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When I Grow Up View Comments
By Charles Dickson, PhD

TOM WAS DRESSED in somewhat shabby attire, with a couple of small holes in his pants legs, a soiled mark on one shirtsleeve, and shoes whose appearance revealed they had covered considerable mileage. There he was, sitting in a fast-food restaurant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, relishing each bite of his sandwich and constantly commenting to my daughter, Sheri, and me as to how good the food smelled. When we had finished eating and departed in our separate directions, I inquired of Sheri if we shouldn’t organize some kind of a welfare campaign to help feed and clothe this poor, unfortunate, struggling student.

You can imagine my surprise when she explained to me that this young man was the son of a wealthy furniture manufacturing executive in a town a few hundred miles from the university. This led me to the natural question of why he was projecting such a poverty-stricken image. Was he pretending to be someone he wasn’t? Or maybe he just couldn’t manage all those bundles of green stuff I imagined his parents were sending him each month.

After assuring me that none of my assumptions were correct, Sheri explained that Tom’s father had, at one time, been very supportive of Tom and his vocational goals, while he was attending engineering school and preparing for what his dad felt would be a responsible position in their family-owned company. But during his sophomore year, Tom decided that this line of work wasn’t for him, and he switched into the college of fine arts and became a drawing and painting major. His father, enraged by the decision, which frustrated all of his vocational plans for Tom, immediately stopped sending him financial aid and announced, “If you’re going into that, you’ll have to make it on your own.”

So Tom’s world of wardrobes, sports cars, and ample pocket change had now been replaced by worn-out jeans and a longing hunger at the local burger place. Yet he had a sense of accomplishment. He had made a decision about what he wanted to do with his life and was now following through on it.

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Charles Dickson, PhD, is the author of two books on Mariology: A Protestant Pastor Looks at Mary (Our Sunday Visitor) and Mary: A Handbook for Dialogue (PublishAmerica).

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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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