Last year at this time I was sitting in a friend’s living room. We had just come in from a Secular Franciscan workshop, where SFOs from our district had the chance to meet, pray together and share ideas. Of course we were aware all day that Pope John Paul II was most likely in his final moments, and he certainly was remembered in the prayers of all of us that day. It was the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday.
Our Fraternity had hosted the workshop and it fell to us to do all the cleanup, gathering of materials and locking up the building. As my family had gone to visit grandparents that day, I’d be going home to an empty house, and my friend invited me to stop at her house for coffee.
Not long after we came in from the chilly rain and settled down with our hot beverages, her husband came into the room to let us know that it had just been announced that the Pope had passed away.
It was like we had lost a family member, and even though it was expected, and we had been quite sure that it would happen soon, we all were in a state of shock. We flipped from one news channel to the next, waiting for bells to toll and lights to be extinguished. We listened to newscasters and interviewees discussing the events, rites and rituals of the days to come.
I felt like we had lost a person very close to us. I did not feel that the Pope was distant or remote; rather, that he was one who walked our same path and had much wisdom to share.
He always stressed that Secular Franciscans have a mission to be lived:
“You are called,” John Paul II affirmed, “to offer your own contribution, inspired by the person and message of St. Francis of Assisi, to hasten the advent of a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, co- responsibility and love are living realities. You must study deeply the true foundations of universal brotherhood and create everywhere a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fellowship. Commit yourselves strongly to fighting every form of exploitation, discrimination and marginalization and every attitude of indifference towards others.”
H/T to Faithmouse for the beautiful tribute illustration.