By the Very Rev. Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D.
Yesterday was the Feast Day of a Saint that I saw at a Mass in the parking lot of Five Holy Martyrs in Chicago on October 5, 1979 with my Grandmother, Mom and Aunt, shook his hand and took a picture with him after Mass in his private chapel in the Papal Apartment on November 3, 1999, and took a group of students to see him in Rome during the Jubilee Year 2000 World Youth Day.
All of these encounters were emotionally charged and memorable experiences! He was the first Polish Pope and a great man... he was not perfect, no one is, but he was faithful! A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying! Let us all recognize that there are Saints among us and that we are all called to Holiness! May Saint John Paul II Pray for Us!
Official Vatican Prayer to Saint John Paul II
Oh, Saint John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading it along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and everyone to Jesus.
Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream again, help them look up high again to find the light that illuminates the paths of life here on earth.
May you bless families, bless each family! You warned of Satan's assault against this precious and indispensable divine spark that God lit on earth. Saint John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the family and every life that blossoms from the family.
Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You tackled war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace.
Oh Saint John Paul, from heaven's window, where we see you next to Mary, send God's blessing down upon us all. Amen.
Fr. Bernie Scianna's 1999 Reflection on Meeting St. John Paul II
I con-celebrated mass with the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II in his private chapel on November 3, 1999. I was in Rome staying at the Augustinian center house which is located directly across St. Peter’s square from the papal residence. I was there as part of an international commission that was planning for the international Augustinian youth gathering which coincided with the World Youth Day Jubilee Celebration in the summer of 2000.
When I first arrived in Rome on October 30th, I made my way to the papal residence to try to confirm my time to celebrate mass with the pope. The Swiss Guard told me that it would not be possible, but I insisted on seeing the person whose name was on my letter of introduction that I had from Bishop Slattery. I was told that this was the pope’s personal secretary, but I said, “That’s just fine; I would like to see him.” The Swiss Guard seemed a bit surprised at my boldness, but I had tried several other times to have the experience of celebrating the mass with the pope and had usually given up with the first refusal. This time I was going to be persistent. The guard could sense that I was not going away, and told me that I could go up these steps and visit with the assistant’s assistant. I did visit with the nun there, but was not given much hope.
A couple of days passed, and on the afternoon of November 2nd I received a call informing me that there were no openings for the mass with the pope. However, that very evening another call came in from the nun informing me to be at the residence at 6:30 a.m. the next morning with my alb and stole. The mass itself was a very emotional experience. I could just feel that I was in the presence of a holy man, a saint in my mind, someone who has had such an overwhelmingly positive influence on the church and the world. After the celebration, we were able to meet with the Holy Father one on one for a brief moment and a photograph. As I shook his hand and he gave me a rosary, I told him my name and where I was from. I simply thanked him for his example of faithfulness and love, and told him that I had been at his mass when I was a teenager in Chicago with my mother, grandmother and aunt when he first became pope. He smiled and said, “Augustinian, you have been given much, now you must give it all to the Lord through the people He calls you to serve.” At that he went on to the next person.
As I left the papal residence, I had this feeling of great joy and peace. I was glad that I was somewhat bold in my persistence. I wanted to immediately call my parents and grandmother, but it was about 2:00 a.m. in Chicago, so I waited until later on to share this wonderful news with them. I gave them each a framed picture of me with the Holy Father, and of course, I have one in my office. It was an experience that I will never forget.
Rev. Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A.