Holy Fathers, Holy Faces | James Day | CWR
Finding the face of God in the witness of recent popes and of an earthly father
Another Lenten season has begun for the Church, the time in which the most important truths of the faith are meditated upon, re-enacted, and celebrated. It will be almost 20 years next October since John Paul II lauded the “new springtime of the human spirit” that seems to be blooming in the pontificate of Pope Francis, himself elected during Lent last year.
How could we forget Lent 2013, when Benedict XVI ignited a Franciscan revolution with his resignation? Unfortunately, that decision is seen by some as a sign of weakness, of a papal nadir, even, in some quarters, the mark of a “disastrous papacy.” Yet without Benedict there would be no Francis.
Without Benedict, I wouldn’t be writing this today, nor would I, perhaps, consider myself a penitent son of the Church in need of redemption but cognizant of God’s immense, undeserved love. As Benedict said in Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, a lecture delivered the day before John Paul II died in 2005, “When faced with the question of God, man cannot permit himself to stay neutral. All he can say is ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—without ever avoiding all the consequences that derive from this choice even in the smallest details of life.”
This is about the battle of that question of God, with a “Yes” influenced by some great teachers I’ll call Holy Fathers.
The death of John Paul II
In the fall of 2004, fresh from an undergraduate career at John Carroll University in Cleveland, I ventured west for graduate school at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. I was intrigued by a Jesuit university in the City of Angels and confident that studying for a Master of Fine Arts in a Catholic environment would be the best of both worlds. I planned on landing at LAX with two suitcases and a wealth of hope.
Luckily, my dad knew better.