Wednesday, January 31, 2007

At the Death of John Paul II

Today, Zenit published an excerpt of Don Stanislaw Dziwisz's book, A Life with Karol.
Now the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Dziwisz was secretary to Pope Pope John Paul II for over 40 years. This excerpt touches on the moments surrounding the death of the Pope. Reading that brought back memories for me as well. I still remember vividly what I was doing when I heard the news.
For your readers out there, do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of Pope John Paul's passing? Any memories that you would like to share?
If you do, go ahead and leave a comment.
Perhaps these photos from my collection will refresh your memories of this great man who was so faithful to prayer, and the events and ceremonies surrounding his death.

At the Death of John Paul II

Excerpt From Book "A Life With Karol"

Here is a translation of an excerpt from the book that recounts Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz's memories of his longtime collaboration with Pope John Paul II.

"A Life With Karol" is the title of the volume, written by journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, former deputy director of L'Osservatore Romano.
The volume was recently released in Italy and will be published by Doubleday for the English-speaking world. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 35.

* * *
It was 9:37 p.m. We realized that the Holy Father had stopped breathing; however, just in that moment we saw in the monitor that his great heart, after having beaten for some instants, had stopped. Dr. Buzzonetti bent over him and, raising his gaze slightly, mused: "He has passed to the House of the Lord." Someone stopped the hands of the clock at that hour.

We, as if deciding all together, began to sing the Te Deum, not the Requiem, because it wasn't mourning, but the Te Deum, in thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift he had given us, the gift of the person of the Holy Father, of Karol Wojtyla.

We wept. How could one not weep!
[Andrew: Weep? I was bawling like a baby. I expected it, but still, when the moment came...
Looking at him lying there, lifeless, who was once so alive. Yes, I wept too. Like Father Neuhaus, the only thing that came to my mind was gratitude, and all that I could say through my tears were 'Thank you, Holy Father, thank you.']

They were, at once, tears of sorrow and joy. Then all the lights of the house were turned on. Darkness came over me, within me. I knew that it had happened, but it was as if, afterwards, I refused to accept it, or I refused to understand it. I placed myself in the Lord's hands, but as soon as I thought by heart was at peace, the darkness returned.

Until the moment of farewell arrived.
There were all those people, all the important people who had come from afar. But, above all, there were his people, his young people. There was a great light in St. Peter's Square, and then the light also returned within me.
The homily over, Cardinal Ratzinger made that reference to the window, and said that he was surely there, seeing us, blessing us.
I also turned around, I could not but turn around, but I didn't look up there. At the end, when we reached the doors of the basilica, those who carried the coffin turned it slowly, as though enabling him to have one last look at the square, his final farewell to men, to the world.

Also his last farewell to me? No, not to me. At that moment, I wasn't thinking of myself. I lived that moment along with many others, and we were all shaken, distressed, but for me it was something I shall never be able to forget. Meanwhile, the cortege was entering the basilica; they were to take the coffin to the tomb.

Then, precisely at that moment, I began to think: I have accompanied him for almost 40 years, first 12 in Krakow, then 27 in Rome. I was always with him, by his side. Now, at the moment of death, he walked alone. And this fact, my not being able to accompany him, pained me much.

Yes, all this is true, but he has not left us. We feel his presence, and also so many graces obtained through him.[Translation by ZENIT. Published with permission of Rizzoli International Publishers]

Though Pope John Paul has gone to his reward, I was still devastated. The Church had just lost Her earthly shepherd.

But God did not abandon his people and in due time, came the news of great joy.

Habemus Papam!

And this man, Pope John Paul's faithful collaborator for so many years, came to impart his blessing from the great Loggia of St. Peter's.

He, who had stood so many times at the side of his friend, had now taken his seat as Successor to St. Peter, the Apostle and Vicar of Christ on Earth.I rejoiced, and the world rejoiced too.

