Well look, there's even a movie about the man called The Good Pope. So what does that tell you? No wonder the two living popes (Benedict and Francis) have agreed to canonize him on April 27th of next year. He is already officially revered under the title Blessed. And even though only one miracle has been attributed to his intercession, he has been green-lighted for sainthood by the Vatican.
Born this day in 1881, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became Pope John XXIII in 1958. By all accounts, he embodied sainthood during his lifetime. Known for his humility and wit, he convened the Second Vatican Council, which brought ideas of ecumenism and in an increased focus on relatedness to the once insular Roman Catholic Church.
In his quiet way, he revolutionized the church and was arguably its most important figure during the 20th century. A powerful man, he never took himself seriously. People loved him. With the exception of John Paul II, who will also be canonized next April, that is not something that can be said of too many pontiffs. We respect the others and maybe love the "idea" of pope, but to actually love the man, to be moved toward loving kindness because of their personal example - well, that's really something. When I think of John XXIII, I can't help but remember the protagonist of Graham Greene's novel, The Power and the Glory, who though very different from Pope John, comes to the conclusion Angelo Roncali must have reached in the days before papal responsibility was thrust upon him: "He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted - to be a saint.”
Interestingly, Pope John XXIII left the planet in 1963, a few months before JFK was also taken from us. It happens like this sometimes. A beloved secular figure moves on during the same year as a much-loved spiritual one. Consider 1997, for instance. We lost Princess Diana in August and Mother Theresa in September. I have no idea what that means. Maybe it means nothing. But I do find the parallelism intriguing, though I have no plans to research similar "coincidences" any time soon.
Nuance, transcendence, beauty. These are all words that come to mind when I think of Paul Desmond, but of course I try never to think of him while listening to him play. One of the foremost proponents of "cool jazz" back in the 1960's, his music still gets a lot of play on my iPod. Born in San Francisco on this day in 1924, Paul Desmond is best known for his collaborations with the great Dave Brubeck. And of course, his opening solo on the group's chart-topping hit, "Take Five," which he also composed, is legendary. Take five, why don't you, and give it a listen.