Thursday, April 07, 2005

As we speak, the largest crowd of pilgrims in modern history is gathered in Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. I will be watching it myself on television, 3 AM or not.

I remember what we teenagers shouted in the Kiel Center when the Pope came to visit Saint Louis in 1999, so loudly it washed in waves over my ears:

"J-P-Two, We Love You!".

When he had mounted the steps to the altar (difficult for him already) and he waved us silent, he grinned slowly and responded to the gathered 60,000 youth:

"John Paul II, He Loves You!"

I've learned just how characteristic that was of his sense of humor. It wasn't a joke; it wasn't said to get a laugh, or to attempt coolness through irony. The joy in his face, the passionate emphasis in his slow speech, ruled those out. The Pope simply dispelled in one statement the anxiety that many of us still felt in meeting the head of the visible Church. He opened our hearts so that we would hear him talk about Christ, rather than focus on him.

I didn't know then just how much I would grow to love John Paul II, both for who he is (the philosopher, the artist, the speaker, the man of humility) and for what he is (the Vicar of Christ and the visible sign of the Church). I still had so much of the Church to discover- the rich theology of twenty centuries, the haunting modes of medieval chant, the diverse radiance of the many saints, the simplicity and sublimity of the Sacraments. But I could tell by the end of the night just how holy, how loving, how sincere was this man.

There is much else I want to post about all of this, but I just don't feel like writing so much. Grief does that to me.

And if you were wondering, I'll be going to Berkeley next year. I'm very happy about that. Just not at this moment.

No comments: