At last week’s Royal Wedding, Dr. Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London, quoted Saint Catherine of Siena to the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Those words explain why so many young and middle-aged adults poured in to Rome -- with their children -- to witness the beatification of the man who repeated to them over and over the message of Christ, “Do not be afraid.”
Karol Wojtyla, who lost his parents at a young age and lived under the crushing dual tyrannies of Nazism and Communism was born to deliver that message to people living in the most prosperous, the most liberated and the most technologically (if not intellectually) advanced age in history, and who --with their children-- are grappling with the ethical, economic, social and spiritual consequences of all of that freedom, all of those advances.
The crowds gathered on church steps and lined up to buy T-shirts and bobble-head memorabilia could have been mistaken for mindless consumers caught up in the next big thing, except for the praying, and the evidence, in every church on every corner, that people were seeking pockets of quiet and recollection. There existed a palpable sense of people reaching out in the midst of all the distractions of the widening gyre, for a center which will hold, and for them John Paul’s heartening exhortation and self-evident joy act like thrusters that keep them grounded -- not floating, untethered into the ether--as the age spins, and spins.
Elizabeth Scalia is managing editor of Catholic Portal, Patheos.com.