I was 16 when I found myself in a hot, dusty, over-crowded arena outside Paris, surrounded by people from all over the world. On my way back to my group’s camping spot from using one of the 15 total potties (only a slight exaggeration), the large aisles were blocked off and people were no longer able to cross through the sections. I was not able to get back to my group. (in hind-sight, why was I not with a buddy? It probably would have helped me feel less lonely and would have been safer overall…but that was 17 years ago and I was a teen…what was I thinking?) I was hot. Tired. Dehydrated. All I wanted was to be back with my group, to settle in for the evening, and get something to eat.
But the aisles were blocked off.
I didn’t know why, so I was upset.
Funny thing about God, is that He makes things happen for the good. Even annoying things like not being able to rejoin a group at World Youth Day.
After some time passed, there was a bit of commotion from behind…and wouldn’t you know, I was trapped just before the Pope Mobile was about to come down the aisle.
Where there is a Pope Mobile, there is a Pope.
I was surrounded by a group of Lebanese pilgrims at World Youth Day 1997, in Paris, France…about to be less than 10 feet away from Pope John Paul II. Talk about not only good, but AMAZING.
I am a pretty short girl, so I was standing on tip-toes trying to see as the Pope Mobile slowly made its way down the aisle. A sweet, dear man who was in the group around me, from Lebanon, motioned to me that I could sit on his shoulders. I did. I was on top of the world, sitting on that man’s shoulders…and I saw Pope John Paul II for the first time that day. It was deeply moving; I was overcome with joy and emotion.
(I wish I had pictures, but 1997 was before camera phones, ya’ll. It was before I owned a digital camera. And since I was on my way back from the bathroom break, I didn’t have my camera with me. Sorry for no images!)
Since then, I saw JPII in person, from less than 15 away, again, in St. Peter’s Square. It was another moving experience. He was a powerful, loving, joyful, wise man. His influence reached beyond the Catholic Church. JPII was loved by many, admired and respected by people of all faiths.
This month, he will be canonized an official saint in the Catholic Church! We are very excited about this, and will be spending this month reading about him and preparing to celebrate his canonization. As a special patron of our family, I think it will turn into an annual celebration! My husband asks for Blessed John Paul II’s intercession each night during our family prayers, and our children have grown to love him this year since we took up skiing as a family activity. JPII loved the mountains and used to ski!
I want to share our plans, so that if your family would also like to celebrate JPII this month, you can find inspiration in my ideas.
What we’re reading:
“Blessed John Paul II: Be Not Afraid” by Susan Helen Wallace, FSP
“My Dear Young Friends”, a collection of words from Bl. JPII to teens on life, love, and courage
“For the Children: Words of Love and Inspiration from His Holiness Pope John Paul II”
Copywork of favorite quotes:
(will vary, depending on how much we choose, but this one taken from the “For the Children” book will definitely be done)
“True happiness lies in giving ourselves in love to our brothers and sisters.”
“Be not afraid.”
“If you follow Jesus’ advice and pray to God constantly, then you will learn to pray well. God himself will teach you.”
What we’re listening to:
The Glory Stories edition on Bl. John Paul II
What we’ll be eating:
Have you heard of Papal Cream Cake? It sounds amazingly delicious. Not originally called “Papal”, this cream cake was a favorite of Bl. John Paul II, and has been renamed because of his fondness for it! The cream custard filling between layers of flaky dough looks so tasty…
Also, apparently Bl. John Paul II enjoyed a certain risotto which was prepared for him, with spring vegetables. I’ll be making both dishes for our family to eat in his honor.
What’s on the “big screen”:
There are a few different movies to choose from about his life. Since we recently gave up Netflix, we’ll have to see which our library has available for borrowing.
For more about Bl. John Paul II, visit these sites:
EWTN on JPII
A miracle story is featured on Catholic Exchange
I am so excited about this month, and celebrating this soon-to-be saint! If you have ideas to share, please do! The more, the merrier!