First, thank you JPII for being an unfaltering defender of the dignity of man. Amidst the wave of opposition during your pontificate, you remained ever-firm in safeguarding this inviolable human gift. “The inalienable dignity of every human being,” you once told us, “and the rights that flow from that dignity—in the first place, the right to life, and the defense of life—as well as the well-being and full development of individuals and peoples, are at the heart of the Church’s message and action in the world.” (Greeting to Mr. Bill Clinton, 1993)
Do not be afraid,—you once again told us—in defending this inalienable gift. In my unworthiness to paraphrase, let me quote your words again,
“Never tire of speaking out in defense of life from conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you: be not afraid.” (Address to the Bishops and Apostolic Administrators of Albania, 2001)
Next, thank you JPII for being the propeller of the youth. Your youthful energy always kept us comfortable with you. Didn’t you once call yourself, “[a] young man of 83?” (Meeting with Young People, Spain, 2003) You always energized us whom you dearly called “the hope of the Church and of society.” (Ibid)
But, with this endearment came your firm call for us to act: “Dear young people of every language and culture,” you once addressed us, “a high and exhilarating task awaits you: that of becoming men and women capable of solidarity, peace and love of life, with respect for everyone.” (World Day of Peace Message, 2001) This responsibility is surely daunting, JPII, but we ought not to be afraid as you have told us, “Do not be disheartened for you are not alone...” (Meeting with Young People, Spain, 2003)
Third, thank you, JPII, for being our model of holiness in suffering. Your final years were especially difficult. Parkinson’s disease was no joke: it took away your physical prowess. –Yet you never gave up. All the more strength did you display especially when you struggled to give your final blessing on March 30, 2005. These and so much more have made us realize that suffering can be a path to sanctity so long as we unite it with the Lord’s. May your words always remind us of this: “Suffering is transformed when we experience in ourselves the closeness and solidarity of the living God.” (Meeting with the Sick and the Suffering, Cuba, 1998)
At present, the world remains a battleground for the defense of human dignity. I have been one in securing this inviolable gift and doing so has not been easy. But, why should I, and the rest of my co-defenders fear? I know we’re standing for what is right. Besides, we have the great Pope Blessed John Paul II as a co-defender of human dignity. We have responsibility on the nation’s—and the world’s—welfare. And, we suffer for something worthwhile.
Therefore, for those of us who haven’t done their part, may JPII’s life be a wakeup call. For those of us who still hesitate but know that they’re in the right, may JPII be an inspiration. For those of us who know what to do but are still caged by fear, may JPII’s epic words resound forever:
"Do not be afraid!” (Homily during Inauguration, 1978)
*NOTE: All quotations were lifted from www.vatican.va.
-Maria Beatriz D. Mendiola