May 3, 2011

A Man of God

Yesterday in Saint Peter’s Square the late Pope John Paul II was proclaimed Blessed—the next-to-last step before a Catholic is formally declared a saint—before one million and a half faithful. Yet another show of strength from an extraordinary man. But the event began the previous night, when a crowd of hundreds of thousands, mostly young people, flocked to the Circus Maximus oval to pray, sing and celebrate as they waited for the beatification ceremony. And that’s where and when John Paul’s long-time spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, told the crowd a simple truth: “The Church does not make saints, it just recognizes that a person lived a saintly life. John Paul was already a saint.”

 That’s what seems to me to be the great thing about the event. He was already a saint. Because of what he did? Well, he actually did many good things—amazing things!—for the world, but it was not mainly a matter of doing, it was a matter of being. You can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, you just know that he is blessed. You see him, you hear him speaking a few simple words and you immediately know that he is a man of God in the truest sense. A Man of God, is there a better synonym for sanctity, without any “ecclesiastical” rhetoric? His last days, his long, brave struggle with illness, his will to show us in his own flesh the Christ suffering... No, sorry, there are no words.

In a 1999 letter written to the world’s elderly he said: “It is wonderful to be able to give oneself to the very end for the sake of the kingdom of God. At the same time, I find great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord will call me: from life to life. And so I often find myself saying, with no trace of melancholy, a prayer recited by priests after the celebration of the Eucharist: ‘In hora mortis meae voca me, et iube me venire ad te’ (at the hour of my death, call me and bid me come to you). This is the prayer of Christian hope.”

Thus prayed the old man of God. And as an ancient Indian saying goes, “The Prayer of the man of God does not go in vain.”


  1. Annabel Haupricht10:30 PM, May 03, 2011

    At a recent conference, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who served as Vatican spokesman under Pope John Paul, said that the key to his effectiveness was his conviction that each person was created in God’s image and likeness. “He was a man profoundly convinced of the truth of those words in Genesis, ‘God made man and woman in his image and likeness.’ This gave him optimism even when he could no longer walk, and then even when he could no longer speak,” Navarro-Valls said. “I think this was what attracted people even more than the way he spoke.” (April 1, 2011, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome).

  2. Hi Rob, beautifully said and very true.