This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 22 -- Feast of Blessed Pope John Paul II

It's hard to choose just a few photos.
I am tempted to just post a big SANTO SUBITO ("Sainthood Now" more or less), but I do not mean to dis-serve the Holy Father by neglecting some of the high points of his papacy.  So if you remember his time in the Vatican, you can skip all this.  If not, and you are curious, he are a few highlights, but probably they are neither the scope of his greatness nor the most relevant points of his candidacy for the Canon.  They are just things I remember and love about him.

NB.  If you want an article that includes some of the reasons folks don't think he should be fully canonized,  here's a link.  It is not a Christopher Hitchens screed like the one on Mother Teresa, but it is at least that "on the other hand" kind of journalism. 

He was really photogenic and charismatic
I.  He was the first Polish (or Slavic of any variety) pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope for more than four centuries.  You have to go back to back to 1522 (a Dutchman named Pope Adrian VI) to get someone who was not born in land that is now part of Italy.  (Since modern Italy formed in 1870, there's not much point in splitting hairs about who's really Italian and who's from the Italian provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.)   Now I don't have anything against the Italians -- they gave us some fine popes over the centuries -- but there must be something miraculous about the man who breaks a four hundred fifty year streak.

II.  At the maturity of the Cold War (a more delicate time than some folks want to remember), he took it to the Communists, under whom he lived and worked in Poland, and then took it to the capitalists, whose excesses of wealth he deplored.  Yeah, you could talk about the artwork in the Vatican while people are hungry, and you could talk about his travel budget (129 countries in 102 foreign trips), but then you'd have to get into revenue streams, the tourism effect versus short-term gains from auctions, etc.  Not worth the trouble to analyze when we're evaluating his legacy.  The point is that he lived a personally abstemious life (albeit in a palace, although said palace is a revenue engine that runs a surplus for the organization).  That abstemious life gave him the spiritual footing to tell the Reds where they were wrong and to tell the West where it was wrong.
With Mother Teresa to make him look tall

III.  He took a bullet in the gut from a Turkish neo-fascist named Mehmet Ali Agca, who may or may not have been working with the Bulgarian Communist government.  He lost nearly three-quarters of his blood, but regained consciousness long enough to ask that his Brown Scapular (a symbol of filial devotion to the BVM) during his operation.  After recovering, he publicly exonerated the Bulgarians and Soviets (contrary to evidence provided by the Italian government) and eventually visited Mehmet Ali Agca in prison to reassure him of personal pardon.  Of the meeting, the Pope said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.″

IV. He survived a couple other assassination attempts but kept traveling among faithful worldwide. He was attacked (and may have been stabbed, but kept it hidden) by an ultra-conservative Catholic priest named Juan María Fernández y Krohn, a follower of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.  Lefebvre's schismatic group opposed the Vatican II reforms and considered Pope John Paul II to be a Soviet mole.  He came at the Holy Father with a bayonet in Fatima, Portugal; for his troubles, he got six years in prison (served three), treatment for mental illness, and a one-way ticket out of Portugal.  He became a Belgian lawyer, but that's not important here.

The Pope was also targeted during a visit to the Philippines.  Al Qaeda operatives were going to get him with a suicide bomb, but a chemical fire alerted police to the location so they got gaffled early.

V.  There's more to say, of course, but this is running long so I will close with a quote from the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, who worked with the Holy Father for seven years.  "I was able to see him with people. I was able to see him at prayer and worship. I was able to see him with the poor. I was able to watch him in his travels," Dolan says. "And I knew there was something mystical, there was something transcendent, there was something unique."

No comments:

Post a Comment