I watched the moment of beatification of John Paul II live on CNN. It was about 3:30 am our time. The commentators repeated the ongoing controversies surrounding his fast-track to sainthood in the midst of the sexual abuse scandal. Meanwhile, the cameras showed waves of supporters flying flags and ecstatically welcoming the present pontiff, Benedict XVI, as he circled St. Peter`s square in the pope-mobile. It was reminiscent of the Royal wedding just days before. The cheering crowds on the TV screens seemed to make a mockery of the negative media coverage.
Of course, only die-hard Royal or Papal fans would brave the inconvenience of long lines and claustrophobic crowds to be physically present at either event. And much money was spent at each for effective security measures. Both the wedding and the beatification were blessed with sunny skies despite dire forecasts. Both were beautiful, photogenic moments for the history books.
As the tapestry was unveiled at the moment of beatification, I had an unexpected emotional moment. The portrait chosen was of JPII in the early years of his papacy. This was the strong, athletic Pole who had survived World War II and helped to bring down the iron curtain in Eastern Europe. This was the younger Pope who had inspired so many on his energetic travels around the world. These were exciting years of hopeful renewal, of reminders to `be not afraid` because our faith will help to conquer all the evils of the world.
We need hope in our church and world today. And, we all need our heroes. As we change with the growing years, our heroes may change with us. When the halos of our heroes are tarnished, we yearn for the nostalgia and passion of earlier times. And because we are a diverse people, we will never share the same depth of affection or acceptance of the heroes that the Church offers to us. We should accept this without undue or harsh judgment of each other.
Yesterday was a moment of great celebration for many in our church, and indeed in our world. We need celebrations to lighten the heart and energize the spirit. But all parties end. The true test of a celebration comes in the morning after.