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The self-flagellation/mortification has been mentioned before, I just thought some additional details were interesting:

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60P46G20100126

See bold

Quote:ROME (Reuters) - The late Pope John Paul flagellated himself regularly to emulate Christ's suffering and signed a secret document saying that would resign instead of ruling for life if he became incurably ill, a new book shows.


The book, called "Why a Saint? was written by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Vatican official in charge of the process that could lead to Roman Catholic sainthood for John Paul. It includes some previously unpublished documents.

John Paul, who died in 2005, was sick and suffering in several periods of his papacy. He was shot and nearly killed in 1981, he underwent several operations, including one for cancer, and suffered from Parkinson's disease for more than decade.

The book, which was published Tuesday, reveals that even when he was not ill, he inflicted pain on himself, known in Christianity as mortification, so as to feel closer to God.

"In Krakow as in the Vatican, Karol Wojtyla flagellated himself," Oder writes in the book, citing testimony from people in the late pope's close entourage while he was bishop in his native Poland and after he was elected pope in 1978.

"In his closet, among his vestments, there was hung on a clothes hanger a particular kind of belt for pants, which he used as a whip," Oder writes.

When he was bishop in Poland, he often slept on the bare floor so he could practice self-denial and asceticism, Oder writes.

Many saints of the Church, including St. Francis of Assisi, St Catherine of Siena and St. Ignatius of Loyola, practiced flagellation and asceticism as part of their spiritual life.

The book also confirmed that as his health failed, John Paul prepared a document for aides stating that he would step down instead of ruling for life if he became incurably ill or permanently impaired from carrying out his duties as pope.

He signed the document on February 15, 1989, eight years after the failed assassination attempt. The existence of the document had been the subject of many rumors and reports over the years but it has been published for the first time in full in the book.

John Paul wrote that he would resign "in the case of infirmity which is presumed incurable, long-lasting and which impedes me from sufficiently carrying out the functions of my apostolic ministry."

In the end, the pope decided to stay on until his death, saying it was for the good of the Church. Had he stepped down, he would have been the first Roman Catholic pontiff to do so willingly since 1294.

John Paul moved closer to sainthood last month when Pope Benedict approved a decree recognizing that his predecessor had lived the Christian faith heroically.

It was one of the key steps in the procedure by which the Church recognizes its saints.

The next step will be the recognition of a miracle attributed to John Paul. It involves a French nun who was inexplicably cured of Parkinson's disease after praying to him.

After the Vatican recognizes the event as a miracle, the late pope can be beatified, the last step before sainthood.

Crowds at his funeral shouted "Santo Subito!" (Make him a saint immediately!)
"so as to feel closer to God." Gotta love Reuter's reduction of corporal mortification as a shallow attempt to capture some vague religious feeling, as though Christians seek, more than anything, an affirming sort of comfort. I suppose it is asking too much of the secular press to understand penance, which strives for something beyond the worldly.
I have to say, despite his failings, I am starting to have a more positive impression of JPII. There are still a lot of things that bother me about him but he does have some good qualities about him too.

(01-27-2010, 03:06 AM)Petertherock Wrote: [ -> ]I have to say, despite his failings, I am starting to have a more positive impression of JPII. There are still a lot of things that bother me about him but he does have some good qualities about him too.

As bad as you can argue his papacy was, there's no denying his personal holiness. I think we ought to remember, before we start vilifying JPII, that a cosmic battle is happening right now, and even the holiest man in the Papacy cannot change things, because let's face it, the Pope is just God's tool. If He wills to let this miserable deconstruction continue, then there's little JPII could do to make us happy. We cannot argue his personal holiness, even if he made a few, if not many, mis-steps as Pope. Further, I was watching a secular history program on TV about JPII, and they stated that he voted AGAINST EVERY motion during V2. I've yet to check that out, but if true, it says a lot.
If the captain of the chess team is also the best chess player, that's great.  But you don't have to be a good chess player to be a good captain.  If the best player is a lousy captain, then the whole team suffers.

The question is that when you're evaluating a player's career, do you only consider their skills on the chessboard, or how they rose to the duties as a captain too?

JP2 might have been a holy man-- and even a good one at heart.  He'd probably have been a fun guy to sit down and share a beer.  But how he handled his duties as a pope are also on the table.
Well said WhollyRoman. I admire his spirit of penance, and I am sure he prayed a great deal more than I do. But I still get the feeling that something is missing from this whole story, something I will probably not live long enough to learn, when everything is out, because this man is a great mystery. If he was holy, his holiness would have saturated his actions, his thoughts, his words, his deeds, right? And the specific task given to him by God involved thousands among thousands of decisions that were supposed to be made for the benefit of the Catholic Church, for the benefit of each and every soul on his watch. So many of those decisions seem to be seriously flawed. It is a mystery.

My hope is that his failings as pope were due to some extraordinary acts of humility that I cannot understand, and that, like all of his penances, they will all bear fruit in subsequent papacies.
Right.

To those who much is given, much is expected.
Kind of interesting short video today on Air Maria
http://airmaria.com/?sn=100127&vp=10084&...ttl=Homily

Jan 27 – Homily – Fr Ignatius: St. Bernard Facing Failure
Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
 

Homily #100127 ( 09min) Play – St Bernard of Clairvaux preached the second crusade. But, despite the fact that he was able to  perform many miracles to confirm that this was the will of God, the crusade failed resulting in the loss of many Christian soldiers and a setback for Christian control of the Holy Land. Fr. Ignatius points out that it is sometimes God’s will that we be humbled in order to bring about greater virtue.


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We must also remember that Pope JPII was instrumental in ending communism in Russia.

(01-27-2010, 01:36 PM)Petertherock Wrote: [ -> ]We must also remember that Pope JPII was instrumental in ending communism in Russia.

And Catholicism everywhere else.
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