For Chaplains

An Anniversary of Grace

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Father Jonathan D. Kalisch, O.P.
Director of Chaplains and Spiritual Development

 

April 2 marks the 10th anniversary of the final pilgrimage of Saint John Paul II — his journey to “the Father’s house.” We all remember his great witness to life as he persevered under the cross of suffering to his final days. No longer able to speak from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, our beloved saint simply made the sign of the cross. He would later tell his secretary, “Thy will be done … Totus tuus.”


 On that afternoon, he would again confirm his trust in the Lord in words that were to be his last: “Let me go home to the Lord.” Around 8 p.m., the closest friends of the pope began to celebrate the vigil Mass for the feast of Divine Mercy at his bedside. As crowds of young people gathered in the square below, the serenading chants could be heard on the fourth floor of the papal apartments: “Giovanni Paolo! Viva il Papa!” His secretary gave him a few drops of the Precious Blood of Christ at Communion as Viaticum.


 At 9:37 p.m., his great heart finally stopped beating. All in the room immediately started to sing the Te Deum to thank God for the gift of the life of Karol Wojtyła.
 At the time of Pope John Paul II’s death, I served as a college chaplain in New England. The days before and after his death were ones of great grace and mercy. Many students — aware of no other pope in their lifetime — returned to the practice of the faith. Inspired by the example of an extraordinary life lived with such attraction to the very end, the students sought out confession and new ways to live their faith.


 The 10th anniversary of John Paul II’s death significantly falls on Holy Thursday, the beginning of the great Easter Triduum, and the day on which he always wrote his spiritual Letter to Priests. Writing his final letter from a hospital bed, this great promoter of vocations reminded priests to “cultivate a constant sense of gratitude” for the many gifts they have received. The Vicar of Christ, who had imitated the Good Shepherd throughout his 27-year pontificate and 59 years of priestly service, pointed out: “We have our crosses to bear — and we are certainly not the only ones! — but the gifts we have received are so great that we cannot fail to sing from the depths of our hearts our own Magnificat.”


 St. John Paul II’s last formally written words were those of the Regina Caeli message that he had prepared to deliver the next day, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, 2005: “Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.” These concluding words are a summary of St. John Paul II’s life: entrustment to Divine Mercy.

 As we mark this milestone anniversary of St. John Paul II’s death, let us rejoice with gratitude to God that we have lived during this momentous papacy; that we have witnessed one of the greatest teaching pontificates of all time; and that so many have listened to his call to set out into the deep and follow Christ with a sincere gift of self through holy marriages, religious life and evangelical priesthood. May we encourage our brother Knights to ask St. John Paul’s intercession, especially for those family and friends who have fallen away from the practice of the faith and for the vocations of young people they know.


Happy Easter!

 

Fr. Jonathan D. Kalisch, O.P.
Director of Chaplains and Spiritual Development
FrJon.Kalisch@kofc.org
(203) 752-4115