Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Pope John Paul II-We love You

Father John J. Lombardi

Still. That above quote was the chant of youth, years ago, in Denver when the Pope celebrated World Youth Day there: "Love never ends" (I Cor 13:8) --even in death.

"At 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) our Holy Father returned to the House of the Father," said Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, announcing the Pope's death to more than 60,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square." Let us be linked to Our Holy Father in the Mystical Communion by prayer and never-ending-ever-linking-Love. Let us all pray that we may come one day to meet him in Heaven and Him-Who-Is, the Lord God of All. With the passing of the Slavic Pope, here are some meditations on his life, and death

Do you recall?-: "At 6:18 p.m., on October 16, 1978, white smoke appeared from the small chimney of the Sistine Chapel, thus signaling that the cardinal electors had chosen a new Roman Pontiff. Twenty-seven minutes later, Cardinal Pericle Felici appeared on the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica and announced the election of Pope John Paul II to the See of Peter" (Vatican Information Service).

This was a simple man (almost poor). He was a Pole and yet he became a most influential man.

"Karol Jozef Wojtyla, known as Pope John Paul II since his election over 26 years ago, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, on May 18, 1920. He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died giving birth to a third child - stillborn - in 1929. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer, died in 1941." My grandmother was from that town. My mom and I traveled there a decade ago and I remember the quaint feeling and beauty of the area and town. We went into Our Lady of the Presentation Church, the parish church and I wondered-perhaps my relatives were baptized I the same font as John Paul, and were friends with him…It's a small world. We seldom know how intertwined our lives are on this earth. Pope John Paul's is the most entwined man on earth-by reason of his 26 yrs as Pope, the global media and love of so many for him. He's made the world smaller, quainter in a good way-by way of interconnection and Mystical Body-relatedness and interdependence. But God and Heaven is infinite-let's try to meet there someday.

Bliss: I got a message from a seminarian-Ernest, in Rome. He mentioned that a bell tolled there, and hadn't done this for 26 and a half years since Pope John Paul I died. Ernest also mentioned a pregnant silence when a priest asked for prayers just immediately after the Pope's death. Why the silence? Because that's when, possibly the Holy Father, after a Veil of Tears on Earth, might be experiencing Ultimate Happiness-the Beatific Vision. Yes. Think about it: Seeing God Himself-in His Uncreated, Loving, Unfathomable Divine and Trinitarian Essence…So: know that as a great as he or we can be on this earth, nothing compares to this: Ultimate Bliss- encountering God Himself in heaven. Don't miss out.

Divine Mercy: The Vatican News Service reported the evening of the Pope's death-"At 8 p.m. the celebration of Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday began in the Holy Father's room, presided by Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz." …This is the Pope of God's Forgiveness. Pope John Paul forgave the man who tried to kill him. He's been a priest 55 years and sat in confessionals and forgave countless souls in the Sacrament of reconciliation. He promoted the Divine Mercy devotion in earlier days, and then canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish Nun, who received messages of Jesus and His Mercy. So: If you really love the pope and want to respond to his death, go to confession. Be merciful to others. Forgive and be forgiven. Let anger and resentments go, and may mercy within your heart grow.

"Anonymous adorer": I went out with friends for dinner the evening the Pope died and met a musician in the restaurant. His immediate reply to seeing me, a priest: Hi. I'm so sorry for you. I was shocked and began weeping when I heard the Pope died…I'm not Catholic but he's a great man, of the Lord."…I was inspired by this man's effusive admiration for a guy he didn't know personally but loved form afar. Who are you emulating? Professional wrestlers? Sport stars or movies starlets? Do you have your spiritual antenna in the right direction: i.e., supernatural creatures, saintly people? A common refrain since the Pope died-so many various people admired him for so many myriad reasons-youth, Protestants, non-Catholics, the elderly. God uses one man for the salvation of so many souls!

Colorful man and Youth: John Thavis (of Catholic News Service-hereafter, CNS) wrote, "The path to the papacy was not a simple one for Karol Wojtyla. As a youth in southern Poland, he studied at the university, acted in a clandestine theater, wrote poetry and read philosophy, played goalie on his soccer team, split stone at a quarry and worked in a chemical factory. Only then did his vocation to the priesthood come into focus." Yes, boys, you can have fun, be a human being and become a priest, too! So consider it even at the cost of sacrifice!

