If you did not live during the pontificate of Pope John Paul 2, or if you did and you have some memories of him yourself then you will relish these anecdotes from first-hand sources given to us by Jason Evert in his book: John Paul the Great, his Five Loves.
Jason has placed the heart of this Pope as the centre of this work. There is a wonderfully insightful discussion on this book with the author at Franciscan University which also adds even more wonderful reflections on the content from this book. Perhaps my favourite story is about the preparation for Pope John Paul’s visit to the the U.S. when the organising priest was travelling to various sites and requested a particular building have the door to the chapel closed so that the Holy Father would not stop there to visit the Eucharist, as he said every time he sees a chapel he will stop and it put out the whole schedule for the visit. He said they would even re-route the Popemobile away from Churches as he would insist on stopping to spend time with the Lord. A couple of weeks later when the Pope did go to this building, as he walked down the hall he stopped outside the door to the Chapel which did had the door closed and had no outward sign of being any different to any other door in that hallway. He knew, however, that the Lord was there. He stopped, shook his finger at the organising priest, and went through the door to spend time with the Lord.
My own recollection of John Paul 2 was when I attended the Beatification Mass in 1995 for Mary of the Cross MacKillop. He was tired, he took a long time to get up onto the altar. It struck me that he was a frail man, who seemed so physically weak. My initial reaction was, “Poor man, why can’t he just be allowed to retire?” I was alone in a crowd of tens of thousands to celebrate this event with the Holy Father. At the start of mass, I felt alone in this massive crowd. This soon changed, however, as Mass began. It was as though the world shrank back and it was just him and I. It was weird, unexpected and entirely surprising. Here was this man, who was just a dot on a massive stage, but in my heart I could sense a power which was way beyond any human power. God was really there with him, even more so because I was not expecting such a humanly weak presence to emit such spiritually power. That is the mystery of the faith. His words during the homily that day were particularly powerful to me there that day:
“Yes, Christ is present in Sydney, and throughout Australia! Through him, all creation, and in particular all humanity, is made capable of giving thanks to the Father for the gifts of Creation and Redemption and for the good things that come from human hands. Christ confers on the whole of life a “Eucharistic significance”. Men and women of today often forget this; they think that they themselves are the creators of these goods and they easily lose sight of God. As a result they fail to strive for the kingdom of God and too often have no concern for his righteousness.” Pope John Paul 2, Sydney, 1995
I encourage you to read this book, and especially get to know the heart of this man. It has been self-published so that it is much cheaper to buy these in bulk and to pass out copies to any and all of those you may meet.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.