St. John Paul II: My Favorite Story

April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday

Canonization of Popes John Paul II & John XXIII

Like many Catholics, I took the death of John Paul II very personally.  My memories of watching the funeral on tv are somewhat hazy – it seems I sat on the couch for days, the whole thing playing out in slow motion.  But I do remember a brief interview of a woman in the crowd of mourners.  This woman had travelled all the way from Mexico to attend the pope’s funeral in Italy.  Why, they asked her, why travel so far?  Her answer is my clearest memory from that sad time, probably because for me, it represented who John Paul II was. 

The woman said that when she was a little girl, John Paul II visited Mexico.  The streets of Mexico City were packed – everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the pope.  She said that as the popemobile drove past, somehow, in the midst of the gigantic crowd, their eyes met.  In that moment, as he looked at her, although they were surrounded by a crowd of thousands, it was as though no one else in the world existed – only the two of them.  In that moment of connection, she felt that he loved her.

The power of that moment was enough to motivate this woman to travel halfway across the world to mourn his death and honor his life.  John Paul II was many things; today he will be remembered in many ways.  I remember him for this moment.  A champion of human dignity, he could look at the whole world, and love each one.

                                       Papal visit to Mexico City, January 1979.

                                       Papal visit to Mexico City, January 1979.