Friday, May 2, 2008

"The pope has to suffer"

I love the account in George Weigel's Witness to Hope of Pope John Paul II's crusading for the family in 1994. The United Nations was engaged in a major battle regarding abortion and birth control in the Cairo Conference, and the Holy Father knew it was an important time. He named 1994 the Year of the Family, and beatified Gianna Beretta Molla, who is an example of the sanctity of life.

Four days after the beatification ceremony, Pope John Paul II fell in the bathtub and was given an artificial hip joint the next day. From then, it became difficult and painful for him to walk. (This is poignantly expressed in the recent movie about his life, starring Jon Voight). One month later, at his first Angelus address since his fall, the Holy Father said these beautiful words (copied from Witness to Hope because the Vatican does not have an English translation):

"I meditated on all this and thought it over again during my hospital stay. ... I understood that I have to lead Christ's Church into this third millennium by prayer, by various programs, but I saw that this is not enough: she must be led by suffering, by the attack thirteen years ago and by this new sacrifice. Why now, why this, why in this Year of the Family? Precisely because the family is under attack. The Pope has to be attacked, the Pope has to suffer, so that every family and the world may see that there is ... a higher Gospel: the Gospel of suffering, by which the future is prepared, the third millennium of families, of every family and of all families."

What an incredibly beautiful example of a man who desired so greatly to communicate the truth of God's plan for life and love, that he was willing to suffer for all of us to grasp it.

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