Pope John Paul the Great: April 2005 Archives

from "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
T.S. Eliot, 1917

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

. . .

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

I have selected the antipodes of the poem, because in them we see the drama of the last century which extends into this one.

As believers we are subject to innumerable challenges. Each of these is God's way of testing us. Testing here means not examining, but rather refining, making us durable--as gold is tested in fire. God does this not to torment me, but rather "to lead us to an overwhelming question." The problem is that too often, like Prufrock, we refuse to ask the question--we divert our attention elsewhere.

God's ways do sometimes seem like a "tedious argument of insidious intent." Indeed, from the point of view of the selfish ego, what God asks of us is insidious indeed. We can see the fear and the crisis it causes in the desires of a million people to reform the Church each in their own image. One group desires ordination for women, another agitates for freedom from contraception, another says that if only we had married Priests we would not have this, that, or the other crisis. Many do not wish to serve the Church as it is. Many do not desire to serve the truth unless they have first recast it in their own image.

But God leads each of us individually to the overwhelming question. He does not ask a gaggle of thousands, He asks me, personally. As a result the events that lead to that question are different for each person. What they call from each person is different.

What is the overwhelming question? I think that the question which has become more pressing and more urgent throughout the last century and into this one, the question that has been prevalent through all of time is "Do you love Me?" The form that this question has taken on more and more is , "Do you trust Me?"

Many of us no longer live in anything recognizable as the neighborhood of our youth. Many have people who live in houses all around them, but there is no communal sharing. In fact, the only contact one is likely to have with one's neighbor is the notice to weed your lawn from the community association, or perhaps a lawsuit for some perceived infraction or another. Some of our priests plunged us into a crisis of trust with the pedophilia scandal. Each day we read headlines that reinforce to us that we cannot be too careful with our money, our children, our possessions, ourselves. In September of 2001 we suffered a tremendous blow against our security which still has many of us reeling. There is nothing to trust. The overwhelming question indeed overwhelms us and we look another way.

But St. Faustina Kowalska taught us, "Jesus, I trust in you." We have so unlearned trust that it is hard to learn this lesson. We need to remake our entire lives to reify this truth--to manifest it to the world. And there are consequences for refusing to do so. There are consequences for not answering the question. These too are spelled out throughout the poem. The person who refuses to face the question turns gradually inward becoming obsessed with everything about himself. "Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?" Who cares? And yet, are these not the truly overwhelming questions that we face and our children face each day? Aren't we often afraid of how we will be judged when people see us? Don't we go out of our way to make a good impression? Look at the advertisements on television--tooth whitener, hair replacement, "natural male enhancement," wrinkle cream, age-spot remover, the list is endless. If you watch enough television you will eventually see an advertisement that leads to a product designed to improve every part of you. All the while we are posing, "I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach." Why? Because it will cut an impressive figure. People will see me and they will comment on how romantic, ironic, dashing, or interesting I am.

All because we refuse to face the overwhelming question.

But wait, there's more. Elsewhere in the poem we see yet other consequences of refusal. "Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,/I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." Our lives are not beautiful, romantic, and perfect. They are the apotheosis of automation, of turning self off and turning autopilot on. Time is measured out in coffee spoons, in the mundane acts of the every day. We are weighed down by our trivia. We are weighed down by ourselves. So much so that, "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.//I do not think that they will sing to me." Perhaps some of the saddest lines of poetry ever written. I have come face to face with the ineffable, and because I refuse the question, because I refuse to look into the abyss of trust, I cannot experience it. I hear them singing to each other, but I am not invited to the chorus. Rather. "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea. . . Till human voices wake us, and we drown." We are submerged once again in the expectations and the forces of those who surround us. We are plunged into a sea of selfishness even though we have seen a better way.

What is the solution? "Be not afraid." Follow Jesus' admonition, listen to how our Holy Father of recent memory explained it. Do not be afraid of the overwhelming question. It is overwhelming precisely because it portends changes. Ask it anyway. "Do I love Jesus? Do I trust Jesus?" And then face the real answer as spelled out in your life everyday. For most of us I suspect the answer shall be, "Not nearly so much as I would like," or perhaps a step beyond, "No, I don't really." Perhaps we love Jesus but we have learned too well from our families not to trust anyone. Life experiences show us that humans are untrustworthy, and perverting the principle found in the first Letter of John, we say to ourselves, "If I cannot trust what I can see, how can I trust what I cannot see?" The irony is that it is precisely what we cannot see that is most trustworthy. We can be certain that under ordinary circumstances hydrogen will form one bond in which it tends to "lose" an electron. We can pretty much rely upon the Kreb's cycle. When we move from the unseen to the seen, we begin to doubt. We are children of the enlightenment. We think Descartes got it right with "Dubito ergo cogito ergo sum." But followed its full length we wind up square in the middle of solipsism, not reality.

