Monday, October 16, 2006
Where were you on October 16?
Today is the 28th anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul II. I wish I could tell you that I spent the day worried whom the Cardinals would elect, and then rejoiced when I saw the former Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow emerge on the balcony, but alas, I was 11 years old at the time. Also, it seems hard to believe we were in that primitive age before the 24 hour news cycle and cable channels dedicated exclusively to news. My only recollection of the Polish Pope's election is a segment on the evening news and the repeated poetry of my Aunt Dora who kept saying "Hail, Mary, full of grace; now the Italians are in second place!" (This was odd, since Aunt Dora had no Polish blood in her, but I laughed anyway).
For "Young Fogeys", this was an important day in our lives, even if we didn't realize it at the time. No one has had a more profound impact on our formation as Priests than Pope Wojtyla. Dare I try to list the reasons? Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1983 Code of Canon Law, World Youth Days, Theology of the Body, Veritatis Splendor, just to name a few. Rejoice, YFs, today is one of our holidays!
Yesterday's Gospel at Mass told the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what it would take to become a follower. He had obeyed all the commandments and lived a good life, but something inside of him said there was more to be done. When Jesus asked him to leave his "comfort zone" behind to step into the unknown, the man went away sad. Many biographers (including George Weigel's mother-of-all-biographies) have told us about Cardinal Wojtyla's reluctance to accept the papacy and the reasons behind them: he was too young, he had a Synod going on in Krakow, etc. Like the rich young man, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla was doing good things at home, but now Jesus Christ "looking at him, loved him" and asked him to trust and to follow him. Cardinal Wojtyla would not make the same error in judgment as the young man in the gospel, and our world is different because of it.
Perhaps this is why JP2's constant point of focus during his pontificate was a line from Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (a.k.a. Gaudium et Spes). Paragraph 24 teaches us that "...man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself." What has God asked me to do in the past that I've responded with a sad walking away? How can I change my perspective so that I can recognize the little moments every day that God asks me to act or to think?