I had one single ambition on this beautiful day marking the 100th birthday of an incredible Pole who became a parish priest, bishop and cardinal and then voted by the College of Cardinals to succeed two men whose names he took – John and Paul: to be in the presence of a pontiff I so loved and loved to serve for so many years.

St. Peter’s Basilica was to open today for the first time in two months and I wanted to be there and to pray to and with John St. Paul.

I live very close to the Perugino entrance to Vatican City and, as a Vatican retiree with proper ID and related privileges, I can use that entrance whenever I need to access certain offices, the department store, the basilica, etc.

I wore my mask but the two gendarmes at the entrance knew me and I was delighted when they said yes, I could certainly return to the basilica! When I got to the basilica entrance there ere two volunteers from the Order of Malta taking temperatures – as they are doing to people who use the main basilica entrance.

I’d been so excited to go that I left my cell phone at home so could not take photos o the basilica as I had only seen it once before in my life, But at least I know there will now be other times!

The very central part of the main aisle has wood barriers on both sides, closing a space of about 6 to 8 feet across, so you cannot walk directly across the basilica, from one side to the other, at any point. As I entered on the south side of the basilica, I had to walk behind the papal altar to get to the north side and John Paul’s tomb where I prayed the rosary. I chose the Luminous Mysteries today because John Paul added them to the traditional Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries.

I did not meditate that well on the mysteries, I must say. I had so many memories of John Paul, mental photos that came fleetingly to my mind. I studied the altar, the many flowers and gorgeous floral bouquets that had been places during the day (I did not see any during the papal Mass). Every distancing allowable space in the pews was occupied and that made me very happy but did not at all surprise me. I saw and felt the love.

I did notice one thing and am guessing it was planned. There were 8 candles on the altar above John Paul’s tomb and 10 more were added during the day on the marble altar railing, two candelabras of 5 candles each for a grand total of 18 candles!

The meditation on the third Luminous mystery in the book I use when I say the rosary began: “Jesus preached in the synagogues, streets and hills of Galilee, offering individuals fulfilment of all their hopes and dreams. People listened, spellbound, as he told them how to gain entrance into this new kingdom: “Repent, turn around, and believe the Good news. God had made a way for you to come back to Him.”

All I could think of was, “that’s John Paul! He preached everywhere in the world!” And it was he who said upon being elected Pope, “ Open wide, open wide your doors to Christ! Be not afraid!”

One of my very favorite photos of John Paul –

I wanted to meditate more on this and talk to John Paul some more and ask another favor or two but I heard a bell that almost made me jump for joy (a bell rang JUST NOW on my phone as I wrote the word bell). The bell meant there was Mass!

Mass! And Communion!

I joined perhaps 50 other people at the Altar of St. Joseph where two of the 12 Apostles are buried, Simon and Jude. All pews were marked with a small yellow dot where seating as allowed – perfect social distancing. The priest who said Mass did not have a mask but he did have gloves: his assistant had both. There was beautiful music and the organist was a great tenor as well!

Communion – Yes, the Eucharist! – went very well. It was orderly, with ushers allowing us to exit our pews properly.

What most amazed me was that when I received communion and began to return to my pew, I started crying!   I felt like I had just received my first communion – at least my first coronavirus era Eucharist!

After Mass I did the final thing I had been wanting to do for a while – confession. I did not know the basilica would close at 6 and it was 5:40 but I found an English (and Chinese- and Italian-)-speaking priest so confession was the final part of the triple whammy!

I can tell you a few things for certain after my afternoon experience…

Even with restrictions, when you go to a real Mass for the first time in probably months, you will discover what you knew all along. You will rejoice. You will smile. You will feel special. You will know you are in a special place. Mass is the highlight, the focus, the center, of our spiritual lives. We share the Eucharist with other members of the Body of Christ as the epitome, the epicentre if you will, of our life on earth as Catholics.

You will also discover the beauty of the priesthood as you experienced it with your pastor or others these past months via live streaming Masses – Masses done with care, homilies preached with love. Maybe you went to confession in your car, sitting 6 feet from your confessor and praying those in the cars behind you had hearing problems!! Much has to be sacrificed to prepare these Masses, new technology had to be learned and used but the priests did that – they did it for us, the faithful.

