Jill Carattini has written something I think can easily be adapted as a tribute to Pope John Paul II despite the fact that it mentions him not:
What do you believe in? If you were asked this question undoubtedly you could answer it in a myriad of ways. Depending on context and content, you might say you believe in justice or in freedom of speech, or in the power of positive thinking. You might say you believe in your hero, or your mother’s advice, or in Jesus Christ. But now think about what you mean by those answers.
In the English language the words "believe in" can mean to accept as real or true, or to credit with veracity. Yet popular speech, as C.S. Lewis points out, has added another meaning: To "believe in" now also means, "to approve of."
That is, a person could say he or she believes in or does not believe in Christianity and not be thinking about truth at all. The person could just as well be stating his approval of Christ’s teachings or her disapproval of a particular doctrine, or the Church as a social institution.
In a culture that readily molds truth with tools of personal preference, perhaps it would be helpful to call to mind those believers who have gone before us. The vast number of saints and martyrs that faithfully proclaimed the gospel throughout history did not believe in Christianity simply because they approved. Indeed, Theresa of Avila, the 16th century Christian mystic known for her ardent prayer life, would have a story to tell about approving of God's manner and methods.
Theresa energetically traveled all over Spain by oxcart to help revive the Carmelite monasteries and bring lives back to Christ. On a bumpy road, one rainy day, it is said that she was thrown from the cart and landed into a muddy stream. Theresa shook her fist at the heavens and uttered, "God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don't have many!"
I smile at the honesty of that moment in light of a life beautifully lived for Christ. Theresa of Avila knew well that there are times when we may not feel approving of the road that God is leading us down, but that what is true should ultimately trump what is felt. "As for God," the Psalmist reminds us, "his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless, He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him" (Psalm 18:30). This is a timely and potent message for the beliefs we are declaring today.
The celebrated words of G.K. Chesterton give us another angle to contemplate. Chesterton duly noted that it is not that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and left untried. Approving is a matter of choosing that which appeals to you. Christianity is not the easiest road. But it is marked by a light that is real.
What do you believe in? Jesus once cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me" (John 12:44). Do you see how even Christ, whose life was perfect, points to the transcending truth of the one who sent him? He asks for more than our approval. He is looking for believers, lives who believe the Father sent him, men and women who will bow to worship him in spirit and in truth.
Pope John Paul II's light was certainly real, his life reflecting the transcending truth of God's love represented in Jesus Christ His Son.
I'm praying the next Pope will have the impact, and the life, that Karol Wojtyla exemplified.
UPDATE: Joe Carter has written quite a tribute.
MORE: Terry Mattingly reports on the Pope's final moments.