When Pope St. John Paul II died, the manner and timing of his death struck me as much more than coincidental.
Let me set the scene:
- Pope John Paul was a proponent of God’s Divine Mercy. In 1980 he wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy). He declared the Sunday within the octave of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
- The day on which there was an assassination attempt made on his life was May 13th—the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Pope John Paul credited Our Blessed Lady with saving his life. He even had the bullet removed from his body placed in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. It was from Fatima, the First Saturday devotions came about (as a request for reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary).
- John Paul’s life was consecrated to Our Blessed Lady as evidenced by his coat of arms with the motto Totus Tuus (Totally Yours) and an M (for Mary) on the right side at the foot of a golden cross.
- John Paul decried the culture of death that seemed to permeate our society. He held that every life was sacred: the unborn, the handicapped, the elderly, and the infirm. He died elderly, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, in the public eye as a witness to the value of every life.
- The miracle leading up to his beatification was a cure from Parkinson’s disease of a sister (whose name happened to be Sister Marie Simon-Pierre of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Maternity Wards).
When did Blessed John Paul II leave this earth? Saturday,
April 2, 2005. It was the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday and the First Saturday (Fatima devotion) of the month.
Pope Benedict XVI called our
attention to some of these facts in his homily during the Beatification Mass:
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter,
which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was
chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor
died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s
month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these
elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through
time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place
among the angels and saints!
I believe that spiritual signs and
wonders are all around us calling our attention to God’s Providence ever-present in
our lives. With the secular, materialistic, skeptical and
unbelieving world in which we live, one might just write off all of this as
mere coincidence, if any attention is paid to it at all.
Yet, seeing things with the eyes
of faith, I wonder what God has in store for us in the days ahead!
Fr. Ed Namiotka