Be not afraid. Ask the question. Answer it. And if the answer doesn't suit, choose to do something about it. Trust God. To trust Him you must know and love Him. To know and love Him, you must fill every moment with reminders of His presence. Before you start a new task, you can say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Before you begin the day, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad." Upon retiring, "I love you Lord, my strength." Hear His word, tell the story He would have you tell. Substitute the useless, self-serving self-talk with God-talk. What He has to say is true, eternal, and infinite, what you tell yourself is limited by your own narrow perceptions.

Do not be afraid to ask the question. This our Holy Father taught. Ask and ask again. Ask every moment of every day. Ask when you know the answer to be negative and turn your heart around. "If God be for us, who can stand against?" We need to recover trust. The end of trust is being in the company of the mermaids, being in the presence of God. The end of distrust is drowning in our human surroundings. There doesn't really seem to be much of a choice. The Lord commands us in Deuteronomy, "Choose life." To do so, we must choose Him, completely and without any reservation.

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More wisdom from the poetry of Pope John Paul the Great:

from "Thoughts on Maturing"
from The Space Within
tr. Jerzy Peterkiewicz

Maturity: a descent to a hidden core,
leaves fall from the imagination
like leaves once locked in the trunk of their tree,
the cells grow calm--though their sensitivity still stirs;
the body in its own fullness
reaches the shores of autumn.
Maturity: the surface meets the depth;
maturity: penetrating the depth,
the soul more reconciled with the body,
but more opposed to death,
uneasy about the resurrection.
Maturing toward difficult encounters.

How well and in how few words Pope John Paul captured the essence of some of the changes that we go through as we age. We often speak of youth thinking that it is immortal. No! Youth knows in its bones, in an immediate knowledge that comes only from those who see angels and sense the presence all around them of the mysterious, that we are destined for immortality. Youth sometimes does stupid things to arrive there more quickly; however, it knows with a certainty that fades away as we grow used to our bones and flesh. We are lulled into a sense that all we knew before is false and unclear.

Look to the young, particularly to the very young. In those first inarticulate, nearly incomprehensible words, you will find a world of knowledge, of things we have long forgotten. Samuel used to talk frequently about when "I was heaven before I was born." I think he was trying to convey something of his sense of life. Older and resistant, I'm not sure I heard the fullness of it. I must learn to listen more closely.

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Santo Subito

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There are those in St. Blogs far more knowledgeable than I am who suggest that a sensus fidei on the canonization of John Paul the Great has been reached. Still, one must wait for the official pronouncement. However, nothing I know of prevents me from asking the intercession of our Holy Father.

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from the journey

Today as we say our goodbyes to the Holy Father in the blessed sacrifice of his funeral Mass, let us recall the Jesus he always taught us--fully human, fully divine, completely loving, completely interested in every human being. Let us pray that the Holy Father is welcomed into the loving arms of Him who loved us unto death and into life. The arms of Him about whom the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II never tired of teaching, speaking, and bringing to all the people of the world.

Shalom, peace be with you Holy Father. Grant us the blessings of your peace and your prayers.

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He blesses us once again.

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Praise God for all that He has given us in Pope John Paul the Great.

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Prayer at the Western Wall

Western Wall Prayer March 26, 2000 Pope John Paul the Great

During his visit to the Western Wall, John Paul II observed the custom of inserting a short prayer into a nook in the wall.

God of our fathers,
you chose Abraham and his descendants
to bring Your name to the nations:
we are deeply saddened
by the behavior of those
who in the course of history
have caused these children of Yours to suffer
and asking Your forgiveness
we wish to commit ourselves
to genuine brotherhood
with the people of the Covenant

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The Speech at Yad Vashem


Understanding the world and the way it is.

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Why John Paul the Great?

