It’s hard to be a saint in the (eternal) city

On that given morning, May 13 1981, Mehmet Ali Aðca shot various rounds toward the Great Polish Man – John Paul II. Afterwards he justified his action by stating the following: “To me the Pope was the incarnation of all that is capitalism;” clearly at the time he had no idea that his effort was to fail.


Agca did not know then that even Padre Pio from Pietralcina foresaw that the young priest from Poland he met in 1948 would have gone on to become Pope. In fact, no one in the 1940s would have bet a penny on such a possibility. Wojtyla himself one stated: ” I, John Paul II, have never thought that I would have become the Pope…providence has brought me here and therefore, I shall let providence decide the day it will end”. John Paul II died, in fact, exactly when he was supposed to. It was three years ago that God called him. On the third anniversary of his death Pope Benedict XVI held a mass in St. Peter’s Square to commemorate Wojtyla’s death. His successor had these words to say about his predecessor, “Among [his] many human and supernatural qualities, he had an exceptional spiritual and mystical sensibility”.


Mircea Eliade, the famous Romanian religious historian, described his sanctity as “equivalent to a power, and in the last analysis, to reality.” We can’t say that John Paul II is a saint, but he did have, in fact, a power. He was capable to “immerse himself in God,” says Navarro Valls before continuing, “He could pray while asleep, every breath he took was an ode to God itself.” But not only: John Paul II also allegedly cured a French nun from Parkinson’s disease.


“I am cured. It is the work of God, through the intercession of Pope John Paul II”, said the French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre (46) last year. “It’s something very strong, very difficult to put into words,” she added. “All I can tell you is that I was sick and now I am cured. It is for the Church to say and to recognize whether or not it is a miracle”.


Someone else was capable of such miracles, apart from Padre Pio and, of course, the French and English dynasties of the thaumaturgist kings there was Yehoshua, or if you prefer, Jesus of Nazareth. If someone wants to have an idea of what being “immersed in God” means and how to recognize a “perennial prayer” such as John Paul II, he should read the book “Quarantine” by Jim Crace, there isn’t a better description, in my opinion, on how a devoted Christian should pray his God.


The word “miracle” derives from the late Latin mirari which means “to stare at” and its significance in modern English would sound something like this: “An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” That would fit the story of the French nun of course. Although many non-believers might end up thinking that these are only good stories to tell in front a fireplace during the winter or when it’s raining outside because they have no scientific explanation whatsoever.


Apart from miracles, we prefer to think that John Paul II apart from being able to “immerse himself in God” could not only transmit his beliefs to others people, but has also effectively changed the course of the events of the last century. That matches Eliade’s description of holiness. But that is not all. He also demolished some crucial stereotypes about the Catholic Church. For example here’s what the former Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, said about him: ” [He’s] a great man, an honest spirit, loyal and free. A man of God, whose holiness, according to Catholic Church parameters, is crystal clear for the entire world to see”. A Rabbi saying that the Pope is “a man of God” may not be a miracle, but is certainly a step towards reconciliation between Judaism and Catholicism.


Here’s another “quasi-miracle” from Wojtyla – making someone believe in God. Rita Megliorini , a personal nurse to Pope John Paul II during his last days at Gemelli Hospital said, “He brought me back to my faith. He said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, God forgives.’ He remembered me and dedicated a caress to me in the most precious moment of his life…when he was going back to the Lord”.


We don’t even need to know if the French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, allegedly cured from Parkinson’s disease thanks to John Paul II, is telling the truth or not. In any case, this Great Man from Poland, who already looked old when he was twelve; who traveled all over the world to spread the faith he believed in; who did not give up the cross even in times of troubles and convinced people to change their minds, deserves canonization. Perhaps, for no other reason, to quote David Bowie, “It’s hard to be a Saint in the city.”


Ali Agca couldn’t known that Pope John Paul II would have survived his bullets. That said, perhaps we should ask him how it feels to be forgiven by the person he wanted to kill. Ask him how it feels to attempt to assassinate a Saint.


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Andrea Loquenzi Holzer

The truth will set you free

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