Two Popes, One leader

From the National Catholic Register. Very well-worth reading.

The new name fit John Paul’s larger-than-life presence. He was, in one iconic description, the “spark that flew forth from Poland to set fire to the whole world.” He rallied huge crowds of people as a bishop in Poland, and as Pope. In the images we remember, he is often driving through a sea of people in his popemobile, or standing in front of an ocean of faces with his arms raised.

Pope Benedict XVI’s name also fits his very different presence. He’s attentive and friendly, insistent but gentle, almost to the point of being shy. He is described as a bello spirito, a beautiful spirit. He will get used to the crowds, and they will love him, but it will be a new experience for them both.

The images that we might remember of Benedict’s first days as pope are the photos of him walking through the streets of Rome. He was visiting his old apartment while an appreciative cluster of people looked on, but the pictures make you realize that you can’t remember ever seeing John Paul walk along the streets of Rome.

And yet when humble, gentle Benedict appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s for the first time, young nuns in habits shrieked with glee. Young American seminarians pumped their arms in victory.

How is it possible that a reserved classical pianist who loves cats gets that kind of reception? How is it possible that young people in the 21st century were delirious with excitement to find out that the new Pope had taken the name of a fifth-century monk?

Pope John Paul II made it possible.

Read the whole thing. As I said before that JPII was the shepherd who brought in the herd…now, perhaps Benedict is the one who gets it healthy. H/T The Curt Jester.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://none JMC

    “JPII was the shepherd who brought in the herd; Benedict XVI is the one who will get it healthy.” I wonder if anyone, including that statement’s originator himself, has any idea how apt that statement is? I’m a real-life shepherd, and have had an experience when a fellow shepherd, forced to get rid of her sheep, brought them to us. Their fleeces were a ruin from lying on sandy ground with little grass. They were skin and bone, because this shepherd’s dire financial condition had left her unable to feed them properly. And they were skittish and nearly impossible to handle because the atmosphere of conflict at their former home had confused them so badly.

    It took us months of careful feeding. Just as you can’t give a starving human a full meal and expect him not to get sick from eating it, the same applies to a sheep. You have to start small, perhaps a handful of grain and hay at a time, several times a day, until the animal eventually can eat a full ration without ill effects. Two years later, those same animals were in prime condition and gave us show-winning fleeces.

    In the same vein, you can’t take a world that has so completely and utterly fallen away from God and expect it to embrace God’s law and will all at once. It’s going to take time. JPII started the work. Benedict XVI is continuing it. He probably won’t live long enough to finish it—not because of his current age, but because the task is so monumental.

    “The Holy Father will have much to suffer,” Our Lady of Fatima told the three children, almost 100 years ago. That, I believe, is the understatement of two centuries.