Why He is a Saint: Wojtyla as Pope (c 2, pt 2)

With this post I conclude my summaries of Msgr. Oder’s book Why He is a Saint.

Wojtyla as Pope, chap 2, pt 2

John Paul II wondered whether he should step down at age 75 or not; he consulted with Cardinal Ratzinger. They agreed that resignation would not be an option. Msgr Oder comments: “The decision not to leave the throne of St. Peter found its roots in the spiritual abandonment of self to God and in the faith in Divine Providence and in the trusty assistance of the Madonna.” (122) He expressed it this way to his doctor: “there is no place in the Church for a pope emeritus.” If an infirmity would incapacitate him, that would be another matter; but putting aside that eventuality, he must perform “the duties to which Christ our Lord has assigned me, for as long as he, in the mysterious designs of his Providence, shall wish.”

I recall that press speculation about his resignation, or even his impending death, began as early as 1996. He was confident the Lord wanted him to bring the Church into the new millennium. Thus in 2000, he passed the age of eighty, and he said: “I ask him to deign to call me to Himself whenever he wishes. ‘If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, we are the Lord’s’ (see Romans 14.8) In the concise chronology at the end of the book, Msgr. Oder points out that John Paul II made his last two voyages in 2004 (pilgrimages to Lourdes and Loreto); it is the same year he announced the special celebration of the yea of the Eucharist. On January 30, 2005 he recites the Angelus for the last time in public. On February 1 he is hospitalized. March 30 was his last public appearance as he blessed the pilgrims.

 Msgr. Oder says “In that last month of his life, Karol Wojtyla manifested in all its transparent fullness the essence of a life spent under the auspices of ‘Totus tuus.'” He identified his suffering with Christ. On the Thursday before he died he asked to be read a passage from Sign of Contradiction, concerning the passage “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” The people in the room prayed a litany. A nun present noticed that he was moved by the phrase in the litany “priest and victim,” and he raised his hand to acknowledge it.

On April 1 he spoke the words of consecration from his bedside. He asked again to hear the Via Crucis and the Gospel of John.

On April second, his last day, Monsignor Dziwisz concelebrated Mass at his bedside. Cardinal Jaworski administered the Sacrament of the Sick. Dziwisz placed a small spoon with a few drops of consecrated wine on his lips. John Paul II did not open his eyes again. The priests knelt in thanksgiving after Mass, and while they were kneeling Karol Wojtyla turned his head slightly to the right and expired. His face was serene.

At his death, Socrates asked for a sacrifice to be offered; and his disciples said “such was the end . . . of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.”

Wojtyla knew that he was the sacrifice, as a disciple of Christ. He affirmed daily the offering of his life, with “Totus tuus”. And shall it be said “Such was the end . . . of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the best, because he was both wise and pious; and just and charitable; he is a saint.”.

2 Comments
  1. I received an anonymous comment asking about John Paul's failures concerning the sex abuse crisis. We would say that HE DID NOT KNOW about it. He believed too much in people, in priests and their great capacity for goodness. He was very sad when he began to learn of these horrific things toward the end of his Pontificate.

    George Weigel comments in his new book The End and the Beginning that John Paul's support of the founder of the Legion was a case of "deception in the service of the mysterium iniquitatis" (mystery of evil) (p 513)

    The Nat Cath Reporter mocks Weigel for this comment. Why? Have they no idea about the mystery of evil, a constant theme of JP2? The world is not always rational; people are free to choose against God and their neighbor and often use deception and con games to do so. The world of human beings is full of surprises due to human freedom. Yves R Simon wrote: "the rationalism born of technological pride hates human liberty both on account of its excellence and its wretchedness.” Simon means that we expect the human world to work like clock work and to show itself or run like so many cogs in the machine; so we expect the machine to always run so smoothly. Human existence is not like that. Both heroic excellence and moral wretchedness run contrary to predictive and controllable behavior.

    Weigel says in a footnote on p 553: "Falling prey to Maciel's deceptions constituted an objective failure in John Paul's governance of the Church. But this failure was neither willful (he knew something was awry and did nothing about it), nor venal (he was bought), nor malicious (he knew of Maciel's perfidies and did not care) and thus does not call into question John Paul II's heroic virtue."

    I hope this suffices for my anonymous commentator.

  2. Well said! At the end of the day even a Saint can fall prey to deception but to consciously deceive is quite another matter, one that would have been foreign to JPII. That said, I suspect this saintly man's good name will need defending from some future Rolf Hochhuth.

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