Late cardinal an example of a voice used to good ends
The China Post news staff
September 5, 2012, 12:09 am TWN
On Saturday, Sept. 1, the world bid farewell to Cardinal Paul Shan, one of the most respected religious figures in Taiwan. As society mourns his passing, the unwavering determination he exhibited in his practice of philanthropy should serve as a source of inspiration.
Though he served the Catholic Church as a cardinal from 1998, he devoted his life to his faith, beginning at the tender age of 20. He preached the Gospel of his faith, and after coming to Taiwan in 1963, set up retirement homes and community centers such as Beatitude Mountain. In addition to his service in the church, Shan was an educator. When asked how he approached his frequent interactions with leaders of other faiths, he emphasized mutual understanding through maximizing morality and "conscience," goals that all religions share.
As lung cancer ravaged his body and he gradually lost control over basic motor functions, and as he struggled with the pain of spreading death, Shan nevertheless displayed a sense of humor that transcended death. He thanked his God for providing him the opportunity to part with his pretentious pride.
When he was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Shan said he had a moment of doubt. But after half an hour of prayer, he decided to treat his illness as a gift from God. He embarked on his "Journey of Parting Life," and with more than 200 speeches over seven years, Shan visited schools, prisons and hospitals to share his lifetime experience and preach love and forgiveness.
Shan's willingness to share his final days with the people in this tour — and the light-hearted composure in the face of suffering that he demonstrated in the seven years after his diagnosis — offers a diametric contrast with many currents in contemporary society. This is especially true in the era of "famous mouths," Taiwan's high-profile political commentators and gossipers.
In our society death is generally considered to be an intensely personal issue: one that should be shrouded in fear and disgust, and avoided to the greatest possible extent. The cosmetics and plastic surgery industries are structured around the premise of denying, castigating and attempting to reverse — or disguise — human beings' common journey toward death, otherwise known as aging.
Shan faced death by focusing his efforts on realizing and spreading love. In his own words, "'Love' allows me to often find a proverbial new world at life's corners. 'Love' gives me light and hope in the face of despair. 'Love' encourages me and gives me strength when I am down."