Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Saint John Paul II

The last couple days I've been trying to think my way through a post on the canonization of John Paul II. It's been difficult for me to think what to say about John Paul II because not only was he the only pope for most of my life (I was born shortly after he became pope and by his death I was married with two kids) but his reign had profound and pervasive effects on the Church during my youth.

John Paul II's combination of doctrinal orthodoxy, philosophical depth, profound optimism (captured by his oft repeated line "Be not afraid!"), and ability to capture the imagination of the public and the media meant that although growing up as a faithful Catholic in the '80s and '90s could be isolated, it never had the uncertainty which pervades the experiences described by Frank Sheed in his 1974 book The Church and I.

I remember, when I heard that John Paul II was on his deathbed, driving down to the Eucharistic Chapel at our parish to pray. Over the last six years, I'd confronted the mortality of my own father during cancer treatments, remission, and relapse -- he would outlive John Paul by less than a year. Although I'd seen the Holy Father only once in my life, and then from a distance and along with a large crowd of other visitors to Rome, his impending death too seemed deeply personal -- the loss of a spiritual father.

It has been only nine years since John Paul II's death -- a very short time for a canonization process. But perhaps it is unsurprising that in this case the time was as short as was at times the case in the early Church. John Paul II's teaching and personal holiness had an impact on a tremendous number of people over a long public life, and so the number of people who sought his intercession after his death was large.

In some ways, it is still hard for me to remember that he is not still pope. With the rest of the Church today, I am confident that he is watching over us to this day and praying for us.

1 comment:

bearing said...

It's funny, I felt last night (as we added "Saint John Paul II, pray for us!" temporarily at least to our dinnertime litany) that a celebrity had sat down to dine with us. I never saw JPII in person (never went to a WYD or, when I was in
Rome, a Wednesday Angelus, for example), and though I admired him greatly and read many of his writings, he seemed a faraway if personable figure. But suddenly I feel struck by the closeness of the community of saints, and it feels as if he has joined our family -- as if we can really start getting to know each other now.