Saturday, April 02, 2005

John Paul II

Athlete, playwright, poet, author, philosopher, theologian. The head of the Catholic Church was a true Renaissance man, even if he had no use for secularism. He was a study in contrasts: at once cosmopolitan and conservative, approachable yet uncompromising, unhesitating to wield power yet concerned for the powerless, a true intellectual who encouraged faith in God.

I am an evangelical, but I feel a sense of loss as Karol Wojtyla passes into eternity. This man was a vocal Christian on the world stage for a quarter century. No Delphic oracle cloistered within the Vatican, he sought out the people of the world and seemed to genuinely enjoy their company. He sought rapprochement with Protestants, and showed respect to followers of non-Christian religions, even though he sometimes did so in ways that left me scratching my head. At a time when forces within his church --as within other churches-- sought to move its doctrines away from historic orthodoxy and more into line with conventional wisdom, this pope kept the forces of apostasy at bay. At a time when the Catholic Church's credibility might otherwise have tanked in some countries over the priest abuse scandals, people knew that the Roman bishop was a man of integrity and virtue. Several years ago he introduced the paradigm just now catching on in the rest of the Christian world: the culture of life versus the culture of death. As the secular media repeatedly points out, John Paul II was part of a handful of leaders whose courage, conviction and clarity brought down Communism, ending the Cold War without a shot. Perhaps most importantly, John Paul II consistently confronted people with the idea that truth exists outside of themselves and that they ought to conform their lives to it, and so resisted the intellectual and spiritual suicide known as postmodernism and moral relativism.

There are already those who are beginning to call him John Paul the Great, placing him in a league occupied by only two other popes. In Christian history and world history, his greatness will still be remembered long after his critics are forgotten. In an age of cynicism, he was real. While others sought cover in plausible deniability, he stood tall. Here was a hero.

Still active on his deathbed, he wrote a note to his aides:

"I am happy, and you should be as well. Let us pray together with joy."

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.