Monday, April 04, 2005

The priest gave me an unusual penance at confession on Saturday:

Think about the past 26 years during which Pope John Paul II served as Pope and focus on the ways he has touched your life.

After Pope John II was shot in the early 80's, he went to his would-be assassin to forgive him. That taught an impressionable ten year old boy that Christ was serious when he told his followers to love your enemies and to bless those who persecute you.

During the late 80's, one of the "answers" on Final Jeopardy was "1980 strike in the Lenin Shipyard led to its formation". The "question" was "what is Solidarity?". Upon finding out that Solidarity, which peacefully overthrew communism, was inspired by the Pope, a cynical teenager learned that the Catholic Church was headed by a man of peace, hope, and change.

During the 90's, Pope John Paul II had re-iterated traditional Catholic teachings: no priesthood for women (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis), no communion for Protestants (Ut Unum Sint), no contraception for anyone (Familiaris Consortion), and staunch support of Marian devotions (Redemptoris Mater). He did not, however, let the conservatives get complacent in their doctrinal and liturgical aloofness. Instead, he fought hard for Social Justice and a Just Wage and reminded us all of our obligation to the poor. One would think such a hard line would alienate everyone both in the Church and outside the Church. But this same Pope also accomplished that which no other Popes before him had: A mutual and acceptable understanding with the Lutheran Church over the "justification by faith" issue, an unprecedented level of open dialogue with the Jewish and Orthodox community, and a close, vibrant relationship with the Catholic youth. By showing the world what it meant to be Catholic and what it meant to reach out to those who were not, Pope John Paul II helped an anxious new Dad find peace in returning to the Roman Catholic Church he had left years ago.

As the Pope grew weak and frail, he continued to serve and so taught a primary bread-winner saddled with responsibility (who privately desired to take his own life in the event he could no longer support his family) that life had dignity, value, and purpose even after it passed what the world would consider the "productive years".

After the merciless and cruel execution of Terry Schiavo by starvation and dehydration, Pope John Paul II showed the world what it was to die with dignity. He chose not to go to the hospital and said: 'I want to stay in my home'.

After Karol Wojtyla assumed the name Pope John Paul II and forgave a man who tried to assassinate him, he taught me and the rest of the world what it means to be a Christian. In his encyclicals and writings, he taught us what it means to be Catholic. In his travels and dialogue with Protestants, Jews, Orthodox, Buddhist, and other relgions he taught Catholics how to reach out to those who were not Catholic. In his weakness and frail health, he taught us the value of life. In his death, he teaches us to look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Ioannes Paulus, we have never met and yet you have enriched my life in ways you were never aware of in this life. Our Lord will remember very well the good you have done for me and countless others like me.

Pax Tecum Papa Wojtyla

4 comments:

Dave King said...

Blogging as penance, I wonder if that's first as sorts. He was a great man. His forgiving his assign lead Steve Taylor to write To Forgive

I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live to forgive?
I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live to forgive?
Come.......find release
Go...........make your peace
Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live to forgive
Come.......find release
Go...........make your peace
I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive
Oh, He said live
To forgive
Oh, He said live
To forgive

- Peace

Richard said...

Well, it wasn't the priest's idea for me to blog my penance. Though he is in the habit of making me think about something (usually God's goodness to me) because he suspects (probably with good reason) that if he assigns me some Hail Mary's I'll rattle them off quickly and with little devotion, love, thought, or sincerity.

Can't really fault him for giving me the same penance each time because my list of sins is the same each time. xquarreling with my wife, yelling at my kids, etc...

Anyway, this one was different. It also started taking up a lot of time - to my surprise. Over the weekend, more and more stuff kept popping into my head. I honestly had no idea what huge blessings I had received from God, through his servant, Pope John Paul II.

Though back to your first comment about blogging as penance. There was one part about this post that sure felt like penance.

I had one section on a chess problem Karol Wojtyla had composed in 1946 that Adam had found particularly clever and devious. At the time it filled me with encouragement to know that there was at least one Christian that that was worthy of his respect.

When I was looking for a reference to the chess problem, I instead found an article from the President of the Polish chess society debunking not one but five chess problems allegedly written by the Pope when he was a young man. I had a lot of trouble deleting that section - but I thought it would be in bad taste to spread false stories on your blog seeing as that is one of your pet peeves in Christians.

Dave King said...

I just meant I wonder how many others have used blogging to work out their penence. I'm guessing it's not a huge number.

- Peace

Richard said...

Well, I think the Church would frown on:
Hail Mary Full of Grace the Lord is with thee, blessed art though among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus, Holy Mary Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death amen.
[Ctrl-shift-home]
[Ctrl-C][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V]

[Ctrl-shift-home]
[Ctrl-C][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V]

[Ctrl-shift-home]
[Ctrl-C][Ctrl-V][Ctrl-V]

I think that's fifty :p