Divine Mercy Sunday was a crazy day. I celebrated mass at my parish at 7:30 am, and, then hurried over to the high school where I am chaplain to celebrate mass for the Dad’s Club who park cars for the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. After the mass, I helped them park cars for an hour or so then made my way over to the festival to enjoy good music and good food. The day was topped off with a n unforgettable performance by my guitar hero, Eric Clapton. All of this was expected when I woke up that morning.
However, during the Eucharistic Prayer, at the 7:30 am mass, the LORD gave me a gift I didn’t expect. “May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect,” I prayed, “especially with the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph her spouse, with your blessed Apostles and glorious martyrs, with St. Rita, St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II …” At this point, I choked up and nearly started weeping. “and with all the Saints, on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help.” John Paul became a saint since the last time I said the Eucharistic Prayer!
This man came to my hometown. This man’s writing helped me fall in love with the truth. He helped me first contemplate the depths of priestly ministry (Pastores Dabo Vobis). He helped me understand the moral life with greater clarity (Veritatis Splendor). He gave me the gift of a fully fleshed (pun not intended) theological anthropology (Love and Responsibility and Man and Woman He Created Them). He gave me my first theological reflections on the family and the beauty of femininity (Familiaris Consortio and Mulieris Dignitatem). He helped me fall in love deeper with the Blessed Mother (Redemptoris Mater). He taught me why I need to go out in to the world to proclaim the Gospel and not follow my natural introverted tendency to be insular (Redemptoris Missio). He hepled me understand for the first time many of the documents of Vatican II. His intellectual rigor paved the way for me to receive so well the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI.
I consider him one of my intellectual mentors, and this man, who taught me so much, is now in heaven, inteceding for me as a brother priest, as a man who tries, even if I fail, to take part in the New Evangelization. He was and is one of the priest I looked up to in seminary, a priest I wished to emulate, both in pastoral activity and spiritual and theological reflection.
All these memories came to a flooding head at my praying the Eucharistic prayer that morning. Such joy filled my heart at him being in heaven, that my emotions couldn’t handle. This man whom I love, both as a father and a pope, is before the throne of the lamb adoring the Lord of Hosts and offering supplication for all of his flock, you and me included.
O WHAT JOY IT IS TO BE CONNECTED TO SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES!