Pray for Us

My Anglophilia does not extend very far beyond the lingo itself, the Bard, and Graham Greene. And, of course, when people get married my thoughts run immediately to the futility of the thing.

That said, there IS a very exciting event taking place on the other side of the pond…

My Lord and my God.

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The Apostles saw Christ, and they believed in Christ. They saw a man; they believed in a human God.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This is what St. Peter said to the Lord Jesus. And this is what the 263rd Successor of St. Peter said to the Lord Jesus on October 22, 1978, when Karol Wojtyla began his 26 ½-year ministry as Pope John Paul II. In his first homily, at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope John Paul said:

On this day and in this place these same words must again be uttered and listened to: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all.

Is the Lord a merciful God? He never committed Himself to keeping a saint on the papal throne. He just promised that there would always be a pope. But the Lord gave us Pope John Paul II.


I remember in my early twenties, when the Holy Father hit 15 years as pope and published his encyclical on the moral life, and I got deeply into studying his teachings. I realized: “My God, You have been kind enough to let me live at a time when the wisest and most excellent man on earth IS THE POPE!”

When John Paul II was chosen as the Successor of St. Peter, I was a little boy. My dad had a fourth-floor office on Connecticut Avenue. We stood at the window and watched the young pope ride by in an open car when he visited Washington in 1979.

The broad-shouldered pope smiled at his enemies and took the reins of history out of their hands and into his own. The pope knew that he had more intelligence, depth, strength, and genuine charisma than any other famous person. He did not credit this to himself, but to the Lord. And he humbly put his prodigious personal gifts to the service of the Christian faith, the Catholic Church, and the universal brotherhood of mankind.

During the eighties and early nineties, Pope John Paul II became such a force of nature and such an institution that it was practically impossible to remember that he was a mere man.

He wrote part of the documents of Vatican II. He outlasted fascism and communism. He gave us the Catechism. He visited 129 countries. He had the basilicas of Rome restored for the Jubilee Year 2000. He pretty much single-handedly kept the virtue of chastity alive on earth. He made friends with rabbis; he made friends with scientists; he made friends with Bono, Ronald Reagan, the Dalai Lama, the Armenian Patriarch, Mother Theresa, and Queen Elizabeth. More people sought to be in his presence than have ever sought to be in the presence of any single human being. He was the celebrity of celebrities; he was a holy man; he was a brilliant philosopher; and he was the supreme pontiff of the Roman Church.

But then the Lord did yet another amazing merciful thing: He allowed the robust, burly, good-looking Pole’s body to be broken before our eyes. The skiing, smiling Pope, who had stood at a press conference in front of the White House looking like he could have picked up President Carter and carried him around on his papal shoulder, became the stooped old pope whose legs failed him, whose voice failed him, whose bishops failed him.

St. Paul wrote, “The Lord’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.” Pope John Paul loved the God of St. Paul more than glamour. The pope’s mind, faith, and sense of humor never failed him, even when his body was paralyzed with weakness.

I was in the presence of Pope John Paul II nine times. The last time I saw him was at his window in the Apostolic Palace, at his Sunday Angelus greeting, on January 30, 2005. A large group of children was gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the conclusion of the Catholic Action “month of peace.” It was a cold, wet, blustery Roman-winter day. That day, the Pope’s larynx would not work. He tried to speak to the crowd, but it was a losing battle.

Someone had gotten the idea for the Pope to release two doves from his window to delight the children. One of the pope’s assistants tried to get the doves to fly out into the sky. But the birds wouldn’t do it; it was too cold outside for them. When the assistant tossed a bird out the window, it would just fly back into the apartment.

The Pope sat in his wheelchair, laughing and laughing.

Five years before that, I was in a group of nine American seminarians who got to meet Pope John Paul II in his study after Mass with him in his private chapel. It was the day after Ash Wednesday in the year 2000. The Pope was stooped then, but he could still walk short distances with a cane. When he shuffled into the room, he greeted us chipperly, “America!”

He made his way down the line of us, pressing rosaries into our palms as we genuflected and kissed his ring. As he got ready to walk out, he declared “Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ!”

His accent was thick, and my companions were stupefied by the moment anyway, so I was the only one who managed to come up with the response.

Anyone know the response? Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ! —Now and forever!

How about when we invoke the name of a saint? What is the response then? For instance: St. Francis of Assisi, —Pray for us. Good.

Jesus, the son of Mary, is our Lord and our God. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the Redeemer of Man.

May we open wide our doors to Him. He has mercy in every age.

Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ! —Now and forever!

Blessed Pope John Paul II, —pray for us.

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2 thoughts on “Pray for Us

  1. Fr. Mark,

    It’s hard to comment on this one, because it hits the nail on the head in so many ways; but I’ll try.

    1. He did not credit this to himself, but to the Lord. And he humbly put his prodigious personal gifts to the service of the Christian faith, the Catholic Church, and the universal brotherhood of mankind.

    And, we MUST all remember always, the battle is the Lords.

    2. But then the Lord did yet another amazing merciful thing: He allowed the robust, burly, good-looking Pole’s body to be broken before our eyes.

    And, he (JPII) showed us how to die, as well as to live — the perfect model.

    Yes, he (JPII) was an amazing gift; and he influenced the lives of millions in the pursuit of the God of Saint Paul. So, we MUST follow, desperately seeking HIM where he may be found.

    LIH,

    joe

  2. Father…..It was tragic that our Church’s institutional integrity was harmed by the scandals during this great Pope’s reign. You are so correct that the Bishops let him down, but the problem went deeper into the various orders and seminaries.
    As you may know, I left the seminary when I saw the problem up close, so from a personal observation, it seems to me that as society became more infected with materialism, and vocations declined, recruiting standards declined. It didn’t take too long for the infection to reach into the leadership.
    It would appear that there are still problems, not just in this country but in other countries as well.
    I pray that Blessed Pope John Paul intercede, and seek the Lord’s hand in bringing healing to the Bride of Christ and restore her ability to witness to Gods love and salvation.

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