Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Holiness and His Holiness
John Paul II

Father John J. Lombardi

"Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places like the first apostles, who preached Christ and the good news of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Rom. 1: 16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (cf. Mt. 10:27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis." It is you who must "go out into the byroads" (Mt 22:9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father" (cf. Mt. 5:15-16). -Pope John Paul at Denver Youth Day and Mass-1993.

John Paul II…a priest who offered the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and also a poor man who grew up in Polish simplicity, was both a pilgrim of Heaven and Pope of the world's one billion Catholics and countless God-seekers. He hob-knobbed with the rich and powerful and also, especially, with the anawim poor: he truly loved all peoples. He moderated Catholics who were both progressivists and traditionalists. He was both an intellectual and romantic: a teacher and poet, a professor and "man of the pews". He had two doctorates (in mystical studies of St John of the Cross and in philosophy) and yet wrote and spoke the common man's language (actually: he was fluent in 8 languages and spoke about 15).

He was once a hockey goalie and eventually tender of souls. He was a tremendous athlete and yet suffered greatly in his last days. His private life was guarded greatly and yet his priesthood and celibacy opened him up to countless souls. He was both an advocate-par excellence of the poor and also spokesman of the world. He spoke both at the United Nations and in slums. He was both a playwright and architect of spiritual and liberationist revolutions-not only against godless communism but also against Satan and enslaving sin-all which stole dignity of the human person.

Priest, Prophet and King The job of any priest, let alone a pope, is traditionally signified after what and Whom Jesus was-priest, prophet and king. Though we do not use these terms commonly, they are essential among priests: As priest he daily offered the Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Roman pontifical (prayer book) we read about the Mass and priest: "Realize what you do and imitate the Victim you offer." And, no matter his "super rock star" status-oft discussed this past week, he was always about One Thing Necessary, though in many guises--Jesus Christ: "When you wonder about the mystery of yourself, look to Christ, who gives you the meaning of life. When you wonder what it means to be a mature person, look to Christ, who is the fulfillness of humanity. And when you wonder about your role in the future of the world look to Christ."

Prophet: he uttered cries against contraception, materialism abortion and the stripping of dignity of any person. Countless types of persons called him friend and advocate. The job of any prophet is to teach, and Pope John Paul did that: He challenged Americans who especially regarded our god-like cult of worship of freedom,… "Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."…and He had the temerity to say things like: "From now on it is only through a conscious choice and through a deliberate policy that humanity can survive." And: "Modern Society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyles."

And here's telling it like it is, like a prophet: "Young people are threatened... by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire."

King-means to govern. The Pope is to be the supreme, and hopefully, most spiritual governor of the Holy Catholic Church. Governing doesn't mean uppity-snootiness, but using just authority in right ways to guide people and save souls. .Many people don't believe in this today-even in some Catholics churches, seminaries and parishes. It is even still hard for some of us priests to teach and govern in right ways because of the revolution against legitimate authority. John Paul challenged both excessive-materialistic capitalism and liberationist Marxism: he faulted both and freed naVve priests and believers with the reality that Jesus Christ alone is Savior and Liberator. He was not popular for this but, we recall: what is true is not always popular, what is popular is not always true. Have the courage to follow John Paul in leading people to the One and only Savior: Be Not Afraid! On Youth: The Pope especially loved young people. On his deathbed, apparently he was still thinking of speaking to them. At Denver he encouraged: "You, young pilgrims, have also shown that you understand that Christ's gift of life is not for you alone. You have become more conscious of your vocation and mission in the church and in the world. For me, our meeting has been a deep and moving experience of your faith in Christ, and I make my own the words of St. Paul: "I have great confidence in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy" (2 Cor. 7:4).

Heroic Charity: In conversation with Mt St Mary's President Powell recently, on discussing the variety of people we work with, he said, something to the effect that, If we only associate with people who think and act like us then we're smaller for it. Pope John Paul hob-knobbed with rich and poor alike, with agnostics and dictators as well as true believers, the poor, sick and dying, kings and queens along with people who had no earthly dignity. So did Jesus Christ, his boss…Do you? On Holiness: "The saints were examples who lived disciplined lives and achieved tremendous amounts of good. To Pope John Paul II, that was the real point of personal freedom, and this became a central element of everything the Pope taught us."

-Rev. Thomas Weinandy

Relevance: A cable news anchor recently derided the Pope for not being relevant, my dad told me. What were the specifics I asked? The usual suspects: abortion, sexuality, contraception and female priests. And yet: the Catholic Church is the fastest growing church in the world (over one billion strong). Millions of people went to see the Pope's body-perhaps billions saw him alive. Relevance? Kings and queens, paupers and convicts flocked to him. Ali Agha, who tried to kill him, apparently showed remorse and was sad at the loss of a great soul, whom was called a man of peace. Still, someone asks about relevance? Thousands of babies were saved because of him. Hundreds of marriages, souls and vocations were saved by him- relevance? He was the Most Wanted Man in the world-for interviews, Masses, audiences-- and, yet, someone asks for relevance? Also, Read the following from The Baltimore Sun: "Watching the Pope in his last public appearance on Wednesday, when he was wheeled to the window overlooking St. Peter's Square and was unable to speak to the masses gathered below, was painful to many. "It was very difficult to watch," said the Rev. Joseph Rossi, a theology professor at Loyola College in Baltimore. "This vigorous man who hiked in the mountains and skied and swam as a Pope was not able to speak. His weakness struck me. His humility struck me. His courage struck me." Rossi said it must have been painful for the Pope to be unable to communicate with those who had gathered in the square but that it was consistent with who he was. "Everything he did, said, "I'm with you as a human being," Rossi said.

"He was there with us to the end," said Josie Schroeter of Worthington Valley in Baltimore County. "I don't think he was at the window to show suffering. He was showing us he was dying with dignity and he was going to embrace going Home with Christ." Her pastor similarly found meaning in the final lessons the Pope left to his flock. "He wanted to die with his boots on," the Rev. Michael Salerno said after Mass Sunday. "He wasn't trying to show off. He wanted to say, 'Here I am'. He made his suffering a blessing."

Last moments on Earth: "There was above all this communion of spirit around this great witness of Christ, who even in death shows us the way of Christ." -Bishop Paulo Sardi said, "We spoke with great calm and measure. In these cases it's silence more than words which helps us to understand and be in communion."

"He had a relaxed expression on his face. He didn't have to make an effort to breath. I kissed his hand, caressed his brow, and I said, 'Thank You, Holy Father, for all you have done for the Church.' He seemed to have understood." -Cardinal Silvestrini

Suffering: John Paul suffered in his life and shows us the way. He was hit by a trolley car and knocked unconscious for several minutes. He was pulverized in a stone quarry and toxified in a chemical plant. The Nazi's chased him as he studied underground; his parent's and siblings died when he was a young man and by age 20 he was without a human family. Besides he was almost killed by an assassin's bullet, not to mention being spit and yelled at, and going thru Parkinson's disease. He lived a life of suffering and shows all of us-don't let anything difficult or seemingly overwhelming stop you-with St Paul, say: "I can do all things thru Christ Who strengthens me." So, amidst our weeping at his loss, let us remember another human emotion we can live with at the same time--- joy, knowing he will not suffer anymore, that his human labors are over, and that the Great and Gracious Gift-Giver, God, has graced us with such a beautiful and lasting gift, John Paul. He will be lasting if we following him and his majestic, tremendous and expressive example of Christ's Mercy, Love and Sacrifice.

John Paul love the Virgin Mary: He said-"You are blessed, O Mary! Mother of the eternal Son born of your virgin womb, you are full of grace (cf. Lk. 1:28). You have received the abundance of life (cf. Jn. 10:10) as no one else among the descendants of Adam and Eve. As the most faithful "hearer of the Word" (cf. Lk. 11:28), you not only treasured and pondered this mystery in your heart (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51), but you observed it in your body and nourished it by the self-giving love with which you surrounded Jesus throughout his earthly life. As mother of the church, you guide us still from your place in heaven and intercede for us. You lead us to Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6), and help us to increase in holiness by conquering sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 65). Now, let us give this great man back to God and allow John Paul to have the last words:

Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence…

Be Not Afraid!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi