The entry by T.S.O. cited below spawned many thoughts. One that I have not yet articulated is my profound love for our present Holy Father. In a very real way, his deep spirituality and gentleness of spirit have been the guiding hand in my faith journey.
I have probably often mentioned the crisis that occurred in my faith life with the promulgation of Vertatis Splendor. As is usual in these cases the ignorant media ran to the fringe of Catholic theology for an interpretation. What we heard was that this was a nearly medieval repression of theology in the Church--it was the biggest crackdown since the Reformation, etc. etc. I had determined at that time that if this were an accurate portrayal of the encyclical I was leaving and running off to the one place that I thought might have an equal claim to legitimacy--the Orthodox Church. A good friend pointed out that the media hounds are often this way and encouraged me to read the encyclical for myself, in fact obtained a copy for me (at that time I hadn't a clue about how they were published etc.)
I sat down and read the encyclical at least twice, perhaps three times, and it dawned on me that I was showing an arrogance and a hubris that was astounding. Here I was somewhat younger than thirty and I was presuming to pronounce on two thousand years of tradition and teaching from which the encyclical was derived. The Pope did not rub my nose in it, he simply articulated the truth of the matter and the Holy Spirit convicted.
Since that moment I have been an unabashed Papaphile. I love and trust the man so much that in many cases his prudential judgments have become my own. I know that I am not required to acknowledge in faith every judgment that he articulates, but his record has been such that I am swayed that the better way lies in trusting him until he has been proven to be wrong. It has not failed me to this point (so far as I can tell).
So I love the Holy Father. I thank God for Him every single day, and I wish for him exactly what God wills. Were I to have my own way, I would keep him forever--but I love him so much that I would not wish to keep him from that all-encompassing embrace of Love to which he will at some time return (God grant that we have yet more time with him.)
I am most deeply grateful to the Holy Father for his supreme dedication to his people and for the example of his life. He has taught us optimism in the face of the culture of Death and the way of life to show to all the world. He has taught us what it means to be the people of God in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and his actions and words have been a light and a beacon always calling me to turn toward Jesus Christ and accept the gift of salvation and love that is continually offered to me.
God bless Pope John Paul II and continue to bless him until the end of ages!