Monday, April 04, 2005

Be Not Afraid - From Beginning to End

John Paul II, Radiating Fatherhood, engendering sons and daughters: "My words have not converted you; My blood will convert you" [poem that St. Stanislaus murmurs to himself before a King of Poland who was unreceptive to Christian sensitivity].

"This beloved son of Poland, who became the Father of Freedom to Eastern Europe, has taught us not to fear in the face of crushing tyranny. As he championed life while the culture of death engulfed the West, he taught us not to fear to speak the truth about the value of the human person. And as he faded from athletic vigor to frail old age, he taught us not to fear old age or death. `Do not be afraid' has been his ringing cry.

"But we are afraid to lose you, dear papa, even though we know you will be with us till, praying for us as you have through your entire reign, only now in the presence of Jesus and our Blessed Mother. Our hearts cannot be made ready to let you go and we are afraid of having them broken again. But broken they will be; the tears already flowing soon to become a flood.

"We imagine you entering the Gates, embraced by the Truth and Beauty you have loved and called us all to love. We see you welcomed by all the Saints you have recognized, cupping the face of that tiny nun once again in your great strong hands, and hearing the `Well done' that is the true crown of a Christian! We rejoice with you in hope.

"And we will try, God help us, papa - we will try, to not be afraid."

* * * * * *

The legacy of John Paul II is not to be afraid. Having been held in the arms of Mary and whispering back to her, “Totus Tuus Sum Ego,” he was not afraid to become Peter, who recognized the Face of Christ and gave testimony, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” These are the opening words of his opening Urbi et Orbiaddress on October 22, 1978. They meant that, indeed, he was now Peter. Our Lady had been told not to be afraid to make the gift of herself to receive the Holy Spirit and thereby give God the gift of a body.
John Paul II told us not to be afraid because his mission was to radiate the fatherhood of being with us and engender us into Jesus Christ. He gave everyone identity. He spoke the truth to us. He even sang it to us on the great lawn of Central Park. And we sang back to him.

Karol Wojtyla had acted out and written dramatic works into and beyond the time of his participation in the Second Vatican Council. The last dramatic work in the Taborski collection was entitled, "Radiation of Fatherhood." It has four speakers: Adam, Chorus, Woman (also called Mother) and Monica (a child). Perhaps some of the words of Adam, the first man, and the mother, take on meaning for us as we begin to experience the impact of the man himself. One gets the feeling that he and his words will have more impact now in death than they had in life:


“After a long time I came to understand that you do not want me to be a father unless I become a child. That is why Your Son came into the world. He is entirely Yours. In Him the word `mine’ finds complete justification; it can be spoken credibly by Him. Without such a justification and credibility this word is a risk – love is a risk, too. Why did you inflict on me the love that in me must be a risk? And now Your Son takes on Himself all the risk of love.
How much the word `mine’ musts hurt when it turns out later to mean `not mine.’ I think with awe about the strain and toil of Your Son, about the magnitude of His love. How much did He take on Himself? What voids did He fill? How great is the void He must fill! After all, in all of us the common denominator of our loneliness remains, and in it, against all the logic of existence, `mine’ still tries to force out `Yours.’ Could I too become a son? I did not want to be one. I did not want to accept the suffering caused by risking love. I thought I would not be equal to it. My eyes were too fixed on myself, and in such a situation love is most difficult.
When Your Son came, I remained the common denominator of man’s inner loneliness. Your Son wants to enter it. He wants to because He loves. Loneliness opposes love. On the borderline of loneliness, love must become suffering: Your Son has suffered.
And now there are two of us in the history of every man: I who conceive and bear loneliness and He in whom loneliness disappears and children are born anew.
Many people look on Your Son’s life, on His suffering and death; many have gone the way He takes. I do not stand apart from Him; I do not oppose Him. I admire and worship Him, but at the same time I resist Him. I do it to some extent because I cannot afford to do anything else. Sometimes this is connected with a mirage of greatness. But I find it even harder to retain a sense of my own greatness than a sense of my loneliness. In loneliness one can hide and forget. But what am I to do when I keep falling off pedestals? What am I to do when people tormented by other people, crucified like Your Son, return and ask the same questions: Where has the exiled father gone to? Where has the punishing father come from?

