In the Father's House, an article in ABC, Madrid (April 5, 2005)
In the Father’s house
John Paul II spoke to us in many ways. He spoke through encyclicals, homilies, addresses, letters and books—through his words, his writings, and the images he left us. He often employed the language of symbols, with eloquent gestures full of meaning. All of these actions sprang from the depths of a soul intimately united with Jesus Christ, and therefore carried with them the communicative power of the Word of God.
These thoughts kept running my mind on the evening of Saturday, April 2. It seemed to me that the whole day had seen a succession of signs of deep eloquence. In the morning we heard the halting words that he addressed to young people—his last message: “I have sought you out; now you are the ones who have come close to me, and I thank you for it.” As some of the television programs in Italy said, April 2nd was an unexpected and improvised “World Youth Day.” By nightfall, 100,000 persons were praying to our Lady for the Pope, as he was dying. And our Lady graciously accepted the prayer of her children for their father. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” John Paul II seems to have died just as the prayers in the Square were ending, and the final “Amen” was a farewell to him. Before this, at eight o’clock, Bishop Stanislaus Dziwisz celebrated the Mass of Divine Mercy Sunday. Is there any message that could be more consoling for one who is dying? The Merciful Love of God the Father is waiting for you in heaven, the definitive dwelling of Love
To me, April 2, seems filled with symbolism, coincidences that were impossible to foresee, impossible to organize. Only the Providence of God, rich in mercy, could unite the prayer of thousands of children for their father, before the Blessed Virgin, on the eve of the universal feast of Divine Mercy.
All of those circumstances speak to us not only with the language of words or the expressiveness of emotions, but with the beauty of symbols, which leave an indelible imprint on the soul.
The liturgy for the funeral of John Paul II puts on our lips a beautiful prayer, in the preface of the Mass for the dead, which confirms us in “the hope of our happy resurrection.” How forcefully the Church declares that “the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality”! How natural it is for us to imagine the Pope in the presence of the Blessed Trinity, in a life that will never end. For we know that “for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.”
John Paul II possessed many qualities and gifts. Some people will now stress his role in the history of the Church and of humanity, his human and supernatural virtues, his talents. For me, as for countless men and women all over the world, the Pope was, above all, a father. In him we deeply experienced the reality that the Church is united by the bonds of communion proper to a family. The Pope is a father for Catholics from many different countries; he is the principle and foundation of unity in the Church, the source of fraternity among all men, the promoter of peace.
I dare to say that John Paul II portrayed in an outstanding way the principal role of his life, the role of father, the function of vicar of Christ. He did so with his whole personality, as an image and living symbol among us. May we all understand and put into practice what God is asking of us in such a clear way, making the Church, as John Paul II urged, “a home and school of communion.”
Today we have so many reasons to be grateful: to God, for the gift of this Pope; to John Paul II, for his strong and gentle fidelity; to so many people, eminent or unknown, who were his collaborators throughout these almost 27 years. We are especially grateful to those who cared for him with filial love up to the last moment: to Archbishop Dziwisz, Father Stanislaus, his faithful aide throughout his life; to the religious sisters, whose names do not appear in the papers; to Poland, who gave the Church such an illustrious son; to the doctors looking after him; to the journalists who have been describing to us, with deep emotion, these painful and unique moments.
Pope John Paul II would often say, when people sometimes asked him not to expend such a great physical effort: “after one Pope there comes another.” I think we can detect here not only his awareness of being in this world only in passing, like all men and women, but also his certainty of having been put by the Holy Spirit in the see of Peter not to be acclaimed as a man, but to strive to ensure that mankind acclaims God.
In these days Catholics are already praying for the next Pope, whoever he may be. And we are also praying to our beloved John Paul II that he intercede before God for his successor. There come to mind some words of St. Josemaría Escrivá: “I thought the words on loyalty that you sent to me was very appropriate: ‘I carry with me every day in my heart, in my mind and on my lips, an aspiration: Rome!’” The name of a city, a prayer, a bond of union for all Catholics, for all men of good will.
Romana, No. 40, January-June 2005, p. 78-80.