by Rod D. Martin
April 8, 2005

We are here today in Rome, witnessing two most significant events: the funeral of John Paul II, and, more personally, my wife Sherri’s birthday.

Ronald Reagan & John Paul II, Praying in Miami, 1982

John Paul II, whatever one might think of aspects of his theology, was certainly one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, and one of the finest men ever to hold his office. Ronald Reagan aside, it is hard to think of any individual who did more to subvert and destroy the evil cancer of Communism at just that moment when it could well have engulfed us all. Perhaps as important, John Paul II did more than perhaps any individual of his time to turn back the mistaken but pervasive notions (at the time of his elevation) that spiritual matters were mere uneducated superstition; that people of faith were uneducated rubes at best, as likely as not hateful violent extremists; and that “science” had “proven” that the cosmos is nothing more than matter in random motion. Whatever I should personally wish to place at the feet of Kuyper or Van Til or Francis Schaeffer or many others — and whatever they might rightly deserve — in fact, God chose to exalt this humble, kindly Pole above them all, and change the world in positive ways we are only beginning to feel. It is an honor to be able to honor him here, and we can only pray that God will grant wisdom and grace to the Cardinals who select his successor.

Rod & Sherri at the Roman Forum

In her own admittedly smaller way (though who can say what God will do with such things?), Sherri is more amazing and no less great. Abandoned with three small children years ago, she sacrificed any and all personal ambitions for their sake, throwing herself into rearing godly, well-adjusted young adults who would someday be equipped to stand before kings. She succeeded, far beyond what most might expect of children in two-parent homes. In all of this, she maintained a grace, a peace, a faith unexcelled; she harbored no bitterness; she thought not for herself but yet daily sought to improve herself for the service of the Kingdom and of those whom had been given into her care; and she was — when I was so graced as to finally meet her — the most perfectly godly lady I had or have ever known.

I have been infinitely graced by the opportunity to be a father for those beloved children these past several years and for the rest of their lives, and without a doubt I could write a book or two filled with my pride, admiration and adoration for each of them. What God has done for each and all of us, most particularly just in making us whole, defies easy description or shallow appreciation.

But focusing this day, from this city, on the dear sweet girl at the center of it all, I am more pleased today than any day previous, and will be more pleased tomorrow still, to be the man who accompanied Sherri Martin to Rome. Happy birthday, my love, and may the next seventy or a hundred be so sweet.