Smoky Mountains Sunrise

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In Loving Memory of Pope John Paul The Great on the Anniversary of His Death

On this third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul the Great, it is an impossible task to pay adequate tribute to the colossus who dwelt among us.

His pontificate was the third longest in history, and in his twenty-six and half years on the Chair of Saint Peter, he presided over 9 consistories, 15 synods of bishops, appointed 2500 of the world’s 4200 bishops.

He authored 14 encyclicals, 14 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 42 apostolic letters, 28 Motu proprio, and 5 books, in addition to hundreds of other messages and letters.

The Holy Father undertook 247 exhausting foreign and Italian pastoral visits, traveling a distance of 28 times the earth’s circumference, while welcoming an average of one million people per year to his weekly audiences and other meetings in the Vatican.

The extraordinary depth, breadth and volume of his teachings, such as his “theology of the body,” are so vast that the Church will be reflecting on them and absorbing them for generations to come.

When he began his pontificate, the Vatican had diplomatic relations with 85 countries. It now has diplomatic relations with over 175.

He played a pivotal role in bringing an end to the most murderous and tyrannical empire the world has ever known.

A poet, an actor, a laborer, a professor, priest, Archbishop, Cardinal and Pope, his life was bound up in mystical ways with the history of the twentieth century.

Many criticized him for being too "conservative;" others were critical that he did not enforce discipline and greater order in the Church, and impose sanctions on the dissidents and heterodox. Yet as we saw in the sorrowful days following his passing, his purpose was far beyond ecclesial administration. He sought to be the Vicar of Christ and shepherd to all the peoples of the world, carrying out the great commandment of Christ and following the example of the Apostles, to “make disciples of all nations.”

As a soul totally surrendered to God, his immeasurable accomplishment was to touch the hearts of the whole world with the love of Christ.

Like our Lord, he chose his words carefully for every nation and audience he addressed. His deep love and concern for America was, perhaps, most beautifully summed up at the close of his 1987 apostolic visit to the United States:

"As I go, I take with me vivid memories of a dynamic nation, a warm and welcoming people, a Church abundantly blessed with a rich blend of cultural traditions. I depart with admiration for the ecumenical spirit that breathes strongly throughout this land, for the genuine enthusiasm of your young people, and for the hopeful aspirations of your most recent immigrants. I take with me an unforgettable memory of a country that God has richly blessed from the beginning until now.

America the beautiful! So you sing in one of your national songs. Yes, America you are beautiful indeed, and blessed in so many ways:

  • In your majestic mountains and fertile plains;
  • In the goodness and sacrifice hidden in your teeming cities and expanding suburbs;
  • In your genius for invention and for splendid progress;
  • In the power that you use for service and in the wealth that you share with others;
  • In what you give to your own, and in what you do for others beyond your borders;
  • In how you serve, and in how you keep alive the flame of hope in many hearts;
  • In your quest for excellence and in your desire to right all wrongs.

    Yes, America, all this belongs to you. But your greatest beauty and your richest blessing is found in the human person: in each man, woman and child, in every immigrant, in every native-born son and daughter.

    For this reason, America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take toward the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.

    The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves.
    If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person:
  • Feeding the poor and welcoming refugees;

  • Reinforcing the social fabric of this nation;
  • Promoting the true advancement of women;
  • Securing the rights of minorities;
  • Pursuing disarmament, while guaranteeing legitimate defense:

All this will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by the law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death.

Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.

With these sentiments of love and hope for America, I now say good-bye in words that I spoke once before: “Today, therefore, my final prayer is this: that God will bless America, so that she may increasingly become – and truly be – and long remain – ‘One Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’”

May God bless you all. God bless America!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute to Pope John Paul II whom we also loved very much. What I find incredible about this man is that no matter how many times you read his life story, there is always something new to learn about him.

There have been hundreds, maybe even thousands, of books written about him, and we still have not plumbed the depths of his spirituality and wisdom.

I particularly love his poetry. There is so very much to ponder there.