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Fr. Paul Schenck: Blessed John Paul II Transformed Lives and Continues His Work

By Fr. Paul Schenck
May 3rd, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Blessed John Paul II was transformational on many levels, but his influence on behalf of human life and the world-wide pro-life movement was singular and profound. Pro-life people will draw endless inspiration, understanding and encouragement from the example, the legacy, the insight, and the intercession of Blessed John Paul II.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - (I write from Washington DC this morning. Yesterday I had the privilege of serving as the deacon at Mass where my friend, and Pro-Life hero, Fr Paul Schenck, a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg and the Chairman of the National Pro-Life Center in Washington D.C. Fr Paul received servant of our judicial system into the full communion of the Catholic Church. It was a moving and blessed experience. Today, I will have the honor of serving as his deacon at the Sunday Mass of Divine Mercy in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Fr. Paul and I are particularly aware of the significance of this weekend on many levels. We have had wonderful times of prayer and conversation, most ending in discussions about the great gift of Blessed John Paul II. Both of us point to Blessed John Paul II as the inspiration and influence in our lives - and in our vocational response, he as priest and me as deacon. Of course, on this day Blessed John Paul II wil be raised to the altar. Fr Paul and I are, like most of our readers, numbered among the millions unable to be in Rome in person, but clearly there in our hearts.

I offer below an excerpt from an extraordinary homily which Fr Paul gave to all of us yesterday as we gathered at the beautiful and historic St. Peter's in our Nations Capitol, Washington, D.C. In the weeks ahead, we will hear more from this wonderful priest. His story, which will become a book "From Protestant Pastor to Catholic Priest: The Pro-Life Journey of Fr. Paul Schenck", is one of the projects I am honored to participate in. We will also offer many more stories concerning Blessed John Paul II as his influence begins to unfold in the multiple accounts throughout the world. Santo Subito! Editor in Chief, Deacon Keith Fournier) 

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Blessed John Paul was Transformational

In 2001, when I arrived in Israel for the Papal Pilgrimage, a huge banner was spread between two tall buildings which read in Hebrew, Baruch ha ba, "Blessed is he who comes." and my Arab Muslim driver gleefully said, "El Belbel" (the pope) "is good for Christians, for Jews, for Muslims, for everybody!"

Blessed John Paul II was transformational on so many levels, but his influence on behalf of human life and the world-wide pro-life movement was singular and profound.

One time when I was preaching as an evangelical Protestant (Editor's note:, Fr Paul was an Episcopal priest at the time) the church pews were packed and there was standing room only. My topic was the sanctity of human life, and, excited over the publication of the Holy Father's encyclical on life, Evangelium Vitae, I shouted "Hey, what a pope!" The congregation of this Protestant assembly rose with a sustained standing ovation.

His voluminous writings, homilies and allocutions on the human person gave to the pro-life movement, which began as a reactionary response to the anti-life trends in international and domestic policies, a deep, rich and irresistible philosophical foundation. His was a powerful response to a misguided and in many respects malevolent turn toward a self-centered disregard for the unique value and dignity of every human being. He wrote,

"We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the "culture of death" and the "culture of life." We find ourselves not only "faced with" but necessarily "in the midst of" this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life."

As such, Blessed John Paul single-handedly promoted a compelling pro-life philosophy that could be understood and embraced by people of all religions as well as secular humanists and even skeptics. His appeal was to human nature and the wonder and beauty of human life in all its stages and conditions.

Before a watching world he vividly lived out the principles upon which he constructed his comprehensive pro-life philosophy:

In an anti-Semitic society and in the long shadow of Auschwitz, he was a lover of Jews and gave the Church a profound understanding of Jewish identity and experience.

In the face of a brutally repressive anti-religious, atheistic regime, he was a pastor who gave us a unique understanding of the depth of human spirituality, religious liberty and the rights of conscience.

In a world fractured by war and beset with violence, he was a promoter of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

In the face a sexual revolution that emphasized personal pleasure and self-fulfillment, he was a celibate priest who gave us a rich appreciation for romance, nuptial love, marriage and family.

In the face of a celebrity culture that prized youth and beauty, he grew old and enfeebled and ultimately died with great dignity before the whole world.

When it comes to comprehending the great gift that is human life, John Paul II was a true renaissance man, who beautifully articulated the grandeur of the gift of life and its essential place in the heart of human experience. Far from being a negative "reactionary", Blessed John Paul II was an architect of a profound new understanding and appreciation of the sanctity of every human life, the dignity of every human person and the unique and unrepeatable quality of human identity.

Pro-life people will draw endless inspiration, understanding and encouragement from the example, the legacy, the insight, and the intercession of Blessed John Paul II.

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