Monday, April 04, 2005

Remembering JPII

I was in high school, in an all boys Catholic High School in Queens (if you know the area, you probably know which school). It wasn't long after John Paul II was elevated as Pope, and a limited number of tickets were made available to our school for a seat at Madison Square Garden to see him on his first US tour. Out of all who entered the drawing, my name was among the 20 or so who were picked to get a ticket.

I have been to the Garden a number of times since that day, and saw many rock and roll shows (yes, yes, there was that also that one time I was there to see Lionel Richie, but lets not dwell on that ok??), but never did the Garden rock as much as it did that day. Some 19 or 20,000 people, mostly kids, attended for a prayer service, songs, Q&A and what seemed to be nonstop cheering.

I think 'the wave' was either conceived that day, or at least came to popularity. The entire crowd standing and sitting sequentially; remember, as common as it appears to the reader these days, this was 1979, and at least to this Blog and those sitting around him, it was amazing to watch.

The event lasted far longer than the program stated, and during what I consider screams of joy and praise that went on for almost an hour uninterrupted, I recall the Pontiff and Terrence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of the NY Diocese, exchanged a few words while sitting on the dais. John Paul, II stood up at the mic, and with the raising of his hand quieted the crowd in an instant. Referring probably to the chat he and the Cardinal just had, he spoke
"Cardinal Cooke says 'no more.'"

Predictably, the crowds exploded again, and the cheering went on for another 10 or so minutes before he quieted us down and the program concluded as planned. I've been enamored by him since, and while it may be considered 'too little, too late' I do intend on reading some of his many works (long-time readers know This Blog is notoriously lax at reading either fiction or non-fiction).

My mother still has the pennant I purchased at the concessions stand hanging on the wall, commemorating the day. Other people bought t-shirts, but this hangs on the wall 26 years later. My oldest son can look at it and know I was there.

It isn't much, really, but it really is something significant.

At my office today I was involved in a discussion about the next Pope.
"He should be a lot less strict" was the majority view, but that just isn't right. Being Pope isn't playing to the polls, its about being Pope. I remember seeing Mario Cuomo on TV over the weekend, while I was channel surfing. I think it was MSNBC, it may have been with Chris Matthews; regardless, the former NY Governor described his ideal Pope would be one more modern, more in tune with the Evangelicals.

The question that blurted from my lips was: why should a Catholic be like an Evangelical? Really, if an Evangelical Church is more to your liking, then be an Evangelical. The Catholic Church has endured for so long precisely because it has maintained its core beliefs. If any institution, much less than the Church, changed and swayed with the polls, it wouldn't exactly be an institution, would it?

If you want the Church to be more 'Evangelical', perhaps an Evangelical Church is what you're really looking to call your spiritual home.

What will the next Pope be like? Time will tell, indeed.

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