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* Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003)

* Fides et Ratio (14 September 1998)

* Ut Unum Sint (25 May 1995)

* Evangelium Vitae (25 March 1995)

* Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993)

* Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991)

* Redemptoris Missio (7 December 1990)

* Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987)

* Redemptoris Mater (25 March 1987)

* Dominum et Vivificantem (18 May 1986)

* Slavorum Apostoli (2 June 1985)

* Laborem Exercens (14 September 1981)

* Dives in Misericordia (30 November 1980)

* Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979)

(All of these and more available at this website)

The Jeweler's Shop

The Place Within

Be Not Afraid

Gift and Mystery

Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Memory and Identity

The fall of the Soviet Empire

The forgiveness to a would-be assassin

World Youth Days

More that 100 trips worldwide spreading the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the peace that it promises, and the message of the essential dignity of the human person

The Speech at Yad Vashem

Theology of the Body

The dignity of the human person

Humility, charity, meekness, boldness, magnificence (see Disputations), kindness, openness, determination, courage

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from Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way
Pope John Paul the Great

"Cross of Christ, may you be forever praised, forever blessed, you are the course of strength and courage, our victory lies in you." I never put on my episcopal pectoral Cross carelessly; I walways accompany this gesture with a prayer. It has been resting on my chest, beside my heart for more than forty-five years. To love the Cross is to love sacrifice. The martyrs are a model for this type of love, for example Bishop Michal Kozal. He was ordained a bishop on August 15, 1939, two weeks before the outbreak of war. He never left his flock even though he knew what price he would have to pay. He died in the Dachau concentration camp, where he was a model and an inspiration to the priests amond his fellow prisoners.

And, while tempted, John Paul the Great never left his flock. He does not leave us now. Be not afraid. Make his exhortation your banner. This great man prays for us to the Father in Heaven. There can be no fear because perfect love casts out fear. Be not afraid. God is with us. John Paul the Great is with God. May his prayers grant us faithful guidance.

Oh God, you have taken from us one of the great shepherds of the Church. May your Holy Spirit grant us a new shepherd whose heart is as loving, as expansive, as encompassing as that of your great servant. We praise you, we thank you, most Holy God, for the gift you have given us in the love of this man. We are eternally thankful for your gift to us of this great man. Grant that we all may live to be an honor to him. May his legacy raise up many Saints to you.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you for giving John Paul the Great to us. Thank you for receiving him back. Thank you for his prayers for us. Thank you.

Oh Lord, we miss him. Thank you for being our assurance of salvation. Thank you for being his Friend. Thank you for being our comfort in this loss. Thank you for all that you give us.

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Santo Subito.

In 1300 years there has been no such salutation. And we cannot say when it will happen again. I have been blessed.

I offer for the first miracle for beatification the fact that I was able to be conscious and even coherent at 4:00 a.m. to say farewell. Okay, not much of a miracle, but a blessing for me. And this was a man of everyday miracles. The fall of the Soviet Union--not one huge military effort, but an accumulation of prayer under his guidance.

Truly a great Pope.

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From the Presidential Medal of Freedom page--here

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I've never really made much of this claim, because there is a natural tendency on the parts of humans and human institutions to claim as their own one they recognize as great. However, I finally found a page that (1) has "documentary" evidence that this statement is true (by this, I mean something other than second-hand assertions and claims--I wanted it straight from the Pope's "mouth"/hand) and (2) has one of the most atypical pictures of Pope John Paul I've seen.

I guess I'm just slow about coming around to things because my standards of proof are exceedingly high. But this is an interesting excerpt from a brief biography on the USCCB website:

He entered Krakow’s clandestine theological seminary in 1942, a risky step under the Gestapo’s watchful eyes. Always drawn to the mystical and contemplative, at one point he considered joining the local Carmelite order instead of the diocesan priesthood. But his cardinal told him: “Finish what you’ve begun,” and the local Carmelite director is said to have turned him away with the words: “You are destined for greater things.”

This passage argues for the logic of a tertiary connection. Oh well, as I said, I'm a bit slow to embrace these things.

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I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone when I reveal that I do not spend my days meditating upon the encyclicals of John Paul II. I have neither the mind nor the attention span for it. I have read them, I acknowledge their wisdom and greatness, and I retreat to things that speak to me in ways that the encyclicals can only begin to approximate.

