IN MEMORIAM – SAINT JOHN PAUL

IN MEMORIAM – SAINT JOHN PAUL

Where were you at 9:37 pm on April 2, 2005?

If you were in Rome, you might have been in St. Peter’s Square, as I was, when you heard the announcement that, precisely at that hour, Pope John Paul II, after a reign of 26 and a half years, had gone home to the Father.

After finishing my work quite late at the Vatican Information Service, I joined the tens of thousands who had flooded into the square to pray for a miracle, but instead heard that the Holy Father had died, precisely on the vigil of a feast day he had instituted, Divine Mercy Sunday. Thousands had been in the square the night before when word had spread that the end seemed near.

Both nights, young people dominated the presence in the square. They sang softly, they prayed rosary after rosary. They lit huge numbers of candles. Were they trying to replace the light of their lives, a light whose name was John Paul II?

Banners appeared out of nowhere: “Pope Karol, your children embrace you”

“You are the most beautiful of Adam’s children.”

Yellow post-it notes were everywhere, glued to the pillars of the colonnades and the base of the obelisk, lamenting the Holy Father, weeping over having met him and weeping over having never met him.

“Your memory will forever be in our hearts.You were always one of a kind and you will be forever! I love you! Melissa S

This is the letter I wrote to a niece the night of April 1:

I am at work – it is 9:10 p.m. and I have been here for 12 and half hours – and did not sleep at all last night. Am scheduled to be here until midnight. Got to bed about 2:30 but was wide-awake until the alarm went off at 7.

These hours have been surreal – the worsening health situation, translating the press office bulletins and knowing information before everyone else, going to the square every hour or so – seeing the mass of journalists, the huge numbers of faithful pouring in non-stop, day becoming night – and a life probably ending.

What is so unreal is to see the countless numbers of people – and be almost able to hear a pin drop – the religious, awed silence, the respect for a truly great and wonderful man who is leaving us. I wrote a friend today that I have felt closer to God all day because I think that God is personally coming down to earth to get Pope John Paul, not the Pope going up to meet him. To think that soon he will be united with his beloved Virgin Mary, his own parents and brother and a sister he never knew.

I am writing you now in my office but will soon go out into the square to say my own goodbye – I am writing these words through tears, sorry.

What an extraordinary human being, what a giant spiritually and theologically and humanly and even politically! How many people the Holy Father touched, how very much he touched my life and made me a better person and Catholic.

Fox wants me to do another “At Large” with Geraldo – said they really liked me. However I’d have to be at the Fox spot 4:30 a.m. Monday morning! I have to let them know by tomorrow evening.

There are tens of thousands of people just yards away from me – yet I feel so alone. I just may have to go outside – I need that company.

My cell phone keeps ringing every 10 or 15 minutes, however. I’ve done a few phoners today for EWTN and have kept them updated on every aspect of the day, the press office bulletins, etc.

Much love, Aunt Joan

St. Peter’s Square became the focal point for all of us in ensuing hours and days, right up to the extraordinary funeral Mass on April 8 when the wind – but we know it was the Holy Spirit! – slowly turned the pages of the Book of Gospels lying the Holy Father’s casket until it finally closed the book. The End.

And the beginning.

Cries of Santo Subito filled St. Peter’s Square, Via della Conciliazione and adjacent side streets at the funeral mass and reverberated around the world! Make John Paul the Great a saint immediately. Vox popoli! The voice of the people – the same voice that created saints, such as Saint Francis of Assisi – in centuries past!

The dome was lit up by the media on Janiculum Hill by what they call “blue lights” the night before Pope John Paul’s funeral (from my living room window).

St. Peter’s Square was the stage again in 2011 for Blessed John Paul. And for Saint John Paul in 2014.

Our hearts were broken 12 years ago today. But today they rejoice! Those of us privileged to have known or met him have a friend in heaven, a saint to whom we can pray every day.

Deo gratias!

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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. JOHN PAUL: KRAKOW

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. JOHN PAUL: KRAKOW

I did not write a column yesterday because, following my arrival in Krakow in early afternoon, the rest of the day was nonstop. I checked into the Grand Hotel (more about this historic building, great rooms and terrific staff at a later date) about 2:30, unpacked and checked email to see about pending appointments and, as I always do in a new city or one I already know, I went out to explore the neighborhood.  I actually knew this one from my time here last June – I’m just a block off one of my favorites squares in the world, the famous and very beautiful Market Square, Rynek Glowny.

