Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

st petersThis week Pope John Paul II will be getting a lot of press coverage because the Church will be canonising him as a Saint (a great role model in the faith). Here are 10 things you might not have known about his life and work…

1. He was passionate about the arts. Pope John Paul II loved amateur dramatics, both performing and writing plays. He studied drama in his native Poland before training for the priesthood. One of his better known plays is The Jeweller’s Shop, a work about marriage which has been performed all over the world. When he met Bono rather than asking to sing with him, the Pope asked to try on his glasses!

bono glasses

Trying on Bono’s glasses.


A man of the theatre.

2.  He was an avid sportsman. As a boy he enjoyed mountain-walking, football and fishing. Before becoming Pope, he entered an International Kayaking competition. Even after taking on the role of the head of the Catholic Church he still kept up some of his sporting interests, enjoying skiiing during his breaks.


Karol Wojtyla kayaking.

skiing pope

The Skiing Pope

3. He was a witness to forgiveness. In 1981 he was shot, resulting in him having to endure a 6 hour operation. He asked the Church to join him in prayer for the man who shot him, calling him his ‘brother’ and announcing that he has ‘sincerely forgiven’ him. Pope John Paul II later visited the man in prison.

pope shot

Visiting the man who shot him in prison.

4. Both spiritual and physical fitness were important to him. When he first became Pope he used to jog in the Vatican gardens, but was advised that this was not a good idea because tourists could see him. He continued to jog in spite of the advice. Some referred to him as the ‘keep fit’ Pope.

pope hike

The hiking Pope

5. He started the World Youth Day celebrations. These initiatives, which still continue today, have seen millions of young people encouraged in their faith as they gather in cities across the world to sing praise, to receive teaching and offer service in a community. Cliff Richard and former Christian band Delirious have performed at WYD gatherings in the past. In 2000 there were 2.1million at the gathering in Rome. He had a great sense of fun!

world youth day

World Youth Day, Rome, 2000.

pope fun

The playful Pope!

6. He was a  peacemaker. He wrote to both George Bush Sr and Sadaam Hussein in an attempt to avert the Gulf War. Prior to that he was called upon to help bring peace to the conflict between Argentina and Chile, who contacted the Holy See for mediation help. He was the first Pope to enter a Mosque.

pope peace

7. He was a friend to the new movements. In 1998 on the feast of Pentecost he spoke to representatives of various movements in the Church such as members of Focolare and Catholic charismatic renewal saying,

“The Church and the world need you. Come Holy Spirit and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us. Give new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and daughters of yours who have gathered here.”

“Today I would like to cry out to all of you gathered here in St Peter’s Square and to all Christians: Open yourselves docilely to the gifts of the Spirit! Accept gratefully and obediently the charisms which the Spirit never ceases to bestow on us! Do not forget that every charism is given for the common good, that is, for the benefit of the whole Church…”

holy spirit

8. He was ecumenical. He issued two joint statements of faith with Dr Robert Runcie, who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 80’s.

robert runcie 1

The men agreed on statements of faith.

robert runcie 2

Christian Unity

9. A sexual revolutionary? Pope John Paul II gave 129 lectures at his Wednesday audiences on the area of sexuality which were later compiled into a work known as the Theology of the Body. This teaching in many ways was considered revolutionary as he openly discussed the difference between love and lust, sharing his thoughts on the gift of sexuality, nakedness and more! It has been taught in both Catholic and Protestant environments. He said, “The fact that theology also considers the body should not surprise anyone who is aware of the mystery and reality of the Incarnation”.

garden of eden

A painting depicting the garden of Eden.

10. He served to the end. Pope John Paul II served as head of the Catholic Church for 26 years in spite of battling with Parkinsons Disease towards the end of his life, which often saw him experience great pain.

pope pain

In agony when addressing the crowds in St Peter’s Square.

When will he be canonised?

This adventurer will be declared a Saint on Sunday 27th April 2014 at 10am Roman time (9am British Summer Time).

Whether you agree with the process of canonisation or not it is certainly an interesting/historic moment.

Where can I watch it?

1. Live in Rome at St Peter’s Square with millions of others. Large TV screens will be erected around the Vatican for people to watch it on but it will be extremely busy.

