March 31 - April 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 65
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CATHOLIC PewPOINT editorial for the weekend of March 31 - April 2, 2000

The Pope is a shoe-in for the Hallowed Hall of Fame.
And we're not talking Cooperstown!

        It's that time of year again! Soon we'll hear the hallowed words, "Play Ball!" While Girl Scouts are waiting for their cookie orders to arrive, the flowers are beginning to bloom and birds are chirping. Easter is three weeks away and it's time for baseball! Yes, Spring is here and the horsehide is in the air. Little leaguers and bobby soxers are grunting and groaning in getting in shape for the short season on the neighborhood diamonds. Major Leaguers are breaking camp, ushers and vendors going over last minute preparations, fans gearing up for Opening Day in major league ballparks across the country beginning Monday. The smell of peanuts and hotdogs will soon waft up from such enchanted shrines such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, as well as newer temples of the diamond; team stadia that have both sapped the taxpayer and reinvigorated the economy in urban areas that, prior to a ballpark being built, was an area of blight such as Cleveland, Denver and Baltimore. Others are going up as we write.

        At the same time older Catholic churches in many of these same cities are victims of changing times. Many are being forced to close their doors. Consequently beautiful statues, paintings, architecture, icons and sacramentals are being discarded as useless junk. How sad that few realize these traditions, considered junk by the "neo-Catholic rationalization," are truly treasures to all loyal Catholics. It brings to mind the meaning of Sunday's first reading from 2 Chronicles (Paralipomenon) 36: 14, 19 "...and they defiled the house of the Lord, which He had sanctified to Himself in Jerusalem...And the enemies set fire to the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burnt all the towers, and whatsoever was precious they destroyed."

        And it is the loyal Catholic contingent that realizes the gravity of the new architectural gurus who are turning our Catholic churches into stark, soul-less edifices that more resemble new age temples and gymnasiums than houses of God. Some of the new ballparks have more reverence than the modern churches! Contrast this to the beautiful old basilicas the Holy Father visited last week. Loyal Catholics everywhere had to have taken the greatest joy from the past week's events. After the euphoria of last week with the Holy Father's historic and memorable Papal Pilgrimage to the Holy Land as the main leg of his "Jubilee Journey" in search of Salvation History and retracing the footsteps of Jesus, we return to the reality of Lent and the need for penance and sacrifice. Loyal Catholics recognize the need for this and willingly comply as Jesus says in Matthew 9: 15, "But the days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they will fast." It is time to get back to the business of fasting in order to prepare for the feast of the Easter Triduum leading up to the Glorious Resurrection.

        Christ's Vicar on Earth John Paul II reemphasized this Mystery and the importance of the Savior in everyone's lives, not being afraid to bring up Our Lord in talks with the Jews and Muslims who do not recognized Jesus as the Son of God but merely a prophet. The Holy Father's words and actions echo the second reading this Sunday - Laetare Sunday - from Ephesians 2: 4-7, "But God Who is rich in mercy, by reason of His very great love where with He has loved us even when we were dead by reason of our sins, brought us to life together with Christ (by grace we have been saved), and raised us up together and seated us together in Heaven in Christ Jesus, that He might show in the ages to come the overflowing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." John Paul personified Christ everywhere he went. He opened the eyes of those Jews who were blind as Sunday's Gospel clearly affirms, "If this man were not from God, He could do nothing" (John 9: 33) and John 9: 40-41, "And some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this, and they said to Him, 'Are we also blind?' Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.'"

