Speaking Through Silence
© Third Millennium, LLC
By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
Like millions of Catholics, other Christians, people of faith and people of good will the world over, I am keeping a vigil of prayer for Pope John Paul II. I have signed up online for “breaking news”, I have found myself turning news on with ridiculous frequency, hoping to hear encouraging, or other news. As a member of the Clergy of my Diocese I have been sent “talking points”, by my Diocese, to explain how Popes are elected or, to speak to the Pope’s life and mission, should the press contact me. The whole world is watching.
Over the last few years, seeing this once robust man now rendered so frail, weakened by Parkinson’s disease, stooped by age, yet so clearly and profoundly in love with the Lord whom he serves so well and the people for whom he offers even his suffering, has made me reflect on how this Pope has touched my own life - and what it is about him that still inspires millions. It is quite simple, he is so genuinely holy. The word itself literally means to be “set aside” for God. For example, objects, such as chalices and patens, are made holy when they are set aside and used for the Eucharistic sacrifice. People are made holy when they freely choose to totally surrender their lives in love to Jesus Christ and then, in Him, to give themselves up for the world.
It came as no surprise to me that the first words that Pope John Paul II scribbled on a pad upon awakening from his recent tracheotomy (after his characteristic deferential humor "What have you done to me?") were those that express his consecrated life: "I am forever Totus Tuus (all yours)." He has surrendered himself to the maternal care of Mary as he lives out his vocation to follow Jesus Christ, her Son and Savior.
How long ago it now seems that this same Pope who is resting in a hospital bed, silenced by a tracheotomy, once traversed the globe as a missionary. I remember him stooping down upon arriving anywhere and kissing the soil, as a part of a prayer of re-consecrating the world that God had created back to Him, through Jesus Christ. Then, all too soon it seemed, he was no longer even able to bend down, so he had the soil lifted to his frail and shaking lips. The media, who has covered John Paul II more than any Pope in history, wasn’t quite sure how to respond to all this as John Paul graciously entered into the autumn of his life. In a society that has attempted to reduce human beings into human doings, a utilitarian society that has equated worth to function, they could not begin to grasp the message and the mission of a suffering servant Pope.
With the beauty of age, his message came through with even more clarity. Though spoken with a whisper rather than a roar, it possessed the prophetic insight that has been the hallmark of his service. He led us into that Third Millennium that he had written, spoken and prayed so much about, telling the whole world as we crossed over what he had called the “threshold of hope”:
''The new millennium opened with two contrasting scenarios: one, the sight of multitudes of pilgrims coming to Rome during the Great Jubilee to pass through the Holy Door which is Christ, our savior and redeemer; and the other, the terrible terrorist attack on New York, an image that is a sort of icon of a world in which hostility and hatred seem to prevail….Christ alone is the cornerstone on which it is possible solidly to build one's existence…. The 20th century often tried to do without that cornerstone, and attempted to build the city of man without reference to him. It ended by actually building that city against man. Christians know that it is not possible to reject or ignore God without demeaning man.'' Pope John Paul II
Our beloved pope, John Paul II had entered the autumn of his life with a beauty and dignity that holy men and women possess. This beauty and dignity comes from deep within where the source of all goodness, the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, dwells. As in the natural order, so in the supernatural, there are times and seasons in every human life. The autumn is a time when the “grains of wheat”, the seeds, must fall to the ground. The beloved disciple John recorded the Masters reflections on his own impending death in the twelfth chapter of his gospel:
“Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."
John Paul II is now walking the way of all mankind toward his death and the Passage into eternal life. He is doing so configured to the life –and the death- of the Son of Man. All that he has lived, written, prayed, prophesied and embodied will produce lasting fruit for the Church and the world. He is living a “co-redemptive” life ...
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