The outpouring of concern and affection for John Paul II shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only has he reigned for 26 years (selected on October 16, 1978; the longest reign of any Pope, I am told), but he has shown himself from the start to be both a serious person and loving person, and one who meant to have an effect on both the spiritual and political life of the world, and he has. Over the next many days, we will hear from thoughtful observers about the man and his work, and I will try to pass them on.
You might want to check the National Catholic Reporter’s blog site for updates on the Pope’s condition, and note John L. Allen’s reporting. Also see comment.
I remember him going to Poland about a year after he became Pope, and telling his fellow countrymen, "Do not be afraid." And also, "You are men. You have dignity. Don’t crawl on your bellies." The effect was electric, and was not restricted to Poland. In gratitude, I join all others in prayer on his behalf.
UPDATE: A reader immediately wrote in to say the following regarding the length of John Paul II’s rule: "The longest reign of a pope was the first one: St. Peter for 34 to 37 years. (The exact dates are unclear.) The second longest was that of Pope Pius IX, from 1846 to 1878. (The shortest was that of Pope Urban VII, who lived only 12 days after his installation.)" See this.