At about 5:20 I went into the basilica of St. Mary and, after a brief visit to this church that stuns the senses, almost putting them into overdrive, I spent an hour in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and then attended Mass. I later discovered that the 6:30 pm daily Mass is a student Mass: the young people provided the music and Mass was very well attended by adults as well.

Signs are all over asking people not to take photos but I did take two – which I posted last night on FB – of the overwhelmingly beautiful main altar chapel as soon as I saw some of the students taking photos. I’ll try to get permission to take more pictures as this church was very important in Pope John Paul’s life.

Here is the official website of St. Mary’s: http://mariacki.com/en/

Known by all here as St. Mary’s Church, the full name is Our Lady Assumed into Heaven. It is a brick Gothic church, originally built in the early 13th century by Bishop Iwo Odrowaz of Krakow and re-built in the 14th century. It is most celebrated for the wooden altarpiece carved by one Veit Stoss. The choir stalls in the altar area are stunning as well.

One of the favorite stories about the basilica is that of the trumpeter: Every hour a trumpet signal comes from the top of the taller of St. Mary’s two towers. However, the sound is cut off half way through, a break commemorating the famous 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before an attack on the city by the Mongols. It is said that the noon-time trumpet sound is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station. This was made famous in Eric Kelly’s book, “The Trumpeter of Krakow.”

By the way, I learned that St. Mary’s Basilica has served as an architectural model for many of the churches built by Polish migrants to America and other countries. One of these, by the way, is St. John Cantius in my hometown of Chicago.

Today was my first full day and Krakow and it has been nonstop activity to this moment.

In preparation for this trip, I’ve been in touch with friends in Poland and friends who have friends in Poland, asking to meet people who knew John Paul. One of those contacts was Fr. Wojciech Zyzak, rector of the John Paul II University. As he planned to leave for Warsaw tomorrow, he invited me to the university for a brief meeting and conversation and then a conference on Father Walerian Kalinka (1826–1886), who was a founder of the Polish Province of the Resurrectionist Fathers in 19th century.

The conference began at 9:30 and lasted until 1:30 with a morning coffee break. I did not understand a word but I was able to write a bit for my book as I listened to the speakers and, during the break and later at lunch, I met some fascinating priests and professors and heard some great stories about the man who brings a smile to everyone’s face in Poland as soon as it is mentioned, Pope John Paul.

I want to go to St. Mary’s again for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Mass so shall close for now. I’ll try to post photos in FB whenever I can. I tried doing a FB Live yesterday but the connection in Market Square was not strong enough. I’ll try again at some point.

INGREDIENTS FOR A SPECIAL DAY: A CARDINAL, A CONVERSATION AND COOKIES

INGREDIENTS FOR A SPECIAL DAY: A CARDINAL, A CONVERSATION AND COOKIES

I barely know where to begin because my first full day in Kraków has been extraordinary, but I’ve decided to focus on one special moment, one special visit.

I had an appointment this morning with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, whom I have known for many years, as I wrote yesterday. We first met in the early years of Pope John Paul’s pontificate, stayed in touch and saw each other throughout those long years and remained stayed in touch even after John Paul the Great died in 2005.

My first trip to Kraków to see the archbishop who succeeded his “boss” as archbishop of Krakow was to report on Pope Benedict’s visit in 2006 to honor his predecessor. Now, as I walk the streets of this beautiful and historic city, I find it hard to believe that 10 years have passed.

The cardinal and I met at 10:30. He has had a busy week so far because Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies is also in Karkow to plan for Pope Francis’ liturgies when he comes in late July for World Youth Day.

Fr. Tomasz, the cardinal’s secretary, ushered me into an office I had visited only once before, 10 years ago, but felt it was so familiar, that I knew it well.

I had seen the cardinal in Rome on June 5 and we mentioned that visit for the canonization of a new Polish Saint Stanislaus, this time the founder of the Marian Fathers. We naturally also talked about World Youth Day and the cardinal reported how hard everyone has been working, how excited everyone is and how “absolutely wonderful” Krakow’s World Youth Day will be.

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He told me that 40,000 Americans are coming and said he is thrilled! He added that 250,000 Italian youth are coming! This all makes me wonder: wow, how many Polish Youth will there be?!

