Today, for the first time, the Church celebrates the memorial of Blessed John Paul II in Rome and throughout Poland.
Here’s a photo I took on May 1 during my pilgrimage to Rome for the beatification of John Paul II. I wasn’t able to be in Saint Peter’s Square for the beatification Mass, due to the large crowds, but I was able to enter the Basilica of Saint Peter that evening to pray before his casket, which was available for review until about 2 am the next morning. An estimated 250,000 people filed through the basilica that day to pay their respects and to pray.
The atmosphere that evening was solemn and an interesting coincidence of joy and sorrow. The security staff was trying to keep people moving through the basilica because of the enormous crowds waiting — I waited about three hours in the square before I was able to enter — but people simply wanted to linger and to pray. Seven years after his passing from this life to the next, people were still grieving his loss as they celebrated his life. The scripture that came to mind was the encounter of Jesus with Mary of Magdala after the resurrection:
Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and what he told her. (John 20:11-18)
Catholic News Agency has posted an article about Sr. Bernadette Pike, MG, who is spreading the word about John Paul II’s charism, spirituality and writings via new media.
Previous blog posts about John Paul II are available here.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.