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?