It is very important to cross the threshold of hope, not to stop before it, but to let oneself be led  – Pope John Paul II from his book “Crossing the Threshold of hope

My heart is beating faster as I see him walking slowly down the aisle towards us. Seeing his old frail body, his shuffling gait, his shoulders bent forward with a seemingly pronounced dowager’s hump , I feel a palpable presence that surrounds him, an electric power. Raising and waving his trembling right hand, evidence of a Parkinson’s disease, he imparts a Papal blessing. 

 A strong and positive aura continue to radiate from him as he waves his hand, as he touches a face while walking in a painful pace. He is now coming closer to where I stand. I can feel a very strong spiritual power an inch away from me. I lowered my gaze from him feeling unworthy of this peaceful presence I am feeling. One, two, three…I feel a blissful sensation. His hand is over my head. Yes, his gentle hand is touching my head but for me he is touching my whole being. In that single silent gesture, he calms my troubling and worried soul with a father like assurance:  “Be not afraid.”

It was my first  intimate encounter with Pope John Paul II when he celebrated the Holy Mass for around 7,000 Filipinos Migrants at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on 1 December 2002. In his homily, the Holy Father said:

Many of you have had the chance to find employment here in Italy and have attained a standard of living that enables you to help your family members at home. For others, however – and I hope that they are few – your status as immigrants has brought you serious problems, including loneliness, the separation of families, the loss of the values handed down from the past and at times even the loss of your faith…(read more)

I had several occasions of seeing him personally but there were always an immense crowd between us. I first saw him on his first trip to Manila on 17 February 1981 when he presided over the beatification of our first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz.  I was still too young then to understand his spiritual role. This encounter was followed by his second visit to the Philippines on 15 January 1995 to celebrate the 10th World Youth Day Congress. Here I saw a different comical side of him: he entertained us by twirling his cane like Charlie Chaplin!

All those years of personal encounters from Manila to Rome, what did I learn from Pope John Paul II ?

                 Pope John Paul II

My Catholic Church is an institution with 2,000 years of history. It has seen crises before. It has seen heresies, it has seen schisms. It has seen sex scandals among the clergy, etc.  So there’s nothing new about the fact that the church is in crisis.

Against this crisis, John Paul II  with his words and deeds, became a living testimony of complete abandonment to Christ, a total trust in Him at the moment of great trial.  His conviction that Jesus Christ is the answer to the questions of every human life, became his infallible companion in his most dramatic moments as Pope.

His call to “Do not be afraid” was first heard  at his papal installation in 1978.
I can hear him saying it among the hundreds of thousands of youth and old alike: DO NOT BE AFRAID.
He said it everywhere he went, over and over again, and whenever he said it, he was quoting the Angels: DO NOT BE AFRAID.

His call needs to be taken in and be internalized: DO NOT BE AFRAID. It is Jesus assuring words too: Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid (Jn.14:27).

John Paul II was never afraid. He trusted in the Lord and went about doing His work. It is a great lesson for all of us.

He was not afraid to travel the world and show us his face of suffering and infirmity, demonstrating – over and over again – that age and infirmity and a compromised physicality does NOTHING to devalue the worth of the human person.

He was not afraid to apologize to the Jewish people for the Vatican’s glacial coldness during the Final Solution, and for historic filiations between the church and anti-Semitism.
He was not afraid to apologize to the Eastern Orthodox Christians, and to the Muslims, for the appalling damage done to civilization by papal advocacy of the Crusades, and by forced conversion and massacre in the Balkans during the church’s open alliance with fascism during World War II.
He was not afraid to apologize to the world of science and reason by admitting that Galileo should not have been condemned by the Inquisition.

He was not afraid to work for ecumenism or to reconciliate efforts with the Jews, Muslims, Greek Orthodox Church, Coptic Orthodox Church,  the Russian Orthodox Church, and other Schools of Christianity.

He was not afraid when he returned to Poland in 1979 to speak to his people, inspiring Solidarity. Thus changing the course of world history, toppling down communism or the Soviet empire.

“Be not afraid” is what I’ve learned from Pope John Paul II and he strengthened it more when he touched me on that blessed day. In silent whisper he said : “Ross, do not be afraid!.”

On April 2, 2007 will be his second death anniversary. I reckon the day when I joined thousands of pilgrims in Rome, camping out overnight on sleeping bags, roll-up mats, and cardboard boxes flattened to try and separate our bodies from the cobblestone pavement.

