On April 2, 2005, the Pope lay dying. After a nearly-27 year pontificate, one of the most famous men in the world was on his death bed. I sat at home, alone, and watched news coverage of this holy man’s last hours. That afternoon, the pope died. A few days later, as I watched coverage of his funeral, I joined in as the crowds chanted “Santo subito! Santo subito!” (Make him a saint now!)
This pope had had a profound effect on my life. I was 17 years old when he died, and he was the only pope I had ever known. I was blessed to be raised in a profoundly Catholic family, in a profoundly Catholic community in rural Oregon, and attend a profoundly Catholic parish and grade school. I was surrounded at home and school by images and stories of the Holy Father. Hanging next to my bed, and used as bookmarks in everything I read, were holy cards featuring John Paul II’s image. As I grew older, and began to explore the writings and teachings of this pope, I saw a clear thread running through everything he did – we are all children of God, and God has given his children and their world a beautiful, ineffable gift in marriage and family life. While I may have been unable to understand all of his writings as a young person (or now…let’s be honest), his theology of the family has had an indescribable influence on myself and countless others.
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