06 May 2011

Karol Wojtyla

Karol Wojtyła

What can NOT be this guy. This, yes, priest. Ambassador. Man. Leader. Servant.

Holy man.

Isn't it he who called us to the call Our Lord already gave us: a call to holiness? Yes. Yes he is. I wish I was better read on him. He had SO many amazing things to say, so many things I wish I could have been the one to say, strength that chokes me to my core that I still don't have, courage of a great king. Now I guess I can see how a kingdom can weep at the loss of their king. In so many ways, Pope John Paul II was the best kind of king. The kind of king who knows how to employ the position he was granted, the kind of king who radiates love, joy, warmth among his subjects, the kind of king who knows that being the greatest lord over his subjects is being their greatest servant. Think about it.

That being said, I have a very good feeling that it would be mortifying to call him that. I am quite sure, as pivotal and legendary as his presence has been over twenty-three years, and probably more given that men like this don't just jump into the scene in some kind of random political shot (I wonder what his college mates would have to say about him), that he would have never considered himself kingly at all. In fact, based on what little I've read about his life, his youth was very afflicted with his mother's death, his brother's death, and dodging death during the Nazi occupation of his native Poland (I gravely simplify here.)

But I got to see him in 1997, when millions of young people were in Paris, France for the World Youth Day. His bullet-proof "Pope Mobile" passed by us twice and he was so close I could feel light. I was so unexpectedly overcome with emotion that I nearly missed taking a picture, the few that I have of that day so precious to me that I stuck them in an 8-page photo album with no other photos. Even at that age, I was not easily star-struck. I had been to a few rock concerts, passed Billy Cosby at Universal Studios in California, rubbed elbows with a few Hells Angels in South Dakota, and smiled as my dad recounted that Dennis Hopper came through town and almost brought his bike into his shop to have a look at it. I had even followed enough movie stars in magazines to be disenchanted with the whole Hollywood lot. I have just never easily been impressed--like truly, inside-my-chest exploding impressed. But the amazing metaphysical exchange I felt in Paris has never left.

His life echoed the lives of the saints, the ones called Doctors of the Church (St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, to name a few) and based his mission on the Law of Love, being that we are all under whether or not we accept it, it is true that the closer you are to Love Itself (the pure love that is God), the more you deny yourself and move through cycles of rejecting earthly things, from the basic to even the more complicated, like human attachments, imbalance even in prayer, etc. (And it has to be in cycles--or stages--because a loving god isn't going to just make you chop off your whole life like your right arm. He gives us the space of our lives to learn how to do it in trials we can handle because, get this, He respects our free will.)

And Jesus himself talked about being a servant at the Last Supper. He surprised all the disciples by washing their feet (a servant's job, and a gross one at that) and instructed them to do the same. In the tradition of teachers (rabbis) mastering the Law of Moses and gaining followers who liked their way of teaching, teachers of the Jewish faith had a certain status and were not expected, least of all, to wash someone's muddy feet. They were probably more likely to get their feet washed by the person hosting the party. Well, the servant of that person.

In addition, he said "no servant is greater than he who sent him [the master], nor is he who is sent greater than the one who sent him." This has always seemed a little wordy to me, but in layman's terms, Jesus was telling them a simple truth: no worker is bigger than his boss