A reminisicence of meeting John Paul II; a Papal poem
- It would not do for the passing of John Paul II to go unremarked
here. His place in history cannot now be fixed , but I hope to
live to see him declared a saint.
I met him four years ago in March. I was in pain at the time
because of my knees; it never occurred to me at the time that he
was probably in pain too because of all his ills.
Judy and I were among about 15 families granted an audience.
Getting to the Papal apartment was not like walking into a hotel
lobby! We waited outside on a stone staircase. There were
actually two Swiss guards with crossed Halberds blocking the
doorway at the top of the stairs. I was rather surprised to see
that they were formidable young men and not Hollywood extras! Six
feet four or five and fit. A man in a black suit stepped out of
the doorway and pulled a list from his breast pocket. We
identified ourselves and he let us in. We went to a cloak room
and hung up our coats and then followed him up a broad, curving
grand marble stair case with deep treads and shallow risers to
the floor above. Eight people could have walked up side by side.
Two more Swiss guards. Modern firearms this time, not halberds!
At the top we were shown into a paneled room that I realized was
an elevator lobby. We got into an elevator and rode up two more
floors. (By the way, the Pope's third floor windows are on the
fourth floor above the street. In Europe, they call our first
floor the ground floor and our second floor the first floor.) We
waited in a hall. Two more Swiss guards with halberds. Then
into an anti- room about the size of a small hotel lobby. There
were more men in suits. One of them instructed us to leave
cameras and purses, etc. on an antique table (I thought the
table would have probably fetched something at Christie's!). I
saw a woman with a panicked look on her face, obviously not
knowing whether to keep her purse or meet the Pope! Finally she
went and set her purse on the table with the rest of the personal
We were shown into the reception room. We formed a single line,
a ring around the walls of the room. In the middle of the far
wall from where I stood was an ornate chair. After awhile a door
opened and in came a group of people who had attended mass in the
Pope's private chapel. Then the Holy Father came in and sat
down. I found that I was standing directly opposite to him
so whichever way the line went, I was equidistant from the
chair. The line went clockwise. 15 seconds per person? Time
lost all meaning. It sped up; it slowed down! The closer I got
the more nervous I became. Finally I got there and went down on
one knee to kiss his hand. I burbled out something incoherent,
even to me! He put in my hand a rosary with the crucifix in the
design of his own cross. The official camera flashed. I stood
and the next person was kneeling. When the last person had paid
his respects the Holy Father arose and, waving his cane (which
was nicer than the average cane), smiled and said, "Grazie
tutti!" We applauded him; he then left by the same door he had
As we filed out, Bishop Dziwisz (pronounced "Jeevish" ), his
personal secretary, said a word to each of us at the doorway.
Then back the way we came. Finally outside, then along the right-
hand colonnade of St. Peter's square and thence to a trattoria
for espresso. Back to the normal world. (If such a thing exists
Rhydon Jackson sent me one of John Paul's poems written
when he was still a bishop. Here it is:
"Fear which is at the Beginning"
Oh, how you are bound, place of my passage,
with the place of my birth.
God's design rests on the faces of passersby,
its depth following the course of ordinary days.
Sliding into death I unveil the awaiting, my eyes
fixed on one place, one resurrection.
Yet I close the lid of my body, and the certainty
of its decay I entrust to the earth.
You rise above it slowly, and level Your design
with the surface of each day,
and with the shadows of passersby in afternoon streets.
in the streets of our town at dusk.
You God, you alone
can retreive our bodies from the earth.
This is the last word of faith going
to meet the necessity of passing,
and the word that answers the record
not contradictory to being (death is contradiction),
the word held most in suspicion, uttered
despite everyday deaths,
despite this planet's history, which became
our place of passage, the place of death,
generation after generation
Allow the mystery to work in me,
teach me to act within my body
suffused with weakness like a herald prophesying death,
like a cock crowing--
Allow the mystery to work in me, teach me to act in my soul
which intercepts the body's fear
and fears for that body--
the soul still has its fear for maturity, for acts--
shadows the human spirit carries forever--
and of the depth in which it was submerged;
finally of the divine, that fear
which is not against hope.
- Karol Wojtyla, Meditation on Death, 1975
- Thanks to Mr. Wagner for his reminisicence.
At the very least it could be fairly said that the subjects of John
Paul's dissertations -- St. John of the Cross & Max Scheler --
influenced Voegelin significantly as well. And this is still to say
nothing of a shared interest in the Ressourcement writings of, for
example, de Lubac. Scheler's influence has been treated recently by
- And don't forget Husserl! I believe John Paul's
Christian Personalism was derived from H's
Phenomenalism which he studied in Kracow
at the Jagdelonian University.
On Mon, 04 Apr 2005 15:04:42 -0000, pightle2000 wrote:
> Thanks to Mr. Wagner for his reminisicence.
> At the very least it could be fairly said that the subjects of
> John Paul's dissertations -- St. John of the Cross & Max
> Scheler -- influenced Voegelin significantly as well. And this
> is still to say nothing of a shared interest in the
> Ressourcement writings of, for example, de Lubac. Scheler's
> influence has been treated recently by William Petropoulos.
> Rhydon Jackson
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