Friday, March 20, 2015

Top 10 St John Paul II sayings

Courtesy of Roaming Romans (and through them, Dr. Taylor Marshall) on Facebook:

Top 10 St John Paul II
Quotes of All Time by Dr Taylor Marshall
Here are my all-time top ten favorite quotes from Saint John Paul II:
1. “Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which is soars to the truth.” ( my personal favorite JP2 quote!--present in FB original)
2. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”
3. “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
4. “I plead with you! Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt,
never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

5. “The worst prison would be a closed heart.”
6. “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”
7. “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
8. “It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.” (this is a great one, gentlemen!--present in FB original)
9. “If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”
10. “Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.”

So much to mine here, obviously.  John Paul's unshakeable faith, and thus confidence, in God, not himself, shines through in each passage.  That in turn should, as the Pope proclaims, inspire us to "be not afraid!"  As blogged previously, this catchphrase of  St. John Paul II's papacy captured the attention of so many, even those who quite frankly did not hear--nor cared to--anything else the Pope said. And while this particular post is not the place, it is worth noting the similarity between St. John Paul's spiritual derring-do ("Put out into the deep...") and that of St. Josemaria Escriva's reflections on being children of God.  Being aware of our spiritual origins should prompt a brave engagement with the world, not a meek retreat.  One example from Escriva's The Way:

855 Spiritual childhood is not spiritual foolishness or flabbiness; it is a sane and forceful way which, due to its difficult easiness, the soul must begin and continue, led by the hand of God.

The brevity and pithiness of these sayings--by either saint--should not disguise the spiritual profundity present.  Too often modern readings see such lists or quotes and conclude "not for me," largely because they seem irrelevant, too challenging, etc.  This, effectively, is the hermeneutical perspective of Jurgen Habermas, the esteemed German philosopher and social critic.  To condense a sophisticated argument, Habermas and his adherents view tradition as a malleable entity that we access, interpret, and use as we determine suits our own situations.  The progressivist/activist pursuit of social justice thus finds Habermas quite helpful; we use what we want for our own purposes and disregard the rest.  This explains why some of my activist colleagues can quote, without any sense of irony, apparently, Popes Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Francis on workers' rights only.  The notion that any other papal exhortation might carry equal weight is rejected outright.

So, read St. John Paul II's saying #6 above--but do not apply it to abortion, because that wouldn't fit the modern situation.  Death penalty, workers' rights, etc.--that's fine.

As Hans Frei and William Placher noted, another philosophical approach is available in the work of the equally-estimable German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer.  Instead of an intellectual heritage valuable only for its potentially liberative elements, tradition constitutes the very means by which we understand the categories "liberative" and "oppressive" at all.  I.e., we do not stand outside tradition, picking and choosing what we like or use;  we stand within tradition and thus should make ourselves more fully aware of the liberative and oppressive elements therein.  (Placher explores this extensively in Unapologetic Theology, pages 110-5.)

Taking this Gadamerian/Frei/Placher view, St. John Paul's sayings--in this particular collation by Dr. Marshall--reveals a deep reliance on grace and divine, not human, power.  We can be unafraid in the world not through our own strengths but through God.  And thus, all life is precious and, yes, the intrinsic dignity of all women becomes super-abundantly obvious.  We do not grant that dignity;  it exists already through God.  Talk about liberative--that's downright revolutionary.  It is also Lenten.

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