The mother:

“Do not be afraid. This must hurt. It is a pain like the pain of birth. A woman knows infinitely more about giving birth than a man. She knows it particularly through the suffering that accompanies childbearing. Still, motherhood is an expression of fatherhood. It must always go back to the father to take from him all that it expresses. In this consists the radiation of fatherhood.
One returns to the father through the child. And the child, in turn, restores to us the bridegroom in the father. This is very simple and ordinary. The whole world is full of it. Zone must enter the radiation of fatherhood, since only there does everything become fully real. For at no point can the world be fiction, the inner world even less than the external world. Just think! Think, all of you: one must choose to give birth! You have not thought about this. One must choose to give birth even more than to create.
In this consists the radiation of fatherhood. It is no metaphor, but reality. The world cannot depend on metaphor alone, the inner world even less than the external world.
We return to the father through the child. And the child in turn restores to us the bridegroom in the father. Do not separate love. Love is a unity”
(Karol Wojtyla, “Radiation of Fatherhood” in The Collected Plays and Writings on Theater, University of California Press (1987) 339-341).

People can understand this as a mysterious approximation to the inner experience they have had of John Paul II for the last 26 years. He affirmed everyone, and in doing so he gave identity to persons, churches and nations. For example, by his fearlessness in Warsaw on June 2, 1979, he quite literally gave the Poles back their identity as a people and nation and sparked the peaceful revolution that was “Solidarity” and the eventual fall of Communism worldwide. Unbelievably, under the guns of a grinding and dehumanizing Communism, he dared to say,

“Without Christ, it is impossible to understand this nation, with a past so splendid and at the same time so terribly difficult. It is not possible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, which in 1944 committed itself to an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own rubble, if one does not recall that under this same rubble there was also Christ with his cross which can be found facing the church of Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaw in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe in Oswiecim, if one does not apply, to them also, that unique and fundamental criterion which bears the name of Jesus Christ.”

In 1995, he tried to do the same thing here in the United States. He affirmed the foundational experience of the dignity of the human person that is at the root of our Constitution and Bill of Rights:

“I say this too to the United States of America: Today, in our world as it is, many other nations and peoples look to you as the principal model and pattern for their own advancement in democracy. But democracy needs wisdom. Democracy needs virtue, if it is not to turn against everything that it is meant to defend and encourage. Democracy stands or falls with the truths and values which it embodies and promotes.
"Democracy serves what is true and right when it safeguards the dignity of every human person, when it respects inviolable and inalienable human rights, when it makes the common good the end and criterion regulating all public and social life. But these values themselves must have an objective content. Otherwise they correspond only to the power of the majority or the wishes of the most vocal. If an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in calling into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 70).
"The United States possesses a safeguard, a great bulwark, against this happening. I speak of your founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. These documents are grounded in and embody unchanging principles of the natural law whose permanent truth and validity can be known by reason, for it is the law written by God in human hearts (cf. Rom. 2, 25).
"At the center of the moral vision of your founding documents is the recognition of the rights of the human person, and especially respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life in all conditions and at all stages of development.. I say to you again, America, in the light of your own tradition: Love life, cherish life, defend life, from conception to natural death.”

A similar, but even more dramatic call and affirmation to Europe as a whole was given by the Pope to the bishops of Europe in "A Declaration to Europe" on November 9, 1982 from Santiago de Compostela:

"(A) huge vacuum... awaits credible heralds of new proposals of values capable of building a new civilization worthy of man's vocation.
"There is a need for heralds of the Gospel who are experts in humanity, who have a profound knowledge of the heart of present-daya man, participating in his joys and hopes, anguish and sadness, and who are at the same time contemplatives in love with God. For this we need new saints. The great evangelizeres of Europe have been the saints. We must beg the Lord to increase the Church's spirit of holiness and send us new saints to evangelize today's world."

He concluded:

"Therefore, I, John Paul, son of the Polish nation which has always considered itself European by its origins, traditions, culture and vital relationships, Slavic among the Latins and Latin among the Slavs:
I, Successor of Peter in the See of Rome, a See which Christ wished to establish in Europe and which he loves because of its efforts for the spread of Christianity throughout the whole world;
I, bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love:

Find youself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents. Rebuild your spiritual unity in a climate of complete respect for other religions and other genuine liberties. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God... You can still be the guiding light of civilization and the stimulus of progress for the world. The other continents look to you and also hope to receive from you the same reply which St. James gave to Christ: POSSUM. I can."

As Christ is risen from the dead, John Paul II is still present to us. The coincidences are outstanding. He gave us Faustina as saint and Mercy Sunday. He dies five minutes after that vigil Mass and rosary are concluded at the foot of his bed on the First Saturday of Our Lady - to be followed by her Annunciation today, Monday. His last testament to us was the Eucharist and the priesthood: “Take and eat, this is my Body.” As Christ is the gift of Self to us, so we are to become gift to others to affirm and engender them.
The funeral on Friday may be the most outstanding public media event - and therefore the most notorious piece of catechesis - in the history of the world. Stay tuned for its impact on souls. People may begin not to be afraid.

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