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The Autumn of His Life: A Tribute to Pope John Paul II

----- A Three Part Series -----

© Third Millennium, LLC
By: Deacon Keith A Fournier

Like the rest of the world, I was deeply moved by watching the latest papal journey.

Seeing this once robust man now rendered so frail, weakened by Parkinson’s disease, stooped by age, so profoundly in love with the Lord whom he serves so well and the people for whom he offers even his suffering, made me reflect on how this Pope has touched my own life - and what it is about him that still inspires millions.

No longer even able to bend down in order to kiss the ground upon his arrival, he now has the soil lifted to his frail and shaking lips. There is something so moving, so beautiful about it all that words alone cannot begin to describe what it did to and for me.

The media, who has covered John Paul II more than any Pope in history, wasn’t quite sure how to respond:


“But can a ''suffering pope'' preside over what some call the world's oldest multinational corporation? And how does his example come across in a secular society that regards him as the powerful head of a powerful organization?

''It doesn't translate very well in our media,'' says Thompson, the Syracuse professor. ''Theologically, what he's doing makes sense. But the media don't understand theological nuances. The images of this trip will be of an infirm old man in the midst of an institutional crisis. . . . It's a PR nightmare in the midst of a PR nightmare.''
USA TODAY July 22, 2002


"The great man of the age, a giant, the old pope, comes to our continent, to Canada, and arouses now a thing he never inspired, pity. Well, pity and awe. The Toronto Sun called the trip "a stubborn act of courage" and said his arrival was "magnificent." On Wednesday when a little girl was pushed forward to greet him on behalf of the children of Canada, she seemed to flinch, accepted his kiss and fled in tears. Her mother later said she was so moved she wept. But she seemed frightened to me, and understandably. Why would God allow the slow public withering of the man who fills the shoes of the Fisherman just as the Church rocks with crisis? Is God allowing the beauty and gallantry of John Paul's soul to be obscured and hidden from us by the now-rough outer shell? Why? Is the pope bearing the woe of the world outwardly, for all of us to see? What does his suffering mean? What are we to learn from it?"

Peggy Noonan, “A Time of Lore”


Yet his message continued with consistency and crystal clarity. Though spoken with a whisper now rather than a roar, it still possessed the clarity and prophetic insight that has been the hallmark of his service:


''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 pope said. ''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


I believe that our beloved pope, John Paul II, is now in the autumn of his life. In order to treat the implications of what all of this may mean, I offer the following three part series.

As in the natural order, so in the supernatural, there are times and seasons.

The autumn is a time when the “grains of wheat”, the seeds, must fall to the ground. The beloved disciple John records the Masters reflections on his own 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.


This treasure of a pope, John Paul II, is walking the way of all mankind toward his death, and the Passage into eternal life. However, he is doing so configured to the life –and the death- of the Son of Man. ...

1 | 2 | 3  Next Page

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