I gave Cardinal Dziwisz a copy of my book, “A Holy Year in Rome,” and he also knows about my book on John Paul. We’ve agreed to meet again in September when he will have more time to sit down and tell me the stories I want to hear, the stories I want to tell about John Paul’s humor and humanity. The cardinal is immensely pleased I have chosen to focus on these aspects of the man for whom he was almost like a son for 40 years!

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He was also immensely pleased that I brought my homemade chocolate chip cookies (as was Fr. Tomasz)! We both remember how the Pope enjoyed them, as did the papal household, the Polish nuns and others, because the cardinal, at the time Msgr. Stanislaw, either called me or wrote me a note each time I brought cookies to the Holy Father. So many special, really special, memories!

Cardinal Dziwisz really warmed the cockles of my heart when he thanked me for the work I did all the years at the Vatican and for the work I now do, my “ministry” for EWTN, for the Church.

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Since he knew I intend to go to the Shrine of Divine Mercy the John Paul II shrine tomorrow, he asked me to report back to him with my impressions on the Saint John Paul Shrine!

After this memorable visit and renewal of a long and wonderful friendship, Fr. Tomasz took some photos (many more than you see here!) and the cardinal and I said our goodbyes, promising to meet in September.

I bid him farewell with my Mother’s words – God sit on your shoulder!

Fr. Tomasz asked if I had ever seen the room whose window the Pope always appeared at when he came to Poland and stayed at the archbishop’s residence. The crowd of faithful would never let him get to bed without first greeting them at this window. And the same happened for Benedict XVI ten years ago – a huge, adoring crowd and the same window.

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I had seen the window from outside but never the famous room:

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Fr. Tomasz then brought me to a place that gave me goose bumps – the chapel where John Paul, Karol Wojtyla, was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Sapieha on November 1, 1946.

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I was able to stay some time here in prayer, and the memories of this great and long pontificate all came flooding back. As you can see in the photos, there is the picture of John Paul used for his beatification and canonization and there are also some relics here.

A special beginning to a special day.

THE PRODIGAL SON, A FATHER’S LOVE AND MERCY – ST. JOHN PAUL AND FATIMA

My reunion last evening with my former students of the Academy of the Holy Names was one of the most beautiful, moving, memorable evenings of my life! I intended to bring you that story today, along with some photos, but a technical issue (having to unwrap the enigma of an unknown password to access Internet) interfered with that and all I have been able to do was download the photos, so stay tuned tomorrow for a remarkable story!

In the meantime I have a golden nugget for you: I saw this in a novel I just finished reading and emailed it myself as I thought it was expressed a basic truth to extraordinarily well. The original author is Miles Kington – a British journalist, musician and broadcaster.

“Knowledge is knowing tomatoes are fruit but wisdom means not putting them in fruit salad”

THE PRODIGAL SON, A FATHER’S LOVE AND MERCY

(Vatican Radio) At his Wednesday general audience Pope Francis focused on the parable of the prodigal son to show how God welcomes us all with an unconditional love. Even in the most difficult situations, he told pilgrims and visitors gathered in St Peter’s Square, God waits for us and longs to embrace us.

 
Pope Francis began his reflections at the moment the prodigal son returns home, asking forgiveness for what he has done and telling his father: “I no longer deserve to be called your son”. But on the contrary, he continued, the only thing that matters to the father is that his son has returned home safe and sound. Thus he runs out to embrace him, restores his dignity by giving him clothes, sandals and a ring on his finger, and calls for a feast to celebrate his return.

 
The Pope said the father’s tenderness and mercy overflows and, in the same way, we know that even in the most difficult moments of our lives, God waits for us and longs to embrace us as his children. Jesus’ words, he went on, can encourage parents who worry about their children becoming alienated and tempted by all kinds of dangers. They can help priests and catechists who wonder if their work is all in vain. They can even help those in prison, or those who’ve made mistakes and are unable to see any future for themselves.

 
The Pope went on to explain how this parable talks about both the prodigal son and his older brother, who also needs to learn to accept the father’s mercy. Though he has remained at home with his father, his words display no tenderness or thought for anyone but himself. How sad for the father, the Pope exclaimed, with one son who went away and the other who was never really close to him!

 
Both the younger son, who is expecting to be punished, and the older son, who expects a reward for his good behavior, are not acting according to God’s love, which transcends both reward and punishment, the Pope said.
The two brothers do not speak to each other, they live different lives, but neither of them lives according to the logic of Our Lord. Their logic is overturned by the words of the father, “let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found”.

 

The greatest joy for the father, the Pope stressed, is to see his two sons reunited and recognizing each other as brothers.

