Earlier this week it looked like the media was going to take over the airwaves with coverage of the Pope in Cuba, but we suspect the only reason many of the networks set up shop in Cuba in the first place was not so much to cover the Pope and record what he had to say, but their rare opportunity to get inside Cuba - the first time in 39 years and report on political and social aspects. Perhaps they didn't cover the Pope once he let it be known America had better let up on their embargo - that it was dehumanizing and not in keeping with God's Will. One of the problems is that it is a group of Cubans in Miami who, politically motivated and out of an intense hatred for Fidel Castro and his communist regime, continue to maintain a strong lobby in Washington, D.C. The group is known as the Cuban American National Foundation, the same group who pressured Archbishop John Favalora to cancel a planned pilgrimage cruise to Havana. The Archbishop countered by sponsoring a one-day pilgrimage one-day flight for the Holy Father's final Mass in Plaza de Revolution Sunday. There, before over 300,000 Cubans, including Castro himself, John Paul II hammered home the need for freedom of religion as the Communist dictator sat in the first row looking somewhat sheepishly, but trying to smile through it all. As he bid his farewells to the Pope on the tarmac before John Paul II boarded Air Italia for his return to Rome, there was almost a hint of regret he was leaving and a touch of humility on the part of Castro. But looks can be deceiving. Now prayer has to take over. It was at this same Plaza, where atheism had been spewed countless times over the last thirty some years, that the last Mass was held - in 1959 with Castro promoting it and the people solidly behind him. After all, he had conquered the vile Batista who had suppressed so many. But it would be only a matter of time before the blood-red sickle would cover this island and stifle any further progress. Thousands would flee to the closest port - Miami. Much like what we have been told how the antichrist will take power, so did Castro. We should learn from history so that it doesn't repeat itself.
The beauty of our present pontiff is he will not compromise, but always speak out what Christ truly wants. No matter the country, no matter the political intrigue or consequences, the Holy Father is probably the only man in the world who cannot be censored. Praise God. Another interesting fact: when most senior citizens over 70 travel, which is usually infrequently, it is in the lap of luxury most often on a cruiseship where, after a game or two of shuffleboard, they're bushed and retire to a deck chair for the day, then supper and retire early. Contrast that to another senior citizen at 77 years old who is truly a globetrotter. He doesn't play shuffleboard, that we know of, doesn't lounge in a deck chair, or opt for the easy life of a cruise. Instead he challenges the time zones and jet lags, is on his feet for innumerable hours from morning to night, always in the magnifying glass of the media scrutiny, composing, writing, consulting, and praying. He is constantly in demand with very little time to rest, yet always finding time for prayer. Does anyone know of any 77-year old who can maintain this pace day-in-day-out? Only one that we know of - John Paul II. Yet the media - fueled by Catholic bashers and modernists - will jump on his case that he is too feeble, his voice wavering, his left hand shaking. Well, excuse us, but get a life!!! We challenge any of them - from Morley Safer to David Brinkley to Mike Wallace, even that curmudgeon Peter Jennings to try to keep up that kind of pace. We doubt even Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw, let alone younger telejournalists like Wolf Blitzer, Katie Couric, et al could keep up with that type of rigorous schedule. This editor, in four trips overseas over the last seven years (three to Medjugorje, one to Rome) felt the jet-lag and was less than up-to-par the day after trying to get the ol' body clock movin'. Yet this jet-setting saint of a pontiff does it constantly, powered by the nourishment of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement of the Blessed Mother of God. It's the only way anyone could keep up that pace.
Maybe if we all relied more on the fuel from above and less on our own stubborn temporal diets, we could all perform better, find more time for prayer, and live healthier, longer lives. Let's quit worrying so much about the body and the fact this food item or that could cause cancer, and start worrying more about the salvation of souls. Let's start buy into the fact that the more we pray, the greater our chances of living forever no matter what we eat because a soul cannot consume or digest edibles - only intangibles...like eternity! Maybe if we start living healthy lives in that manner, our example will contribute to more souls realizing that America has finally had it with all the junk-food garbage we're being fed by the media!
His first duty as new pontiff was to appease both King Henry VI who had been waiting outside the gates of Rome for approval from Clement. Now, with a new Bishop of Rome in charge, Henry renewed his efforts, seeking an audience with Celestine. After being assured of Henry's loyalty and guarantees to Holy Mother Church, Celestine officially crowned him Emperor. Now Henry was heading for southern Italy to unite Sicily, but before he left he realized he needed the support of the Romans who were not in his corner. The coup de gras for Henry was to give them permission to sack Tusculum without retaliation by him or his troops. It was carte blanche to do whatever they liked and they fell at his feet in adulation as they sharpened their swords for the attack on their hated neighbor. But Henry's road to victory in Sicily would not be so easy since the self-proclaimed King Tancred pulled a trump card and stole away Henry's wife Constance. To top that off Henry's troops were falling by the thousands to the plague, devastating his military strength. Rather than march right into Tancred's trap in an effort to rescue his wife, Henry played a fatal game of chess - capturing the pawn - the fabled Richard the Lion-Heart who, having returned from the crusades was with Leopold in Austria. Henry's few remaining healthy men snuck in and bound Richard, stealing him away for the purpose of offering this valuable crusader and future king to Tancred in exchange for his wife, Constance. Since Richard was a crusader, he was automatically protected by the Church and the Pope. But Celestine, not a military man, had little recourse for Henry, his supposed ally, had the upper hand and he could not turn to Tancred without raising the further ire of Henry. In short, he was caught in a pickle. But in the Springtime of 1194, Tancred died, Henry and Constance were reunited, Richard was freed and returned to England and Celestine breathed easier. The following Christmas, Henry and Celestine reconciled and the former was crowned once again - this time emperor of Sicily at Palermo. But Henry, always the crafty, deceitful one, worked constantly behind Celestine's back to denigrate the Pope and dividing the bishops by his attempts to meddle in Church affairs in Sicily. Celestine again, both because he was powerless and he was a man of peace, declined to do anything but pray. But when Henry needed something, he went to the Holy Father as if nothing had happened. Such was the case when he wanted the Pope himself to baptize his new-born son Frederick. To convince the Pope, Henry suggested organizing a crusade, something dear to the hearts of pontiffs during these times. Remembering the tactics of Henry from past encounters, Celestine was reluctant but realizing the need for one, agreed to it, capitalizing on Henry's military prowess. The Pope dispatched missionaries and delegatesto preach support for the newest crusade in England, Germany and other nations of Christian Europe. Celestine, in his old age was a wise man equal to Henry's cunning and he used delay tactics to stall Henry and the baptism, telling him once the crusade was formed he would fulfill the emperor's request. When Henry returned to Rome in June of 1196, Celestine cleverly held him at bay and demanded that the emperor clear up such problems as encroachment on papal territories and his incarceration of some bishops who were loyal to the Pope in Sicily. Henry hemmed and hawed, but impatient to fulfill his quest, agreed to renounce all the disputed territories and free the bishops. He also added a clause where the Church would receive financial income from the major cathedrals in exchange for his ruling. Celestine realized the Church would lose its independence in this matter and again stalled the emperor. Time was on his side as he was well aware that Henry's constituents in Germany and Sicily were growing less and less favorable toward a heridtary monarchy. Frustrated and growing old, Henry returned to Messina where he died on September 28, 1197. With his death and a vacancy in the crown, Celestine immediately undertook the task of recovering all the lands Henry had confiscated in central Italy. To solidify this he made a pact with the anti-imperial Tuscan league of Italy so that the emperor could never again do what Henry IV had done.
