Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us.

“He helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty…”  (Pope Benedict XVI's Beatification Homily).  This is what we learned from Blessed John Paul II, as a generation formed by the Church he led while the world sank deeper into moral relativism.

Standing in the middle of St. Peter’s Square in August of 2000, jet-lagged, overwhelmed by the crowds of European teens who seemed to have different standards of hygiene than we did, watching the sun set behind the obelisk we chanted, “John Paul II, We love you!” as he entered on the Popemobile and then greeted us in what must have been dozens of languages.  I remember weeping with my friends when we heard him welcome pilgrims from the United States with, “The Pope loves you too!” and realizing—not just knowing from a guide book but realizing in the marrow of my bones, as I stood just feet away from the tomb of St. Peter, in a city where Christians had been fed to lions and celebrated mass in Catacombs—that I was part of a faith that wasn’t something my parents, a self-help book or charismatic personality had invented.  It had been handed down to me, through the apostles, from Christ.  And He was visible in this man’s leadership.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explained, “the whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends.  Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love”.  When Blessed Pope John Paul II took office, people feared that the younger generations had come to see the Church as irrelevant, old fashioned and not worth the time we could spend reading the Wall Street Journal, drinking Mimosas on Sunday mornings. 

So what does Blessed Pope John Paul II do?  Spends the first six years of his Pontificate clarifying God's plan for sex.  Gathers millions of young people for World Youth Days.   As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel.”  He taught doctrine in love, out of a tangible concern for our health and happiness.  Recognizing, like a loving parent, the importance of challenging us with the truth.  He showed us that the Church was truly our “travelling companion”.  That we belong to, and are called to heaven.
As I read my friend’s statuses and chat about the beatification today I see a generation whose lives are deeply affected by the witness this man gave us, calling us to holiness when many in the world were content to let self-destruct. Blessed Pope John Paul II… Continue to pray for us.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. You often blessed us in this Square from the Apostolic Palace: Bless us, Holy Father! Amen. -Pope Benedict XVI.


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