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February 3, 2005
I was in seminary when he was elected. His predecessor's short reign ended in his unexpected sudden death, leaving little more than the memory of a sweet smile as a legacy. Vigorous, commanding, stalwart, John Paul II quickly captured our imaginations and has held them ever since.

I disagree with the Holy Father on many things. Who could be untouched, though, by his courage and immense devotion? Unmoved by his forgiveness of the young man who tried to kill him? By the skillful diplomacy and behind-the-scenes tenacity that played a major role in ending totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe? By his tirelessness in certain areas of justice: calling genocide genocide, demanding justice in the name of Christ for the worker? By the humility and honesty he has modeled in acknowledging errors of past generations and apologizing for them? And by his courage in the face of profound and public physical decline, this man who loved to ski and climb mountains?

There have been blind spots, as far as I'm concerned. Matters of human sexuality seem more complex to me than they do to the Pope, and we have different views of what constitutes the honor of women and the charism of priesthood, the worth of honest argument and respectful disagreement. But he can only protect and teach the faith as he understands it: he cannot do otherwise. It will remain for others to continue history's journey in those areas. He didn't do it all, but he has done a lot. As much as he possibly could. And more than many another would.

Health to him, if it is possible. Rest and peace to him, when the time comes that it is not.
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