Reading time has been a bit scarce around here, obviously. But I did finish Fr. Neuhaus' book, and have moved on to Peggy Noonan's book John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spritual Father. I have long loved Peggy Noonan's writing, and share many of her underlying beliefs and attitudes. I wish I could meet her one day. But then, I'd be star-struck and just stand there with my mouth open like the goober I am.
Anyway, here's a snippet from the first chapter, about her experience as she attended the public papal visit. She gets it exactly right.
He raised his right hand to acknowledge the chants. The playfulness of the past--the way he used to wave with both hands, up and down, and say "Woo woo!" to the children who cheered him in New York and Chicago so long ago--was not possible for him anymore.
And yet as I watched him, I realized I did not see him as ill and frail. I saw him as encased--trapped in there, in an outer immobility. Outside he is old and frail, but inside he is John Paul, the one who had walked out on the Vatican balcony and dazzled the crowd twenty-four years before. And for the first time I thought: He is a victim soul. His suffering has meaning, it is telling us something. He is giving us something, a parting gift.
And then read this, and see if it doesn't bring tears to your eyes:
His suffering was his witness. Every other leader in the world stands straight and tall; they employ scores of aides who tell them to throw back their shoulders and walk forward looking like the leader of France, or England, or America. These public souls are acutely conscious of their public presentation. But John Paul came out broken and bent, as broken as the Christ on the cross he carried on his crozier.
When asked how he was, he often joked, "I'm in good shape from the neck up! Not so good from the neck down."
An aide who had watched him for a long time asked him once, "Do you ever cry?"
"Not outside," he replied.
And one more:
When he died I think we got a clue as to how much it all cost him, and what he felt. He asked, in his final requests, that a square of white silk be placed over his face in his casket. No one in the Vatican explained why. Then they announced it was "a new ritual." John Paul, in his papers, did not explain the request.
He did refer, however, in the last years of his papacy, to how he experienced life each day. Repeatedly pressed to retire, to give himself some rest after his mighty labors, he refused. "Christ didn't come down from the cross," he said.
Happy Wednesday, ya'll!