Archdiocese celebrates John Paul II beatification

May 10, 2011

HOUSTON — Local Catholics converged at the Archdiocese's Polish parish on May 1 to celebrate the beatification of the late John Paul II, the beloved pope from Poland whose work for religious freedom and efforts to build a culture of life continues to impact the universal Church. 

Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Houston hosted a special Mass commemorating the pope's beatification on the second Sunday of Easter, the same day that Pope Benedict XVI beatified his predecessor at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. 

In Houston, the standing-room-only crowd at Mass listened to retired Auxiliary Bishop Vincent M. Rizzotto recall meeting John Paul II when the pontiff celebrated a Liturgy in San Antonio in 1987. During that visit, Bishop Rizzotto said he was deeply aware that John Paul II was someone who practiced personal holiness. 

"He was a man of God who never tired of telling you about his faith in his Lord, Jesus Christ… we thank God for giving us this powerful witness," Bishop Rizzotto said. 

The bishop said Blessed John Paul‘s legacy also includes his devotion to the Eucharist, as well as his conviction that human life must be protected from the first moment of conception to its natural end. Several parishioners of Our Lady of Czestochowa came to Mass in traditional Polish attire. Many women wore flower garlands and strings of red and white ribbon in their hair and donned colorfully patterned skirts, while men wore embroidered coats and vests. 

The Liturgy closed with an early recording of Blessed John Paul II singing (in Polish) a few verses of "Lord, When You Came to the Seashore." Following the Mass in English and Polish, the parish held its fifth annual Polish Festival. During the day-long event, participants ate Polish foods such as pierogies and kielbasa sausage and watched youth from Our Lady of Czestochowa perform Polish dances. Attendees processed around the church while waving Polish flags during the afternoon of fellowship. Also on May 1, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for the beatification of John Paul II at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. During his homily, Cardinal DiNardo emphasized the late pope's commitment to the new evangelization, a movement John Paul II sparked through his worldwide travels. 

Cardinal DiNardo also spoke about the pontiff's emphasis on youth, prayer and the dignity of the human person. Cardinal DiNardo recalled Pope John Paul II's closing comment to him during their first visit, after the cardinal had been named a bishop. "He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Remember bishop, it's all about the human person,'" Cardinal DiNardo said. "That sticks in your head, the first time you meet [the Pope]. And that was his life. He took seriously [Jesus' words], ‘Be not afraid.' He took seriously [Jesus' words], ‘Peace be with you.'" 

Pope John Paul II was beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, which he established in 2000 to honor the life of Saint Faustina Kowalska, a native of Poland who devoted her life to shedding light on the mystery of divine mercy. Pope John Paul II canonized 482 saints — more saints than any pope in modern history — and his beatification six years and one month after his death was the fastest beatification in about 500 years. See page 18 for more beatification news.

— Monica Hatcher and Catholic News Service contributed to this report
Photo 2: Bishop Rizzotto (RIGHT) and Deacon Antoni Rudnicki (LEFT) greet the crowd at Our Lady of Czestochowa's Mass honoring the beatification of John Paul II. The local Mass was held in English and Polish and many participants wore traditional Polish dress to the Liturgy. The Mass was held on Divine Mercy Sunday, which the late pope established in 2000. John Paul II died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.

Photo 3: Young men perform a traditional Polish folk dance for the crowds at the Polish Festival. Organizers said more than 3,000 attended the festival, which was held April 30 and May 1. Proceeds from the festival go toward Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, which is completing the construction of the John Paul II Heritage Center on the parish grounds.