BY HANNAH CRITES
“Yes, I was a friend of John Paul,” said European statesman and philosopher Rocco Buttiglione. “It’s nothing to boast about. He was a friend to many people.”
Buttiglione shared his testimony and lessons about friendship learned from Bl. John Paul II on October 21 in the J.C. Williams Center Gentile Gallery. Both levels of the Gallery were open to students, faculty, priests, and religious to hear Buttiglione talk about his relationship with the late pontiff.
“He had a clear interest in you and your life,” Buttiglione said. “He was a friend of the whole world.”
There was something “supernatural” about Bl. John Paul II that made so many flock to him. Buttiglione said that Bl. John Paul first taught him that a friend is “someone who has a passionate interest in you and sees a reflection of the glory of God.” Without that interest, a friendship cannot grow.
Buttiglione also learned that friendship is only successful when the individual “accepts that he belongs to others.” A man can belong to his wife and children, his siblings and parents, his community, the Church, his nation, and to mankind. All those relationships are a “free act of self gift.”
Buttiglione used the example of marriage. He stated that falling in love is when an individual completely gives himself to another. “There is no space in life for two true loves,” he said, “Be faithful. There is no greater gift a father can give his daughter than loving her mother.”
When John Paul II died of Parkinson’s Disease in 2005, Buttiglione said he learned that death is a “social act.” He explained how he noticed that the Holy Father’s foot trembled, then his hands, and finally, a man who loved to talk and socialize could no longer speak without an immense amount of energy and effort.
Buttiglione began to ask himself as the pope was dying, why he had come to love him so much. He wondered whether it was because of John Paul’s intellect, beauty, or strength. He even went to John Paul and asked, who responded that it was because of his love for others. Buttiglione said that the pontiff “loved until the end.”
“If you die in the community of friends and the church,” said Buttiglione, “death too will be human.”
Buttiglione’s talk was hosted by the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, which was introduced to Franciscan University this year. The project was founded in 2004 by John Henry Crosby to promote the life and teachings of Dietrich von Hildebrand, a 20th century Catholic philosopher.