Monday, April 02, 2007

Here's to You, John Paul II (My Hero!)

"Be not afraid!"
(You know who!)

Today on anniversary number two of the death of John Paul II, I remember the two sides of the man who changed the concept of the papacy in the eyes of the world. First he was a pope of great triumphs—directly responsible for the fall of Communism, volumes of monumental writing (including the theology of the body and the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary), the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, and World Youth Day—to name a few. He also presided over terrible tragedies—the clergy sex scandal, the rise of abortion and euthanasia and the increased hedonism/relativism of modern society. John Paul traveled to more countries than all his predecessors combined and yet he was not allowed into Russia to realize his dear goal, the reunification with the Orthodox. He was miraculously saved from the assassin's bullet by Our Lady of Fatima, but could not get the many world leaders (including George W. Bush) to adopt her plan for peace. Even his twenty-six year reign was almost equally divided into that of the youthful robust pope (who when cautioned that the tourists could see him jogging around the papal gardens, shrugged, "so what?" and when chided that putting a swimming pool in his summer residency would be expensive, quipped, "yes, but it's cheaper than another conclave!") and the aging bent over pontiff who lost his ability to hold, walk and finally talk. In the end, the avid mountain climber had to be lifted into a seat, the brilliant orator had a tube in his throat and could not speak; yet through it all, his message "Be not afraid," remained constant.

For in the end (as usually happens with the holy) his tragedies proved triumphs too. He accepted the feeding tube just when Terri Schiavo was deprived of hers, and in doing so, called attention to the sacredness of suffering in ways his life encyclicals, inspired as they were, could not. He kept his rounds with the world despite the ravages of Parkinson's, and because he remained faithful throughout his affliction, God has already allowed him to be part of the healing. Sister Marie Simon Pierre was cured of her Parkinson's Disease after praying to him in early 2006. And yes, the man who named more new saints than any other pope will soon be named a saint himself.

True, John Paul II ain't a saint (or "the great") just quite yet. But of the man who made the saying "Be not afraid" famous, I say "be not afraid" to pray for him. I don't know if John Paul II was a betting man when he was here, on earth, but I guarantee you he's not afraid to bet on the salvation of any soul who asks his help in heaven.

1 comment :

Pristinus Sapienter said...

I believe that it is a goal of B16's papacy to make his predecessor 'Saint Pope John Paul II, the Great' before the former passes into eternal grace, too.

That canonization should be one of the highlights of the year in which it occurs. The celebrations will find miracles of conversion (and reverting conversion) in every corner of the world.

Yes, here's to you, John Paul II, Great and Saint, Pope and hero. Gone to joy two years, you still overshadow all other leaders but your successor.