John Paul II and The Cross — “His constant companion”

An excerpt from John Paul II: A Character Study by Rev Raymond T Gawronski
New Oxford Review April 2010

John Paul emerged carrying the ultimate symbol of God and wounded humanity: the Crucified One. In this he proclaimed hope to all in Africa or Asia or Latin America who have known God, and long for God, and who find themselves in societies rapidly moving away from any traditional expression of the relation to God. . . . 

There was much of this largeness of soul to John Paul, something childlike in his desire to embrace everybody, with no cynical knife held behind his back. He was no fool, but he had so large and pure a soul that, to him, the sins of man – if he really could believe that men could be as wicked as they apparently were in Boston, among other places – were more like swarming mosquitoes that could simply be brushed away than products of a corrupt, cynical world.

This sweetness of soul, of his heart reaching out to all, is what touched tens of millions of people worldwide who saw in John Paul’s face a man who had worked in a stone quarry, who had known his people slaughtered in countless wars, who had known what it was like to have to rely on God alone, and not on a wealthy economy or worldly prestige.
His home culture offered something of an anima naturaliter Christiana, it offered a rich nature on which grace could build. But the heart of his greatness was beyond any culture, because it came from his union, in prayer, with his Lord and the Lord’s Blessed Mother. This
union in prayer –  above all else – defined his papacy. It was a union that was unmistakable, and easily seen by the masses of people who thronged to see him, to touch him, as the very Vicar of Christ. Perhaps they did not begin a program of moral conversion, in spite of the Pope’s admonitions They simply loved him, and the unreachable God made accessible to them through His representative. It is for God’s grace to work the many hidden miracles on the souls in which the seeds of His love were planted by the man whose constant companion, and very symbol, was the crucifix of his Lord.

Could he have … ? Should he have … ? These questions will always be there. No doubt John Paul was an unworthy servant of so great a Master. But then, what are we? What John Paul did do was offer the world an image of hope that grew out of that crucifix he always carried, the crucifix he always held forth to others. St. Paul says, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” Indeed there was something of that to the performer who certainly sat at center stage. Yet he never pointed to himself, but to the Lord, whom he encountered every dawn in prayer.

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