Early on Sunday morning, humanity awoke to a world that was a little colder and a little darker as a shining beacon of light and warmth was no more. For those who have monitored his health, the death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II should not have come as a surprise. Yet, many were shocked for we secretly hoped that this man, who survived an assassination, a broken femur, dislocated shoulder, neural disease, removal of a tumour and parts of his digestive tract and numerous hospitalizations would once again triumph over his current health ailments and once again greet us as he has always done, with a word or a gesture from the window of his Apostolic Apartments. Yet, in the recesses of our our hearts, we knew that this was not to be. The LORD would not test his servant beyond his endurance.
Hundreds of millions the world over mourned his passing. Many among the multitudes were young people. This has never ceased to amaze. In a world that glorifies youth and beauty, physical perfection and vitality, indifference to the truth and a 'whatever is fine with you is fine with me' attitude, stands this man. He was old and ailing, in declining health and unable to move, his words slurred and difficult to understand, a man clearly in pain.
In our culture, he should be hidden away, out of sight in an old folks home, left to die alone lest he should be seen and jar us out of our fantasy of youth and beauty. Yet, millions of the young people knew he loved them. He truly did. Not just paying lip service, but truly loving them with the love of Christ. And we loved him too. He loved us enough to tell us the truth, the whole truth even though he knew that it was hard for us to understand and accept it for it requires of us a radical conversion, a change of lifestyle to truly conform to Christ. Yet, he told us nonetheless and showed by his shining example how to live out this truth in our lives.
In the Church there are many bishops, priests, nuns and catechists who are watering down the Faith to make it more 'hip' and more acceptable, fearing to proclaim it in its fullness with many not knowing it themselves, and then wondering why so many do not believe, tinkling with the liturgy to 'update' it, and then wondering where the reverence for God has gone, never speaking of vocations, living out the fullness of their vocations or inviting the young to live a life of total commitment in imitation of Christ and wondering at the falling number of priests and religious.
Yet, in Rome, despite the infidelity of the many priests and bishops, stands this man who 'holds and teaches the Faith that comes down to us from the Apostles' in its entirety. Yes, even the hard parts about sexuality, morality and the salvation that is in Christ alone that Holy Mother Church has ever proclaimed. In a world of relativism, he speaks of objective Truth and the inherent dignity of man, derived from being made in God's image and likeness, apart from his wealth and status, his health, beauty or the quality of his life, from the moment of conception to natural death.
In a rapidly changing world where the only constant is change, he plants his Faith in that immovable Rock of Salvation, Jesus the Christ, Son of God and God the Son who is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He assures us that in God's Kingdom, even if the whole world rejects the Truth, it would still be true. Our elders may never grasp this perhaps because for them, he is just a Pope, one among the many who have steered the Barque of Peter. But for us young people, he is the Pope, the only one we have ever known. And more than that, he is OUR Pope, who loves us and we respond to that love by loving him. He is our Father and Teacher and above all, a dear friend. By his life and teaching, he has taught us how to live, by his suffering, he has taught us how to carry our cross and walk in the footsteps of our Saviour, Christ Jesus and by his death, he has taught us how to surrender ourselves to the Will of our God and how to die.
So, in our grief, we mourn his passing. We mourn not for him who is in bliss and for whose homecoming the heavens rejoice but for ourselves because of whom we have lost. We feel the pain and loss of the Apostles when their Lord and Teacher died. But just as He rose again, we too believe that Pope John Paul II will rise again to be with us in the company of the martyrs and angels and all the holy men and women of God when the Lord Jesus comes again on the Last Day. We thank the LORD for freeing this man, who had to much to say and so much Truth to proclaim, but could not speak, so many places to go to spread the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ but could not move, so much to do, yet had not the strength, for freeing this man from the prison that his body had become so his Spirit could soar.
We thank the LORD our God for giving us the gift of this man, for his life and for his teaching, for his joy and his faith but most of all, for his love, in which we see a glimmer, darkly, as through a glass, of the pure and true Love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Pope John Paul II has always asked us to be not afraid. He has now gone forth unafraid into the presence of the Lord whom he faithfully served. He has always exhorted us to open wide the doors to Christ. May the Lord Jesus Christ now throw wide open the Gates of Heaven for his good and faithful servant. Throughout his life, Pope John Paul II has sought to follow the Lord Jesus and imitate him. May the Lord Jesus show him His face and let His Countenance shine on Him and speak to him the words that all of us hope to hear, "Come good and faithful servant, to the reward that has been prepared for you before the foundation of the world".
Farewell, dear Father. May the Angels lead you into Paradise. May the Martyrs receive you at your coming and take you to Jerusalem, the Heavenly City. May the Choirs of the Angels receive you, and may you, with the once poor Lazarus, have rest everlasting.
Of course, it did not end there. The Sacred College of Cardinals went on to elect Pope John Paul's good friend and collaborator, the man he called from Bavaria to serve him as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for so many years. I can't help but think the the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II would be greatly pleased by this, that his friend has been elected to succeed him and carry on the work of shepherding Christ's people. I am always reminded of this image, of the Cross being passed on to Cardinal Ratzinger, as one Pope to another. In all our trials and worries about the Church, we have to remember that it is Christ's Church and it is He who guides it through the tempests of time until if finally comes to rest in the harbour of eternity.
I hope you have enjoyed these thought of mine and do please share your on thoughts with me as we commemorate this great man who for many years served as our Father on earth, through whom we get a glimpse of the Eternal Father in Heaven from Whom all Fatherhood springs.
O Blessed Trinity,
We thank you for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II
and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him.
Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd,
and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is
the way of achieving eternal communion with you.
Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will,
the graces we implore,
hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints.
In his day, the Servant of God, His Holiness Pope John Paul II was not above browsing the pages on this humble blog, although your scribe's request to have a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, attached to a visit exceeding one minute was forwarded to the Apostolic Penitentiary and lost in the paperwork. So, Your Holiness, Pope Benedict, if you're reading this, how about it, eh?
For Don Stanislaw's memories of that day, see here.