Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) – A Study in Courage

by: Ricardo Liong

Pope John Paul II, the third longest reigning pontiff, served his 26th year as St. Peter’s successor and the head of the Catholic Church. The picture of the 84 year old pontiff, who could hardly stand, celebrating mass with drooping head and trembling hand had projected a familiar image to television viewers around the world. This image provoked many comments such as “Pity the old man, why doesn’t he slow down or even retire? Some cynics remarked: “What is he trying to prove?”
Yes, he did not need to prove anything but his actions continuously reminded us: Do not be afraid!
Do not be afraid of suffering.
The Pope showed the world that suffering forms a part of our life. Fully aware of the sufferings around – from the sickness and hunger in the third world to the pains of moral decay and family breakdown in the rich countries – he epitomized the courage to suffer both in performing his duties as the supreme leader of the Church and as a human being. He bore it with dignity and without complaint. There is nothing shameful in bearing the sufferings of injustice, exploitation and poverty as well as those of sickness and old age.
Do not be afraid of living.
On many occasions, the Pope reminded us that life represents a gift from God. Every morning brings a new day of hope and we should be thankful to the Author of Life. Always fighting against the “culture of death,” he urged us to value life regardless of our circumstances. Fulfilling our duties demand us to live our lives to its fullest no matter how difficult it is.
Do not be afraid of old age.
Old age is a blessing from God. Our present world places extreme premium on youth and beauty, thus many are tempted to keep their sick and aging parents away from the public eyes. The Pope was not afraid to show the true picture of an old man, i.e. with all his frailties, sickness and infirmities. That is how your parents will look. And that is how you will also look if God will grant you additional years of life.
Do not be afraid to trust God.
The whole life of Pope Paul John reflected someone who entrusted himself wholly to God. From his early struggle in his native totalitarian Poland to the time when the assassin’s bullet hit him, he maintained his inner peace –a peace that can only come from his total trust in God. He showed no anxieties over the constant danger faced on his over 100 global trips, his surgical operations and the dreaded Parkinson disease.
Do not be afraid of death.
As every one of us will pass this inevitable stage, the Pope showed us the Christian way of facing this threshold with calmness, hope, and dignity. With our faith on the Resurrection of Christ, death is but only the passage to an eternal life with God.

About The Author

Ricardo Liong, a freelance writer based in Hong Kong, regularly contributes to WWW.Tsinoy.com and church’s newsletters.

This article was posted on August 28, 2005