Having been to the Beatification of John Paul the second, the news of his Canonisation on the same feast 3 years later, is a source of great joy. If nothing else it means another holy man in heaven praying for me, a man I remember from my childhood days, even if it only really be the night of his death. Even on that night seeing the numbers who had been there to pray for him and with him at the hour of his death, is a testimony to our faith, the number of people who simply wanted to be there for the final Papal blessing of the saintly man.
At the vigil for his beatification to which we were fairly late arrivals, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had already gathered in the circus maximus for the time of prayer. Our group gathered at the top of the hill as that is as close as the crowds would allow us to get, from were we could see all the handheld candle’s that each person had. A friend of mine who I was with, just turned to me and said ‘to think we will know all these people in heaven.’ If anything is a powerful image that is.
The next day, Divine Mercy Sunday, we all got up really early for the Canonisation Mass, and left for Mass at the time we had been told the gates, (or security barriers) to St Peters square would be opened. Even at this early time 3 hours before Mass was due to begin we struggled to get across the river as the crowds were already gathered back to there. We then went on to try a second bridge which was far more accessible, still only being able to get as close as Castel Sant’Angelo. As the priest who led the group also had his mother with him, and there was lots of bustling about trying to get closer to St Peters in the already hot roman whether some of our group left the place itself to go and watch on the TV somewhere else. They then saw an old friend from seminary of our group leader and they together went to watch in a convent with the nuns who tended John Paul II on his deathbed. The rest of us stayed at Mass, where we could barely see the top corner of St Peters Basilica.
After Mass the tomb of Blessed John Paul II was placed in the middle of St Peters Basilica and was left for prayerful pilgrim to tend to all day, yet the ques to go in was massive. Later in the evening we had Sunday Mass for our group (half of us hadn’t been present, and the rest of us were so far away, with it being so packed and all with an Italian commentary over, we decided it didn’t meet our Sunday duty although we had been there). Although this was Rome with Churches on every street corner there wasn’t even a side chapel free for us to use that evening so Fr said a Mass as reverently as is possible in a hotel room.
With the upcoming canonisation of JPII, many people are asking for his prayers, those things started by JPII in response to the direction fo the Holy Spirit and what the Church needed such as world youth day, Divine Mercy Sunday, or the mysteries of light may bear much fruit in the conversion of the world.
It should also be brought to the attention that John Paul II was a great lover of sport, from playing in-goal during football matches, skiing as pope or generally enjoying sporting times with his friends as a young man. As such a man who enjoyed sport throughout his life, and with sport being more commonly played by all people for an afternoons fun, what a powerful prayer each person enjoying sport would receive from having him made patron saint of sport. This is one of the places where witnessing to the faith is going to be highly useful.
For the world to see a good sportsman who then goes to Mass at least weekly, more regularly if they can, the world will then see that being Catholic does not limit you in what you can do. It will see that you are good at sports enjoy a laugh and can still be Christian. Having John Paul II as patron saint of sports will direct the world to a truly holy man who would spend much time in sport and remind them that it is possible. To such an end a friend of mine has a petition running. https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Declare_Blessed_Pope_John_Paul_II_Patron_Saint_of_Sport_upon_his_Canonisation/?copy