Dear Alice at Cottage Blessings reminded me (thank you, Alice!) that today is the third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. (I need those reminders.) Do go take a look at her post, and at her column in the Long Island Catholic. Beautiful and worth your reading time.
I still miss our beloved Papa, though I am getting to know and love our new papa, too. Isn't it funny? Three years, and Pope Benedict still feels like "the new pope" to me. That's because I live in Catholic Time, which moves like a glacier (I say that with all and real affection.)
Three years ago, I wrote the piece below, just after John Paul II died, and it still holds true.
Papa, pray for us.
And, if you'd like to take a look at the JP II unit study we did last year, the link is here.
Closer than Ever
Our beloved Holy Father (“Holy Daddy,” as my toddler calls him) is with the Lord. There’s no doubt in my mind. I’m certain that Karol Wojtyla, our dear Pope John Paul II, lived his purgatory on earth and was taken straight into the Beatific Vision.
Granted, our family said prayers for the repose of his soul. He asked for our prayers, after all, and we know that our Church never presumes to know the state of a particular soul. But almost immediately, my husband pointed out how backward it felt: We all strongly felt the urge to ask him to pray for us.
At Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday I felt closer to Papa than ever before. I’ve long loved him, of course. As a convert to Catholicism ten years ago, I was greatly influenced by his writings and I continue to be. I grew to love the Catholic Church in large part because Papa explained it to me so thoroughly, so clearly, so beautifully. His apostolic letters and encyclicals told me of the riches of God’s providence, what it means to live a life of and for the Lord, and about the unity and beauty of our faith’s doctrines. Papa showed me that God loved me.
When he was alive, the closeness I felt to him was due to his role as my earthly spiritual father. He taught, led by example, and prayed for his flock. He exemplified a life of sacrifice, of pure and true love for God. However, although I knew his prayers for “all the faithful” included me, I also knew that on a practical level, JPII didn’t know me. He didn’t know for whom or for what I prayed, he didn’t know my private struggles and many weaknesses. He didn’t know how much I personally needed him. Now he does.
As I prayed at Mass, on Divine Mercy Sunday, I felt an overwhelming need to cry out to my papa. I asked him to pray for me. I felt drenched in his love and paternal concern as I imagined his beaming face. I felt convinced, down to my bones, that he now knows. He knows every private struggle that I reveal to him in prayer and he will lay them before my Heavenly Father’s throne, in urgent and loving intercession. He is now present to me as never before.
Like so many others, I will miss Papa’s earthly presence and leadership. But, with him and St. Faustina, I can say, “Jesus, I trust in Thee.” I know that our Church will go on and we will move forward with a new shepherd. We’ll have adjustments to make, and we’ll miss seeing dear Papa’s face, but our Church will go on. I do not have fears about our next pope. I fear only what he (and we) will personally endure as he shepherds us through the mess of the modern world. I trust in the Holy Spirit and I trust in Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. We will push on. We will overcome. Evil will not triumph.
And so, while I am sad that I will no longer read new encyclicals from JPII, hear new pronouncements, or see Papa’s face on the news, I am happy for him. His earthly suffering is over. He has entered into the eternal happiness for which we all long.
When fear creeps in, I will remind myself that Papa is closer to me than ever. I’ll ask for his prayers and know — good father that he is — that he’ll take them to the Lord. Papa told me not to be afraid. I plan to follow his advice.