I remember seeing pictures of Bl. John XXIII in old relative's houses, have vague recollections of Pope Paul VI, but I will never forget Sr. Mary announcing over the PA system that Pope John Paul died suddenly after only a 33 day reign. I was in second grade when the whole class-the whole school-at St. Mary's was glued to the TV waiting for the white smoke. It was a beehive as the Filippini sisters kept making announcements and scurrying in and out of classrooms. That's when I first met my Pope. We 20...30...errr...40-somethings can say that since JPII was pope for most of our lives.
For all the critics out there who think the pope is santo too subito, was too conservative, too liberal, mishandled the sex abuse response, etc., one thing is indisputable: Karol Wojtyla lived a life animated by the Gospel...and that is a definition of a saint. From his childhood struggles, his witness of the horrors and cruelty man can perpetrate against man, his underground pursuit of a priestly vocation, Karol Wojtyla centered his life on Christ and used his extraordinary gifts to preach what he lived. This man left a mark on history that will be analyzed for decades, theological and philosophical writings that will be read for centuries with the likes of Augustine and Leo, but most importantly, he inspired generations of young people not to be afraid to follow Jesus.
Although I missed a small audience I was invited to attend due to the fact I was arrested by the Caribineiri (a story for another post) I did get to walk in a procession at Mass and sit a short distance from JPII (I have a coffee table book of the Pope's Italian Marian Shrine tour and I'm clearly in a picture). I'm overjoyed to see my Pope beatified, and will pray to him to intercede on my behalf that I may keep Christ as the center of my life, use my talents to make the Gospel known, and live a life of courage to follow Jesus.
O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that the Blessed John Paul II
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
John Paul II, Pray for us
Vatican Video - Watch Everything Here
Pope John Paul II's Tomb Opened
JPII Official Facebook Page
Fr. Barron on What Makes a Saint
Abp. Dolan on Pope John Paul's Heroic Sanctity
Fr. Martin, SJ on Why a Liberal Catholic Likes JPII
Pope's Biographer, George Weigel, on Remembering JPII
Bishop Tobin Reflects on the Beatification
Abp. Dolan on JPII Priests