Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Michael Sean Winters Wants JPII Canonized, Because Old. And Sick.

John Paul II Blessing Fr. Maciel Several Months Before Pope's Death

Michael Sean Winters is really, really certain Pope John Paul II should be canonized.

Because old. And because sick.

And: "'We are the Church' is the kind of leftie group that gives me the heeby-geebies."

You know what gives me the herby-geebies? Glorifying a pope's legacy simply because he became old and sick--as everyone else in the world does, given enough time.

From my perspective, how John Paul aged was precisely a distillation of his legacy: his visage as he aged became angrier and angrier, as if he could not contain his rage that the church he'd tried to whip into shape--into his shape, his configuration--failed to cooperate. I've been around elderly, infirm people throughout my life who aged gracefully and became models to me of what is possible in any human life, of the ability to handle with dignity straitened circumstances, pain, the inevitable diminution of strength that accompanies age.

I saw none of this in a pope who, throughout his long papacy, struck me constantly as angry and imperious, and who seemed to become only angrier and more imperious as he aged. John Paul II as a model of growing old gracefully?

If this is our reason for canonizing John Paul, then let's expand the list and include the many real saints all around us who have handled advanced age and infirmity with grace and dignity. Like my maternal grandmother Hattie, whose Irish grudge-keeping mellowed definitively as she grew old, and who beamed with love in her final years, so that a squirrel watching her as she sat under her fig tree in the final year of her life began to trust her enough to come and eat from her hand. 

Or my beloved aunt Kat, who never uttered a single word of complaint after we had to make the dreadful decision to place her in a care facility as one small stroke after another impaired her. Who spent the last months of her life fully aware, mentally sharp, but paralyzed down one side of her body, asking questions about how other family members were doing as she lay confined in bed. And who squeezed my hand in the moments she lay dying, to tell me that I was not to worry or grieve, she'd be fine.

Lots of people grow old. Lots of people struggle with ill health as they age. And many of them handle these inevitable realities of the human condition with a grace and dignity that challenge the rest of us in profound ways. If this is the sole reason MSW can proffer to see his hero-pope canonized, then I say, Let's canonize more grandmothers and spinster aunts and other aging family members who set standards for growing old gracefully that humanize entire families.

Let's canonize aging family members who admit and lament the misery they've inflicted on others as they face death--something I don't recall JPII ever doing. Not even once. Though the list of those to whom he caused considerable pain is quite considerable . . . . 

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