Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Humor of Pope St. John Paul II (and the Humor of God)

Yes, we should honor him for his holiness, his intelligence, his perseverance, his kindness.  Maybe especially for his contribution to understanding the human person, which a certain person wrote a book about recently....  But this blog ain't called the Ironic Catholic for nothin'.

The humor of John Paul II, on this, the occasion of his first feast day:

Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it.

Love is never defeated, and I could add, the history of Ireland proves it.

An American bishop, recalling John Paul’s amazing memory for names and faces, told of returning to Rome after having put on weight since his previous visit. “Is your diocese growing?” the pope inquired. The hefty prelate assured him that it was indeed expanding. “So is the bishop,” said John Paul with a twinkle in his eye. (source)

“Men are like wine-some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.” 

(I'm looking for a video of him joining in the singing of the people in Poland...if you can find that, let me know!)

And then, this is not humorous on Pope John Paul II's part, but humorous on God's part...and very moving as well.  About Pope John Paul II's visit to Poland, in 1979:

[In 1979, the Polish government] invited him, gambling that John Paul--whom they knew when he was cardinal of Krakow, who they were sure would not want his presence to inspire bloodshed--would be prudent. They wagered that he would understand he was fortunate to be given permission to come, and understand what he owed the government in turn was deportment that would not threaten the reigning reality. They announced the pope would be welcome to come home on a "religious pilgrimage."
John Paul quickly accepted the invitation. He went to Poland.
And from the day he arrived, the boundaries of the world began to shift.
Two months before the pope's arrival, the Polish communist apparatus took steps to restrain the enthusiasm of the people. They sent a secret directive to schoolteachers explaining how they should understand and explain the pope's visit. "The pope is our enemy," it said. "Due to his uncommon skills and great sense of humor he is dangerous, because he charms everyone, especially journalists. Besides, he goes for cheap gestures in his relations with the crowd, for instance, puts on a highlander's hat, shakes all hands, kisses children. . . . It is modeled on American presidential campaigns. . .  Because of the activation of the Church in Poland our activities designed to atheize the youth not only cannot diminish but must intensely develop. . .  In this respect all means are allowed and we cannot afford any sentiments."
The government also issued instructions to Polish media to censor and limit the pope's comments and appearances.
On June 2, 1979, the pope arrived in Poland. What followed will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
He knelt and kissed the ground, the dull gray tarmac of the airport outside Warsaw. The silent churches of Poland at that moment began to ring their bells. The pope traveled by motorcade from the airport to the Old City of Warsaw.
The government had feared hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands would line the streets and highways.
By the end of the day, with the people lining the streets and highways plus the people massed outside Warsaw and then inside it--all of them cheering and throwing flowers and applauding and singing--more than a million had come.
In Victory Square in the Old City the pope gave a mass. Communist officials watched from the windows of nearby hotels. The pope gave what papal biographer George Weigel called the greatest sermon of John Paul's life.
Why, the pope asked, had God lifted a Pole to the papacy? Perhaps it was because of how Poland had suffered for centuries, and through the 20th century had become "the land of a particularly responsible witness" to God. The people of Poland, he suggested, had been chosen for a great role, to understand, humbly but surely, that they were the repository of a special "witness of His cross and His resurrection." He asked then if the people of Poland accepted the obligations of such a role in history.
The crowd responded with thunder.
"We want God!" they shouted, together. "We want God!"
What a moment in modern history: We want God. From the mouths of modern men and women living in a modern atheistic dictatorship. ....

1 comment:

Mahdji said...

I remember his visit to Poland well. How could I not, as a Polish American who fell to her knees when "Habemus papam!" was announced? This remembrance brought me to tears. Dzien kuje!