It was my simple final tribute to his earthly existence. John Paul II is “an intellectual with a warm appreciation of popular piety; a mystic who is also an avid sportsman; a celibate who celebrates human sexuality and has many women friends; a Pole with deep sensitivity toward Jews and Judaism; a man of profound inferiority with an exceptional public presence.”

It was an emotional event to find myself before his simple wooden coffin with a book of Gospel on top of it. There lies a simple and humble man, a great Christian who spent his life loving and reaching out to anyone, an ardent follower and lover of Christ, his only Hope and Love.
I will remember you John Paul II.

I will not be afraid for the Lord is my Shepherd! (Psalm 23)!

PLEASE CLICK for better viewing

Funeral Pope John Paul IIFuneral Pope John Paull IIbefore the funeral of Pope John Paull II

Funeral Pope John Paull IIFuneral Pope John Paull IIFuneral Pope John Paull II

Funeral Mass Pope John Paull IIbefore the funeral Pope John Paull IIBefore the funeral mass

Pope John Paul II Quotes to follow…

Pope John Paul II QUOTES

ATTITUDE

  • Amen. (This word is the final word before his death)
    • Where: In his Papal apartment, Vatican City (200504-02)
      • Anything done for another is done for oneself.
      • Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
      • From now on it is only through a conscious choice and through a deliberate policy that humanity can survive.
      • Man always travels along precipices. His truest obligation is to keep his balance.
      • Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn’t misuse it.
      • Do not lose heart! The steeper the road the faster it rises toward ever wider horizons.
      • The future starts today, not tomorrow.
      • Darkness can only be scattered by light, hatred can only be conquered by love.
      • The worst prison would be a closed heart.
      • When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.
      • When you wonder about the mystery of yourself, look to Christ, who gives you the meaning of life. When you wonder what it means to be a mature person, look to Christ, who is the fulfillness of humanity. And when you wonder about your role in the future of the world look to Christ.
      • Where self-interest is suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control that dries up the wellspring of initiative and creativity.
      • Modern Society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyles.
      • Once again, through myself, the Church, in the words of the well-known declaration Nostra Aetate, “deplores the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and by anyone.” I repeat, “By anyone.”
      • One discovers the common values of every culture, capable of uniting and not dividing.
      • Pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one. The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a new form of slavery.
      • Radical changes in world politics leave America with a heightened responsibility to be, for the world, an example of a genuinely free, democratic, just and humane society.
      • The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.
      • The Holy Land needs bridges, not walls.
      • Today, for the first time in history, a Bishop of Rome sets foot on English soil. This fair land, once a distant outpost of the pagan world, has become, through the preaching of the Gospel, a beloved and gifted portion of Christ’s vineyard.
      • Where self-interest is suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control that dries up the wellspring of initiative and creativity.
      • Young people are threatened… by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire.
      • Fidelity to roots does not mean a mechanical copying of the patterns of the past. Fidelity to roots is always creative, ready to descend into the depths, open to new challenges.

      FAMILY

      • As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.
      • Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church.
      • To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.
      • The fear of making permanent commitments can change the mutual love of husband and wife into two loves of self-two loves existing side by side, until they end in separation.
      • The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.
      • The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn.

      WAR

      • Humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.
      • The United Nations organization has proclaimed 1979 as the Year of the Child. Are the children to receive the arms race from us as a necessary inheritance?
      • Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.
      • Violence and war can never resolve the problems of men.
        • Variant: Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of men.
      • War is a defeat for humanity.
      • Wars generally do not resolve the problems for which they are fought and therefore… prove ultimately futile.
      • War should belong to the tragic past, to history: it should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future.

      PRIESTHOOD

      • The vow of celibacy is a matter of keeping one’s word to Christ and the Church. a duty and a proof of the priest’s inner maturity; it is the expression of his personal dignity.
      • You are priests, not social or political leaders. Let us not be under the illusion that we are serving the Gospel through an exaggerated interest in the wide field of temporal problems.

      WORK

      • Man matures through work. Which inspires him to difficult good.
      • Work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons.

      HIMSELF

      • I have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin.
      • I hope to have communion with the people, that is the most important thing.

      OTHER

      • God endowed [the human race] with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face.
      • Hands are the heart’s landscape.
      • Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.
      • I kiss the soil as if I placed a kiss on the hands of a mother, for the homeland is our earthly mother. I consider it my duty to be with my compatriots in this sublime and difficult moment.
      • It is not credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it.
      • The question confronting the Church today is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the Gospel message.
      • The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.
      • The Catholic Church cannot be an association of free-thinkers.

      Mass homily during installation as pope, Oct. 22, 1978:

      Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power … Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.

      Christmas Day speech in 1990, as first Gulf War loomed:

      War is an adventure without return.

      To American cardinals summoned to the Vatican during church sex abuse scandal involving U.S. priests on April 23, 2002:

      The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God.

      On his 83rd birthday in 2003:

      Physical condition or advancing of age are not obstacles to a perfect life. God does not look at external things but at the soul.

      Speaking to Spanish youths in Madrid in May, 2003:

      I am a young person aged 83.

      During his first public audience after dislocating his shoulder in 1993:

      I’m all in one piece. I’m not dead yet.

      Speaking to reporters early in his reign:

      The Pope cannot remain a prisoner of the Vatican. I want to go to everybody…from the nomads of the steppes to the monks and nuns in their convents…I want to cross the threshold of every home.

      To diplomats on Jan. 13, 2003, as the Iraq war loomed:

      No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.

      To former Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier, who sat stone-faced as the Pope visited in 1983:

      Things really have to change here.

      In Sicily in 1993:

      God once said “Do not kill.” No human group, Mafia or whatever, can trample on this most sacred law of God.

      Addressing Jews during his historic visit to Rome’s synagogue in 1986:

      You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way it could be said that you are our elder brother.

      On Mahatma Ghandi, during a visit to India in 1986:

      He was never a Christian and he never pretended to be a Christian, but I learned a lot from him.

      On Poland’s debate in 1996 on whether to liberalize abortion legislation:

      A nation that kills its own children has no future.

      In a note he wrote on February 24, 2005, after doctors performed a tracheotomy to ease his breathing problems, which left him unable to speak:

      What have they done to me?

      The Pope’s last audible words, on hearing tens of thousands of young people singing in St. Peter’s Square as he lay in his deathbed, Friday, April 1, 2005:

      I sought you out and now you come to me. Thank you.

    • Before the Hebrew inscription commemorating the Jews killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. (1979)“This people draws its origin from Abraham, our father in faith The very people that received from God the commandment. Thou shalt not kill itself experienced in a special measure what is meant by killing. It is not permissible for anyone to pass by this inscription with indifference.”

      “The Jewish religion is not extrinsic to us but in a certain way intrinsic to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and, in a certain way, it can be said that you are our elder brothers.” Said during his first visit to the US in 1979.

    • “All human activity takes place within a culture and interacts with culture. For an adequate formation of a culture, the involvement of the whole man is required, whereby he exercises his creativity, intelligence, and knowledge of the world and of people. Furthermore, he displays his capacity for self-control, personal sacrifice, solidarity and readiness to promote the common good.” Centesimus Annus Address

      “Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase.” Evangelium vitae, Introduction, (1995)

    • “Science develops best when its concepts and conclusions are integrated into the broader human culture and its concerns for ultimate meaning and value. Scientists cannot, therefore, hold themselves entirely aloof from the sorts of issues dealt with by philosophers and theologians. By devoting to these issues something of the energy and care they give to their research in science, they can help others realize more fully the human potentialities of their discoveries. They can also come to appreciate for themselves that these discoveries cannot be a genuine substitute for knowledge of the truly ultimate. Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”

      Dear young people, may it be your holy ambition to be holy, as He is holy” You will ask me: but is it possible today to be saints? With Christ, saintliness ” the divine plan for every baptized person “ becomes possible. Rely on Him¦ Jesus walks with you, he renews your heart and strengthens you with the vigor of His Spirit do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium!”

    • Pope John Paul II – 15th World Youth Day, Rome, August 2000.
       “become credible witnesses to the Father’s love! Make it visible in your choices and attitudes, in your way of receiving people and placing yourselves at their service, in faithfully respecting God’s will and His commandments.”

    • Pope John Paul II – 14th World Youth Day, Rome, March 1999.
        “Dear your people, like the first disciples, follow Jesus! Do not be afraid to draw near to Him, to cross the threshold of his dwelling, to speak with Him, face to face, as you talk with a friend. Do not be afraid of the “new life” He is offering. He Himself makes it possible for you to receive that life and practice it, with the help of His grace and the gift of His Spirit.”

      [coolplayer width=”410″ height=”380″ autoplay=”1″ loop=”1″ charset=”GBK” download=”0″ mediatype=””]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxvKK735gFY[/coolplayer]

Leave a Reply