is the pope polish?

John Paul II reigned as pontiff for almost 27 years and spent much of that time traveling the globe. Many Catholics can boast that they either saw him, or the degrees of separation between them and the pope are few. Here are my own John Paul II connections.

  • I`m first generation Polish. Need I say more?!
  • I was spending a year in a Benedictine monastery when Karol Woytyła was elected pope. The monastery was founded by Polish speaking Sisters to serve immigrant families on the prairies. Cardinal Woytyła visited them before he was pope. There was much jubilation on his election day – and some argument over who`s bible he had used to say mass.
  • My husband and I attended an outdoor Papal mass during John Paul II`s visit to Canada in 1984.
  • My parents watched our 19 month old son for us on the day of the mass. My Dad had a pass to the air force base where the pope`s plane landed.  The pope saw the small crowd gathered to welcome him and went over to meet them. Dad squeezed to the front with our son, managing to get a papal blessing for my boy.
  • In 1996 I attended the beatification ceremony in Rome of Jakob Gapp, a Marianist priest and martyr. The signs of age and illness in John Paul II were already obvious. This was not the vibrant and energetic man from the Canadian visit. Yet, it was still still amazing to hear him address the international audience in a multitude of languages.
  • In  the spring of 2005 I was glued to the TV with the rest of the world as we awaited his death, mourned him, and buried him.
  • I visited his tomb several times in St. Peter`s. Its prayerful atmosphere and elegant simplicity contrasts with the overbearing massiveness of other papal tombs and monuments around Rome.

What stories or memories do you have of the soon to be Blessed John Paul II?

2 thoughts on “is the pope polish?

  1. Here are my connections both positive and negative to John Paul II:

    • I loved it when he knelt and kissed the ground in each country he visited.
    • His interfaith prayer vigil for peace in Assisi was brilliant and reminded me of the hope for the future awakened by Vatican II.
    • His ability to engage youth in worldwide rally experiences.
    • His love of being in nature.
    • His tenacity in confronting Communism.
    • When I watched Lech Walesa’s hand reach up and grasp the fence to climb over and enter the locked shipyard in Gdansk, I saw the hand of John Paul II.
    • When I heard him proclaim Fr. Chaminade, “The Profit of the Laity” in Saint Peter’s Square; because, two hundred years before Vatican II, Father Chaminade empowered the laity to rebuild the Church.

    The connections I need to forgive him for:

    • His position on women’s role in church ministry
    • His silencing and disciplining numerous brilliant Catholic theologians who dared to engage in creative thinking.
    • His crushing of liberation theology and theologians in Latin America: witness his public rebuke and nasty finger wagging at Father Ernesto Cardinale when arriving for a visit to Latin America.
    • His multiple end runs around the reforms and spirit of the Second Vatican Council, steering the church backwards by his episcopal appointments of reactionaries and the so-called “reform of the reform”.
    • His flagrant defense of the founder of the Legionnaires, dragging his feet when confronted with overwhelming evidence of cover-ups and inaction.
    • His beautification of a scoundrel, Pius IX, thus politicizing the making of saints by the Vatican.

  2. Thank you so much for these two lists, Ray. You give us an honest and balanced assessment of JPII, something which is missing on recent discussion boards I`ve been reading. It seems that many are blinded by excessive adulation or excessive criticism. As usual, the truth is found somewhere in between.

    BTW…..did you get up bright and early today to watch the Royal nuptials? 😉

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