JPII was known as the people’s pope. As a young catholic boy growing up, who enjoyed serving at the altar, as well as one who had certain role models to look up to, Blessed Pope John Paul II was a huge role model to me. I remember watching his masses, listening to him speak, crying as I watched him try to speak on tv, with no sound coming forth from his mouth. John Paul had a huge impact on me as a growing boy, as well as someone who was considering a vocation to the priesthood.
I remember, before each Holy Week, Fr. Cash would read the letter of the Holy Father to the priests of the church, to all of us before
Holy Thursday Mass. These words of wisdom, imparted by the Holy Father made me feel as though he were actually talking with us.
From JPII’s Letter to Priests on Holy Thursday, 2004:
” In the light of this, dear brother priests, I would ask you, among other initiatives, to show special care for altar servers, who represent a kind of “garden” of priestly vocations. The group of altar servers, under your guidance as part of the parish community, can be given a valuable experience of Christian education and become a kind of pre-seminary. Help the parish, as a family made up of families, to look upon the altar servers as their own children, like “olive shoots around the table” of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life (cf. Ps. 127:3).
With the help of the families most involved and catechists, be particularly concerned for the group of servers so that, through their service at the altar, each of them will learn to grow in love for the Lord Jesus, to recognize him truly present in the Eucharist and to experience the beauty of the liturgy. Initiatives for altar servers on the diocesan or local level should be promoted and encouraged, with attention to the different age groups. During my years of episcopal ministry in Krakow I was able to see the great benefits which can accrue from a concern for their human, spiritual and liturgical training. When children and young people serve at the altar with joy and enthusiasm, they offer their peers an eloquent witness to the importance and beauty of the Eucharist. Thanks to their own lively imagination and the explanations and example given by priests and their older friends, even very young children can grow in faith and develop a love for spiritual realities.”
Looking back now, I can see how serving as an Altar Boy truly inspired my vocation. I have a love of beautiful liturgy, and the beautiful prayers and rites of the church. I always stress on this blog, that if you know of a young man serving, who you think might have a vocation, that you encourage him to think about and consider a priestly vocation.
In 2005, on April 2nd John Paul II died. I remember driving home from Spring Break in Quincy and hearing on EWTN radio the announcement that he had passed. My family prayed a rosary for the repose of his soul and I remember tears of sadness coming down my cheeks as we prayed. I had always wanted to meet him, but that is for in the life to come.
Mom, seldom let us stay up past our bedtime, especially on a school night. (She was just being a good Mom, even if I thought different at the time! 😉 ) But, when it came time for JPII’s funeral masses and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Mom let me stay up (Some of the ceremonies we had to wake up early for). I remember sitting on the couch next to Mom and watching the Funeral Mass being celebrated on tv. There is a beautiful tradition that those who celebrate the Pope’s funeral wear red, in honor of his constant reminder to always be ready to accept death and martyrdom for Christ. (The same tradition, by which pope’s wear red shoes.)
At church, we decorated the outside with black bunting, until the funeral liturgy, and then once Pope Benedict was elected, with white and gold.
John Paul II, was a great, holy man of God, who inspired so many. He inspired me in my discernment and guided me through his example towards holiness and the virtues of being a man of God. May the church continue to grow in holiness through his intercession and the great works that he has left us. (Many of which, I get to read and study now in seminary.)
I can’t wait until Divine Mercy Sunday (Quasimodo Sunday, Second Sunday after Easter) when he and blessed Pope John XXIII, this year. Santo Subito!
Blessed John Paul II, model priest, bishop, and pope, pray for we men in formation, that we may follow Christ more closely with our lives! May your example of humble service help us to serve the people of God, more fervently and with more devotion than ever before. Pope John Paul II, pray for us!