When I first moved to Iowa in the very late “70’s, in a very few weeks after I arrived, John Paul II visited sweeping farm yards outside Des Moines. It was, appropriately, the Feast of Saint Francis. So how, I became a bus captain for pilgrims traveling from the area surrounding Saint Ambrose College. Turns out it was a bus full of senior citizens and a handful of seminarians. <image source, click to enlarge all pictures>
It was a pre-dawn departure and we were given juice drinks and donuts, but most the old folks declined either because they were sleeping, fasting, or saying the rosary… So, when we disembarked, the sems and I packed up the snackage and headed into the fields.
We pushed through the crowds until we got to a point where folks had arrived early enough to have “staked out their spot…,” you know how that goes – – the point where Christian hospitality loses out to “got here first.” Well, the guys and I began to slowly distribute our snackage as we step passed folks looking for the next open spot of ground. We slowly worked our way, with a mixture of altruism and charm , until we arrived at the fence, and then slightly over to where we were sitting next to (at that time) a very rare portable television where we watched the airport arrival and prayer. All marveled that day that the Holy Father not only visited the big cities of the US, but also came to be with the simple folks and lands of the Midwest.
When I moved back east to Baltimore, in a very few weeks after I arrived, John Paul II visited Camden Yard in Baltimore. I spent some time standing at shortstop, where weeks earlier Cal Ripken has ironmanned for 2,131 games consecutively (oh, yeah, was there for that event as well!) I still very well remember the homily challenge that Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. <image source>
Our pilgrimage walk recently found a portion of the youngchurch passing his statue. It’s hard not to image the youngchurch walking towards the future without his patronage. Today, young adults from the Archdiocese gather to remember and celebrate his Beatification. <image source: Kathleen Lange, Catholic Review>
(Here is a power point presentation regarding his impact prepared for today.)
Blessed John Paul, continue to walk with our young people.