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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Words are slow to come.

It is Wednesday evening, and the Holy Father, John Paul II, died last Saturday evening. Not that I'm telling you anything you haven't already picked up from innumerable other sources, but then I'm not a journalist. I'm merely hoping to express some of the conflicting thoughts and emotions, some as yet unnamed, that have gone through me; and to try to explain in some small part why my reaction to the most momentous event so far this century has been so slow.

The tardiness isn't difficult to explain. It took me time to process the loss of a man I never met yet considered a loved one. It took me time for the reality to set in that we are a Church without a Pontiff. And it took me time to find just what I could say that hasn't already been said. I'm not sure I've found the answer to that one yet, but I'll try.

It's been an emotionally harrowing week. First, my father was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent surgery. The surgery was successful, I'm told, and all cancer is gone; yet the prospect of losing my father is not one I know how to meet, and the mere thought chilled me.

Second, Michael Schiavo once again got permission to starve his wife to death, and once again I followed the fight in the news. A very large part of me was half convinced that once again there would be a reprieve. With so many people praying to a loving God, it was hard to imagine that He would not take action; yet for reasons known to Him and not to me, He did not. Undefiled evil is even harder for me to imagine, and that, I fear, is what we have encountered in Michael Schiavo. I did not, and still do not, know how to process that. All I can respond is that, as a Christian, I must love him, and hope and pray for his conversion and salvation. That is not an easy thing to do, when my emotions want to hate him.

It doesn't help, either, that my faith in the Father Who hears prayers has been tested, and I've only barely squeaked through passing. I still believe, but right now it is more an act of will than anything else. I know that the Lord loves us, and even loves me, even when I have trouble seeing the signs of that love. I am needing, more and more, to draw lessons from St. John of the Cross, and his explanations of the Dark Night of the Soul. God allows us to stumble along in dark faith when we have matured beyond the "baby's milk" of needing constant signs and comfort to nourish our faith. I am stumbling, right now, through a dark night, clutching for dear life to the Daddy I can't see.

Then the third thing happened: our beloved Shepherd died. I don't know how we could have another as worthy, as loving, as wise as Pope John Paul II. I simply trust in the Holy Spirit that whoever we next call "Papa" will have his own unique set of gifts. By the time John Paul passed, we had all known for days that he was going to leave us. He had known, too, and asked us not to be sorrowful. I had little emotion left, if I can admit that much.

Since his passing, I have gone through a sort of joyful mourning. I mourn the passing of a man who never knew me, but whom I knew with great love. Now he knows me with greater love, I am convinced, with the beatific vision of standing beside Jesus Christ in pure adoration. I rejoice that he has truly earned his good-night. I rejoice that God has loved us enough to give us a leader like John Paul, and to allow him to be with us for so many years as our Pastor. And I rejoice that he joined Jesus on the vigil of the feast of Divine Mercy. I feel certain it was the day our Polish Pontiff most would have wanted to celebrate salvation.

Now all that is left is to pray for souls, and pray thanksgiving, and pray that the events of this past week will serve God's kingdom and bring about greater love on earth.