Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
May 8, 2011

On this Mother's Day we ask God's abundant blessing on all of the mothers in our parish, in our nation and in our world. The sacrificial love shown by those who are mothers in deed as well as in name will not be forgotten by our Saviour. And let us beg our merciful God to grant forgiveness and healing to those who, in momentary panic and in surrender to pressures of many kinds, chose the path of abortion in rejection of motherhood.

"Though your sins be as scarlet, I shall make them white as wool." (Isaiah 1:18).
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Last Sunday, the Octave of Easter and the Sunday dedicated to the observance of a devotion, that of Divine Mercy, much beloved by Pope John Paul, was the day appropriately chosen for his formal beatification. More than a million pilgrims thronged the streets of Rome to join in celebrating the everlasting triumph that, as God has assured us through miraculous witness, this heroic soldier of Christ now enjoys. Blessed John Paul the Great, pray for us!

Among the many moving tributes inspired by this raising of one known by so many so very well to official veneration at the church's altars, Peggy Noonan's glowing encomium stands out. May I share it with you here, together with portions of an essay by a zealous promoter of Christ's truth right here at home in our own archdiocese, John Sondag, for many years the director of religious education at St. Helena's parish in Minneapolis and the organizer of countless lectures offered by an impressive array of visiting speakers on various aspects of the Faith. John Sondag's tribute appeared in the latest issue of the monthly newspaper that he edits, The Catholic Servant. Former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan's essay appeared in The Wall Street Journal for April 30th.
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Recollection of a Great Pope
By: John Sondag

I love some of the ... stories told about Pope John Paul II. They tell us so much about the character and sanctity of this great man....

I [first] saw Pope John Paul II ... when he was installed as Pope. I watched the Mass on TV, and at the end of the Mass, the crowds started to cheer. He didn't just wave or bless the crowds in St. Peter's Square.  He took his crosier which had a crucifix on its top and repeatedly raised it high in the air toward the different sections of the gathered people as if to proclaim Jesus Christ.

These gestures were strong, bold and full of energy. This was no frail old man who was going to occupy the Chair of Peter, an office which had been held by older men for decades. Pope John Paul's action clearly indicated a traditional love of the cross emblazoned with fresh stamina. The vigor of his gestures could not go unnoticed.

This was no ordinary cardinal who had become Pope, and his exemplary life and many talents began to provide the next two decades and six years with stories that fascinate, entertain, and inspire....

The future Pope ... earned two doctorates-one in theology from Rome and one in philosophy from Poland.

A fact that I recently learned about his doctoral dissertation in theology [written either in Latin or in Italian] is that after Fr. Wojtyla wrote it, he didn't have enough money to publish it. So, the Roman university did not award the degree. He received the degree for that dissertation a year later from a Polish university.

However, his dissertation in philosophy was written in Polish.  When he finished this second dissertation, it was "heavy," to say the least.....

When the Pope-to-be was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow, the joke was that young priests should be obedient to their Archbishop, because if they were not, their punishment in Purgatory would be to read Cardinal Wojtyla's [second] dissertation ....

Archbishop Timothy Dolan recalled that shortly after Cardinal Wojtyla had become the new Pope, one of his priest secretaries received an emergency telephone call in the middle of the night. He went into the Pope's bedroom to awaken him. He was not there. He went to the chapel. He didn't see the Pope there. He went to the library, the kitchen, and the bathroom. No Pope. In desperation, he awoke Fr. Dziwisz, the Pope's secretary, who had recently arrived from Poland.

"I can't find the Pope. There's an emergency phone call. Do you know where he might be?"

Fr. Dziwisz said, "Go to the chapel."

"I already did. He's not there," said the secretary.

"Look on the floor," said Fr. Dziwisz.

He went back to the chapel and found the Pope lying prostrate in prayer....
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And here is Peggy Noonan's Tribute.

Make Him a Saint: How Pope John Paul II Worked a Political Miracle.
The Wall Street Journal  April 28,2011
By: Peggy Noonan

One of the greatest moments in the history of faith was also one of the greatest moments in modern political history. It happened in June 1979.

Just eight months before, after dusk on Oct. 16,1978, a cardinal had stepped out onto the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica to say those towering, august words, "Habemus papam" - "We have a pope." The cardinal pronounced the new pontiff's name in Latin. Not everyone understood or could hear him, and the name sounded odd. For 456 years the church had been electing Italian popes. This didn't sound Italian. The crowd was perplexed.

Then the new pope came out - burly, light-haired, broad cheekbones. He looked Slavic. He looked like a Pole! It was Karol Wojtylwa, the cardinal from Krakow. It was a breakthrough choice-so unexpected and unprecedented-and you knew as you watched that a whole new world was beginning. This was a former manual laborer who wore brown scruffy shoes, who was young (58) and vibrant (a hiker and kayaker). He was a writer, an intellectual who'd come up during the heroic era of the European priesthood, when to be a priest in a communist-controlled nation was to put not only your freedom at risk but your life.

Poland went wild with joy; Krakow took to the streets. The reaction was world-wide. They had vigils in the Polish neighborhoods of Chicago, and block parties in Boston.

And here is the great moment of faith that became a great moment of history. John Paul II, naturally, wanted to return as pope to visit his homeland. This put the communist government in Warsaw in a bind. If they didn't invite him, they'd look defensive and weak. If they did, he might spark an uprising that would trigger a Soviet invasion.

They invited John Paul to come on a "religious pilgrimage." On June 2, 1979, he arrived at an airport outside Warsaw, walked down the steps of the plane, and kissed the tarmac. The government feared tens of thousands would line the streets for the motorcade into town.

More than a million came.

In a Mass in the Old City, John Paul gave a great sermon. Why, he asked, had God lifted a Pole to the papacy? Why had Poland suffered for centuries under political oppression? Perhaps because Poland is "the land of a particularly responsible witness." The Poles had been chosen to give witness, with humility, to the cross and the Resurrection. He asked the crowd if they accepted such an obligation.

"We want God," they roared. "We want God!" This from a nation occupied by an atheist state.

John Paul said the great work of God is man, and the great redeemer of man is Christ. Therefore, "Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude.... The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man!"

It was brilliant. He wasn't asking for a revolution or an uprising, he wasn't directly challenging the government. He just pointed out that God himself sees one unity in Europe, not an East and a West divided but one continent. And so must we all.

But it was what happened a week later, at the Blonie field outside Krakow, that led directly to 1989, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. That was the event that made political history.

It was June 10, near the end of the trip. Everyone was tired. There was to be a last outdoor mass. The government had not allowed it to be publicized. But words spread, and two million people came, maybe three million. It was the biggest gathering in Polish history. Here John Paul took on communism more directly. He exhorted the crowd to receive the Holy Spirit. "I speak ... for St. Paul: Do not quench the Spirit.... I speak again for St. Paul: Do not grieve the Spirit of God!"

"You must be strong, my brothers and sisters. You must be strong with the strength that faith gives.... You need this strength today more than any other period in our history. ... You must be strong with love, which is stronger than death.... Never lose your spiritual freedom."

The Mass was stirring, with crowds saying, again, "We want God!" But here is the thing. Everyone at that Mass went home and put on state-controlled television to see the coverage of the great event. They knew millions had been there, they knew what was said, they knew everyone there was part of a spiritual uprising. But state-run TV had nothing. State-run TV had a few people in the mud and a picture of the pope.

Everyone looked at the propaganda of the state, at its lack of truthfulness and its disrespect for reality, and they thought: It's all lies. Everything the government says is a lie. The government itself is a lie.

The Solidarity movement took on new power. The Communist Party lost authority; the Polish government in time tottered, and by 1989 the Soviet Union itself was tottering.

Twenty-three years later, in an interview, the Solidarity leader Lech Walessa told me of how John Paul galvanized the movement for freedom: "We knew ... communism could not be reformed. But we knew the minute he touched the foundations of communism, it would collapse."

John Paul went on to a fruitful papacy of historic length, 26 years. He traveled more than a million miles to 149 countries. He didn't bring the world to the church, he brought the church to the world. He was shot and almost killed in 1981, survived and went to Rome's Rebibbia Prison to make sure his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, understood he'd been forgiven. And at the end, sick with Parkinson's, he did what statesmen don't do: He made his suffering public, as if to say, "We who are imperfect, who are not beautiful, who are in pain - we too are part of the human race, and worthy of God's love." He insisted on the humanity of the weak, the wounded, the unborn.

And when he died, there was the miracle of the crowds. John Paul had been old and dying for a long time, and the Vatican knew he'd been forgotten. They didn't plan for crowds.

But when he died, people came running.  They dropped what they were doing and filled the streets of Rome, they got on trains and planes and Rome was engulfed.

Four million people came.

They traveled from every country in Europe and beyond, they had nowhere to sleep, they filled the streets carrying candles.

There had never been anything like it. Old Rome had seen its popes come and go, but the crowds came and wouldn't leave until he was buried. And when his coffin was carried out and shown to them, they roared.

"Santo Subito!" they said. Make him a saint.

And now this weekend he will be beatified, a step toward sainthood. He will become Blessed John Paul the Second, and nobody will misunderstand his name.

Some will speak of mistakes ... in his papacy, and they are right. But saints are first of all human, and their lives are always flawed, full of contradictions, and marked by stark failures. Yet they are individuals of heroic virtue. As he was.

Santo Subito. Make him a saint. And by the way, expect crowds.
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