A Most Splendid Pontificate
by Father Charles M. Mangan
The quarter-of-a-century long Petrine ministry of Pope John Paul II is a remarkable gift for the Church and the world. Karol Wojtyla, a humble servant of the Lord and His Virgin Mother, has spent himself not only in fearlessly leading the Mystical Body of Christ on earth but also in forcefully challenging our all-too-skeptical and sin-laden world.
During this week’s festive commemoration of the Holy Father’s twenty-fifth anniversary, many scholars and journalists are trying to capture the essence of this Pontificate. What is the main contribution of Pope John Paul II?
This is not an easy question to answer. Perhaps there is no definitive response, for this “Servant of the Servants of God” continues to touch profoundly—in a host of ways—both believers and non-believers alike. In unpretentious fashion, he has striven to be “all things for all men.” It is very difficult (and almost bordering on the foolish) to attempt to isolate his “main contribution.” Such a futile exercise is sure to end in the unenviable position of ignoring his numerous achievements—all lovingly performed for the glory of the Lord God and the salvation of souls, including his own.
I have been blessed to concelebrate two Masses celebrated by the Holy Father in his private chapel atop the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. As I watched him vest before Mass, I was struck by the thought: “He’s a priest . . . He could be the pastor of a small rural parish in the neighboring village!” He put on his amice over his white cassock, then the alb with the cincture, followed by the stole and finally the chasuble.
The Bishop of Rome, I mused, is an ordained priest of Jesus Christ like any other.
Fundamentally, this Successor of Saint Peter is a priest who cheerfully abandons himself to the mysterious will of God. He is conscious of his need for the Almighty’s abundant grace if he is to persevere in his sacerdotal vocation.
Pope John Paul II lives his ministerial Priesthood to the hilt. And now, in a most particular way, the sacrificial element of this Priesthood, as manifested in physical suffering, is illustrated plainly for every eye to see.
He has offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass tens of thousands of times since he was ordained to the Priesthood on November 1, 1946. Each morning he leans over the unleavened bread and the wine made from the fruit of the vine while uttering those immortal words that can only be said by an ordained priest: “Hoc est Corpus Meum . . . Hic est enim Calix Sanguinis Meis” (“This is My Body . . . This is the Cup of My Blood”).
It is the Holy Mass that concedes the certain strength he desperately requires to lift up himself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Lord. Surely, Pope John Paul II, in imitation of Jesus the Great High Priest, is priest and victim in his Priesthood and now especially in his corporeal suffering.
But the Holy Father marches forward in faith. Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemani, he trusts completely his compassionate Father in Heaven. Until he is summoned by his benevolent Master, “Peter in our midst” will do his daily duty the best he can.
May Jesus and Mary richly bless this meek son of God. To the Holy Father, we extend our prayers and best wishes. “Ad multos annos!”
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
Papacy, Pope John Paul II, Holy Father
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