Posted by: fvbcdm | April 29, 2014

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena (29 April 2014)

The body of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, now lies in state in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and thousands are going there to pay their respects before his funeral on Friday. His death and its aftermath have received an unprecedented amount of publicity and coverage from the media of the world, as is fitting for a man of his stature.

There are two events which, in my view, have been the greatest gifts of God to humanity during my lifetime. One has been the second Vatican Council. The other has been the pontificate of the Polish priest, bishop, and cardinal, Karol Wojtyla who, upon being elected Pope, took the name of John Paul II. And neither of these gifts has yet to be understood or appreciated fully. Things like this take years to bear their full fruit and to disclose their immense value to the world, and to history.

The Second Vatican Council was held back in the 1960’s. It was immediately —even during its sessions—seized upon by people within the Church who claimed to know what they were doing, and was distorted and abused to meet their own erroneous agendas.

As a result, we have the very sad spectacle of millions falling away from the practice of our holy religion; priests and religious renouncing their vows and commitments, totally erroneous doctrines being taught in the name of truth in our seminaries and schools and deep divisions sown among the Catholic community of the world between those who were faithful to movements of the Holy Spirit in the Council and those who wanted to change that which cannot be changed, namely, the doctrines and morality of our Lord Jesus Christ. Little by little, these tragedies will be laid to rest and the true value of the Council will emerge and will guide the Church and to some degree, the entire world, for centuries to come. Unfortunately for us who were alive during the Council, these things will not totally happen in our lifetimes. We must simply trust in the power of God moving in his Church that they will come to pass gradually, as do all developments in the life of the Church.

Then, in 1978, the world was astonished at the election of a bishop and cardinal from Krakow in Poland to be the Supreme Pontiff. There had not been a non-Italian pope for four hundred years. There had never been a Polish pope. Yet here he was: someone unknown to most of us, but one who immediately began to make his holiness, his intelligence, his prudence, his universal good will known to the world. He preached; he wrote; he traveled; he confronted every issue; he faced any head of state who wanted to see him—and even some who did not. He canonized and beatified more saints than any of his predecessors, wishing to point out many more practitioners of Christian virtue. He used the tremendous moral force of his position, and his own Polish nationality, to begin in his native land the nearly miraculous downfall of the evil empire of Communism in eastern Europe.

His love of humankind was unmistakably evident to all who saw him—his desire to spread the kingdom of his beloved Lord, his great longing to bring the life-giving principles of Jesus to a world wracked by war, oppression, division, violence, and hedonism.

Many of the millions who have seen him and been attracted to his appearances all over the globe; many of the additional millions who will watch his funeral this week—they hardly know why they are fascinated by this man. They do not fully comprehend who he was or what he was about. He is a superstar, a much-publicized and very popular figure on television, and nothing more. But then there are those who look beyond the screaming or weeping crowds and see the Vicar of Christ. I suspect that John Paul must often have suffered, knowing that the cheering crowds were cheering for the wrong reasons. Jesus says to us in the gospel: If you love me, keep my commandments. The Pope says the same thing. It is not cheers and publicity and notoriety that he wants. It is holiness, and the conformity of the human will to the will of God. Jesus got many cheers on Palm Sunday morning. Five days later, those same people were shouting for his death. The Italians are famous for filling Saint Peter’s Square for big papal functions, but the birth rate in Italy continues to decline as more of them practice contraception. Spain and Ireland are traditionally Catholic countries, yet the vocations to priesthood and religious life are dwindling there. We American Catholics are given impressive statistics, like being 23% of the nation, yet most of us do not attend Mass regularly and we engage in sexual practices not in conformity with the gospel, to say nothing of the sin and crime of abortion, after which we receive Holy Communion without any real contrition or the use of the sacrament of reconciliation.

Nonetheless, there have been the Second Vatican Council and the pontificate of John Paul II. These will be of service to men and women of good will for centuries to come. And the papacy will continue to echo the words of Our Divine Lord addressed to everyone, everywhere, always: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

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