        Consider that, the very day after the Pope left the Holy Land, many Jews realized the Bishop of Rome was truly the man of God. They did 'see' for the first time. This was brought home in an incident Monday in which an Orthodox rabbi preached from the pulpit vitriolic insults against a political rival within the Jewish hierarchy. This only served to reinforce the stereotype of the Scribes and Pharisees and certainly caused many children of the Covenant to consider the stark contrast between the gentle, meek Sovereign Pontiff who preached what Jesus Christ had conveyed nearly two millenniums ago - the New Covenant theme of brotherhood and mercy, forgiveness and repentance - and the harshness of the Old Covenant toughness that brought visages of an angry God Who was vengeful. Don't think the stark contrast was not lost on many, many Jews for the difference is John Paul II practices what he preaches. No exceptions! He is the servant of servants and carries that out just as Another did 2000 years ago! Thomas a Kempis wrote the inspiring work "Imitation of Christ." Pope John Paul II, the 264th successor of Peter and leader of the Roman Catholic Church for nearly the past 22 years is the Imitation of Christ!

        We all realize that, like Jesus trudging slowly up Calvary, the Holy Father is in his twilight years. In just over six weeks he will turn 80 years old, a time that, were he still Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, he would no longer be eligible to vote in the Sacred Conclave. Perhaps his stamina, his devotion, his dedication, his clear thinking might cause the Holy See's Canonical Lawyers to rethink the 80 year-old rule for cardinals. Consider Cardinal John J. O'Connor who turned 80 a few months ago on January 15th. Despite recent brain surgery, his thinking and actions very clearly and cohesively show he is still very competent even though physically he suffers. Consider the Archbishop of Washington Cardinal James Hickey who also will turn 80 on October 11th. He has shown no signs of slowing down. He has been a God-send to the See in the nation's capitol and good for the Church as well. Why should he be put out to pasture? Consider Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales, Archbishop of the sprawling Ardiocese of Rio de Janeiro, who masterminded the successful "alternative carnival observance" this year which brought thousands together to pray rather than to prey on others in lustful, slothful fashion. He turns 80 on November 8th. Believe us, he is not over the hill but very much active in the Church and would seemingly have many miles left.

        While the Pope is expected to call a Consistory sometime later this year to appoint new cardinals to bring the quota up, we're sure he has considered encouraging a provision in Canon Law that would allow those prelates of sound mind and spirituality to be allowed to continue their active membership in the College of Cardinals. After all, their minds and hearts are sound; if they are a bit slow in getting around, well, that's why they have wheel chairs. In this age of high-tech inventions, Rome could use these innovations to its advantage and preserve the spiritual mind-set of many sound minds whose bodies are deteriorating but not their hearts and minds or determination to do what's right for Holy Mother Church. We understand the Sistine Chapel is already equipped for handicapped ramps and, with the newest wheeled vehicle for the Pope unveiled late last year, which speeds him up the long aisles of St. Peter's and Paul VI Hall, wheels would seem to be the natural answer to longevity for Popes and Cardinals. It's a thought to roll over in your mind! They say invention is the mother of necessity and the invention of wheeled chariots for older citizens has added to their lifespan and mobility. In this time of spring, when the Holy Father is in the autumn of his years, he has once again managed to melt the cold winter of apathy and resistance in the troubled territory known as the Holy Land. Because of that we can look forward to warmer relations in the summer of brotherhood and understanding because of the seeds planted by the Sovereign Pontiff. Truly, Pope John Paul II is a man for all seasons!

        Like the annual sentiments of every major league baseball team breaking camp in spring training and the pennant dreams of every fan cheering for their favorite team, hope springs eternal this time of year. But Hope, the threshold of which the Holy Father has invited all to cross with him in this new millennium, has never been higher chiefly because of the many, many fruits manifested by this Holy Pontiff over the years. He won't be in any major league lineup on opening day, but there's no one we'd rather have as a pinch hitter anytime in the game of life. After twenty-one and a half years of tenure as the Vicar of Christ, and forty-two as a prelate, and fifty four in the profession of the priesthood, the Pope is a shoe-in for the Hallowed Hall of Fame. And we're not talking Cooperstown!

Michael Cain, editor

For previous editorials this year, go to PAST CATHOLIC PewPOINTS

March 31 - April 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 65

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