Take for example this excerpt spoken by St. John the Apostle:

from "Space Which Remains in You"
in The Place Within: The Poetry of John Paul II
Tr. Jerzy Peterkiewicz

Your arms now remember His space, the little head
snuggling to your shoulder,
for the space has remained in You,
for it was taken from You.

And shining never empty. So very present in You.
When with my trembling hands I broke the bread
to give it to you, Mother,
I stood for a moment amazed as I saw
the whole truth through one single tear
in your eye.

I won't presume to pronounce on the worth of this as poetry, as it is a translation--I will see merely that I find the substance of what is said beautiful. This speaks to me directly, in a way that I cannot begin to derive from the admittedly great encyclicals. I struggle with them--knocking my head against the words and working until I torture from them some fragment of what they really mean. I can read all the study guides in the world and not get from them the image of Jesus and Mary and their intricate intertwining--the way her Yes created a "shining" space within her that did not ever go away even after the source of that light had been translated to Heaven. That John sees everything revealed in the single tear that Mary sheds as she remembers the ritual sharing of Passover that Jesus presided over in their home, speaks to me more directly, more to both heart and mind than do many of the arguments and chains of reason that make up the bodies of some of the more formidable encyclicals. This is one reason to be in wonder at this Pope. He did everything possible to make God known to the world at large.

Take this prophetic writing:

from "Stanislaus"
source as above

I want to describe the Church, my Church,
born with me, not dying with me--
nor do I die with it,
which always grows beyond me--
the Church: the lowest depth of my existence
and its peak,
the Church--the root which I thrust
into the past and future alike,
the sacrament of my being in God
who is the Father.

At once, what a tremendous depth of understanding of the nature of the Church and what a prophetic utterance. With each new Pope the Church is, in a sense, born again--brought into new light--the same light from a different angle. It is the angle that Pope John Paul II has given us that is such a tremendous blessing. It is the light of reason and of art, the light of mind, soul, and heart, the light of intellect and love. It is the light of the Church Fathers and of the Great Saints of the Church. Pope John Paul II uncovered the greatest number of Saints of any Pope and we owe to him a tremendous debt of gratitude. Under his tutelage, we learned how to cut through the unnecessary burdens that belabored past causes and begin to understand Saints in a new light. Many have criticized him for that--but what sense is there in it taking four centuries to canonize Juan Diego? We don't need the span of four centuries to know the truth of a person's sanctity. But I belabor and minor point. The real point is that if you don't care for the poetry, try the encyclicals, If they prove too trying a workout, read the Angelus meditations, or the Catecheses on various subjects. And if this doesn't help try one of the various collections of prayers and devotions. There are many, many ways to hear from our Holy Father. And now, more than ever, it is possible to have a private audience and know that your concerns are carried straight to God.

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A Relic from Life

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A post over at Lesser of Two Weevils got me to thinking about relics and about the fact that this Pope thought for the future and prepared a marvelous relic or sort of relic himself.

At the end of the "Treasure of the Vatican" Exhibition is a bronze cast of the Pope's hand. It was the only piece of art you were allowed to touch, and it was a thrill, even when he was alive to be able to touch it, to shake hands as it were with this great pontiff. If you all get a chance, if it is still touring, go and see. Meet and greet the Pope and give him your most cheerful salutation. We are so fortunate to have such a forward thinking man as our guide through this life. He even thought ahead to living us so substantial a reminder of himself!

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Last night I watched a documentary on AMC about how Hollywood has portrayed the holocaust in film. It was interesting in its own right. But one of the most provocative things about it was a scene from a relatively early film taken in the Warsaw Ghetto.

With the inevitability of two balls dropped from Pisa's heights, you know already where I am going. Yes, I thought of the Holy Father. I thought of the fact that he survived this monstrosity. I thought that not only did he survive that horror, but he survived and rose to prominence in the Church under a regime that was only slilghtly less oppressive.

They showed a scene from Sophie's Choice--I suppose I should say they showed THE scene from the film. And again, I thought, this is what the man faced then, and throughout his pontificate. He faced the irrational hatred of those who despise the truth and seek to make it what they would have it be. He faced endless criticism of his every action. He could not even forgive his own would-be assassin without criticism.

This Pope whose personal motto was "Totus Tuus", gave the entire Church a motto--indeed, marching orders. Be not afraid.

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Two Short Tributes from Tennyson


from In Memoriam, A.H.H.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

And this very famous one. Not only do I hope to see Our Pilot, but also the Fisherman who introduced me to Him.

Crossing the Bar
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

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His Own Words


The Holy Father's special encouragement and pastoral counsel to Artisits:

from Letter to Artists
Pope John Paul II (the Great)

It is important to recognize the distinction, but also the connection, between these two aspects of human activity. The distinction is clear. It is one thing for human beings to be the authors of their own acts, with responsibility for their moral value; it is another to be an artist, able, that is, to respond to the demands of art and faithfully to accept art's specific dictates.(2) This is what makes the artist capable of producing objects, but it says nothing as yet of his moral character. We are speaking not of moulding oneself, of forming one's own personality, but simply of actualizing one's productive capacities, giving aesthetic form to ideas conceived in the mind.

The distinction between the moral and artistic aspects is fundamental, but no less important is the connection between them. Each conditions the other in a profound way. In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are. And there are endless examples of this in human history. In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it. For him art offers both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for his spiritual growth. Through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them. The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture.

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While I do not always agree with Nathan's opinions, I do love him and his honesty and integrity. It is gratifying to see him willing to change his mind as he reconsiders the evidence. It gives me hope for myself and my own stubborn ways.

Particularly satisfying in this regard is this post which argues FOR the title "The Great" from a progressive point of view.

Nathan, thank you for all that you do for the community. We may not see eye to eye on many things, but your expression and your willingness to share are valuable to us all.

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One thing I am tired of is being told that there is something wrong with mourning the loss of our Holy Father. Yes, we can rejoice that he has joined the heavenly host; but that does not preclude a deep sense of loss ourselves. Over the last several days, I've had several very holy, very wise, very faithful admirers of our great Holy Father tell me that it is wrong to mourn his death.

Wrong or not, I must be true to who I am. And, perhaps selfishly, I mourn the fact that John Paul II is not with us in body to lead us and guide us. I rejoice that he has been relieved of the earthly burdens that weighed upon his last years. I rejoice that he is with God. I rejoice that he will continue to pray for us and seek guidance for us.

But the reality is, unfortunately, I did not know how much I loved him until I no longer had him with me. And now, I mourn his loss and I am not ashamed of it. I am comforted that there is some hope that I may see him once again, but for the present, I mourn the passing of a great man, a great mind, a great heart, a great spirit, a great servant, a great example to us all.

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via Father Jim, This link from a protestant minister who started writing about the Protestant view of Mary. Part 16 is about the Holy Father and the coming conclave. Perhaps this view of Catholicism from outside is another thing that can be attributed in large part to the work of John Paul II.

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Poetry of John Paul II

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One of the things I love about John Paul II is that if his words do not move you in the encyclicals and the addresses and the letters, there is still more to read and by which to be moved.

Girl Disappointed in Love
Karol Wotyla, Bishop of Krakow

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits--
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love---
why don't you see?
The human heart--what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.

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than the one immediately below. Go and enjoy

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My two way heart cannot decide
which way to let you go,
with rejoicing at your triumph above,
or mourning for us below.

That you have been our father now
for more years that I can know,
I cannot think of you above
and all of us below.

That God has made His place for you,
I cannot help but know,
that you rejoice with Him above,
and pray for us below.

Longtime your flock has prayed for you
and watched your spirit grow,
do not think it lack of love
that lays my spirit low.

I rejoice in God's peace with you
and home my spirits knows
that forward, onward you lead me
to where I would not go

Except your love had made it clear
all paths to this end lead--
I may take it for good or ill
for living or for dead.

But your voice, your staff is there
leading ever on,
"Be not afraid," your strong voice said,
and pointed ever on.

I follow you, my shepherd
now with greater Shepherd met,
and ask myself this question--
Do I ever let

My selfish heart keep loved one home?
Or rather do I let
my spirit soar to the abode
where faces are not wet--

where I might see
our loved one now
embraced by heavenly kin,
and know that sinners though we be,

we are God's chosen ones.
Dear Father you have spent your life,
to show us all this truth.
Grant through your prayers

I can see it now,
when I most want you here.
Grief is fresh
and tears will pass,

and then there will be only joy,
that the God you know
has shown Himself,
through His gift of you to us.

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Words of the Holy Father


from Veritatis Splendor

The splendour of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6).

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June 2005: Monthly Archives



About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Pope John Paul the Great category from April 2005.

Pope John Paul the Great: May 2005 is the next archive.

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