The Words of the Moffitt Family

The Wisdom Of John Paul II - Here Is A Book That Has The Jewels Of His Thoughts

Larry Moffitt
October 24, 2005
Editor, UPI Religion & Spirituality Forum

WASHINGTON, October 24 (UPI) -- WASHINGTON, Oct 24 (UPI) -- I am not especially conservative. Nor am I all that liberal, now that I think about it, although that side of the political spectrum has a certain appeal to my "inner James Dean." At closing time -- to both the right and the left -- I quote Romeo's friend Mercutio, who screamed as he took a sword in the gut, "a pox on both your houses." I am actually quite sick and tired of all political "solutions." To the degree that my disillusionment has made me an anarchist, it has also made me more humble to the truth wherever I find it.

I have surrendered somewhat.

Let truth come from the mouth of Rev. Billy Graham, quoting the Bible:

"If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Or Minister Louis Farrakhan, quoting the Qur'an:

"Whenever misfortune befalls the Believer, the Believer says, God is my patron and to Him is my eventual return."

Or Lenny Bruce, quoting himself:

"The only justice in the Halls of Justice, is in the halls."

I have never been a Roman Catholic, nor have I been antagonistic to that church. We have simply existed in amicable separate orbits for my whole life. I find this a little disconcerting since I like to think of myself as an affirmative seeker of wisdom. And if that's the case, then how could I be a 56-year-old seeker who shared the same cultural sphere with Pope John Paul II for more than a quarter century, without ever seriously looking into the man. If I overlook something that obvious and ripe for examination, what other important, but less noticeable things, have I overlooked as well?

I owe a debt of gratitude therefore, to Nick Bakalar and Richard Balkin for compiling the essence of the late pontiff's thinking into the book that sits on the corner of my desk this very minute, The Wisdom of John Paul II. The subtitle is The Pope on Life's Most Vital Questions.

That Pope John Paul II was a man of substance, there can be no doubt. The authors of this book suffered only in trying to decide what not to include -- something compilers of anthologies call "a happy problem." In his career as the most globe-trotting pontiff ever, His Holiness produced a library worth of letters, encyclicals, apostolic exhortations and speeches at sports stadiums, airports and from his Vatican window.

Though not a strict anti-abortionist myself, I find a lot of merit in John Paul II's attitude toward marriage and family, and in his criticisms of the popular culture. Regarding the former, he wrote:

"Above all, hold high the esteem for the wonderful dignity and grace of the sacrament of marriage. Prepare earnestly for it. Believe in the spiritual power which this sacrament of Jesus Christ gives to strengthen the marriage union and to overcome all the crises and problems of life together.

"Married people must believe in the power of the sacrament to make them holy. They must believe in their vocation to witness through their marriages to the power of Christ's love. True love and the grace of God can never let marriage become a self-centered relationship of two individuals, living side-by-side for their own interests."

It is the second paragraph that resonates most soundly with me. He speaks of the importance of using your passion, not to simply fulfill your own interests as a couple, but as a witness to God's love in creating marriage as a holy sacrament.

I think one of the reason's marriages fail is because they often don't stand for anything larger than being a couple and being married. "We're married because we love each other." That's not enough, except in the movies.

An individual's interests migrate over the years. Our bodies get old and our parts start to sag. Our remarks are no longer witty. The things that attract a young man and woman to each other in their 20s, simply evaporate and distort as they head on into middle age.

If attraction for the sake of attraction is what brought you together; and if the elements of that attraction fade (which they do); and if you remain together for the sake of the kids (who grow up and leave the nest) -- and if that's all the glue you have -- then marriages tend to end or simply settle into a joyless, tired, flat-line, mired in inertia until one of you dies.

Without a higher purpose, and I mean a substantially higher purpose, binding a couple together -- marriage is toast. That's what I hear in John Paul II's words on why marriage has to actively involve God.

The Wisdom of John Paul II: The Pope on Life's Most Vital Questions; Vintage Books (Random House) Vintage Spiritual Classics series; pp 150

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