St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

John Paul II

The perfect harmony of prayer and activity                                        -Homily April 27, 2014

 

On the occasion of the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII, I would like to share a few paragraphs from the Letter of the Superior General of the IVE for this event.[1] It refers to Pope John Paul II, who is considered Father and Patron of our Religious Family. Here at St. Michael’s, we have a precious relic of John Paul II’s blood, under the image of Our Lady. I am sure he is in the memory of many of you, because of his visits to Canada, because of his words to our heart, because of his example of joy and tenderness.

 

I would like to present today John Paul II in a particular aspect: his perfect harmony between action and contemplation [activity and prayer], in which contemplation takes the first place.

 

“Over the course of his papacy, the Pope was a pilgrim in 129 countries during 104 apostolic visits, travelling 1,247,613 kilometers (775,230 miles) which is the equivalent of three trips from the earth to the moon.  The Pope left the city of Rome for 822 days during which he visited 1,022 cities and delivered 3,288 discourses.  His teachings are contained in 56 large volumes which occupy almost 4 meters (13 feet) of a library.  John Paul II gave 1,164 general audiences in addition to 1,600 meetings with heads of state.  He beatified 1,338 servants of God (of which 1,032 were martyrs) in the course of 147 ceremonies of beatification, and canonized 483 saints (of which 402 were martyrs).”

 

“However, the depth of the greatness of this Pope is not only revealed to us only or mainly by his incredible apostolic work. John Paul himself said once in regards to the attempts to tell his story, ‘You try to understand me from outside. But I can only be understood from inside.’[1]

 

Father Walker has written for us, priest and religious of the IVE, and will quote John Paul II in his teaching to the priests. But please feel free to change the word priest for your own name, because with regards to prayer, and changing what has to be changed, we can say that we are all the same.

 

“‘The priest should be, like Christ Himself, a man of prayer.’[2]  John Paul II was the model of a man of prayer in spite of the colossal work he carried out.[…] He emphatically affirms that ‘Jesus teaches us that a fruitful exercise of the priesthood is not possible without prayer, which protects the priest from the danger of neglecting the interior life giving the primacy to action, and the temptation of being engaged to the point of losing oneself in activity.’[3] He then continues by saying that the priests ‘should devote themselves to the contemplation of the Word of God[4] [which is to] ‘nourish the intelligence as well as the heart with the word.’ ‘This favors the formation of a mentality in the priest, a way of contemplating the world with wisdom, in the perspective of the supreme end: God and His plan of salvation.’[5]

 

“‘Wisdom is thus converted in the principal assistance in order to think, judge, and value as Christ all things, big things as much as little things, so that the priest […] reflects in himself the light, adhesion to the Father, zeal for the apostolate, rhythm for prayer and action, and even the spiritual breath of Christ.’[6]If the priest is assiduous in this meditation, he will more easily remain in a state of conscious joy, which comes from the perception of the intimate personal fulfillment of the word of God that he should teach to others.[7]” Remember that we all are sent by Jesus to preach the Gospel to the world.

 

“To this effect Father Castellani points out that in the root of the decadence and of the great problems of the modern world, which involves even some sectors of religious life, is found precisely a wrong understanding of the relationship between contemplation and action - or a subordination of the first to the second - which implies a certain contempt for wisdom, understood as knowledge by the last causes.[8]” That is why John Paul II said: “[Prayer] constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration?[9]

 

“Thirteen days after his election, the Pope went with some of his colleagues close to Rome, in Mentorella where the shrine of The Mother of Grace is. He asked his companions as they travelled, ‘What is the most important thing for the Pope in his life, in his work?’ They suggested to him, ‘Perhaps the unity of Christians, peace in the Middle East, the destruction of the Iron Curtain…?’ But he responded, ‘For the Pope, prayer is the most important.’[12]

 

“This is what John Paul II taught us in his papal teaching. Moreover, it is what we learned from his personal example.”

 

Nothing good is done, if we don’t pray. Prayer is what gives the right course of action and grace to the action itself. Contemplation provides us with the truth we should preach, with the truth we should carry out and with the love we should put in everything we do. Without prayer there is no action, at least no action that is worthwhile. Action without prayer is like a turbulent wind that destroys and nothing remains (it leaves us empty). With prayer, action is like a fire that consumes, and nothing remains without transformation. It transforms ourselves, our neighbour, and the work done itself. Like the king who transformed whatever he touched into gold, the one who prays transforms whatever he or she does into gold.

 

May we learn to connect prayer and activity. May we become men and women of prayer, and may we become great workers, fruitful branches in the vine of the Church, according to the example of John Paul the Great.  –Fr. Andrew

 

Notes of Fr. Walker’s letter.

[1] George Weigel, Witness to Hope, New York, 1999, p. 7. [2] John Paul II, General Audience, June 2, 1993. [3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. [5] Ibid. [6] Ibid. [7] Ibid. [8] Cf. Leonardo Castellani, Un país de Jauja, Mendoza, 1999, Pp. 43-44. [9] Juan Pablo II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 38. [12] Konrad Krajewski, Ricordo di Giovanni Paolo II a sei anni dalla morte, Dove sta il centro del mondo, L’Osservatore Romano, April 2, 2011, quoted by Carlos M. Buela, Juan Pablo Magno, p. 605.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Fr. Carlos Walker, IVE, Superior General, Letter on the occasion of the canonization of Pope John Paul II, Acilia, Rome, April 21, 2014.