Welcome! This blog celebrates both the local and the catholic -- that is, universal -- aspects of the Roman Catholic Church by sharing reflections on experiences of the Church in a variety of settings and cultures. Postings will come from around the world and around the corner. You don't have to be a Catholic to come along.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
What a Saint Looks Like
Ann and I were close to Pope John Paul II on two occasions -- once in St. Peter's Square and a few years later at his tomb.
In 2004, when we attended one of his audiences, the great Polish pontiff had been on the throne of St. Peter for 25 years and everyone knew that he could not be there much longer. It was, in fact, slightly less than a year before his death.
And yet he still thrilled and inspired. Despite slurring his words so that they were hard to understand, his voice was strong, especially while singing. He spent nearly an hour after the audience greeting individuals and groups. Included was a long line of people in wheel chairs, young and old, and a host of recent brides and grooms.
An enthusiastic Italian woman near us, perhaps in her 30s, yelled enthusiastically, "Viva il Papa! Grazie! Sei grande!" Some much younger American girls chimed in with the familiar, "JP Two, we love you!" They didn't want him to leave.
Eleven months later, April 2, 2005, he went home to God.
On our next trip to the Vatican, in 2008, we began our tour of St. Peter's Basilica downstairs where the tombs of many popes are on display. As we walked along we unexpectedly encountered a group of pilgrim nuns and others praying in front of one of the tombs, many on their knees. There was a great silence, one that was never achieved in the Sistine Chapel despite the repeated pleas for silenzio. More than silence, there was a holy stillness.
Here was the tomb of Pope John Paul II. And I thought to myself, "This is how people proclaim a saint."