2. It will be streamed live in 3D at cinemas around the world, including in the UK. To find the nearest cinema to you go here:

3. You can also watch it online via EWTN here:

And a final photo of the young Pope shaving in the great outdoors!

pope shaving

(c) Maria Rodrigues


When writing a blog aimed at Christians from all Church traditions, it is probably not advisable not to write an entire post on the Pope, but hopefully you will agree that I made the right decision in doing so!

pope laughing

Here are 20 things you might not have picked up on which either Pope Francis has done during his pontificate or got up to before he came to Rome:

1. Today he has broken years of tradition by choosing not to hold the Maundy Thursday foot-washing in one of the main Churches in Rome, such as St Peter’s Basilica. Instead he is heading to a young offenders institute in Rome to wash and kiss the feet of 12 of them.

2. When leaving Argentina to cast his vote on who the new Pope would be, a couple of his friends clubbed together to buy him some new shoes because the ones he was planning to wear were shabby and worn. (Those same new black shoes are apparently the ones we’ve seen him wearing as Pope!)

Pope shoes

3. Once declared the new Pope (something he was not expecting due to his age) it was customary for the Cardinals to greet him one by one. He decided not to sit on the throne prepared for the welcome, instead choosing to stand up and greet his ‘brothers’.

4. As the Pope and Cardinals were leaving for St Peter’s (where the new Pope was to appear on the balcony), a special Papal car had been prepared for Francis, however he opted to travel by bus with the other Cardinals.

5. Having left his life in Argentina there are few things he had to sort out. Rather than ask a PA or secretary to call up his newsagent back in Buenos Aires to cancel his daily paper delivery, he decided to do it himself! It took a while to convince the boy on the other end that it really was the Pope on the phone, calling from Rome, wanting to thank them for their service all these years. (It has been reported by the newsagents that the paper delivered to the Cardinal was always bound by a rubber band, and at the end of each month he would return all the elastic bands! A thrifty Cardinal.)

6. He liked to dance the tango when he was a young man.

7. When Pope Francis was a Cardinal he turned down the bishop’s palace, choosing more modest accomodation, which included cooking for himself.

8. In his first week in office Pope Francis had Mass with the Vatican gardeners and cleaning staff.

9. Once he became Pope he decided to return to the guesthouse he had been staying in prior to the voting process to collect his belongings himself… and also to settle the bill and thank the staff!

10. His financial advisor in Argentina was an evangelical Christian, with those who know the Pope saying that he reportedly chose him because he knew he could trust another Christian. Apparently they spent hours reading the Bible together.

11. He has washed the feet of Aids victims, sick children and new mothers.


12. He said that the papal apartment is too big for one man so has not moved in there.

13. The Pope is living in the Vatican guesthouse with other clergy who work for the Vatican, using a communal dining room and living in modest accomodation.

14. Evangelist Luis Palal (who runs Christian crusades the world over) counts Pope Francis as a personal friend, sharing how he is a man of prayer who knows the Gospel/kerygma.

luis palau

15. He had the Patriarch of Constantinople at his inauguration Mass, the first time since the split from Rome.

16. Pope Francis has chosen not to wear a gold cross usually worn by Popes, wearing a simpler one.

17. He likes to give the thumbs up to people when he sees them in the crowd!


18. Pope Francis said his first Mass in the small church on the edge of the Vatican instead of in the main basilica, and then stood outside afterwards like a parish priest greeting all the parishonners one by one.

19. He is a friend of Pentecostals, evangelicals, Jews, Orthodox Christians and more! Reports suggest that he always asks other Christians to pray for him, often asking them to ‘lay hands’ on him.

20. He chose the name Francis after St Francis of Assisi because his Cardinal friend whispered to him ‘don’t forget the poor’ just before he had to choose a name.

st francis

I think he is a man who reminds all Christians that our faith is about love and service, and that through reaching out to others we will point them to Christ.

© Maria Rodrigues-Toth

Is the Catholic Church in danger of losing some of its most active, committed young members or are these young people paving the way for a new season of ecumenism?*

This week I learned of 14 young Catholics who individually plan to attend a service, conference or prayer meeting outside of their own denomination at the weekend.  This is not a one off occurence for a Churches Together initiative but something they do regularly.  Had I been specifically searching for Catholics who practise this sort of ecumenical worship in Britain the numbers would have been considerably higher.

In some cases it involves double servicing on a Sunday, perhaps attending Mass in the morning and a Protestant Church in the evening, for others it means participation in weekday prayer gatherings or teaching nights at an alternative Christian Church to their own. Ecumenism is encouraged by the Catholic Church, but in Britain are the Protestants the ones discipling the younger generations for them?

Amongst those in their teens, twenties and thirties there is an increasing eloquence when it comes to explaining Catholic Church teaching.  With the recent publication of the YouCat (Youth Catechism), the availability of Vatican documents online, and initiatives such as Catholic Voiceswho specifically train people in not only understanding but also articulating their faith to others, there has arisen a movement of parishonners who are confidently doing their own faith study. Some are proficient in Koine Greek and/or Hebrew, while others turn up at Church having prayed through the coming Sunday’s readings in advance.  Although they are pursuing personal study many are turning to the Protestant Church to get their needs met for deeper formation outside of a short 15 minute sermon in an hour long Mass.  They are getting access to internationally acclaimed preachers, discovering a sense of Community during the weekly Protestant homegroup/cell meetings and are experiencing new models of communal prayer alongside their own Sunday service with their parish priest.

The ecumenical insight of this ‘group’ is noteable: whilst keenly aware of their own roots, they are also knowledgeable about what is available to them in the Protestant world. Many could tell you about the latest Protestant prayer movements in the States (e.g. IHOP Prayer Movement), or who the leading Pentecostal evangelists are in Africa (Reinhard Bonnke) or Australia (Christine Caine) – they are reading their books, watching their preachings, getting spiritual food from it, all whilst being able to identify which elements to deliberate over or discard due to theological conflicts with their own beliefs.

These individuals who look to other Church traditions for formation and spiritual experiences to support them are spread geographically around the country, and don’t necessary know one another because there is no umbrella movement which unites them.  They might meet others in the same situation as them (being Catholic but benefitting from attendance at other Churches) at one of the many Catholic gatherings which take place throughout the year such as the Celebrate conferences, 40 Days for Life, Youth 2000 or in their University Chaplaincy, but beyond that the journey is a personal one. They are often readers, Eucharistic Ministers, youth workers, or those providing music ministry and catechisis for a parish. But is their turning to other Churches a sign that the Catholic Church is failing to meet the needs of the very people who keep it going at a grass roots level, or an indicator that there is a new move afoot of Church unity which will be characterised by greater tolerance, respect and understanding?

There was recently a Leadership Conference at the Royal Albert Hall which saw Christian leaders from all walks of life gather (around 4000 of them).  Although it was run by the Anglican HTB Church, they had a Catholic stream to the event.   Speakers such as Christopher West, of Theology of the Body fame, were flown in, as well as Catholic worship leader Matt Maher, along with ordained hierachy from France. This Protestant Church in London even has a global movement called Catholic Alpha which seeks to serve the needs of Catholic parishes worldwide in discipling their congregations in the basics of the faith.

They are not the only Protestants who are providing prayer and formation for the Catholic Church. In America the ‘One Thing’ conference taking place at the end of this year (which it is estimated will draw an attendance of around 25,000 young people) has a Catholic track supported by the Catholic University in Steubenville.  It’s founder Mike Bickle is sensitive to the needs of Catholics having grown up in the tradition himself.  Although now departed from the Church of Rome, he is said to encourage Christians from all backgrounds to read the lives of Catholic Saints such as St John of the Cross to learn from their prayer lives. So are Protestants doing a better job of providing for the needs of young Catholics than the Church herself?

Soul Survivor is an annual summer camp for young people in Britain, once again being one at which tens of thousands are in attendance. Testimonies pour in of lives changed and faith renewed as a result of the experiences of prayer, preaching and praise.  The man at the helm (Mike Pilavachi) had some of his early years formation in a charismatic Catholic prayer group in London.  Far from being anti-Catholic and trying to draw young people away from their Catholic roots, provision is being made at the camp to enable them to fully participate in the summer events programme.  For a number of years now Mass has been provided for those who require it as an alternative to the Protestant Communion service.

There are many lay movements in the Catholic Church which provide formation and prayer experiences, some of which have been alluded to in this piece, but perhaps the Catholic Church owes some gratitude to the Protestants who are giving some of their key workers the input they require to inspire and encourage them to keep going in their roles as evangelists and disciplers in the Church?

© Maria Rodrigues-Toth

*Please note that this post is not based on statistical research but rather on obvservations I have made on what I see as a growing trend among Catholic young people. .