I think that everyone who “puts pen to paper” or “mouth to mike” has written or said something about the Pope in the past few weeks. Most have been laudatory while some have been pejorative. If there had been no criticisms of some of the Pope’s statements, I would have been concerned, for it would have meant one of two things – either he had said nothing worthwhile or people had not been listening! After all, the Man whose Vicar he is, was crucified for the things He said.
Like most people I was impressed by the pageantry, the enthusiasm of the crowds and the amazing stamina of the Pope himself. But more than all else I was deeply touched by the “person to person” attitude of the Holy Father in his meeting with people. Where I first noticed this was during his visit to the home for the handicapped in Quebec. One of the handicapped – a very handicapped man – read an address of welcome. The Pope sat and listened with the utmost attention. His eyes never left the man’s face. It appeared that he was hearing things he had never heard before. Later, as he walked among the handicapped he spoke to each one personally and each one was for him “the most important person in the world” at that moment. When one considers the tremendous burden of office that weighs on his shoulders, this is a truly remarkable quality in a world, which tends to value people in the measure of their pragmatic use to society and in a man whose subjects are clustered in every corner of the globe.
The expression which seemed to appear in almost every article about the Pope – even in those which were critical of his teachings – was the word “sincerity.” If the Holy Father wears a “mask,” as psychologists tell us we all do, it is the most transparent mask I have ever seen. Crystal clear sincerity seems to shine from his person. Sincerity is a quality which defies description but which can be recognized by the simple, the unlettered and especially by children. Not only did the Pope reach out to children but also the children reached out to the Pope. Children are naturally fearful of adults. It is one of their inbuilt securities. But, children of all sizes, shapes and ages responded to the Holy Father in a way which seemed to echo the words of the Gospel, “Let the children come to me – for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The Pope at Prayer
In my opinion, the most impressive moments of the entire Papal Pilgrimage were those when the Holy Father knelt in prayer! He seemed, in those brief seconds of solitude, to be entirely absorbed in God. Just as his smile, the lifting of his eyes or the raising of his hands could bring a crowd to life, so, the bowed head, the closed eyes, the clasped hands created an atmosphere of reverence which pervaded the should and minds of prelates, priests and people. This was no “performance” for the sake of giving a good example to priests and people. It was a “person to person” communion with his Lord. Watching him in those so intimate moments I felt that I had all the answers to all the questions, which surround the exceptional personality who is John Paul the Second. Hundreds of Canadians have written about the Pope – bishops, priests, sisters and lay people. But, for me, the one who summed up the Holy Father in fewest but most trenchant words was Barbara Amiel in her article in the Toronto Sun. She described him thus, “The complete Man of God.” And Barbara is Jewish. Thank you Barbara!