Sunday, April 03, 2005

rewarding day at the parish a day after john paul's death

Part of my formation as a priest in seminary is being assigned at a parish where I would be available for any help asked of me with regards to parish ministry, including preaching. I usually go to my parish on weekends to help out. Admittedly, I was looking forward to spending some time at the parish this particular Sunday, a day after the announcement of the pope's death, so that I could listen to parishioners' thoughts and feelings on the events of the weekend. Plus, I happen to be the one scheduled to preach this Sunday, so I was doubly looking forward to today.

As I entered the Church, there was a painting of the John Paul at the center of the vestibule. Then I caught the pastor's eye and asked him if he thinks it might be appropriate if he were to preach today since he is the pastor and he might have something to say about the pope which the parishioners might appreciate hearing. He said no. I was glad he said no because I was quite happy with the homily I had prepared which related a message from today's Gospel (peace) with a theme in one of John Paul's books ("Be not afraid.")

After each of the Masses today, many parishioners came up to tell me their impressions and feelings about John Paul. One parishioner remembered the time when she was at an audience at the Vatican and sang happy birthday for John Paul. Her singing was joined by the people from other nationalities in the audience who spontaneously joined in singing "happy birthday" in their own native languages.

Another noted how impressed he is to see many young people in St. Peter's as shown on TV mourning the pope. John Paul's connection with people my age in their 30's and 20's is very real. One woman felt that the whole world it seems has been cleansed as many peoples' minds all over the world turned for a moment to thoughts spiritual. I rather teased one man who came to Mass wearing a white shirt with a yellow sweater over it, saying that he came dressed in honor of the pope. His rejoinder was, "Well, these were the first things I found in my closet, so I grabbed them." Heh. I'm glad he took my teasing well.

So the parishioners' mood this Sunday wasn't one of over-the-top grieving and weeping. But rather it's one of silent sadness and relief that John Paul's physical suffering has finally ended.

I felt privileged to have preached this weekend, especially at a time like this, which doesn't happen all too often. An opportunity to bring words of peace to those who heard my words, as well as listening to folks' thoughts about john paul's passing, was rewarding.

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