And I think you will discover like never before what the Eucharist means to you!

PS– a link to other memories I have of St. John Paul:



With his permission, I share a friend’s thoughts and reflections on today’s anniversary – the centenary of the end of World War I – on the madness of war and on man’s inhumanity to man.


This Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War (for us youngsters it is now called “World War One”… we had not yet learned to number them back in 1918). Personally it is a poignant reminder that at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month, the horror of that madness was finally brought to a close.

Estimates vary, but some forty million combatants and civilians were killed in that war. And if that wasn’t enough, returning solders helped scatter the “Spanish Flu”.

The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide — about one-third of the planet’s population — and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims. Included in the 675,000 American deaths was that of my grandfather (I’m named after him). That war and its aftermath touched every household in America and Europe.

After “World War Two”, which killed some sixty million people (3% of the world population), came other military conflicts. And almost exactly fifty years ago this month, I too was swept up and sent off to war. And at its end, yet another national monument was added to commemorate the string of war deaths.

All of this carnage has always puzzled me. Why are we humans so bent on killing one another? If Earth has been visited by aliens from other solar systems, our uncivilized history has surely scared them off. Why make friends with such immature inhabitants?

And today we are still at war… our economies spend an enormous amount on ways to kill one another. It is madness… and we never learn from history. It all seems so “normal”. If war wasn’t enough, around the world we even kill our unborn children… many are just too inconvenient to have around. In America alone, over 45 million “legal” abortions have taken the lives of the innocent and defenseless.

In the eyes of God, all of this killing must seem sheer madness. What kind of people are we? We slaughter our neighbors and family members. But then a recent survey says that a third of Americans do not even believe in God as depicted in the Holy Bible. I just do not understand it. God surely loves us dearly to put up with us.

It is the time in our Church year when we reflect on the big picture of eternity. We hear in the Sunday Readings about right and wrong… sin… Heaven and Hell. I think it is ironic that at this time of year we are also experiencing the great clergy scandal of abuse. It somehow fits into theme of great sins… Judgment Day… and Hell.

Now you can see why I personally love the 12th century icon that depicts the “Ladder of Divine Ascent”… It shows that until the last moments of our lives we are never far from the clutches of Satan.

Two of the various images of the icon of the Divine Ladder of Ascent

You can also see why my visions of Heaven are of a vast Garden of Eden… with few occupants. Apparently all those who do believe in the Holy Trinity think they automatically have a golden ticket to enter Paradise… a “get-out-of-Hell-free” card. I suppose we have a different concept of the “Last Judgment”… or are the “Elect” exempt from that?

I suppose I’m rather glum these days. Too many anniversaries of war; too many priests and bishops (who should know better) committing horrible sins against innocents; too many screaming protesters worried about losing their rights to murder their babies; too many wacko governments wanting to mass murder those who do not agree with their agenda or faith… and on and on.

Fortunately in the Fall, we are also hearing about the immense power of Our Lady, the Rosary, Saint Michael the Archangel, and the amazing graces afforded us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

So I do see hope. In Hawaii we recently celebrated our local Saints who, on Molokai, “served the poorest of the poor, and those sent off to die out of sight and mind”. Holy men and women who not only loved God with all their might, but also loved their neighbors more than themselves.

This celebration conference brought together many wonderful Catholics who are doing much tilling in the Vineyard of the Lord. I see many saints among them… no they will not be canonized to become official “Saints”, but they are none the less living saints. They give us hope… hope that Mother Church and faithful Christians will overcome the temptations of this material world and assist many souls yearning to spend eternity with Christ.

So I ask that you all pray….
Pray for the World…
Pray for Peace…
Pray for the Church…
Pray for the Americas…
Pray for non-believers…
Pray for those fallen away from Church…
Pray for the children (from conception to
natural death)…
Pray for the persecuted and defenseless…
Pray for those who are about to die… and
Pray for those working so diligently in the Vineyard of the Lord.

For those who love God, there is hope for all Mankind.