While Celestine was a patient and moderate pontiff, he ran into an impatient factor with other countries of Europe such as the skirmish between England and France. The latter forced Celestine's hand when King Philip II Augustus threatened all English possessions and territory in France. Celestine had already annulled Philip's first marriage, but when the French king remarried it did not sit well with the Pope. In addition his special legate to England William of Ely was not popular in the least and this hurt both his image, his popularity, the Church's stature and effectiveness in the British Isles. Farther south in Spain - the Iberian peninsula to be exact - he did all in his power to reunite the Christian princes against the forces of Islam in an effort to recover stolen Spanish territory and in an effort to prevent the Muslims from stealing in the backdoor, so-to-speak, which, in effect, would have cornered Europe on both sides. In Rome Celestine was an adept administrator who streamlined papal treasury department with the help of his trusted chamberlain Cardinal Cencio Savelli. As the years wore on, rumors of his health and age circulated among the people much as the media tries to manipulate today regarding John Paul II's health and age. Celestine went so far as to offer to step down if the cardinals would accept Savelli as his successor. They declined and so did Celestine, staying on until God decided it was time to take him home on January 8, 1198. It would be left to the next pope to take the Church into the thirteenth century and Savelli would not become Pope for eighteen more years, but he would become Pope for the cardinals finally accepted him as we shall see in future installments.
Next installment: Pope Innocent III An productive Pope brings the Church successfully into the next century.
To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.
How about heaven and hell? If you could really see hell in all its horror with the eyes of your face and not the eyes of your faith, you wouldn’t go anywhere near sin for the rest of your life. Hell is mentioned 57 times in the Bible; we know the reality of it, but do we have to see it to believe it? How much do you believe in hell? What chances do you take with your salvation? That will tell you something about how much you believe what God has revealed.
Heaven, hell; the sheep, the goats; the right, the left; the split. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that if you do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the invalid, then "Depart from me ye cursed into the everlasting flames of hell…" If we neglect to do it to one of the least of these, we neglect to do it unto Him. We say we believe all that, but what do we do in terms of living that belief? Do I believe it? Do I really believe it? Do I act as if I believe it? These three questions in sequence of intensity can be asked about any revealed truth (doctrine).
Let’s look at heaven, a more positive focus. In Colossians 1:5 we have a statement of secondary faith: "You are looking forward to the joys of heaven and you have been ever since the gospel was first preached to you." In Colossians 3:1-4 Paul says "since you’ve become alive again—been born again—now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where He sits beside God in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts, let your conversation be in heaven. Don’t spend your time worrying about things down here." That last sentence alone, from Scripture, could really transform our lives!
Now listen to the next sentence. "You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person has. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God. When Christ, who is our real life, comes back to earth, you will shine with him and share in all his glories." What does money mean to a dead millionaire? There are no pockets in a shroud. He looks back on all that money and it’s like ashes. I don’t care where he is on the other side of eternity, that money is useless to him. People may he fighting for it here and now but in his mind and for the rest of eternity that money is trash. And most of the things it buys are trash unless he used it to help the poor, feed the hungry. As a tool, as a means for helping people and to sustain life on earth for himself, it had worth. Paul says don’t worry about things down here, and have as little desire for the things of the world as a dead person does. That statement carries a secondary faith content.
Do we do that in our lives? Paul says that anyone who clings to this life as if it were the only thing that matters is a person that needs to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:19). The worldly person is really a twisted and warped individual. But how easy it is to become worldly! We wouldn’t think of giving up that favorite television program. We must have that new car. It is very easy to get caught up in materialism to the point where we become ungenerouswith the missions, the poor, the starving. It doesn’t make much impression on some that there are 40,000 people dying of starvation every day, as long as they get their three square meals a day. It is frightfully easy to lose perspective through materialism. Thus, if we have a weak secondary faith in the revealed Word of God about worldliness, it would reflect a weak primary faith in God who revealed it.
Next Installment: Measuring Maturity it does no good to worry!