Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Pope For Our Times

The death of John Paul II has left the world with a profound sense of loss. Much of it has to do with the fact that he was one of the great icons of our generation. I can not, even if I reflect back to my childhood, ever remember a time when he wasn't around, when he wasn't "the Pope" - "our Pope". Over the past few days, there have been endless reflections on his indefatigueable spirit, his tireless ministry, his world travels, political shrewdness, and his respect for the dignity and value of all life, at every stage. Yet such a profound grief, I believe, is linked to a much deeper spiritual longing. The Pope was much more than the chief authority of the Catholic faith, he was a living validation of our own personal faith.

Many Christians struggle with their faith at varying points of their life. Their dilemma does not lie with church teachings or dogma, it is more often a lonely battle with the question of whether there is a God, and a risen Christ. They are universal fears, suffered by laymen and priests alike, fears that were often soothed when we gazed at the sublime face of the Holy Father.

It was always a matter of perspective. How could we doubt our faith when held against the unwavering belief of man so much more then ourselves? Here was a man that had visited over 120 countries, stood eye to eye with the communist masters who enslaved nations, and watched as their governments crumbled in bloodless revolutions. Here was a man who was a bestselling poet, author, and playwright, a man who spoke over a dozen languages, mastering six. But, above all these things, he was a humble servant of God, who ministered to the world.

When we gazed upon the Holy Father, all that he was, and the depth of his faith, it seemed foolish that we would question our own. His very humble greatness soothed us, comforted us, reminded us that our faith was living and breathing, that Christ worked in all of us.

Now our John Paul the Great has left us, and perhaps so has some of the comfort we drew from him - Comfort in the resurrection and the eternal. But I think that beyond all the wonderful blessings the Pope has left behind, both tangible and ethereal, the greatest of all, perhaps, is that he helped us to believe.