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Archive for April 27th, 2005

The Lion in Spring

The following appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of Caelum et Terra:

Was it really only a year or so ago, when Pope John Paul began showing signs of physical weakness, that his critics were eagerly discussing his demise and speculating about his successor? At least one of them–Peter Hebblethwaite–himself met an untimely death, may he rest in peace, but the Holy Father has gone on to the most spectacular phase of his already spectacular papacy. In the past year or so he has: stared down the powerful of the world at the Cairo population conference, preached to the largest gathering of human beings in history (five million) in the Phillipines, promulgated the Catechism, released a best-selling book and an apostolic letter on the coming third millenium. And as a sort of stern counterpoint to the radiant hope reflected in the book and the letter, John Paul has given us Evangelium Vitae, a prophetic masterpiece and a rallying cry for resistance to the "culture of death."

The world has fallen back astonished, sort of like the men in the Gospel who came for Christ in the garden. The phrase "the lion in winter" keeps reappearing in their mumblings, and while I think they have the leonine image right they may well have mistaken the season. John Paul is planning on greeting the year 2000, and while the charism of infallibility does not extend to such plans, this man has other, more personal charisms and I tend to think he’ll make it. Another five years like this last one? This may be, not winter, but spring: as aging takes its toll on John Paul’s physical strength it seems to concentrate and focus the fire that burns within him, strong and pure and radiant. I have long said it, and I repeat it: he will be known as Pope St. John Paul the Great, a pivotal figure in human history.

The mistake of his would-be pallbearers was to see only the outward, immediate evidence: the cane, the wince of pain passing across his face, the occasional stumble. They missed the wider pattern, the deeper movement. "In our weakness is our strength" wrote St. Paul, and it is really no great wonder that this pope has found new strength in the crucible of physical suffering. Long may he live, and long may he guide Christ’s Church.

Daniel Nichols

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Excuse Me, Mr. Novak

In the April 25th issue of National Review, Michael Novak includes this statement in his tribute to John Paul II:

To the best of my knowledge, we at Crisis magazine early on were the first to put the name "John Paul the Great" in print, and new editor Deal Hudson emblazoned it on the front cover in 1997.

I know I remember Daniel Nichols using that phrase–with the addition of "Saint"– in conversation long before 1997, and indeed before 1990, unless my memory is wrong. And I thought I remembered it occuring in Caelum et Terra. Which it did: Daniel has located it, in the Summer 1995 issue.

Upon re-reading Novak’s statement, I see that it’s not clear as to whether the 1997 cover was the first appearance in of the phrase in Crisis. But at any rate let it be noted that we used it before the instance he mentions.

Daniel’s piece is just a few paragraphs, so I think I’ll take a few minutes and type it in as a separate post.

Maclin Horton

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