Saint Paul VI


Pope Paul VI was elected in 1963 and continued the Second Vatican Council after the death of Pope John XXIII. During his papacy, he wrote several encyclicals, including Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), and Mysterium Fidei (The Mystery of Faith, on the Eucharist).

Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World) is an apostolic exhortation considered to be the “magna carta” on Catholic evangelization and remains relevant and timely. As Julianne Stanz explains in Developing Disciples of Christ:

The exhortation affirms the role of every Christian in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is divided into seven sections, with an introduction. Evangelii Nuntiandi defines Catholic evangelization (which is very helpful), the content of evangelization, and the beneficiaries or audiences of evangelization.

Pope Paul VI declared clearly in Evangelii Nuntiandi that the Church “exists in order to evangelize.” (14) Some inspiration from that document includes:

Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn. (24)

Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. (41)

Let us therefore preserve our fervor of spirit. Let us preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow. May it mean for us—as it did for John the Baptist, for Peter and Paul, for the other apostles and for a multitude of splendid evangelizers all through the Church’s history—an interior enthusiasm that nobody and nothing can quench. May it be the great joy of our consecrated lives. And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world. (80)

Another apostolic exhortation, Marialis Cultus, focuses on devotion to Mary. In that, Paul VI reminds us:

Mary is not only an example for the whole Church in the exercise of divine worship but is also, clearly, a teacher of the spiritual life for individual Christians. The faithful at a very early date began to look to Mary and to imitate her in making their lives an act of worship of God and making their worship a commitment of their lives. (21)

Paul VI served as pope until his death in 1978. He was beatified in 2014 and canonized in 2018.


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Pope Paul VI defined evangelization in the following way: “evangelization means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself.” (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 18). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, ordinary people are called to give witness by the simple living of the faith and to share the good news of Jesus in an explicit but uncoercive manner. As Catholics, we are called to evangelize by enthusiastically living and sharing our faith, by inviting people to hear the message of Jesus, and by fostering Gospel values that transform society.

The Domestic Church

The Second Vatican Council described the family as the domestic church. Pope Paul VI wrote that this means that "there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church" (Evangelization in the Modern World, art. 71). In other words, we should be able to apply to the family the general attributes of the Church. The family is a community of followers of Jesus Christ, all of them seeking to walk in the footsteps of Jesus on the way to his cross and resurrection. The family is a community of worshipers, worshiping God in their home and in their parish church. Family members are ministers to each other, caring for each other's spiritual, physical, and psychological needs. Family members evangelize each other, preaching the Gospel through the way they live their lives within the family and through their communication of the message of the Good News. The family is a sacrament, a sign of God's love for everyone. The family is an instrument of service to the kingdom, as all the members of the family work together for the coming of the kingdom.

Pope Paul VI at the United Nations

After the travel-filled papacies of more recent popes, it is hard for today's Catholics to appreciate the stunning impact that Pope Paul VI made when he visited the United Nations in 1965. Papal travel was a new phenomenon, and the whole world focused on this historic visit. The Holy Father used the opportunity to speak out for social justice: "We make our own the voice of the poor, the disinherited, the suffering, of those who hunger and thirst for justice." He made a powerful appeal for peace in the world: "No more war! War never again!" He praised the United Nations as an organization which "represents the obligatory path of modern civilization," and he spoke of its vocation "to make brothers not only of some but of all peoples.' It was clear that the pope was offering the United Nations the support of his Church in its efforts to reform the world order: "Let unanimous trust in this institution grow," he said, "let its authority increase."

Eucharistic Fast

Fasting from food and drink (except water) before receiving the Eucharist dates from the early days of the Church and was affirmed by Church councils. In 1964 Pope Paul VI changed the fast time from the period between midnight and the Mass time to a period of one hour before Communion.

Mary, Mother of the Church

Mary was called Mother of the Church as early as the 12th century by the Bishop of Treves, Berengaud. Later writers, such as the 15th century Archbishop of Florence, Saint Antoninus, and Saint Lawrence Justiniani, spoke of Mary as Mother of the Church. Pope Leo XIII wrote in an 1895 encyclical that Mary “is invoked as Mother of the Church and the teacher and Queen of the Apostles.” St. John XXIII spoke of Mary as “Mother of the Church and our most loving Mother.” Then in 1964, during the Mass at the end of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI officially proclaimed Mary Mother of the Church. He said: “For the glory of the Blessed Virgin and our own consolation, we proclaim the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of the Church, of the whole people of God, faithful and pastors, and we call her most loving Mother.” Fear had been expressed by some that regarding Mary as Mother of the Church would separate her from the community of which she was a member, but Paul VI evidently felt that we could maintain a sense of Mary’s presence within our community at the same time that we recognize her special place as Mother of Christ and therefore Mother of Christ’s Church.

Venerable, Blessed, Saint

Five years after a person dies, a bishop can request that he or she be considered for canonization. The first step is to collect the testimony of witnesses who can recount facts about the person's exercise of Christian virtues. At that point the person can be given the title of Servant of God, or Venerable.

After more investigation the Congregation for the Cause of Saints can recommend to the pope that the person be beatified. This means that the person can be honored in public worship limited to a specific diocese or area. After beatification the person receives the title Blessed.

Finally the Congregation can recommend canonization. When the pope canonizes a person, he declares that the person can be looked on as a model of Christian virtue and can be honored in the public worship of the universal church. After canonization the person who was named Blessed acquires the title of Saint.