Today the Church remembers Saint John Paul II, Pope as an optional memorial in the calendar. It allows us to recall some of our favorite memories of a Pope that travelled the globe several times over during the years of his Pontificate (1978-2005).
The memorable moment for me was actually getting to meet him in one of the Wednesday audiences in Pope Paul VI Hall. Somehow, our community ended up with two tickets to the audience with a group of pilgrims from Poland, and my name was drawn to go. I cannot tell you how jumbled up my mind was, there was so much i wanted to say, yet this was in December of 2004, and it was just months before his passing. His age is telling, and he was noticeably tired. Yet, when I was introduced as an American studying at the Angelicum, he acknowledged me, and pointed out that I was at his Alma Mater. I was grateful to receive his blessing and to have met him. He taught me the meaning of the Gospel he quoted in the homily of his inauguration:“…when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go” (Jn 21:18).
I could see how tired he was, and yet he made a great effort to be present to me and the other pilgrims. I want to remember this in my own days of feeling run down and tired, that I am called to mission, and to serve with all my heart.
What is your favorite memory of Pope John Paul II? Whether in meeting him, hearing him speak, or maybe a quote that struck you.
Let us ask today on his memorial to pray for us, and for the Universal Church, that it may always be a beacon of light and love for a world that is thirsty for truth and does not know it.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us!