Monday, April 21, 2008

Pope's Visit More than Intellectual

In the next few days, hundreds will reflect on the words of the Pope, the significance of his teachings, and the personal interaction that he had with thousands of men and women, young and old, some of whom travelled all the way across the country just to catch a glimpse of him in person. Perhaps these reflections will be light or serious, critical or favorable. They will inevitably portray the Pope as a man of peace and justice, nouns which in some circles are capitalized in reference to him.

Yet, all these reflections will fall far short of the full impact the Pope's visit had on the United States. Nothing was surprising about the Pope's visit. He said what we expected him to say, likely to the dismay of some (*ahem* Jenkins *ahem*). Most of the material for his speeches was taken from his previous two encyclicals and other writings, for truly, it gets to a such a point that one man cannot say anything he hasn't said before. He was reverent and expressed his great love for this democratic republic as well as his concern for Americans in an increasingly secular world. To reflect on these things, therefore, will prove to be helpful, yes, but overly redundant.

Instead, it was the very presence of this great man, the Vicar of Christ--and therefore in some sense, Christ himself--that has shaken America to its Christian core. So really and powerfully symbolic of our Lord is the Pope, I do not hesitate to imagine Jesus himself traversing New York and Washington as he did once Judea and Galilee. People flocked to him, expecting wonderful things. But because those expectations were so great and more precisely because those expectations were fulfilled, those present have obtained an exercise in more than simply academic theology but truly! hope and faith. One man might be able to give the same speech as another, but no other can *be* for us what Pope Benedict was this past week.

In short, look not to academic circles and the media to appreciate the full impact of the Pope's visit. But look to your hearts and, also too, the heart of this great Christian country where one might find a restored sense of self founded in the hope of Christ.

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