The Pope's Passing

A few million words have been written about the life and death of Pope John Paul II. So, I guess a few more won’t hurt. Whatever faith you are (or, even if you have no faith at all), you will have to admit that John Paul was a good and holy man. He certainly did much more than his immediate predecessors to bring all faiths closer together. And, I suspect that, years from now, we will learn that he had more to do with the fall of communism than the world could ever imagine. Undeniably, he was a charming and charismatic man, particularly in his younger years in the papacy.

It was both heart-wrenching and heartening at the same time to watch him suffer so in his last days–heart-wrenching to see him struggling under such duress (I remember watching my father fighting to cling to the last moments of his life on a respirator, before his poor, old tired heart finally gave out on Valentine’s Day,1994)–and heartening to see him persevering to the very end, affirming the sanctity and dignity of human life. I was reminded of the words of that great American comedian, Milton Berle, who reportedly said, “Life is like a street fight. The problem is, most people give up too easily.” (I happen to believe that is true).

I remember listening to Walter Mondale’s eulogy for Hubert Humphrey, at Humphrey’s funeral. Mondale said of Humphrey, “He taught us how to live–and, he taught us how to die.”

I think that the same thing can be said of John Paul II. The new guy sure has some big shoes to fill.

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