Saint John Paul II

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So, today we get that rare thing – two canonizations – John XXIII and John Paul II. A lot of hot air will be generated about Vatican II, child abuse and the whole business of having saints, but if we were looking here simply at the idea of a ‘great man’, then I don’t see how there would be any controversy over John Paul II. Great men don’t have to be perfect, indeed, no less an authority than Lord Acton once said that most great men were bad men; but John Paul II was one of a trio of great figures who helped end the Cold War – President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher being the other two.

We have had quite a bit here about the President and the Prime Minister, but less about the Pope. He was already Pope when I was born, and until is death, I knew no other, and I guess that he will always be the measure against which I will judge his successors.

Now we are on our third non-Italian Pope in succession, it is hard to remember the frisson of surprise when John Paul became Pope – the first non-Italian since the Middle Ages. He became Pope when the Cold War seemed an entrenched part of the world order; not one of those well-paid Kremlinologists or Sovietologists foresaw what was to come. Stalin had famously asked how many divisions the Pope had, meaning it as a symbol of worldly power and domination as against the Church which, in his view, had none. But the world was to see a lesson in the reality of power.

Not even the Kremlin could stop John Paul going to Poland, and once he did, the power that would end Soviet rule was unleashed – the power of people wanting to be free and believing that it could yet be possible. It was a long and a hard road for the Poles, but they did not let their hand drop from the plough or turn aside. Even the attempt to kill the Pope failed, and provided John Paul with a chance to show the true spirit of Christ in forgiving the would-be assassin.

The Soviet regime had no weapons which could prevail against this spirit. President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher matched them with the weapons of this world, and made it clear to the Soviets that they had the determination to resist them; but John Paul II brought something beyond that. Unbowed, himself, by the sufferings he had been through, knowing, from the experience, the nature of the Godless regime which faced Him, John Paul posited against it the Spirit of Hope that comes from Christ.

The spirit of freedom, once kindled, proved unextinguishable.

John Paul II is, like every great man, a figure about whom strong opinions are held. The secular media never quite understood him. They loved his charisma and his openness, but they could not understand how such a man could also abide faithfully by Catholic teaching on the things which this world wants. They almost seemed surprised that he would not approve of contraception, abortion and easy divorce; goodness, the Pope was a Catholic; we see it again now with Pope Francis.

But this was an essential part of John Paul II. He knew what the eternal verities were. Truth was the Risen Christ. There was no compromise with the kingdom of this world. Those who approved of his stand against communism could not, sometimes, understand his opposition to those elements of liberal capitalism which stood against the values of the Church He stood not for the age, but for all ages, and his values were not just those of his time, but for all time. He belongs to the ages now. All of us, Catholic or not, can stand back at this special moment and say: ‘There was a man!”

About JessicaHof
Anglo-Catholic Christian, facilitator, reader of books, multi-tasker

9 Responses to Saint John Paul II

  1. Reblogged this on U.S. Constitutional Free Press.

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  2. I remember the day he was elected. It was a joyous time, in some ways.

    Please, keep in mind that canonization is REALLY not about what happened on Earth while these people were living in the flesh, but that they have Eternal Life in Heaven. That’s why we need the miracles. And that one is totally up to God.

    And this morning Francis did bring up Vatican II in the sermon, so I’m guessing that George Weigel, among others, is correct in assuming that canonizing the two together is a message of sorts. This is going to get interesting.

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    • JessicaHof says:

      Thank you. Yes, I think that it is going to be read in a number of ways – and the ramifications could be very interesting.

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  3. I just don’t see how Papal Catholicism considers Vatican II a position to either stand upon or build upon, especially when it has never been finalized, and still sits an open ended aspect. It has simply become problematic to say the least! When liberal Protestants like it, and Traditional and conservative Catholics don’t, that should tell us something. Lets not forget that Hans Kung was a Vatican II architect also. And now of course even Kung calls it a “funeral service”.

    http://www.traditioninaction.org/ProgressivistDoc/A_053_Kung_CCL.htm

    http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2000/05/Kung-Pope-Has-Betrayed-Second-Vatican-Council.aspx#

    I am of course no fan of Kung, but he really was part of the molding of Vatican II. And of course now he is hardly mentioned, getting the boot from John Paul II.

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    • And btw, “hot air” about Vatican II? It’s NOT hot-air for many Traditional Catholics! They are the one’s being left-out especially since pope “Francis”! I hear this from so many of them over and over!

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      • Note, I am myself, as a Protestant Anglican not seeking to go back to the RCC of say Vatican I, not at all! But, lost in Vatican II is the Text and theology of John 14: 6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Note also Acts 4: 12! And so, even this evangelical Anglican is closer to the “Catholicism”, of say an Augustine, and maybe something too of an Aquinas!

        And for me anyway, the only special saint, might be: St. Mary The Virgin, the one and only mother of the Incarnate Christ!

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        • JessicaHof says:

          As an Anglican myself, I sympathise :) xx

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        • I have told this personal story before, but as a wee boy in Ireland, about 6 years old? I asked my parish priest & pastor Fr. Sweeny, who is that Man on the cross? I mean the Crucifix was right above the Altar in those days. And the “Man” on it made such a profound impact and figure! As I asked and he said, this is Jesus, God Incarnate who died for your sins! My first, and perhaps my best Gospel message! It still impacts me at 64! And thanks be to God!

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  4. Pingback: Things I Didn’t Know | nebraskaenergyobserver

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