 

Pope Francis noted that this parable ends without our knowing how the older brother responds to the father’s invitation to celebrate his brother’s return. Jesus is challenging each one of us, he said, to think about how we respond to God’s invitation, to open our hearts to his reconciling love and to become “merciful like the Father”.

ST. JOHN PAUL AND FATIMA

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said Our Lady of Fatima “invites us once again to turn to prayer, penance, and conversion.”
The Holy Father noted the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima is commemorated this year on this Friday (13 May) during his remarks to Polish-speaking pilgrims at his General Audience.

 
“She asks us to never offend God again. She forewarns all humanity about the necessity of abandoning oneself to God, the source of love and mercy,” Pope Francis said.

 
“Following the example of St. John Paul II, a great devotee of Our Lady of Fatima, let us listen attentively to the Mother of God and ask for peace for the world,” – he continued – “Praised be Jesus Christ!”

 
Thirty-five years ago, Pope St. John Paul II was shot by Mehmet Ali Ağca during the General Audience, which took place on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981.

 

The saint attributed his survival to Our Lady, and gave one of the bullets used in the attack to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. The bullet was placed in the crown of the statue of the Virgin Mary which is housed at the shrine.

A VIDEO WELCOME FOR POPE FRANCIS’ VISIT TO NEW YORK – VATICAN HOSTS EXHIBIT ON ST. JOHN PAUL AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE

A VIDEO WELCOME FOR POPE FRANCIS’ VISIT TO NEW YORK

Do you want to welcome Pope Francis to New York when he travels to the U.S. in September? You have almost two months of time to prepare – alone or with friends – a personalized video greeting for the Holy Father. And here’s how…

Catholic Charities of New York has created a special website for the papal visit –http://www.popefrancisnyc.org/charity-has-no-boundaries – that provides “a platform for everyone, regardless of place of origin or religion, to welcome him and share a message of charity.” Catholic Charities invites people to “send us your short video, photo or text welcome message. We’ll post it here. A collection of the videos will be shared with Pope Francis during his visit to New York City.”

In the video, in addition to their personal greetings, people are asked to recite these universal words of charity taken from the Gospel of Matthew (25:31): “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”

VATICAN HOSTS EXHIBIT ON ST. JOHN PAUL AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE

(VIS)  “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People” is the title of an exhibit opening today in the Vatican (Charlemagne Wing, July 29-September 17), previously displayed in a number of state capitals in the U.S.A., where it received more than a million visitors. (Photo news.va)

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The exhibit, prepared as a gift to John Paul II for his 85th birthday, was inaugurated at Xavier University of Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 18, 2005, just a month after the Pope’s death. It then arrived in Rome and, while in Europe, its organizers wanted to bring it to Krakow, the Polish city where Karol Wojtyla was archbishop.

“A Blessing to One Another” describes the steps the pontiff took to improve the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, and reflects the continuing relevance of the conciliar declaration “Nostra Aetate,” issued fifty years ago, in which the Catholic Church expresses her appreciation for other religions and reaffirms the principals of universal fraternity, love and non-discrimination.

Funded by various universities and private individuals and organizations who see inter-religious dialogue as a source of progress for humanity, the exhibition narrates John Paul II’s relations with those whom he defined during his historic visit to the synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986 as “our elder brothers.” It is divided into four sections and consists of photographs, videos, recordings and other interactive sources.

The first section illustrates Karol Wojtyla’s early years in his birthplace Wadowice, what would become a lifelong friendship with the young Jew Jerzy Kluger, and the relations between Catholics and Jews in Poland during the decade 1920 to 1930. The second section is dedicated to the Pope’s university years in Krakow, and his work not far from his friends in the Ghetto who knew the horrors of the Shoah. The third describes his priestly and episcopal life, Vatican Council II and the change of direction it represented in relations between Jews and Christians, and the close link between the cardinal archbishop of Krakow and the Jewish community in his archdiocese.

The final section considers the figure of Wojtyla as the Successor of Peter, his visit to the Synagogue of Rome, and his trip to Israel in the year 2000 when he left a prayer in the Western Wall asking for divine forgiveness for the treatment that Jews had received in the past and reaffirming the Church’s commitment to a path of fraternal continuity with the People of the Covenant.

Visitors to “A Blessing to One Another” are invited to write a prayer to be placed in a reproduction of the Wall. They will be gathered and deposited in the Western Wall without being read.