Emmitsburg Council of Churches

"Our Holy Father"

Father John J. Lombardi 

If you were eighty-four years old, rarely took a day off, frequently assented to thousands of people trying to see you, managed a world-wide Church and were holding a meeting with a million people, would you (pick one): feel tired, angry, inspired?

The Holy Father is inspired by the faith he sees in young people and the people of Latin America.

Pope John Paul ("the Great"?) celebrated last week, with almost a million souls, World Youth Day in Toronto-beautifully. His eyes, upon hearing frequent cheers were-wide-awake-blue; his aged and tilting head often turned upwards and lovingly to look at the vast crowd of worshippers; he subtly smiled and sometimes provoked affection and laudatory cheers during the three-hour Mass … Some reflections on his visit…

  • LIGHT IN THE WORLD: Think of all the good seeds the Pope planted and all that has come from his visits: thousands of families and private citizens opening their homes to youth to stay in; the learning and spreading of the Catholic Faith; thousands of confessions heard; conversions and "re-conversions" to God's ways and the Catholic Church; hundreds of thousands of people involved in the Masses, papal celebrations and other occasions: literally millions of people coming together, supporting one another, and with hardly a crime reported…+Meditation: As you travel thru this world how can you spread good seeds which inspire others?...How can you be more dedicated to the Catholic Faith, the Petrine ministry of Pope John Paul, throught prayer and sacrifices?
  • HE WON"T MAKE IT: Various media outlets forecasted the crowds of World Youth Day would be low and the Pope's "performance"-or even if he would show up--as minimal. Both the crowds and the Pope's exhortations were maximal-even mystical. Remember years ago some saying the Pope wouldn't make it to the New Millennium, to the next papal visit, his next lunch? Meanwhile, he's outlasted dictators, reporters, daredevil assassins. In his stamina and saying power-spiritually and physically--he has surprised all of us and, as in our Faith, his very presence reminds us, in the words of the French writer, Exupery, that "what is essential is invisible"-the soul of the man, his heart and his supernatural spirit are linked indelibly with God.

    This is what attracts all of us, especially young people, whose lives are so programmed with virtual imagery, external appearances and fabricated youthful passions. The young love to see the Pope who witnesses by his very life, that God should take priority in a person's life, and no matter how a person's external appearance is, it's the heart of the matter that counts. Pope John Paul is, then, a seeming "anti-hero" of youth (and, really, for all of us): amidst his belabored speech and beleaguered body, and ever-present attendants to help him along- people love him and realize that he is not only a living legend, but also that God lives in him. And remember-he's a Pole-he's a strong and spiritually virile man. Quite possibly he will be one of the most famous of twentieth-century personages.
  • He said to the youth: "God is entrusting you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with him in the building of the civilization of love …On what foundations must we build the new historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the 20th century? Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now taking place which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and efficiency, without reference to the individual's spiritual dimension or to any universally shared ethical values? Is it right to be content with provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon the impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads?"…+Meditation: Are you really basing your life on the foundation-stone and principles of Jesus? How can you, in your daily life, more fully love, follow and obey Him?
  • YOUNG PEOPLE AND TRADITION: Last Sunday's newspaper, The Sun (Baltimore), featured a flattering story about young people and "the return to tradition" (some are still catching up on these things-hopefully others will follow. Tradition, by the way, comes from the Latin, "to hand on" ). The story said youth today are more apt to embrace such traditional items and practices as crucifixes, praying the Rosary, embracing Eucharistic adoration, modest dress and firm moral commandments in life. Yes, of course, we know that amidst Catholic young people, there are some who are rebelling against rich Catholic practices because (select one or more): their parents did; they don't know better; the "rebellion gene" is alive in any age; in America its hip to rebel and bash the Church; no one witnessed the full faith to them; teachers and guides were " in the dark" or want to keep the young in the dark; new fads were embraced and pushed out past sacred practices.
    But, in some ways, a tide is changing (maybe it's not a sea-change): Pope John Paul- despite his health, age and lack of outward beauty-generates in the young a hunger for God, a love for the Church and a desire to be different-we could say the youth who meet him and spend time in his presence are not afraid to be Catholics and Christians who "counter the counter-culture". Now, because of the Pope and World Youth Days, millions of youth are proud of their Faith and religious heritage, and enjoy being seen with thousands and millions of other Catholics.
  • AKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SINS… "If you love Jesus love the Church. Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members."
    With these words the Holy Father expressed regret for the American priestly/church crisis. He was both pastoral and profound: "The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame…But think of the vast majority of dedicated priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good. Be close to them and support them. And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church's life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent…You are young, and the Pope is old and a bit tired, but he still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs in the hearts of the young."…+Meditation: Amidst darkness how can you be light for others by the steady witness of your prayer life, your good deeds and heroic holiness?
  • WHAT A HUMAN IS SUPPOSED TO BE…The Pope described one as follows: "Communicate to everyone the beauty of the contact with God that gives meaning to your lives. In the quest for justice, in the promotion of peace, in your commitment to brotherhood and solidarity, let no one surpass you!" +Meditation: The beauty of the world is one thing, the beauty of LIFE IN CHRIST is another. In all your thoughts, words and deeds, how can you let Him make you more beautiful?

Quote of the Week: "Suppose an evil person would offend you, or one whom you judge to be evil or even imagine so. Would you abandon so many others who are good? " +Saint Augustine

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi