Sunday, 17 April 2011
Pope John Paul II, a memorable event, the Vatican and "True Life in God"
I was thinking the other day about an event I was part of some years ago. Unfortunately I cannot remember the exact year, but it was not long before the Holy Year which ended in January 2001. There was a three year run-up to that special Jubilee and I think it was during the first year - that would be 1997/8 perhaps. It was a sort of pilgrimage to Rome in honour of Our Lady, to ask her to interecede for the Catholic Church and the world as we prepared for the Jubilee of the Redemption. I was part of a very small contingent from England. I don't remember this even being publicized by the Catholic press! I was one of only two priest from England (the other was a Benedictine). I had been invited by a friend who had somehow got hold of the information about this pilgrimage. People came from all over Europe and as far away as Canada to be part of it. With them they brought together over 400 icons and pictures and statues of the Blessed Virgin. Some of them were well-known whilst others had been taken from Gothic cathedrals (pictures and photos) where there had been a particular devotion to Mary that had been forgotten or lost in the mists of time. One of the leaders of this pilgrimage was a Spanish Catholic layman who had been taking a mobile shrine around some parts of Spain, encouraging people to pray the Rosary and accept Mary in imitation of Pope John Paul ("Totus Tuus"). Healings had occurred in some places as well as conversions. The lady that looked after the small group I belonged to was actually German. She knew Rome and the Vatican quite well, and she came to tell us two priests to be ready to concelbrate Mass with the Pope in his chapel. She said we could be called almost at a moment's notice. We had to be up early in the mornings to be ready. A day or so after that she came with bad news. This is what she said: Two Spanish bishops (ONLY TWO) had contacted the Vatican to complain about this layman who was travelling around Spain with his mobile shrine. Why did they complain? I can only guess it was because he did not ask permission of those two, but I can also guess that he made this mistake in innocence or tried to contact them and couldn't and was probably advised by a priest (this often happens) to go ahead anyway etc. The result was this - we priests could not concelebrate with the Pope; the group was not allowed to carry any of our pictures, statues etc into the audience hall (we were allowed there, but not as a group). There would be no special place reserved for us in the Piazza on Sunday and we could not even visit the Vatican museum. The pilgrimage went under the name of "Notre Dame de Paris" and I suppose this had something to do with the man who had originally had the inspiration to do something like this - another layman. Some of our party decided to go into the audience hall with their pictures and statues. One or two of our English group carried a large statue of Our Lady of Walsingham past the guards at the gate who looked in their handbags but waved the statues through. During the audience - as usually happens - the Pope mentioned the names of the different groups present; groups from different countries, apostolates, pilgrimage groups etc. He did not mention ours. We had been warned about this. The German lady had told us that if one bishop complained about anything or anybody that complaint was taken so seriously that the shutters would come down. There was no discussion. Towards the end of the audience as Pope John Paul began to leave, something wonderful happened. He was still suffering very much following his broken thigh, and had to literally swing his left leg around in order to walk. As he began to limp off, some of our party lifted up their pictures and statues. The Pope turned around. This was deliberate - it had to be. He looked at these things and then blessed them. He knew who we were; he had to know because he had been told not to mention us by name. Something similar happened on the Sunday although we were far away from him and he was up in the Papal appartments. When all the 400 pictures and statues were raised there was a definite movement in that window such that we could not mistake his intention. Considering Vatican protocol and how much the Popes are subject to instruction from those around them (note for example the situations of Pope John Paul 1, and Pope Paul VI), it seems quite incredible that something happened not long before that in relation to "True Life in God". This occurred one year after the Notification had been issued against Vassula. Look at the video below.