Glimpses of the Magnificent: Reflections on the Life of John Paul II

Article excerpt

Any set of essays on the life of Pope John Paul II will capture only a fraction of this astounding man's story. When we contacted several of our editors and contributors for this symposium, we asked for a reflection on the late Pope's influence on the pro-life movement, "our" subject here. The result is the unique and thoroughly engaging series of responses which follow.

As my own brief offering, I would like to focus on how this great man bore his infirmities. Ellen Wilson Fielding writes that, as his health deteriorated, "his identification with those written off by advocates of 'quality of life' measures of human worth grew," and he "addressed the precarious position of the old, the handicapped and the seemingly useless more frequently and in more detail."

As the Pope grew increasingly impaired, even some of his friends in the press chastised him for not retiring-and yet he persisted to the end, working constantly. Though he was of sound (brilliant) mind, critics pointed out that his gait was slow, his words were slurred, his visage contorted. The world did not want to see the once handsome, virile man's painful and disfiguring struggles. An insidious effect of the culture of death is that it tries to hide death and suffering: the disabled are exterminated or "let die," suffering is declared meaningless, death sanitized. …