And also: "He entered Krakow's clandestine theological seminary in 1942, a risky step under the Gestapo's watchful eyes. Always drawn to the mystical and contemplative, at one point he considered joining the local Carmelite order instead of the diocesan priesthood. But his cardinal told him: 'Finish what you've begun,' and the local Carmelite director is said to have turned him away with the words: 'You are destined for greater things.'" How's that for drama?! Now, think: right in our own saints we already have more than enough to attract us without endless pursuit of such in TV, and sensual programming. Teach your children about a saintly, real and dramatic person like John Paul II. And, by the way; become more mystical-otherworldly, prayerful and contemplative: it's not against the law but it is against many peoples' law of busybodyism and self-ism. Become a saint amidst life's trials, not in spite of them.

"Father Wojtyla was an outdoorsman, and he loved to take groups of students hiking, skiing, camping and canoeing in the hills of southern Poland. He took off his collar and told the youth to call him "uncle" because it was illegal for priests to sponsor such outings under Communism." -We live here amidst the beautiful Catoctin Mountains. Do you take advantage to find God in nature, with others, and do you put your religion, as Fr Wojtyla did, first?

Mary-John Paul gave us Five new mysteries of the Rosary-Mysteries of Light, of the Public ministry of Jesus. The Pope encouraged people to pray the rosary, pray it contemplatively, and to battle against sin, communism and evil in the world. The Pope entrusted himself, Poland an the world to Mary. He had a special devotion to The Black Madonna- Our Lady of Czestochowa, Queen of Poland (Icon is on inside of Glass Chapel over entrance doors). The haunting beauty of the Mother and Son is enticing and evocative. She has pierced slits under her eyes and His look faintly-sad: life is this way but the Intimacy of the two.

What was the bible text requested by the Pope before dying? "I lie prostrate in the dust, give me life according to your word" (Psalm 119:25)…How can you pray more and realize you are dying if you are without God and His word? The pope loved the Bible-so can, should you! Last night I went into Immaculate Conception Chapel to make a Holy hour of prayer. There were several students there, I was glad to see, praying-making Vigil for Pope John Paul, his last night on earth. Later they gathered near the altar and prayed evening prayer and had meditations: intercede for the dead. Pray for your lost ones-even those in Purgatory-they are still affected by your prayers.

Heroic Charity: The Pope picked up a Jewish woman right after being released from concentration camp-on edge of death. The Holy Father, then only a parish father, he carried her miles to medical help and saved her life. Do you sacrifice to find Jesus in His distressing disguises like this heroic holy Pope?

"According to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, over the past 26 years the Pope has proclaimed 1,339 Blesseds in 143 ceremonies and 483 Saints in 52 ceremonies."…A lot of saints. Wow. Okay-in other words, the Pope wants to give us examples of really holy people. And not just priests and monks fasting in ascetic cells (whose examples, incidentally, we really do need). He's given married and teen martyr saints, holy folks for all walks of life to show us we can be holy right where we are.

"Many credit his political activism-and his morale-boosting trips to Poland-for helping to bring down European Communism in 1989. In a historic meeting with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, the Pope nurtured the glasnost reform policy that would eventually lead to the break-up of the Soviet empire." (CNS) Yes, the wall came down due in part to his efforts because he saw people in chains and wanted them freed. Will you help free souls?

"The Pope becomes persona non grata when he tries to convince the world of human sin," he said with a dose of realism in 1994." Who wants to mention sin, evil, veil of tears today. Not many. We thank the Pope for reminding us what Jesus "repent and for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Mt. 4:17). ..Are you willing to become perosona non grata-to follow Jesus and Pope John Paul, more?

So, just who was this man, known variously as "Karol," "Uncle," "Holy Father" -even "JP II"? Jesus describes him this way: "Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mk. 12:29-30).Now, after this dramatic life and light has ended, we may sad-a light has gone out (as they sad about St Bernard of Clairvaux, great medieval saint, teacher and mystic-similar to JP II). So, let us be sad, weep: a gift has gone. The earth lost a great, courageous, beautiful man. A real man who stood up to evil. He's been the commander of spiritual militant-he called you and me to get off our duffs and be holy right where we are. He was the poor-man-become rich because of the spiritual riches he possessed and shared-because we saw his beautiful, mystical and light-filled treasures-selfless love, devotion to God, sacrifice for the church and following the Crucified and Risen One.

But, also, while we are sad, let us be thankful to the Gift Giver-God. Let's realize how beautiful a person can be when they cooperate with His grace. As my friends said at dinner: "He just makes you want to become holy." …John Paul II-we Love you. Still….Thank you Jesus. Thank you Mary.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi