His journey has ended and he is home. The death of Pope John Paul II has touched not only the hearts of Catholics but the hearts of all who knew of his time on earth.
I have yet to read the book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” but being a believer in heaven, I can only imagine John Paul II will meet many of those he encountered in life?”religious and world leaders, presidents, family, commoners and royalty. All were part of his conversations in life, which dealt with peace and justice for all people regardless of faith or belief.
Will he talk with President Ronald Reagan on how he worked for the demise of Soviet communism? Will he tell President Kennedy of his meeting with Cuba’s Fidel Castro? Or upon meeting with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will the discussion be on social justice and equality? One cannot know, one can only imagine.
Never having the honor of meeting the Pope or being in his presence, I sought a person or persons who may have had an audience with the Pope. The logical place to find such a person would have been within the Catholic community, but, avoiding the obvious, I called my friend Denise Flickinger.
Denise, of Brookfield is a Lutheran who had been fortunate to have a “private” audience with the Pope. She clarified the meaning of the word “private” as being among 5,000 people who were inside the Vatican as opposed to being in St. Peter’s Square.
The audience took place two years ago when Flickinger was with a group studying for their Ph.D.s through Loyola University in Rome. Since the Pope was already experiencing health problems, he had to be wheeled into the room.
His voice was not strong as he began to talk to the large group, but, Denise said, “The longer he spoke the stronger he seemed to get as if he was getting strength from the people and the Holy Spirit.”
The number of young people in the crowd was indicative of the affinity they had for Pope John Paul II and they for him. He spoke seven languages that day as he addressed the groups of pilgrims in attendance.
As he turned his attention to the Americans his message was, “Peace and serenity in your time of adversity.”
As Flickinger related more of her visit, it was apparent it was a moving experience, which included the blessing of the brides by the Pope. The day was a Wednesday and future brides would come to the Vatican in their bridal gowns to receive the Papal blessing.
Denise Flickinger and her traveling companions were fortunate to have had the opportunity to be in the presence of the Pope. With his passing this past weekend, the memories have surely become vivid again. There are many who have had similar experiences and are reflecting on it at this time.
We as a world, ignoring our differences, share our grief and mourn together the passing of this holy and compassionate man. We do not know who Pope John Paul II will be meeting in heaven, but he will be welcomed. His journey is over, and he is finally home.