A Great Witness of Suffering (JPII)/How Faith Inspired a Genius (Beethoven)
Zenit News Agency - The World Seen From Rome
John Paul II is a Great Witness of Suffering, Says Cardinal Tonini
"Let's Hope the Prophets of Doom Stop Talking About Resignations"
VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II won't let his physical problems stop him, Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, archbishop emeritus of Ravenna, Italy, said in an interview with the daily La Repubblica last Sunday.
Q: Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, were you surprised by the Pope's homily yesterday?
Cardinal Tonini: "I have never doubted his strength and will power. And yesterday he confirmed it once again. The Holy Father is strong, despite his health problems, he will never resign. Let's hope that the prophets of doom will be at peace and stop talking about resignations.
Q: But yesterday he even recalled the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul: Will John Paul II, then, never refuse to carry his cross?
Cardinal Tonini: Indeed, the cross is the essence of the faith. And the Holy Father is right in saying that he will remain at his post to do the will of God.
Q: And if one day he is unable to respond physically to what his will wants?
Cardinal Tonini: I repeat: The Pope will only do the will of the Lord. I have never had any doubts. As to the rest, he has always said, also in the first encyclical he wrote, that he would only do the will of Christ and that is what he is doing, consistently.
Q: Illness, however, could stop him.
Cardinal Tonini: Look, the Pope does not hide anything of his present illness. He is a unique witness, I would dare say almost unrepeatable.
He is not ashamed to show himself weak, tired: He feels that it is the divine will that leads him and because of this, he will never stop. In this sense, also, the Holy Father is a great witness of suffering as much as a great example of hope for all.
But perhaps it would be good if the mass media left him a bit in peace on these health problems. I certainly understand that a charismatic figure like the Pope cannot pass unnoticed and, consequently, also his physical problems.
But perhaps this constant insistence, this continuous scrutinizing of how he moves, how he speaks, could be attenuated, also out of a sense of respect for his person.
Q: Every so often there is talk of a letter of resignation already written. You who know him well, what can you tell us?
Cardinal Tonini: I exclude it in the most absolute and categoric way: No such documents exist. I know this from direct information: The Pope will remain at his post until God wills. And, in fact, he has already planned pastoral trips and visits. In three weeks he will fly to Canada, then he will go again to Poland.
Q: Wouldn't it be better to make him rest?
Cardinal Tonini: But the Pope needs to have contact with the people -- with youth -- then he is transformed. We saw this in Paris at the 1998 World Youth Day, when he was welcomed by 1.5 million youths. It was there that his physical problems began to manifest themselves, but he did not draw back.
In Rome, in 2000, the youth were more than 2 million. He was great and tender, as a real father, when he walked, hand in hand, with that group of young people representing the youth of the world. It is the will of God that leads him, and he knows it.
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How Faith Inspired a Genius
Ludwig van Beethoven not only became a disabled composer, but was also the victim of child abuse. He is arguably the greatest composer of all time, and yet this status was attained by way of suffering, tragedy and of course the monumental gift given by his creator.
He never wavered in his gratitude to the Almighty, and time and again he dedicated masterpieces to God. One example is the long slow movement of his late Quartet in A minor. The dedication is: 'A Holy Hymn of thanksgiving to God, from a convalescent' (Beethoven had been seriously ill).
He always kept on his desk some of his own words which he had framed:
I am that which is.
I am all that is, that was, and that shall be.
No mortal man hath lifted my veil.
He is alone, by Himself, and to Him alone do all things owe their being.
This is all the more surprising in view of his nightmare childhood, which was spent in the city of Bonn, where he was born in 1770. His father was only a very average musician, but gave Ludwig piano lessons and tried to cash in on his amazing talent. In those days, even the great composers were treated as servants to the aristocracy. His father came under this category, but he was also a despicable drunkard.
And he used force. Time and again he arrived home in a drunken rage, waking his infant son during the middle of the night, beating him ruthlessly, and forcing him to practice the piano, his mother too afraid to intervene. Consequently, Ludwig had to leave school because of exhaustion at the age of 11, and his considerable knowledge was mostly self-taught.
Ludwig loved his religion, but at a very impressionable age he witnessed immoral behaviour by certain members of the clergy. Very often, this experience destroys spirituality. In Beethoven's case he never ceased to lose his faith in God, although he disassociated himself from organised religion.
Musically he went from strength to strength, and settled in Vienna, where he met Mozart and Haydn. From these two masters he took lessons, but found that he was creating sounds and musical form never heard before. The masterpieces flowed from his pen, great symphonies, concertos and choral works, but in his mid-20s he experienced the first signs of deafness. Resorting to an ear trumpet, he knew that within a few years he was doomed to become stone deaf. He wrote about his world of silence in the depressing Heiligenstadt Testament, but bravely composed two of the happiest piano sonatas imaginable.
Miraculously, a vast number of his finest works were composed from this point. After he conducted the first performance of the Choral Symphony, the orchestral leader had to turn him round to acknowledge the applause.
In company, the composer used note pads which his acquaintances used to write down their part of the conversation.
Ironically, he played a major part in changing the status of musicians to one of respectability.
In his final illness, this courageous genius consented to receive the last sacraments of the Catholic Church. He did so devoutly, thanking the priest for his kindness and for the comfort he had brought.
Having himself taken the musical world by storm, Beethoven died, totally unafraid, during a thunderstorm in 1828.
He wrote: 'God has never deserted me. I am resigned to accept whatever fate may bring. May I have sufficient strength to submit to the will of the Almighty.'
© Gabriel Communications (http://www.totalcatholic.com/).