Blessed Are They
I have heard of and
read of different people’s encounters with the obviously holy among us. There are stories of people meeting Mother
Teresa or Pope John Paul II in which the meeter spontaneously broke into tears,
or instantly knew his/her vocation, or immediately abandoned a sinful
life. They are beautiful stories of how
holiness can affect one in amazing ways.
To meet Mother Teresa would have been a close encounter of
one kind; to meet JPII would have been a close encounter of a second kind. My meeting them could only be called close
encounters of a third kind.
Here are my
Mrs. Baker, a
teacher at Seton, arranged somehow for a group of us to go to D.C. to the houses
that the Sisters of Charity run on a day when Mother Teresa herself was going
to be there. I imagined that I might get
to see her from a distance or maybe hear her give a talk. We first went to the house where the sisters
were teaching young children on a Saturday morning. I think we were supposed to help, but I don’t
remember doing anything except watching the sisters teach the youngsters.
After a while, Mrs.
Baker told us to go outside, and each of us would get to meet Mother
Teresa. I was very surprised, and for
some reason my reaction to this opportunity was sadness. As we stood in line with others, there was
dear Mother Teresa patiently meeting each person. I felt so bad for her: how many times had she had to do this in her
life? I just wanted the whole thing to
be done for her sake. That’s all I
remember thinking as I stood in line. So
when I came face to face with Mother Teresa, I had thought of nothing to say to
her. She said some generic polite
greeting, and I stood speechless, shook her hand and moved away quickly. No revelations, no tears, no nothing.
Recently I read a
story about a Bishop who had his first meeting with Pope John Paul II. At the meeting the Pope told him that they
had met before. The Bishop assured His
Holiness that they had never met – how could one forget having met the
Pope. The Pope was adamant. Some time later the Bishop learned from
someone close to the Pope that they had met in Rome, before JPII was Pope and while the
Bishop was just a seminarian. The Bishop
was stunned. How did the Pope remember this? The friend of JPII told him that the Pope
remembered because each meeting for him was an encounter with Christ. The Pope saw Jesus in each person and so it
was an unforgettable experience for him. I wish I had known this about holy people on
the day I got to meet Blessed Mother Teresa. I think I would have had different thoughts while standing in that line.
The day of meeting
Mother Teresa ended with a visit to the Aids House that the Sisters of Charity
ran. I wasn’t prepared for that either. It was heart-wrenching to see those pitiable
men ravaged by their disease. However, though
one could see that the men were suffering, one could also sense that they were
redeemed through the loving care the Sisters gave to them. I have to say that this struck me much more
than my meeting Mother.
Now my JPII
story. I went to Europe
with Laura, Dick and Shelley Pennefather in 1987 on a Marian Year Pilgrimage
that we designed ourselves. We decided
that one of our goals was to meet the Holy Father—or at least get close
enough to touch the tassle of his cloak. Our best chance, it seemed, would be at the Papal Audience that we were
given tickets to attend. At the end of
the audience, the Pope came down the center aisle. Mr. P had managed to get right along the rail
and his touching the Pope was secured. I
was far from the aisle and had no hope. I stood there watching the Pope approach and suddenly felt the crush of
the crowd behind me. Truly, without
trying to move toward the aisle, I was carried along toward it by the crowd
until I was only a good stretch of the arm away just as the Pope was passing
by. Stunned, I just reached out and I
got a hold of his thumb. More stunned, I
just held on as he continued on, bending his thumb backward. He turned and looked at me. I will never forget that look. There is a painting I remember of Jesus
being led bound through a portico and turning and looking at St. Peter just as
the cock is crowing. That look of Jesus
at St. Peter is the nearest I have seen to Pope John Paul’s look at me. I didn’t weep bitterly, but I did feel awful. Now when I see a picture of Pope John Paul
II, I apologetically look to see if his left thumb is visible.
So there it is, my
encounters with a Blessed and a Blessed-to-Be.
Blessed Mother Teresa
and Venerable John Paul II, please pray for me and for all of us of Seton that
we may meet you in His Heavenly Kingdom.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.