That’s me in the pink! I was 21 and in college when I received communion from Pope John Paul II. My friend Mary and I knew someone studying in Rome and we decided to spend the Christmas holiday there! Trust me when I say it wasn’t my idea ~ I was not inclined to venture far from home. We learned on December 23rd that we would attend Christmas Eve Mass and receive Holy Communion from Pope John Paul II.
We arrived a few hours early and entered St. Peter’s Basilica. We had a “ticket” and we and had to show it to several ushers, who waived us through – closer and closer to the altar. We ended up sitting a couple of rows behind the Cardinals. As I looked around I felt entirely humbled. Who was I to pass so many worthy people ~ especially those little nuns crammed into the last rows? I knew from the start that I did not understand the value of what was happening ~ today we would say we had to “process it” or “wrap our head around it.” I hoped that if I paid really close attention, someday I might fully appreciate the gift I was given that night.
I think Sunday, April 27, 2014 was someday. Or maybe not. I’m not sure I will ever fully appreciate what it meant to receive the Lord from the hand of the Vicar of Christ, but NOW I can say I received Holy Communion from a saint. I think that St. John Paul II lived a life any of us could have lived. I don’t mean that to downplay his life but to acknowledge that we can be greater that we may think we can be. He responded to the needs of his day with great courage, faith, love, knowledge, hope, and action. He experienced war and I only just realized that he studied for the priesthood in an underground “secret” seminary during WWII. He acted on his calling and poured out his life for the people of God. I’m inspired by that. HA! Inspired by a saint ~ isn’t that the whole point of “naming” saints?
The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness! – Pope Benedict XVI
I snapped this picture of Pope JP II that night. The little cube flash of my instamatic camera caught his attention and he looked right at me. I’ve gotta admit I was embarrassed that I treated him like a rock star instead of appreciating the moment. The picture is kind of great, though.
I liked the book My Life with the Saints by James Martin, SJ, Loyola Press. Fr. Martin highlights contemporary men and women like Pedro Arupe and Pope Saint John XXIII, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day, as well as early saints like Peter and Joseph.
I just started Journal of a Soul, the Autobiography of Pope John XXIII (Now Pope Saint John XXIII), Image Books. Do you have any books to recommend?