Bon soir! Since we’re in Conclave limbo, I thought I’d share some thoughts with you.
Currently, I’m watching a 2006 CNN special called “The Last Days of John Paul II: The Untold Stories.” And you know….you never really know with these kinds of things, as we have seen as of late. Either these media outlets present something false or, at the very least, kind of hokey which proves once and for all that major media outlets don’t really “get it.” OR they do an absolutely kick-butt job and they present something compelling, moving, and downright awesome, not to mention actually true. This is certainly the latter; I’m really enjoying this. I’ve attached it here, so check it out when you have time (it’s a bit long).
The fact that I’ve wanted to be a priest since I was 7 years old is probably old news to most of you by now. But for the most part, this desire was not necessarily to serve the Church Universal, be a shepherd of souls, hear confessions, or celebrate Mass. Simply put, I wanted to play with shiny gold cups, wear an awesome cape, and get to give great speeches once a week at my parish. This kind of seems superficial, but God speaks to us and calls each of us in a way that he can peak our interest before he moves our hearts and makes us fall in love with him. This has been my experience and, from the stories of my brother seminarians, the Lord has worked in a similar way in pretty much everybody’s vocation.
This story I’m telling you is a story I’ve never told anyone, because, through the grace of God in prayer, it’s just being told to me now. That, by the way, is the beautiful thing about a regular prayer life; Jesus Christ gives us what seems to be unprecedented access to his heart and shows us the many ways he blesses us and wishes to work in our lives.
That being said, onward.
I was in 7th grade when Blessed John Paul II died. I remember the first time he was admitted the hospital and the world was all in frenzy about it. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the Pope and the Church or anything like that, but I was drawn in by all the media hype and attention paid to this old guy at the hospital. Who was he and why did he command such attention? Somehow, I couldn’t help but invest myself into what was unfolding. Well, as you’ll remember, the pope left the hospital in what seemed to be good working order.
Well, two weeks later…he was back again. Released again. Appeared at the window, but couldn’t speak. Tried again a few days later; again, no words. Rolled away into the darkness: the last time he’d be seen alive.
Now I’m hooked. Watching the news tell of the death of the Holy Father was so intriguing. I remember being awake at 3am central time (10am Rome time) to watch his funeral Mass and it really felt like I was there; it felt like JPII was inviting me to participate in this liturgy that celebrated so fittingly his life and legacy. It was as if he was personally watching over me from the window of the House of the Father. But still……what was this institution? Who was this man?
This was the Holy Roman Catholic Church and that man was Blessed John Paul II, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church: the Pope. He was the Successor of St. Peter. Once I figured out what all that meant, once I could somewhat get a very vague idea of the history, the beauty, the majesty, the splendor, and the DIVINITY of this awesome Church which, as I learned not long after, was founded by Jesus Christ himself and built up on the Rock of Peter.
The death of John Paul II was the event which caused me to advance in my vocational journey, even though I had no idea of this: I fell in love with the Church. This Church was has guided souls to heaven, brought Jesus to earth really and physically in the Eucharist, forgiven sins through Confession, and has seen 20 centuries of the peace, love, and joy of Jesus Christ to this world.
In my own prayer, I have begun a series of Lectio Divina based upon moments of the life of Jesus Christ with St. Peter. I’ve just finished the passage from Matthew 14 wherein Jesus comes to the Apostles walking on the sea and invites Peter to get out of the boat and walk with him on the water. Through meditation, here’s what I’ve gotten out this passage: (real quick, like. The thing you gotta remember about Lectio Divina is that it is the product of meditative imagination, not Church decree or authoritative interpretation of Sacred Scripture. It’s what God gives you in prayer)
1) The bottom of the boat is the word FAITH, which is the foundation of all we do. Even though, because these are block letters, there are holes in the bottom the boat does not sink. The sides of the boat are wooden planks made of the various virtues (Cardinal, Theological). The mast of the boat, rooted firmly in the base of faith, holds the blazing white sail which represents the purity to which we are called as Christians. In the midst of the great storm which we are told is unfolding, the sail is stretched to its limits but will never break as long as it is rooted in virtuous faith.
2) The waves, which look like water, are actually words of terrible, worldly things spilling over the sides; things like VIOLENCE, SIN, IMPURITY, MURDER, ABORTION, SCANDAL, HATRED, ANGER, LUST, ENVY, GREED, PRIDE…things of this nature. Despite being over taken by these waves, the boat still does not sink.
3) (this is my favorite part) When Jesus approaches his disciples on the water, at first they are terrified because they think he is a ghost. He tells them “Take heart; it is I. Have no fear.” In my meditation, when Jesus said the words “Take heart,” I imagined him touching his heart which caused his to light up and red and blue streams of light to pour from his chest. Sound familiar? Jesus Christ, the Divine Mercy, was standing on those waves of terror and was calming the fears of his Apostles. It was this Christ who called Peter from the boat.
4) Here my point of view switched and suddenly I was seeing through the eyes of Peter. Getting out of the boat, stepping on the water, being so impressed with myself. With faith backing me up and my eyes fixed upon the merciful Christ, I was walking on the sea with our Lord. Next thing I know I’m looking around being proud and suddenly the waves over take me; I have taken my eyes off of Christ and am beginning to sink. Jesus reaches out to me and saves me, brings me back to the FAITH boat and I acclaim with great joy: Truly, this is the Son of God.
Brothers and Sisters, I have fallen in love with this Church of Jesus Christ and nothing will change this. I am wholly and totally resolved, if it be God’s will, to devote my life entirely the the service of Jesus Christ and his Church. When I think back to those days watching JPII die and BXVI come on the stage I am overtaken with such profound joy. Combine that with those meditations from Lectio Divina, I am more in love with Jesus Christ and his people than ever.
And at the end of the day, I have no words, only peace. No thoughts, only indescribable joy. I look at all of the beautiful things of the world and the Church and all I can say is what I said when I was able to see through the eyes of Peter: Truly, this is the Son of God.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us!
With peace in my heart,
Forgive me of my typos and take me to your glory. +