Local lessons from John Paul

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005

For the last several years, the world watched Pope John Paul II grow into a very old man, whose body was riddled by disease and suffering.

Gone were the days of the vigorous 58-year-old whose election to pope in 1978 stunned the world.

For several years, he was a man with a mission and he was on the go. Many of his predecessors stayed inside the walls of the Vatican and never went out to see the people they led.

Not John Paul II.

Instead of waiting for the world to come to him, he went to the world.

The pope, who in his own life, faced World War II Nazis, always championed the oppressed and the poor.

His moral values were unwavering even when the world evolved around him and ideologies changed.

He was a man of prayer and was reported to spend as many as seven hours a day in prayer.

One aide talked about how his knees were scarred from being on them so much in prayer.

Another said he often fell face down and prayed in that position on the floor as if he was unworthy to stand in the presence of God.

His personal axiom was &uot;Be not afraid!&uot; and he taught it everywhere he went.

To him it was simply why fear anything of this world when you believed God was on your side and you put your faith in him?

He apologized for his church’s past transgressions to other people around the world, and he was well loved in all denominations.

The Rev. Billy Graham said on Sunday that the world had lost a true holy man. Rather high praise from a non-Catholic who is thought to be holy himself.

In his later years, when he could have easily stepped aside and lived out his life in quiet reflection behind the walls of the Vatican, he trudged on.

Hands shaking with Parkinson’s Disease, back and shoulders bent with arthritis, he continued to teach the world on the value of the elderly.

So as the world sees the pictures of the pope, who even in death shows the strains of humanity’s suffering, remember the vigorous man who we first met in 1978.

Now he has left the world and many are pondering his legacy.

What will it be?

That’s simple.

His legacies are faith, strength, forgiveness, passion, and hope, love and peace and that idea that in God, &uot;Be not afraid.&uot;