On the morning of July 28th, 2002 and I had an encounter with the late Pope John Paul II that I will never forget. Along with hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims from all over the world, I had come to Toronto, Canada for World Youth Day. And the experience was one I will cherish my entire life.
It was the final day of the World Youth Day event. We were tired... we were dirty... we were soaking wet. As is the tradition for WYD's, we had hiked for miles to get to the place of the final Mass the day before and then camped there overnight after the vigil celebration. But the weather was not friendly to us at all.
For the majority of the night it misted very cold rain upon all of us. The wind was howling and blowing the giant glow lights all about. We had tarps and sleeping bags, but it seemed no matter how we covered up or adjusted, somehow the rain just kept getting in. We awoke in the morning to the same weather... chilly, windy, gray. Despite the dreariness, this was the last day we would be with our Holy Father, and we tried to remain cheery. Pope John Paul II's helicopter flew in and he traveled in his Pope-mobile through the crowds all the way up to the stage.
Even though we were never very close (in proximity) to this man, his presence was so powerful and pervasive. It felt like we were shaking his hand the entire week whenever he would come for an event. And the final Mass would prove no different. As the Pope approached the front of the stage and began Mass, we pilgrims bowed our heads and began Mass as well. And then it happened, more suddenly than you could imagine, the clouds parted... and out came the warm and beautiful sun. And what I'll never forget was what our dear Pope said to us. "It looks as if the Son has come to join us." The crowd erupted in cheers. We were able to remove our jackets and sweatshirts. Our clothes began drying...we were warming up... and by the end of Mass, you would have barely known that we had been drenched and miserable just an hour or two previously. The Son had joined us... as he does for every Mass. But on this special day, with 750,000 of my peers, we felt him exteriorly instead of just interiorly. AMAZING.
Happy Beatification Weekend, John Paul II. I really do love you!
John Paul the Great, Pray for Us.