On May 1, 2011, John Paul II will be beatified, and will become Blessed John Paul II.
I can go on and on about JPII, who had a profound influence on my faith. I am privileged to be one of the JPII generation. I was an usher at the Papal mass when JPII visited San Antonio. I shepherded a bus full of kids from the Bronx at World Youth Day in Denver, CO in 1993 (when the Mass was celebrated on my birthday! My bus leader, Fr. Stan Fortuna, said the Mass for me as one of the concelebrants).
In 1995, I entered the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family for my graduate studies (where I was one of a class of 10, including Chris West). Clearly, JPII deeply influenced my life.
But the memory that is standing out in my mind now was the last time I saw JPII.
Choirs can apply to visit the Vatican and sing at a mass at St Peter's. In 2000, my choir director announced that we would participate in such a pilgrimage. It was exciting, but as a mom to two toddlers, there was no way I could afford to go.
ArtGuy had other plans, however. He took a second job as a pizza delivery guy, and signed me up. My mother, my Aunt Kathy., and my sister joined up as well (as part of the tour group, not the choir!). I will never forget the sacrifice my husband made for me, nor will I ever forget this very special trip with my mom, sister, and aunt.
The choir was gathered, and we began to practice. We found we were going to sing at High Mass at St. Peter's on Pentecost Sunday, June 3, 2001. Although the Pope would not be at the mass, we would get to sing at St. Peter's and give a concert at St. Ignatius Church in Rome, as well as doing the whole tourist thing.
A few months before our trip, we received a message. Our mass was now a Papal Mass! John Paul II would preside, and the body of Bl. John XXIII would be shown, as it was being moved to St. Peter's that very day!
Our little Texas choir was going to sing for Pope John Paul II! It was an amazing revelation, and threw us all into a head spin.
The trip finally came. The day of the Mass arrived. The Mass would be outdoors, in St. Peter's square. The day was sunny and quite warm. We had to be there very early, to go through security, and to be in place. When John Paul II came out, he appeared only feet away from where we (the choir) waited. It was amazing.
He was, of course, quite ill by this time. He was shockingly frail and old. But underneath it, he was still mentally sharp and loving.
I will never forget it.
I cannot find my photo album. It is panicking me. I haven't seen it since we moved a year-and-a-half ago. As soon as I can find my pics, or get them re-printed, I will post them!
JPII, pray for us.