“Unless the trumpet blast is strong and clear, few will follow.” This scriptural admonition given to angels and prophets sent to do God’s bidding describes the life and legacy of Blessed Pope John Paul II.
His trumpet blast as the Vicar of Christ began on the portico of St. Peter’s on October 22, 1978 with the clarion call, “Be not afraid! Open the doors to Christ!” His twenty-six years as the universal shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church were a continual trumpet blast of God’s truth, love and justice. Many heard the blast and faithfully followed his proclamation that Jesus Christ was the singular response to the world’s problems. His witness to Christ called young and old, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian, to build a more just society and a better world.
The hallmark of his pontificate was his teaching on the civilization of love that was grounded in a culture of life. This love knows no bounds and excludes none of God’s children as each is made in his image and likeness. The dignity bestowed upon humanity by God, Blessed John Paul often taught and preached, can never be violated by violence, indifference, materialism, or hatred. This core belief in the dignity of the human person was passionately preached in his message against the growing anti-life forces at work in the world. Contraception, abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, and unjust war all met the wrath of his trumpet blast as he derided the culture of death and advanced the culture of life. As the Holy Father, he loved all his children like a parent, never cowering from a challenge yet never failing to embrace them all with compassion and love.
Blessed Pope John Paul once remarked that, “the powerful people of this world don’t always like a pope like me.” Yet to the powerless he was their champion who heralded Christ’s call to build the kingdom of God. Whether he was in the presence of peasants or princes, Blessed John Paul vigorously defended the right to life of the weak and vulnerable most especially the unborn, the terminally ill, the poor and even the condemned prisoner. His passion for the civilization of love included a harsh critique of the unbridled capitalism that was slave to materialism and greed that too often neglected the world’s poor.
The church rejoices as he is now deservedly beatified and now begins his journey to official sainthood. The Polish Pope led a life of both gift and mystery as he traversed the globe evangelizing the masses who gathered to cheer him and hear him. Blessed Pope John Paul was an athlete, an actor, a poet, a philosopher, a playwright, a theologian, a priest, a pastor, a bishop and a pope. His prolific writings continue to guide and influence the church as even in death he continues to proclaim the truth of the Gospel.
No other pope in history has canonized as many saints or beatified as many blesseds as Blessed Pope John Paul II. This was his legion of heroes and heroines who had lived lives based on building a civilization of love and gave witness to the faith with zeal, holiness and passion. They are the bellicose Christians who blasted the trumpet in an effort to do God’s bidding on earth. Blessed John Paul II also blasted the trumpet of God throughout his life and we pray that he soon join the saintly legion as Saint John Paul the Great. Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us.