Pope John Paul II: A Legacy of Dignity

the pope wavingAs the pope lay
dying in his apartment, the 24-hour news machine buzzed with life throughout the
night. Nearly all seemed to spend a great deal of time discussing the years before
his health declined due to Parkinson’s Disease and other ailments. They showed video
and photographs of his youth, admired his athleticism, and marvelled at his boundless
energy. These things are good in their own right, but I think the media missed the

The pontificate of John Paul II, formerly Karol Jozef Wojtyla, was notable for its
constant championing of the dignity of every human life. In the youthful days of
his reign, he fought tirelessly for the dignity of the poor, the downtrodden, the
oppressed, and the unborn. In those years, he taught us that even those whom the
world had rejected had dignity as human beings. In his waning years, he taught us
that there is dignity in infirmity. Old age is not something to be ashamed of. Physical
impairment is not a curse. Life does not end when disability begins.

Too many societies, including our own, abandon our handicapped and elderly in nursing
homes. We’re either too afraid to deal with their weaknesses or too busy with our
youthful lives to be bothered with caring for them. There are many lessons to be
learned from examining John Paul II’s life, not the least of which is how to grow
old, face adversity, and die with grace and dignity. As many called for his resignation,
he bravely, yet humbly, continued to do whatever he could muster his body to do
in order to perform his duties. He showed that human worth is not defined by utility.

I pray that the societies of the world learns to embrace and support their weakest
members, because they are beautiful creations made in the image and likeness of
their Creator and without regard for how useful they are or are not. I pray also
that when faced with infirmities and approaching mortality I can do so with a fraction
of the dignity Pope John Paul II had.

May the Lord bless him and keep him. May He make his face shine on him and be
gracious unto him. May the Lord lift His countenance upon him and give him peace.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

6 thoughts on “Pope John Paul II: A Legacy of Dignity

  1. howard

    I know he inspired me immensely.

    I’m not a Catholic (yet), but he may be a huge part of the reason I’m seriously considering becoming one. I’ve been fascinated by his life’s example for many years now, and I sense that many of the things that have impressed me about John Paul II are similar to the reasons why there are millions of non-Christians who, today, are also feeling a profound sense of loss. I think that his life will continure to inspire millions throughout the world to seek the truth of Christianity, whether in the Roman Catholic Church or elsewhere.

    May God bless him in his journey.

  2. Tom Smith

    I was similarly struck by the passing of our Successor of Peter. He is the only Holy Father I have been exposed to, and I feel like I knew him personally. Among the most valuable of the lessons he taught us were that, like you said, he taught us to treat life with dignity, but also that he taught us to treat death with dignity. His apostolate of suffering was a truly touching witness not only to Catholics, but to all.

  3. alektra

    My heart is breaking for the Pope who led my faith from a month after I was born.

    My leader, my heart is broken to have lost you. I now understand much more how the apostles felt when Christ left earth for heaven.

    Your simplicity and honesty should be mirrored forever, and may your lessons of dignity and beauty and understanding echo for centuries.

  4. Steve N

    Reportedly his last word was “Amen” as he listened to those outside his window keeping vigil and praying the rosary. Very fitting for a man so utterly devoted to the BVM.

    He was man at once standing completely in modernity, yet so utterly not of it. Would that those who would further divide the Church no longer trouble the Holy Father for he bears the marks of the Lord. John Paul, pray for us, for we (the weak and foolish of the world)yet stand in modernity’s corrisive flood.


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