On the 2nd of April 2005 John Paul II finally left this world for the House of his Father. His last words were that he wanted to 'go back to the the House of [my] Father'. The 2nd of April 2005 was also my 21st Birthday and for me it was rather poignant to enter 'official' adulthood with the loss of a great pope- the only pope I had ever known. In life and in death John Paul II made Christ so visible in him that he was almost transparent. In the darkest era of European history when Poland was being used for means of evil he dedicated himself to light, to life and to hope. He chose to become a priest at a time when seminaries were being closed down by the Nazis. He risked his life at many points and continued to do so when his beloved Poland fell into the hands of communists who promised freedom and delivered the opposite. Under this regime he was made bishop, still aged 38, and finally Cardinal making him not only an important figure in a persecuted Church but a prime target. He took it all in his stride. Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz has written of how John Paul how, with his mischievous sense of humour, would wave at those who were supposed to be secretly watching him and talk to them through the bugs that had been fitted in the furniture of his house to monitor him. He was always so full of life that he never feared death but he embraced it instead believing that it would bring him home.
Like most people when when John Paul died I felt the loss very deeply- not just because he was our pope but because he was a really beautiful person and a great shining light in the world. I felt very close to him- and perhaps this was his greatest gift that he seemed to establish an almost personal relationship with his flock - even when his flock happened to be 2 billion people strong. Please don't think I don't appreciate Pope Benedict - I think he is a great man but to say you loved one is not to be disloyal to the other. Popes are not set up in competition with one another after all and these two great men were friends who appreciated each other very much indeed. Yesterday Pope Benedict prayed for the beatification process of John Paul II. I join my prayers to his.
I am delighted that my Birthday happens to be joined to the memory of John Paul II. Again, this is another 'I am weird because I am Catholic' thing. I suppose it is not normal to be glad if someone dies on your Birthday - but if you believe that death isn't really dying and you know someone lived an incredible life united to Christ then why shouldn't it be cause for celebration? Can there be any greater celebration?
Dear John Paul we ask you:
Teraz masz już powrócił do domu Ojca waszego, módl się za nami
Now you have returned to the house of your Father, pray for us!
I get to give thanks for my life today and for the may graces I have received but I also get to give thanks for another life that rather than beginning on this day ended its earthly journey.