|01-05-2011 - Traces, n. 5
THE FACTS ANSWER
THE POPE OF "REASON" WAS THERE TO SAY: "ALL THIS IS REAL"
THE CONFUSION ABOUT HIM, HIS VISIT TO IRELAND, AND THE TRUE SENSE OF EVERY ENGAGEMENT OF HIS: CHRIST AS THE CENTRAL STRAND OF AN UNDERSTANDING OF REALITY.
BY JOHN WATERS
What Pope John Paul II stood for, above all, is the insistence that faith is not some add-on benefit, but the central strand of a coherent understanding of reality. This is the meaning of his transformative engagement with global politics, the purpose of his acute sense of social justice, and the cause of his insistent condemnation of the abuse of human sexuality.
There was, I sometimes felt, a sense of confusion in the public mind about him. On the one hand, almost everyone instinctively loved him, being drawn to his personality by the most tremendous force of attraction. On the other, there was a tendency among many Catholics to switch off from his unyielding manner of reiterating certain unfashionable Church teachings. These "conservative" positions were invariably reported, but maybe not taken as literally as they were intended. Very often the headlines which followed his visits picked up themes which might have been those of a great political leader, rather than the Vicar of Christ. In this way, the coherence of his life and teaching was sometimes lost.
In my own country, Ireland, for example, when he visited us in 1979, the message that seemed to live most strongly afterwards concerned peace. Speaking in the town of Drogheda, near the border with Northern Ireland, he pleaded–"on my knees"–with the protagonists in the violent conflict across that border, to desist from the path of violence. If we choose to see events as simply random or coincidental, then we simply note in passing that, within two decades, his wish had been fulfilled, perhaps not finally and completely but certainly more comprehensively than anyone listening that day might have dared to hope for.
But let us recall one less remarked-upon observation by John Paul that weekend in Ireland: "Do not lose trust that this visit of mine may be fruitful," he said, "that this voice of mine may be listened to." "Listen," he seemed to say, "this is real."
Remember, in 1984, speaking to members of Communion and Liberation on the Movement's 30th birthday, when he declared: "Jesus, the Christ, He in Whom everything is made and subsists, is therefore the interpretative principle of man and his history. To affirm humbly but equally tenaciously that Christ is the beginning and inspirational motive for living and working, of consciousness and action, means to adhere to Him, to make present adequately His victory over the world, to work so that the content of faith becomes understanding and pedagogy of life, is the daily task of the believer, which must be carried out in every situation and environment in which they are called to live…."
Do we understand? Christ is at the center of history. Christianity is not merely history but also current affairs. God is in the world and open to our pleadings. If we can firstly nurture in ourselves a form of reason that allows for this possibility, everything else becomes possible too. There is no such thing as politics separated from reality, and no such thing as reality separated from Christ.