realitycheck(dot)ie

Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Pope John Paul the Great

The Anchoress has a geat sum up of articles and blog posts that she says she will continue updating about his anniversary.

I just can't believe that a whole year has gone by since I stood in St Peter's Square and was blessed by JP2 in his last public appearance. I'll never forget the joyful intensity of the crowd and our heavy feet that did not allow us move from beside the fountain from where we could see his window.
We knew it was his last appearance, mainly becuase we spent the previous week hearing stories of how weak he was getting. He was weak and unable to speak, but we knew he was there. For the first time, I understood the rock of Peter. For there he stood, his body ravaged by cruel old age and Parkinson's, his back bent and his once charismatic voice, a mere whisper from a window - but he was a rock, the head of the Church, the leader of his people, Christ's vicar on earth, a mortal sinner who was waiting to go home.
When I heard the news of his death, I did not cry immediately. But I did when I heard he had said this about the young people who held vigils for him "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you." I cried when I watched his funeral on TV and when I received text messages from Irish friends in Rome who had returned for the funeral.
We were staying in an apartment between the metro stop to the vatican and the vatican itself, so every night, no matter what time it was, we walked through St Peter's Square, just to see what was happening and to say very quick prayers. (I'm a Catholic who believes very strongly in the power of quick prayers!)
Last Easter was my 2nd Easter to spend in Rome and attend the St Peter's Easter ceremonies (I recommend them to everyone!). The 1st time, in 2001, I was selected to meet the Pope and receive his blessing at one of his private audiences. So up I went, dressed in a new suit and all made up. I knelt in front of him, his priest-aide announced my name and where I was from. He said "Ahhh, Ireland. Cailin?" and stroked my cheek. At which point I did say something. Absolutely no idea what it was. It could have been anything from "your writings have inspired me" (which I think was what I had planned to say - I know it's very original!) to " the weather's nice in Rome". He then lifted his hand from my face and proceeded to bless me. I realised, rather belatedly, that unlike everyone else who had placed their hands on the arms of his chair, I had my hands firmly on the Pope's knees!
This would not be good meeting-the-Pope-protocol.
I remember very little else about my meeting with him, and was amazed when I saw the official DVD that I was with him for nearly 3 minutes.

Like most young Catholics, JP2 formed my opinions and beliefs on the world and the church and who I am, as a woman and as a person.
My photos of my hands on JP2's knees will always be with me and will always make me smile. Because in the presence of greatness, one must kneel. And in the presence of a saint, one has to smile. And cry at what then Cardinal Ratzinger said at his funeral -
None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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