This Divine Mercy Sunday (01 May 2011) will always be one I will remember specially - it is the day Pope John Paul II was declared a BLESSED - the last step before sainthood!
Just to see the outpouring of love and joy of the 1.5 million people who were gathered in Vatican is testimony to the great love Pope John Paul II inspired in millions of people - young and old alike; Catholics and non-Catholics. No one can dispute the holiness and joy that were so tangible in Blessed Pope John Paul II - he was the "Pope of the People"!
I was studying in Toronto, Canada when my heart was first touched deeply and I felt so proud to be a Catholic! Pope John Paul II truly inspired hope and courage in my heart as he did for millions of Canadians during his 1984 visit. It was a great thrill as the helicopter that was airlifting Pope John Paul II was flying past the low-rise apartment block I was living in. The route was announced in the paper...there was a great air of expectancy and joy as practically all the residents came out...and the helicopter flew past at very low altitude slowly in an arc and we all saw Pope John Paul II''s smiling face waving happily at us! First there were jumps of joy and everyone yelling, "Pope John Paul II, we love you!"
Then nearly everyone fell on their knees and many people were in tears - just like me! I remember feeling great surprise at the unexpected tears of joy running down my cheeks and for the first time ever, I realized holiness has its own special aura - just seeing the Pope converted my heart in an undefinable way forever. And then I watched the live telecast of the open-air Mass. I felt deeply the Pope's call to us, the Youth (as I was then) to be the future of the Church. I began reading over the years his teachings and excerpts of the Holy Father's speeches whenever I could. He always struck a deep chord within me. It was always a call to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth and to love the sick, the poor and especially the Youth - our future!
That was the first sowing of the seed - for me to one day live my faith actively. I was still engrossed in my studies and then my career but there was a longing for something deeper - something I could not define then. I have read so many accounts of young men inspired to be priests, lapsed Catholics returning to the Church, Youths the world over absolutely loving this joyous and dynamic Pope - whom our Catholic Church has never witnessed before.
|Corpus Christi in Rome - May 2002|
I also had the blessed experience to be in Rome for the Corpus Christi open-air Mass celebrations outside St. John Lateran's Church in May 2002 with 2 friends. We had no tickets and we wanted so badly to do so - my friend, Lucy, walked up to the security personnel and first asked a young policeman and his answer was a firm "No". Well, for a once-in-a -lifetime experience, we had no intentions of giving up so easily. So we started praying the Rosary, and then I felt inspired to tell Lucy to approach an older policeman who seemed to be in charge of that section. Amazingly, he spoke to her briefly and she pointed us out - the next thing we knew, we were allowed to get right to the front of the area where the crowds were gathering - we had a great prime view for the mass! We thanked God and Mother Mary for her most loving intercession! The picture above of Pope John Paul II, frail and suffering, moved everyone to tears from the moment he appeared till he left. No feelings can describe the love and joy that everyone gathered felt for our beloved Pope - in his final years of suffering that he bore with courage and such inner peace. His face was glowing in holiness.
In November 2002, I was blessed once again to attend the annual Holy Mass by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican, for Seminarians and Priests studying in the Universities in Rome. My spiritual brother, who is a Salesian priest, was studying in Rome then. I had to make a presentation at a conference in Naples and he asked me if I wanted to be a part of of the Holy Mass celebrations. He must be kidding! My non-Catholic colleague and I extended our trip and flew to Rome without any hesitation! What amazed me was the joy my friend experienced! He actually stood on his chair when the Holy Father was being transported in. After mass, he called all his Catholic friends in USA, Singapore, UAE and the Philippines. I remember his words to me upon seeing Blessed Pope John Paul II - "Now I can die happily, Susan, I have seen the holiest man on earth." That is the huge impact Pope John Paul II had on every one who was in his presence.
This is exactly who Blessed Pope John Paul II was - A Pope who exemplified a great abiding love of Christ; a Shepherd with a great warm love for his flock; and most of all, a holy priest who taught us the power of prayer and the grace to be steadfast in suffering for the salvation of the world. He was the human face of Christ to me and to millions of people.
As a tribute, I have created my first attempt of a YouTube video below of some of the inspiring Quotes of Blessed Pope John Paul II. These are values every human being should live by. It is why God has chosen this Great Pope to be a Saint one day soon.
Blessed Pope John Paul II - pray for us to live our faith actively!