Saturday, April 2
I've just been told the Pope is dead. That he's been dead for an hour.
They say the soul doesn't always leave the body immediately after physical death. An hour or two might pass. But that's done with by now. He's in eternity.
I kept telling myself that this whole thing was just another false alarm, you know. Even yesterday I thought so. We get so anesthetized by the false starts and mistakes we pick up in the media. And there's something grotesque about just staring at a creen and watching continuous coverage; nothing ever changes until they release a new bulletin and the talking heads just weave arabesques of commentary around the old news until they've finally pounded it into our skulls. We're watching someone die on network television before our eyes. I'm not sure if that's more or less desensitizing. Maybe continuous coverage is a security blanket for us, when you can't stop thinking about it and so you get someone else to do it for you. It's the same with Terri Schiavo.
Yesterday they had CNN on in the student lounge, Fox in the study room, and EWTN in the auditorium up on the big screen. Every time they just say the same thing, and we're stuck in real-time limbo.
It's like junk food.
I don't know. You never know what to think about the death of holy men. You're not sure whether to pray for them to rest in peace or ask them to pray for you. That's the odd thing about death: we know him so well in life, from his work, from his prayer, from his suffering, but yet he can't know every one of us individually. But among the blessed he will be able to hear our own prayers, each and every one of them. Death brings universality.
I feel nervous, anxious, but, when I strip that all away, the mere physical impedimentia of emotion, I know what is meant to happen will happen; all we can do is pray for that, whatever it is. The truth is, I feel...ultimately I feel calm about it all, when you get rid of fear that crisis conditions always generate.
My friend Rich says, it's like the death of a father. We're more sorry for ourselves than him. We don't want to admit to it, I guess. We don't want to admit our heroes can die. Maybe it would seem like an admission of weakness, a willful ignorance of the nasty reality of Calvary. I was talking to an agnostic friend of mine this morning, and told her I felt resigned to all this. I said to her, "His whole life has been leading up to this moment." She sort of smiled, and agreed, that the Pope had indeed had a long, full life, but that's not quite what I meant. I meant exactly what I said: that his whole life was a dress rehearsal for when he comes before God's throne and God takes him into His arms and weeps for joy.
I'm sure this is a tough time for all of us. About all I can do right now is just get back to work; it's my way of coping with all this, and I hope that I too can offer it up as a prayer. I'll pray for him, though I don't know if he needs it. All I know is I need him to pray for me. We all do.
There's a song we love to sing round here, with tongue lodged half-way in our cheeks. Too triumphalist, too cocky. But I want to sing it now, as the Pope celebrates his birthday into heaven. And I am, perhaps for the first time in my life, 100% serious.
Long live the Pope!
His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time:
His throne the heart of men:
All hail! The Shepherd King of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
Let all the earth his glory sing
And heav’n the strain prolong.
By the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:
And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
He bears alone the Shepherd Staff,
The champion of the Lord.
John Paul, pray for me.