offer. It is not the only one that has changed the world but is the only one that has ever saved the world. By that manifesto I live and die, God help me. It is the only one that can change our hearts and heal our souls. It is the only one that saves us from the degrading slavery of being a product of our own age. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, in all its fullness and glory, given to us by the Catholic Church, is the only thing that gives anyone their true meaning, abundant peace, fullness of joy, boundless happiness, and silent contentment.
So I end my rant.
Venerable Pius XII, pray for me.
Saint John XXIII, pray for me.
Blessed Paul VI, pray for me.
Venerable John Paul I, pray for me.
St. John Paul II, pray for me.
And I know that Benedict and Francis pray for me, and I pray for them.
Axios and amen!
Joe Dantona is a convert living in eastern Ohio. He studied political science, history, and theology. He divides his free time between entertaining his wife and kids with dad jokes and getting distracted while reading good books.