February 10, 2005


Victim Soul: What Pope John Paul II is teaching us through his suffering. (Peggy Noonan, February 10, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

His suffering is his witness. It has a purpose. It is telling us something. Yesterday, in thinking about this and remembering that audience, I called the great writer and thinker Michael Novak. He thought aloud for me. St. Therese of Lisieux, he reminded me, believed her suffering could help others. She would take her moments of pain or annoyance or sadness and offer them to God, believing that they became united with God's love, united that is with something infinitely powerful which works always for the betterment of man. She would ask God to take her suffering and use it to help the missionaries of the world. She knew, Mr. Novak said, what Dostoevsky knew: there's a kind of web around the world, an electric web in which we're all united in suffering and in love. When you give to it what you have, you add to the communion of love all around the world. Therese was a Carmelite. Mr. Novak spoke of George Weigel's observation that the pope has a Carmelite soul, a soul at home with the Carmelite tradition of everyday mysticism.

What should the pope's suffering tell us? Several things, said Mr. Novak. He is telling us it is important in an age like ours to honor the suffering of the old and the infirm. He wants us to know they have a place in life and a purpose. He not only says this; he lives it. He was an actor as a youth; he teaches by doing and showing, by being. His suffering is a drama he is living out quite deliberately. John Paul stands for life, for all of life. He wants to honor what the world does not honor.

But why, I said, does God allow this man he must so love to be dragged through the world in pain? He could have taken him years ago. Maybe, said Mr. Novak, God wants to show us how much he loves us, and he is doing it right now by letting the pope show us how much he loves us. Christ couldn't take it anymore during his passion, and yet he kept going.

Which reminded me of something the pope said to a friend when the subject of retirement came up a few years ago: "Christ didn't come down from the cross." Christ left when his work was done.

Fitting that two of the great men of the 20th Century--the Pope and Ronald Reagan--have taught us as much in the dignity of their departures as they did in their lives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 10, 2005 2:17 PM
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