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Father Muench Says...

Celebrating the Feast of St. John XXIII

October 18, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today I would like to call your attention to this past week, when our Catholic Church celebrated the Feast Day in honor of Pope St. John XXIII. I am certain that you remember that Pope St. John XXIII is a favorite saint of mine. I believe that Pope St. John XXIII is truly a gift to our Catholic Church.

Pope St. John called the Second Vatican Council. He announced to us all that it was time to call upon the Holy Spirit to renew and bring new life to our Church. He said at that time that it was time to throw open the windows of the Church and allow the Holy Spirit to transform all of us. Pope St. John died before the end of the Council, but his spirit and enthusiasm ensured the completion and success of it.

Personally, Pope St. John XXIII had a profound effect on me and my priesthood. He was elected pope at the time that I was still in my last years in the seminary. So, I was ordained before the Council even began. In my first years as a priest, I celebrated Mass in Latin. When the Council’s renewal and reforms were finally in place, my priesthood and ministry were transformed profoundly. It was truly like beginning as a priest all over. For me, this was a joyful and happy time. There were so many new and wonderful opportunities. One example was the celebration of Mass was all was now in English. I was thrilled that the congregation could now participate more completely. We were truly united, priest and people.

The spirit of Pope St. John brought a newness to our Church, a new enthusiasm. This week, I was so pleased to celebrate Mass in remembrance of Pope St. John. I prayed that through his intercession, his wisdom would continue to enlighten our Church and bring strength and spirit to us all. I truly love the Pope St. John’s story. Many considered him a poor choice to be Pope, however he proved to bring to our Church the renewal that it needed.

So, my prayer on his Feast Day this year is a prayer of gratitude. I thank God for Pope St. John XXIII and for all that the Second Vatican Council accomplished for our Catholic Church. I thank God each time I notice the deep and fuller participation that we now have in Mass. It has been a time of profound holiness for all Catholics.

I close with the prayer from the liturgy on this Feast of Pope St. John XXIII: “Almighty, ever living God who chose Pope St. John XXIII to preside over your whole people and benefit them by word and example, keep safe, we pray, by his intercession, the Shepherds of your Church along with the flock entrusted to their care and direct them in the way of eternal salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

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