Although with the current state of the Church, even if one is tempted just to shrug and entrust everything to Providence, we must always remember that the Holy Spirit is always at work within Her, guiding Her way. We remember the promise of Christ, Her Head, that come what may, be they liberals, communists, fundamentalist Muslims or the Blair government, the Gates of Hades shall NOT prevail. In that promise, I take comfort.

As for His Holiness, the Servant of God Pope John Paul the Great, I remember him not only as he was in death.
But as he was in life. I will let his example and teachings continue to inspire me in my journey of faith and I will walk along the narrow path with his words ringing in my ears, come what may, 'Be not afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!'.

PS: I'm really really jealous of this kid. What I wouldn't give to be in his shoes. =)


Mulier Fortis said...

It was our school Easter holiday and I had been glued to the tv for days when JPII passed away.

When the BBC announced his death, at about 9pm, I drove over to my parish church to light a candle and say some prayers.

A group of us watched the funeral in the Parish Hall (it has cable tv)

We were back at school when the conclave began. I went to the Parish Hall to watch the opening ceremony on the TV. The next day I saw the smoke at lunchtime on the Internet, and then I rushed back to the Parish Hall in the evening to see the smoke again...

...I'd brought a pile of marking, and I made a cup of tea, and then everyone at the news studio started saying that the smoke was black, so I nearly packed up and went home, but I decided to finish my tea first...

...and then the smoke went grey, and then got whiter and whiter! And when the Holy Father was announced, I cheered (scaring the people in the Hall setting up for a funeral!)

What an experience!

Anonymous said...

Touching photos. As a recent convert, I don't have thoughts of a nature to be shared about the Holy Father's passing, but from where I sit now, oh... yes. I'd love to have been in that kid's shoes. :)

Paulinus said...

I remember (and in fact wrote about) the death of the late Holy Father. I didn't like the way the medics medicalised (particularly the Papal spokesman, a medic by training) his death - the emphasis was always on his clinical condition when in fact when you read the closer accounts, John Paul walked the Way of the Cross on his deathbed. It could hardly be otherwise but his was truly a Happy Death, the archetype of Catholic Death.

I still remember when the announcement came:

"Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam: Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum [gap - me saying under my breath "Let it be Ratzinger! Let it be Ratzinger!"] Josephum {YESSSS!}Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger"


"It's Ratzinger!!!" I shouted to my (bewildered, non-Catholic) wife.

"Is that good?"

"Oh yes. It's VERY good!"

Andrew said...

Thanks, Mac, Shellie and Paulinus, for dropping by and commenting, and especially for sharing your experiences during those very emotional moments with me.

Paulinus, I remember screaming the great big YESSSSS!!! as well when the Dominum Josephum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger announcement was made. Except that is was in the wee hours of the morn here in Malaysia and the shout created quite a stir among the neighbours =)
I felt like running to Church to start ringing the bells =)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting these pictures of JP II, and for the excerpt from his little Jeevish's book.

I was one of the seemingly few on the planet who never saw the Holy Father in person. As he was dying, I was sitting in a dark, saddened church pew, waiting for the confessional so as to fulfill the requirements for the Divne Mercy Sunday indulgence.

It was a most dismal day wherever we were, except for our deep unity as a global church. And our greatest solace, yes, came with the word "Ratzinger!"

Again, thank you. Nice 'blog!


Leticia said...

I was teaching English as a Second Language that Saturday morning at the college with a heavy heart. I knew that in my local parish the Polish community was holding a Mass for the dying Holy Father, and I couldn't go. So, when my grieving Polish students entered class that morning, I sent them to the Mass to, "go pray for John Paul for me, since I can't go". They were grateful.
As soon as I left school that afternoon, I kept vigil in front of the TV, waiting for word of his passing.When he left us, I sobbed with grief and joy at the same time. He truly was my spiritual father, and I felt more for him than I imagined possible considering I had only seen him twice, here in the USA, and from a great distance (1979 and 1995 in NYC). I wrote a meditation on his passing which was published in such diverse publications as "The National Catholic Reporter" and "Faith and Family".
I still miss him, though I love Pope Benedict, because he saved the Church(and me)while we were still reeling from the post-Vatican II chaos.

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