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Reflections from a Catholic - Greg Gelpi

The race is over; it's time to reflect and honor, rather than mourn and mope about.

Perhaps I'm cold and callous, but my take on the passing of Pope John Paul II seems to be a little different than that of most.

Raised Catholic, having attended Catholic schools all through elementary, middle and high school and as a practicing Catholic, I'm well indoctrinated into the religion, although I'm certainly no theologian or expert on the intricacies of the papacy.

As the world mourned, I certainly shared in the grief, particularly since Pope John Paul II became pope shortly after I entered this world.

My grief, however, was short-lived.

When I learned of his death, two thoughts circled throughout my mind: One of the Bible verse about fighting the good fight and the other about the Rudyard Kipling poem "If."

As the last lines of the poem read:

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And – which is more – you'll be a Man, my son!"

Without a doubt, the pope fought the good fight, he finished the race and certainly did fill the unforgiving minute.

Even until the end, the pope, unwavering in his faith although his body did waver, remained true to his obligations as much as he physically could in his beleaguered state.

I've said on a number of occasions here in the newsroom, half joking and two-thirds serious, that I want an Irish funeral when I die.

Boisterous celebration, as opposed to somber and reserved reverence, should accompany fond farewells.

Leave the black clothing in the closet and prepare for a festive occasion on that day.

In similar fashion, I, as a human being, have a heavy spot in my heart for the pope and his passing, but at the same time as a Catholic I recognize his passing as simply that, a transition from this life to the next, rather than an end to life as a whole.

Amidst the mourning should be farewells, but also reflection on our lives and how our lives were impacted or should have been impacted by that of the pope.

For a man who spent his life in service, it would only be appropriate for the millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike who are making a pilgrimage to the Vatican to spin his death forward, take something from his life and the experience of seeing his body.

Through the muddle of swirling suspicions of the pope's successor tossed out by talking heads, there are clear certainties.

Whether religious or not, I think we can all learn from the pope and accept the challenge of living up to his example of filling the "unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run."

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.