Although I am not Catholic, I got up a little earlier than usual today and sat down to watch the funeral of John Paul II. I don’t have a television, so I watched the video on my computer, and turned on NPR for sound, since the sound on the computer seemed choppy.
I thought it was beautiful. I have a great appreciation for traditional ceremonies—graduations, weddings, funerals—and the pope’s funeral was full of the pomp and circumstance that awes me.
For an instant I was offended by the knowledge that this one was so much more than any other Catholic would receive. It bothered me that people are dying in horrible circumstances every day, and people are making so much fuss about the death of one man. I wondered why everyone, even non-Catholics, was glorifying the leader of a religion that oppresses so many.* But I realized that these things didn’t bother me that much. He meant a lot to all the pilgrims who came to the funeral and to others around the world. The deaths of world leaders always draw more attention than the deaths of poor people in developing nations. Maybe that should upset me, but this morning it did not.
And so I sat and watched the pageantry. I loved the colors of the robes and learned about the water on the casket. I wondered how many people know what the Latin means and how many just recite the sounds. I marveled at the beauty of the singing. I was surprised by the applause. I was aware that this was a historical moment, and one that I would remember for a long time.
It was a beautiful service and I’m glad I watched it.
*I went back and forth over whether I should include that sentence. I’m not entirely sure why it concerned me so much; I guess I was worried about whether I would offend anyone. I decided to leave it in. Maybe on another day I will write something about differences between religions and the people that interpret them. But I will need to think those things through a little more before I can write anything worth sharing.