Karpas - Why John Paul Chose Benedict
When the last election for Pope was announced I was dubious, skeptical, uncertain of the choice made. I am not Roman Catholic but like many Christians around the world I came to realize over time the enormous positive influence John Paul had upon Christendom and upon the affairs of the world as a whole. It had also, by the time of the death of John Paul Magnus, come to be my realization that the Pope, no matter whether one was Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, could be the de facto representative of all Christians, if he behaved in a manner befitting a Great Pope. That is to say, John Paul had made a Papist out of me, even though I am not a Roman Catholic. Because John Paul had visibly and personally demonstrated to me what a Real Pope is supposed to look like, how he is supposed to behave, and how Christendom might really be represented if a man had truly determined himself upon holiness as a personal and spiritual goal. John Paul was a Saint during the course of most of his life, not a perfect man of course, but a True Saint in the broadest sense of the term, both personally and institutionally. He was also a Saint in the old sense, in the ancient sense. Like a Saint Francis or a Saint Peter or a Saint Nicholas. The kind they rarely make anymore, but that the world sure could use a lot more of.
So when I later learned that John Paul had talked to the future Benedict before his death, and had told his old friend Ratzinger that if offered the post of Pope he should accept it, I began to feel much, much better. That this new Pope would be less likely a move away from God and rather a move towards a different expression of God. For John Paul and Joseph had been old friends, brothers in the cloth, and Co-Communicants of a form of modern saintliness developed from a lifetime of absorption in divine things and human suffering. John Paul, like many Saints of old was possessed of a not totally unique, but definitely nevertheless rare spiritual gift, the ability to look into the hearts of his fellow men and discern what lay within, good and ill. And where that would likely lead in the future. He looked at the Cardinal and saw three things, an old brother and friend in Christ, a basically good and humble man devoted to God and service to the world, and the makings of one helluvah new Pope. The kind that gives one helluvah problem to the problem of Hell, and Hell on Earth. And that’s sure as hell okay by me.
Now, Benedict is no cross-country skier, he doesn’t woo and wow the crowds with his rock style oratory, he isn’t much on the one step, stand-up punch line. He’s more of the old time Rock of Ages guy, he’s a Requiem Mass, a mystery of the Virgin Mary man in an age of Madonna inspired Pop Kaballah, and Scientology wig-outs on Oprah shows. But the man has what it takes in the lurch, the ability to speak the will of God and the Grace of God and the forgiveness and universal brotherhood of God while still demonstrating by action and idea that there are some things God just doesn’t really care for very much. And is not very well impressed by. And is not willing to tolerate. Like the murder of innocent people over cartoons and speechmaking.
Being a Christian is no easy task. The Role Model is an impossibly hard act to follow. Cause he’s just that good at what he does. You don’t get vacations or time off for good behavior, good behavior comes with the territory, as much as you can possibly muster over as large a swath of territory as you can reach, anyway. It doesn’t pay much and costs a lot sometimes, though the retirement benefits are pretty darn good. (However I sometimes have the disconcerting feeling that we Christians are gonna be mightily surprised when after death we are told by God as he rubs his hands and smiles enigmatically, “Okay kiddies, glad you’re finally warmed up, now let’s really get to work!”) The hours are excessive, eternity is a mighty long time, the work ain’t easy, and sometimes, a lot of times depending on where you live and how much guts you have, it’s downright lethal. A lot is expected of you, the responsibilities are writ large, the demands are constant, and it’s not for the weak of heart, mind, body, soul, or spirit.
I imagine that’s doubly or triply so for a Pope, a Patriarch, a Pastor, a Preacher, a Candlemass Maker, or just any old Christian who decides to throw his Faith into the public arena. To enter the Circus Maximus of modern life that we call human society. Somebody is gonna decide they want to crawl as deep up your rectum as they figure they can fit to get a good look at whether you’re really passing off the Bread of Life or just any old horseshit that you’re trying to pawn as manna. But then again that’s life, ain’t it? A Real Man works from his soul, God reads the soul, and the world wonders if there really is such a thing, and if there is, how much can you sell it for?
And you can’t blame the curious for wondering either. If I saw a man promising eternal life and all it cost was to surrender your soul, I’d wanna investigate too. As a matter of fact I have, and at one time or another I’ve found men selling Blue Sky and Soap Bubbles, and at others times I’ve run across men who reached inside of me, plucked out my heart, and said, “Here kid, it ain’t much but if you’re serious God will sell you the whole farm for nothing more than this. But then you gotta bury this deep and see what will grow, if anything. The soil is good so if you push up anything worth keeping go ahead and give it away. That’s the way we do things around here.” And they were right of course, it ain’t much to pay considering what you purchase, and might possibly even produce, but when it’s all you got you tend to take a shine to the devil you already know. That’s neither here nor there I guess, and if you’re God it’s pert’n’near everywhere I reckon, but I mention it to illustrate this point, it seems to me that from what I’ve seen so far Benedict is just that kind of heartless. That is, God has his already. And He’s not giving it back apparently, and I’m not sure Benedict would want the old model anyway. How you gonna keep em down on the Farm God when they’ve seen a way to Thee?
You know the thing that’s strange about the way Christ invests in a man, and something I mean to ask him about one day is, “you take a fella who should amount to nothing, reshape him into something acceptable, and then constantly remind him he’s a nobody again just so he can be of use to everybody else.” I see where you’re coming from well enough, and even how well it works, but Good Lord Almighty, you’ve got to go bankrupt first before you even make a dime. To which I guess he’ll reply, “Jack, if I’d done it your way then you’d have kept your own soul on the cheap and lost the world for nothing. And what does it profit a man to save his own soul and yet lose the whole World?”
I guess that’s a question above my paygrade. Above Benedict’s paygrade come to that. Ours is not to wonder why, ours is this, to do in life. People bigger and smarter than us plan the party; we just dance the tune, even if some of us are tone-deaf and rhythmically challenged. Nevertheless from what I’ve seen so far I’m a liking this Papa Bene. He’s okay by me. I’ll be praying for ya Papa. Give em Heaven for me, will ya? And keep the change. You’ve earned it.
© JWG, Jr. 2006