Saturday evening, 2 Apr 2005 at 9:37 pm Vatican time, Pope John Paul II passed from this world to eternity. His loss will be greatly felt by us here on Earth. I know it is a bit trite & corny, but our loss IS Heaven's gain.
I'd like to share some of the thoughts that have passed through my mind as I watched the news coverage of his death. These are in no particular order. They reflect my love & respect for him as well as my gratitude for all he did.
As I watched the biographical reports of the work he did in serving Jesus as the Vicar of Christ, the following scripture kept enterring into my thoughts: "Well done good & faithful servant." That is truly what he was, a servant. & this view of him comes from how he viewed himself. 1st & foremost he saw himself as a priest, called & ordained to serve the flock that was given into his care. This was true when he was a parish priest, when he was bishop , archbishop, & cardinal in Krakow, Poland, & just as true when he was Pope. Everything he did was because of the call he received from Christ & done out of love for Jesus & those people who were put into his care.
His was true Christian humanism. He saw worth in every human being, from the newly conceived to the weakest most helpless person such as Terri Schiavo. Even the worst murderer had value in his eyes. That was because each person was created by God & had a soul worth saving. He was able to forgive those who tried to kill him, esp Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman with whom he met in prison after his recovery. He was the Vicar of Christ & could do no less than Jesus.
He was 1 of the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century. His writings covered a wide variety of topics. Perhaps, what is still greatly underappreciated, but will someday be seen as 1 of his greatest contributions to Catholic theology & phlosophy are his writings on human sexuality. Few people realize the infuence his writings had on Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae.
In my humble opinion, some day after he is declared a saint he will also be declared a Doctor of the Church.
He was a man of very deep prayer, spending several hours a day, no matter his schedule, with his Lord & God. He had a deep love & appreciation for the gift of the Eucharist. Again this goes back to how he saw himself, as a priest. His calls for greater adherance to liturgical norms was not out of a sense of legalism. It was because he Knew that the liturgy wasn't about us, rather it was there for us. It was there for us the worship God, to teach us & remind us of the basic truths of the faith (which is why accurate translation & faithful adherance is important, & to provide us with the spiritual nourishment we need that can only be found in the Eucharist & Scripture.
He never fit into a box with a nice neat label. He was neither liberal or conservative, progressive, tradtionalist or middle of the road. Hewas orthodox in his beliefs & how he put them into practice. He operated in the true spirit of Vatican II, the Holy Spirit. Many people after the council tried to hijack it with their own agenda using the term in the spirit of Vatican II. He was at Vatican II & knew that the true spirit was found in the words of Vatican II. This was something those who criticized his actions conveniently ignored both ebefore & during his pontificate. People will look back & see that jhe knew what Vatican II intended & did hid best as pastor to impliment it.
He loved the whole Catholic Church. He was concerned with every part of it, all of the over 20 sui iuris Churches (& their various rites) Eastern & Western that he was responsible for. He called the Church to be fully Catholic & breath with both lungs in Orientale lumen
. He was saddenned by the divisions in the Body of Christ & worked to heal them reaching out to the Ortodox Churches as well as the Protestant Churches. He never backed away from what was unchangable in Catholic doctrine, while reaching out to help both sides understand the other.
As Chief Shepherd of the flock he went where the flock was, to encourage, to teach to strengthen & even correct when needed, something that is just a much a part of the job & 1 of the harder parts. He knew that his correction wouldn't always be welcome & it wasn't. But, that never stopped him, whether he was correcting an errant theologian or a president of the United States of America. The beauty of the man was that it was all done in love, never out of a desire for power or revenge. He was never afraid to speak the truth, Jesus was the truth & that was what he proclaimed.
It was very appropriate that he died after the 1st Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast he implimented. As priest it was his duty to proclaim the Mercy of Jesus. Jesus' death & resurrection is what allows God to extend mercy towards us & enables us to avoid the justice we so richly deserve by our sins. Divine Mercy is the sign of God's love for each of us. He proclaimed this Mercy so we might accept it & live forever with God in heaven.
Some people have already started to refer to him as Pope John Paul the Great. I wish to add my name to the list of those doing so. He will be only the 3rd Pope so designated after Leo the Great & Gregory the Great.
Thank You, Lord for the gift of John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla! You have truly blessed us through him.GIOAVANNI PAULO II (Karol Wojtyla) RIPBorn: 18 May 1920Pope: 16 Oct 1978 - 2 April 2005Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord! And let perpetual light shine upon him!