by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 6, 2005
FOR POPE JOHN PAUL II'S LIFE, 'A JOYFUL NOISE'
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- There are really mixed emotions all over the world concerning the death of Pope John Paul II; emotions like sadness, love, reverence, and wonderment as mourners question why this man's death is having such a profound effect on them.
From what we see in the media, he was a beloved man who, as St. Paul said to Timothy, could say with conviction, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
Although my faith is strong and a guiding force in my life, I've never been one to wear my religion on my sleeve, so to speak. Right now, though, I'm gleefully humming an old song and dedicating it to all those non-believers who've taken our schools and public buildings to court. I mean the ones who sue over any overt display smacking of religion in order to "protect" our sacred - nay, secular - Constitution from the mere suggestion it could be a breach in the separation of church and state.
The song? "Goody, Goody." It begins:
This little Ray Charles ditty ends up, "I hope you're satisfied, you rascal you."
That's hardly legalese that I aim at the ACLU, but it seems to be a joyful noise unto the Lord. Pope John Paul II's death was somewhat expected but the outpouring for this man, called "Everybody's Pope" on the front page of Italian newspapers, took some of our citizens by surprise, too late for the litigious among us to sue "anybody" to stop the airwaves from broadcasting the event from every media venue.
I also laugh at the Irish toast: "May you be in Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you're dead." I love it! The Holy Father slipped away in quiet dignity and the world lost a presence, while the non-believers among us scratch their heads and wonder, "Hey, what's going on around here?"
Crowds lined up for six blocks, 20 and 30 abreast, moving slowly, no bathrooms, no way out of the crowd; all lines lead into St. Peter's where the Pope's body lay. The mourners pass by in the same steady stream, no lingering to savor or study the moment, yet satisfied with the seconds they were allotted, and making way for the million sad travelers to follow.
Prince Charles of England postponed his long awaited - and headlined - nuptials to Camilla Parker Bowles to attend the funeral of the Pope, along with our President, former President and the former, former President. Dignitaries from all over the world find truth in "all roads lead to Rome," and file in with the multitudes.
Locally, a young black man was at a soccer match, and during a conversation on selecting the next Pope, he innocently said: "maybe this time, they'll pick a Southern Baptist." Yes, that does make you smile but it also shows that Pope John Paul II was indeed a man of the people, all people.
Oh, I expect all the Devil's advocates to climb aboard and start pulling the revered Pontiff off his throne on high. They've already started sliding in words like "he was the CEO of a large corporation [the Catholic Church] and he took care of business." Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler Corporation, having had a private audience and a long conversation with the Pope just 18 months ago, was impressed with his business acumen.
"He lost stockholders in some parts of the world so he want to Africa and Asia and rallied stockholders there," Iacocca said. "He went to the factory floor where the workers were... ." The analogy was apt but somewhat irreverent, looking more like fund raising than saving souls.
There's nothing negative that can be said to tarnish the image this saintly man leaves behind. Sometimes, the media, so necessary in today's world yet so prone to exaggeration in recent years, sometimes, in their unscripted moments, might do harm in bringing us on-the-spot reporting. For instance, Fox News' Sheperd Smith, speaking from within the crowd outside St. Peter's, said that we (in America) have more security at sporting events than they have in these crowds.
"One man," Smith reported, "said he went all the way in to pass by the Pope without ever going through a metal detector." Oh, boy, thought I, that's an invitation for some madman to get to the catafalque and desecrate the Pope's body. I remembered Michelangelo's "Pieta" being hammered by someone who just ran up to it.
Vacationers in the crowd, there for a spring holiday in Florence and elsewhere in Italy, sidestepped their planned route to be in Rome. "It was supposed to rain," smiled David from Seattle, a non-Catholic, "but the sun has been shining brightly for three days."
You could tell by his peaceful expression he suspected it was a miracle - an honest-to-God miracle.