As I write this I’m on a plane, somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way back from Rome.
I was there for the canonization of Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II. It was awesome.
When I say I was “at the canonization,” I wasn’t actually at the canonization. There were several million people in Rome, and St. Peter’s Square doesn’t hold more than 500,000. I tried to get in, but it was easier said than done. A long story I may tell you sometime. So I watched the actual ceremony on TV, like everyone else.
But being in Rome during this time was an incredible experience. I knew St. JPII had touched a lot of lives. He certainly touched mine. But in Rome, it was clear how many he had touched — or rather, it was clear that it is impossible to quantify how many he had touched. His presence was everywhere. Restaurants posted his picture on their windows. Groups came by the busload, and busload, and busload. I swear, the entire nation of Poland descended on Rome last week. The Poles were everywhere, with their gold neck scarves and their big smiles. Trying to get in to the canonization ceremony, I met two guys who had hitchhiked, all the way from Poland, just to be there.
Here’s what struck me. St. JPII touched a lot of people while he was here on earth. He traveled. He spoke. He wrote. He said “JPII, he loves you” and we all went wild. He showed us the love of Christ. He changed lives.
But what I realized in Rome is that hasn’t changed. He isn’t dead and gone. He is in Heaven, still touching lives. He’s touching even more lives. He isn’t limited any more. He doesn’t have to get in a plane to be present to us. He is part of the communion of saints, that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on.
If you aren’t familiar with this beautiful man, start now. And if you are, get to know him better. Search for him on YouTube. See him in action. Read what he wrote. You can start with Familiaris Consortio or Redemptoris Mater. Move on to Love and Responsibility or his Wednesday audiences on the Theology of the Body if you want more challenging reading.
But, more important than that, talk to him. We can do that now in a way we couldn’t when he was alive. Ask him to pray for you. Ask him to be your advocate, your “friend in high places.” Ask him to help lead you to Christ,
That’s what he did on earth. And I suspect he does it even better from where he is now.