The Holy Watch Begins
Viaticum, for those who don't know, comes from an Ancient Greek term for something which was given to aid or strengthen those setting out on a journey. For Catholics, it's a last communion given when death is imminent.
As a child, I was a huge John Paul II fan. I even won a letter-writing contest to go see him give Papal Mass. It was one of my childhood high points when I saw him in 1984 at BC Place Stadium, where he cruised the football field in his PopeMobile and administered Mass to 65,000.
But that was a long, long time ago. I've since become embittered toward the man for his hardcore fundamentalist beliefs, since he's as Roman Catholic as they come, bordering on Jesuit. He has a strange legacy of declaring speeding a sin, requesting women to forsake careers so they can better morally imprint their children through quality time and company, among other rather backdated moral values he's sought to reinstate. I don't really fault him for those beliefs, but for the damning of those who don't share them, which far too many religious persons do. Life's hard enough without bringing more intolerance into it, right?
His legacy won't be the moralistic tone he had, though. It'll be his political acumen and his ability to control the international perception of right and wrong, resulting in his influence on inspiring the Polish rebellion that gave way to the downfall of Communism in the late 1980s.
The papal strengthening began before John Paul ascended to power, though. Not too long before, but long enough that there was a bit of momentum when the Polish Pope took the stage. In John Paul II's time at the helm, the papacy has become infinitely stronger than it has been in many, many decades. As a result, the Vatican now has an influential diplomatic network in 172 countries around the world. It's a greater international infiltration of diplomats than the United States has managed.
What the Catholic Church has become is powerful. Very damned powerful, and much of that is owed to the charm and appeal John Paul II had when speaking to issues. He may have been God's main man, but he hit it off good with the commoners, too.
For all the things I dislike about John Paul II's reign, I'm saddened to see him in the shape he's been in. He was once one of the most amiable, admirable men in the world. Now he's just a sad and frail old man.
I wish he would have lasted longer in his prime, regardless of his beliefs. Admirable people aren't in great supply. I also wish he'd never been shot. And I wish he didn't have to go in such a drawn-out and unpleasant way.
I wish him well on his journey, that he goes with God.