· On the eve of the Beatification of John Paul II ·
To reflect on a Beatification such as John Paul II’s helps one to enter with inner freedom into God’s dimension: the dimension to which the Blesseds and Saints of the Catholic Church necessarily refer and in which they find meaning. Times of silence help one to perceive the spiritual character of collective religious events and to experience them personally.
The greatest surprise that John Paul II has lefts us is not so much the discovery of his insight in pastoral governance or the very personal, never solely formal, approach in his ministry as Successor of Peter, as rather his ability to live the relationship with God. From the canonical process on his heroic practice of the Christian virtues and from the miraculous character of the healing of a woman religious with Parkinson’s disease, attributed to his intercession, emerges a common voice: union with God throughout the life of Karol Wojtyła was so normal that it seemed second nature.
He is a soul who sought to conform himself to the holiness of God in whose presence he customarily breathed and acted. His life expressed striving for Heaven, which increased with the years and became impressive in the last decade of his Pontificate when the relentless disease gradually undermined his physical strength.
Moreover, while in the first period of his Pontificate it was admiration that prevailed, once he had grown weak and frail in the eyes of the world — so demanding when it comes to the public image — John Paul II became familiar and was perceived by believers and non-believers alike as a credible, human witness of the Gospel that he ceaselessly preached throughout the world.
The invitation that he addressed to the faithful at the beginning of his Pontificate, to open the doors to Christ without fear, he later embodied in suffering. Faced with serene patience because he was accompanied by Christ and by millions of men and woman, united in a similar suffering.
The words he preached seemed to be validated by his simple Christian witness. In his weakest state, which he never concealed, the Successor of Peter became even more beloved because he resembled ever more closely the Good Shepherd who lays down his life, and thus encourages people to live. There was a widespread conviction that the Pope understood the normal daily routine of everyone who finds it difficult to keep going. All these people living beyond the spotlights were seeking to grasp the secret of the inner strength that emanated from John Paul II.
When, after the imposition of the red biretta, in front of St Peter’s Basilica the new cardinals embraced each other and the other older cardinals in a festive atmosphere, Pope Wojtyła — in his last Consistory in October 2003 and when the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease were very evident — looked on in silence, almost as though he were saying a farewell to this life.
He seemed suddenly to belong to another dimension which, at that joyful and important moment, was proving to be the place to which his spirit habitually withdrew. He was ever present to everything and everyone while his soul was nevertheless elsewhere, in an inner refuge where an uninterrupted conversation with God continued. Here was the source of his friendliness, his energy, his pastoral courage.
The need to reawaken in the Church and in the present time — secularized and globalized — interest in God, the Living One, in order to return to building free and brotherly societies lay at the heart of his teaching and constituted the secret of his daily life.
The heritage that John Paul II has bequeathed to us is modern par excellence. Not by chance has Benedict XVI made this the central reason for his Pontificate.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 28, 2020
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