Today marks an important occasion in the lives of the Roman Catholic Church. But it is as special to the church as it is to me. From my childhood days, I have long been in awe of Pope John Paull II. His was the name the priests would say during the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. His picture was in all the churches. He made news every year during World Youth Day.
And he was, to me, the world’s superstar.
Without learning about his life, his works, his words; it is easy to be drawn to Karol Wojtyła. Just by looking at him, just by watching him. I was never graced with his presence even though he’s been to the Philippines twice (in 1981 and 1995); but I felt connected to him, along with the rest of world who also watched from afar. His eyes had compassion, had happiness, had hope, had peace. His gestures showed humility, showed a unique kind of leadership, showed direction, showed faith in the Lord he served. He always had a smile somewhere in his glowing face. As a kid, I would see the “Jesus” my family and teachers would teach us about, and growing up into adolescence, he seemed God-like with age.
But I never thought he was God. I never praised him like a god. Why? Because I saw that he WAS always TALKING TO GOD. As opposed to the strict rules taught by the nuns in school, I SAW how easy and natural it is to be Catholic, to be a Christian. Pope John Paul II was very much human – he sang, he danced, he cracked jokes, he was fierce in propagating his principles, he laughed, and he had fun, yet you see his inner holiness – he forgave the man who shot him, he approached hostile groups, he came to different religious leaders, he literally spread the word of God throughout the Earth as the world’s most traveled pope (129 countries). More than being the record-breaking pope, he brought the world together.
And he still does.
I stayed up and watched the prayer vigil outside the Apostolic Palace till the Vatican announced that he had passed away in 2005. I went on to see throngs of people, world leaders, different religions wearing different garments, different colors; different flags, ages, celebrities and ordinary citizens of this world – they all came to offer their condolences by paying their last respects to the late pontiff at Vatican City. Or by offering a prayer from wherever part of the planet they came from. I read it in the newspapers, I heard in on the radio, I saw it from the tears of TV news reporters covering his wake and funeral. Indeed, the world was in mourning. And they all shouted, “Saint John Paul II!” In one of the shortest timelines, he was beatified by the next pope, Pope Benedict XVI after a validated miracle was submitted. And on the very day he was beatified, another miracle happened and was immediately submitted that has now led to this great man’s canonization. This is the last step towards becoming a saint. And now that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned as the pontiff, he joined the new pope in formally announcing his sainthood. This new pope is the pope of reforms, one who’s making the headlines for his humility and unlikely acceptance of homosexuality and atheism, Pope Francis.
Today is April 27, 2014. Saint John Paul II died on April 2, 2005.Compared to the centuries that it takes before a person is canonized into sainthood, nine years is definitely quick. But even the groups that don’t approve his sainthood aren’t complaining that the process was fast, they don’t agree with it because of the unresolved cases against the Roman Catholic Church that took place during his pontificate. Other than that, an undoubtedly large mass of the world is in agreement.
Bless you, Saint John Paul II. Bless us with more instruments of God. And thank God for the blessing that is you.
Here is the live video coverage of his canonization:
And this is me watching it at home as it happened:
Sorry for the errors:
1. “Pope Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI (not Francis)”
2. “Two cases of women who WERE..”
3. The 2nd miracle happened on the day of his beatification.