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Marist Bulletin - Number 190


Not a young Pope, but the Pope of the young - Sean D. Sammon, FMS

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The death of a Pope is no small matter. Recall the outpouring of grief that followed the month-long papacy of John Paul I. During his brief tenure, Albino Luciani managed to touch the hearts and minds of more than a few around our world.

How very different the death of a Pope known for his length of years. For anyone younger than 30, John Paul II is the only real successor to Peter that they have ever known. Over so many years this man’s generous heart, prayerful spirit, and love of his Church and its people have been the qualities that have drawn to him a new generation. During visits to their countries, the Wednesday audience in the Square or nearby, and World Youth days convoked regularly during his papacy, it was the young who came to see him, sing with him, celebrate with him. He had that enviable capacity to enflame their hearts and capture their imaginations.

In his last days, ill and in obvious decline physically, John Paul II resisted any suggestion of resignation by those who worried about his capacity to lead the Church. Choosing to give the upper-hand to life rather than efficiency, he kept the watch up until the end. Somehow the young understood his reasons better than many of the rest of us, worried as we were about the work of the Church being done in a timely manner.
So, when word came late last Thursday night that John Paul II lay dying, it was the young who made their way to the square in front of Saint Peter’s. Like life-giving rain in a time of drought, they came steadily and quietly their numbers swelling to engulf the Piazza and spill out into the neighboring side streets.

Eventually a hushed quiet fell over that sacred space in front of the magnificent basilica imagined by Michelangelo so many centuries ago, and to the amazement of journalists gathered in force, these young people began to pray. They prayed quietly with and for the only Pope they had ever known. A man who consistently called the world to values that were not the norm; a citizen of another generation who had reached across the divide of age to touch their hearts; a Pope who, at least in their eyes, was a natural when it came to the world of the young.

Similar to events that take place during the passing of a much loved grandfather whose goodness is never in question and love never in doubt, these young men and women prayed for someone who was very special to them indeed. Yes, in their hour of grief, they consoled themselves with the centuries old practice of prayer, just as he by example had taught them to do. May this good man and pastor to the world’s young and old among us rest in God’s everlasting peace.

Sean D. Sammon, FMS
5 April 2005

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