Skip to content

Il Papa! Deal Hudson Reflects on His Encounter with Saint John Paul II

By Deal W. Hudson
10/1/2013 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

From the first pope to this one, John Paul the Great, spanning over nearly two thousand years, God's grace to his Body, through the mediation of his earthly Vicar, has been shed without interruption through time and space and across the world

I never thought I would be part of a cheering, waving crowd. After all, I was too old, too sophisticated. Then John Paul II walked out on the stage. It was his Wednesday public audience, and together with my family and six friends I sat only a few rows from the stage of an enormous room that holds up to eight thousand. As he walked slowly toward his chair, I had the overwhelming feeling that I was seeing Christ, and I couldn't hold back, anything.

Saint John Paul II

Saint John Paul II

P>WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - (Note from the Editor in Chief Keith Fournier. With the wonderful announcement of the date set for the Canonization of both St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II I am happy to present a vintage column which was written by my my good friend Deal Hudson concerning his meeting with St. John Paul II. I will soon write of my own life changing experience of meeting the wonderful gift who was - and is - John Paul II. As we move forward to great canonization I welcome readers who have experienced changes in their own lives through encountering St. John Paul II to write to me at deaconfournier@catholic.org and share your story. I also remind our readers of the tribute site which catholic Online erected after St. John Paul II went home to the Fathers House. It is entitled Blessed John Paul II and can be visited here  )

Il Papa
Deal W Hudson

I never thought I would be part of a cheering, waving crowd. After all, I was too old, too sophisticated. Then John Paul II walked out on the stage. It was his Wednesday public audience, and together with my family and six friends I sat only a few rows from the stage of an enormous room that holds up to eight thousand. As he walked slowly toward his chair, I had the overwhelming feeling that I was seeing Christ, and I couldn't hold back, anything.

Most people would think that an audience with the pope and thousands of other people wouldn't be very satisfying. Only the lucky few on the prima fila, the first row, get to shake his hand afterward. But sitting there among Catholic groups from around the world, hearing them sing to the pope in over a dozen languages, offers nothing less than a revelation of the Church universal. There, addressing itself to every sense of the body, was a living witness to why the Church has one man at its head, one man to represent the one Christ of its Body. I knew I would never again have to explain to my daughter why the pope is called the "Holy Father."

As I watched John Paul II, I kept noticing the sheer size of his shoulders. Here was a philosopher with the shoulders of a stevedore! How heavy the burden is that he carries for all of us, I thought. His body, the way his head bends forward, almost looks crucified already. But as he prayed I could see how he was able to carry it-Christ carries it for him: "Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest. . . . for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt 11.28)

The joy abounding in that gigantic room-the trumpets, the accordions, the pope-cheers, and giant banners-refutes, in a moment, all the whining one hears in America about "chill winds from Rome." How it must rankle his critics that a pontiff who believes so strongly in Humanae Vitae, and evinces such deep Marian devotion, can elicit such love from across the spectrum of humanity.

The Mexican group in front of us kept breaking into a chant that always brought a smile to the pope's face. "They've got this thing right," I said to my wife. I thought of all the contemporary jazz-it-up programs in this country intended to ignite the kind of spiritual fire that was sweeping through this very room. Guess what: All the rows faced directly toward the stage-there wasn't a circular line in the place! The thousands didn't come to look at each other but to look at one man, a man whose emergent holiness is palpable. But in looking at him we somehow saw one another, and we were united by his Body, in spite of all the differences between us.

Commentators are always pointing out, correctly, the American penchant for individualism. Later on, as our Crisis group shared notes, we were all grateful to have the wave of that great love for the Holy Father, and for Christ, wash over us. Later that day, we descended into the excavations under St. Peter's altar. A young seminarian from the North American College, a member of my own parish in Northern Virginia, led us through the layers of churches and mausoleums leading down to what experts believe are the bones of St. Peter.

At journey's end, standing together directly below Bernini's altar, this young deacon reminded us that this was the same Peter who had denied Christ three times, who had seen him crucified, who had been entrusted the keys to the entire Church. Talk about real presence! When we learned that John Paul II had taken a relic of St. Peter to help him recover from the bullet wound of 1981, our experience of the mysterious unity was now complete. From the first pope to this one, John Paul the Great, spanning over nearly two thousand years, God's grace to his Body, through the mediation of his earthly Vicar, has been shed without interruption through time and space and across the world.

Yet, the undeniable principle that informs this work of grace is that it begins at the head and passes through the rest of the body. We can only pray that the millions of pilgrims that pass through the Vatican between now and the Jubilee year will reaffirm the fundamental form of Catholic Christianity, nowhere more powerfully seen than in the haggard, luminous pope from Poland.

-----
Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D, is President of the Pennsylvania Catholics Network and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine. He is the Senior Correspondent for Church and Culture and a contributing writer for Catholic Online. 

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for SEPTEMBER 2017
Parishes.
That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.


Comments


More Christian Saints & Heroes

The Assumption of Mary

Image of

Why is the Assumption important? First, lets look at what this dogma is all about. On 1 November, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued the Apostolic ... continue reading


FEAST: St. Dominic and the Order of Preachers Watch

Image of St. Dominic: In his conversations and letters he often urged the brothers of the Order to study constantly the Old and New Testaments. He always carried with him the gospel according to Matthew and the epistles of Paul, and so well did he study them that he almost knew them from memory.

Today we honor Dominic. As the thirteenth century began, great errors were deceiving many of the faithful in the south of France. ... continue reading


Today is the feast of St. Dominic, but it's not such a big deal for Dominicans. Why not? Watch

Image of St. Dominic has a more important day on May 24.

Tuesday marks the Feast Day of St. Dominic, the 13th century priest known for founding the Order of Preachers, commonly called the ... continue reading


Cause for canonization opened for Filipino Jesuit who traded his life for that of his attacker Watch

Image of Richie Fernando died protecting his attacker.

Brother Richie Fernando was a 26 year-old Jesuit seminarian from the Philippines when in 1996 he died protecting his Cambodian students ... continue reading


Pope Francis will beatify two martyrs during visit to Colombia Watch

Image of Pope Francis will beatify two martyrs when he visits Colombia.

During his six-day visit to Colombia in September, Pope Francis will beatify martyrs Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve and Fr. Pedro ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.