Things John Paul the Great Taught Me--Part I


One of the most important things I learned from the pontificate, the writings, and the life of Pope John Paul II is about loving God.

At one time there used to be a dichotomy, a kind of question, as to how one learned to love God. There was one school that said, "First we love, then we know." and another school that said, "First we know, then we love." What John Paul the Great taught me is that it is not sequential, it is simultaneous. We love and we know at the same time. The two actions are interpenetrating and mutually reinforcing. You cannot have one without the other. They are representative of the "trinity of the body"--body (or heart), mind, and soul.

As a result, is it not possible to know with merely the mind, the heart must also be involved. And it is not possible to love with merely the heart; the mind must be involved. The heart without the mind is the tenderness that leads to the gas chambers; the mind without the heart is the legal system that destroyed Terry Schiavo. One without the other is only half human, never realizing our full potential.

Loving God requires that we know Him with heart and mind together and that we love Him with heart and mind together. Surely there are times when one faculty is ascendant in either knowledge or love; but they are always working together. Indeed they cannot work apart. Knowledge is always informed by love, by sympathy, by compassionate understanding; and love is always informed by deeper knowledge, by seeing what is really there, by intellectual understanding of what we love.

Throughout his pontificate Pope John Paul II showed me these two faculties constantly in operation. His magnificent encyclicals are beautiful minglings of heart and head knowledge, heart and head love. As a result they are not always satisfying to those who demand a rigorous logic in their approach to theology--there is entirely too much reliance upon metaphor and analogy for their comfort. Further, they tend to be disconcerting to those who want to love without thinking about it; the Pope demands a certain intellectual rigor to be understood.

His actions, many of them criticized during his reign show the same dichotomy. There are a great many who criticized the liturgy for the canonization of St. Juan Diego because so many native dancers and rituals were incorporated into the Mass. And yet, it is the heart that became briefly ascendant there with the consent of the head acknowledging the individual differences in cultures.

You could look at any of a myriad of actions taken during this papacy and see in them this deep intertwining of head and heart, knowledge and love. Pope John Paul the Great brought them to their natural synthesis, their fusion, their integration as parts of a person. We are not merely intellect, nor emotion, nor spirit. We are individual trinities, individual reflections of God in our integration, even though we often ignore or deny it. Pope John Paul the Great with his theology of body, with his encyclicals, his pontificate, and his life, showed us this again and again. He led by example, he taught by being. It will take us a long time to synthesize and to integrate all that he has to say.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 5, 2005 6:47 AM.

And MamaT's Take was the previous entry in this blog.

And Speaking of Integration. . . is the next entry in this blog.

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