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April 02, 2005


Hello amy,

I think we will be decades if not centuries unpacking all that John Paul II taught us.

I commented earlier on the the difference between the images of the youtful John Paul II and the decrepit one of recent years. The young one is the one I still think of, the one I want to think of; the old one is the one where the music box has stopped playing, so to speak. Except it never did. In a way the John Paul who made a witness of his suffering is even more stirring than the energetic, buoyant one who took the world by storm in 1978-1981. He taught us how to live as Christians. And die as well. In modern times we'd forgotten too often how to do either.

John Paul did indeed fulfill a crucial promise of the Council: he made the decisive move, begun in small steps under Paul VI, to pull the Church out of its Mediterranean carapace (however glorious it was) and truly internationalize it.

One can argue, as even Lutheran Council observer George Lindbeck has, that the Council Fathers were perhaps overly optimistic in their confidence that there was much good in the modern world and the Church's ability to cope with it. The Church opened the windows to the world at the precise moment the world went mad, as some have observed; and it was small surprise that aggiornamento came to mean something far more radical to many reformers in the Church than what John XXIII or most other Council Fathers had in mind, which is no doubt why so many who are so enthusiastic about "vatican II" are usually the most vociferous in calling for a Vatican III, realizing deep down that the Council really didn't really do what they thought it did or should have. As a result a lot more of the world was let in during the years of Paul's reign than how much of the Church made it out.

On the whole, John Paul II struck an impressive balance in recovering what the Council was really all about, no matter how much the theologians screamed.

He will be a tough act to follow.

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