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Peggy Noonan spoke to ETWN on Sunday morning (Rome time) to give her historical perspective on Pope John Paul the Great, Save Jerseyans, who along with Pope John XIII was canonized on Sunday at an overflow Vatican City open air mass led by Pope Francis.
John XXIII is best remembered for Vatican II. The latter pontiff played an integral role in its implementation (or moderation, depending upon whom you ask) but he also occupied the role of a famously close ally to her old boss, Ronald Reagan, as the Cold War entered its endgame. For Noonan (who is also a Catholic), the theology of sainthood is one which necessarily has practical implications for the political class.
Sainthood isn’t deification. A cursory read of any history of the saints tome will drive that point home in no time flat. “Don’t think of them as perfect,” Noonan told her Catholic network interviewer. “Think of them as people who are showing you that you can be that way if you tried harder.” In her mind, the fact that one man could help the West bring down an evil empire AND fail to adequately address an emerging sex abuse scandal is evidence enough of her conception of sainthood as being one of men with “foibles” nevertheless impacting history in a positive way.
“They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them,” concluded Francis. Amen. The world is changed, every single day, by men and women who born gods, emperors or billionaires but nevertheless rise to the occasion when history shows up at the front door.
It’s an example capable of inspiring anyone regardless of where you worship or what name you affix to the Almighty. God knows we could use more saints in New Jersey. No one is saying either man lived without failings. No one is expected to hit that bar. The Church, in its own subtle way caked in pomp, circumstance, sacramentality and incense, is calling upon ALL of us today to strive to work with each other, as JPII and Reagan did in the 80s, to advance the cause of human dignity and freedom around the globe.
Are you paying attention, Mr. Obama?
I think it’s worthwhile for all of us to seize this opportunity to reflect upon what real courage looks like; the first video below the fold features an excerpt from a Franciscan University talk on the JPII-Reagan friendship, one for which we’re still learning many of the delightfully surprising details, and the second is a trailer of Newt Gingrich’s “Nine Days that Changed the World” documentary reliving the Polish pope’s efforts to liberate his native land: