Tuesday, April 12, 2005


One of my regular Blog readers has passed along the amazing words below. This reader has asked to remain anonymous, so I share the words, recollections and feelings without the need for further comment or introduction:

Sunday April 3rd, 2005
Krakow, Poland

So, it has finally happened. Pope John Paul II has moved onward and upward.

Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name

Sitting on a bench in Krakow, I remain transfixed by an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. I am not sure exactly what I am supposed to be feeling right now. Perhaps what strikes me most at this moment is that the general atmosphere of this city is not somber, which is what I expected, but rather there hangs a combination of sanguine and celebratory vibes. This feeling is even more confused by the media carnival that is taking place in the midst of the Masses and the mourning and the masses of mourners.

For most people today is just but a sun-interrupted continuation of the vigil which began last night at approximately 9:37 PM Central European Time. This vigil sprang up not just in the cathedrals and places significant in the life of the Pope, but on almost every street corner, in every home, in every store and in almost every visible soul that wandered the broken streets of this city. Within minutes the city was ablaze with candles and buried in flowers.

I knew for a long time that THIS day would come, and I suppose I tried to prepare myself for such an occasion. But if this is indeed the case, I believe I have failed miserably. Nothing could have possibly prepared me for such a solitary, unifying and powerful event such as this. As I just heard one Polish man utter to another, this is the Polish Tsunami.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done

Seas of candles dancing on beds of roses; symbolizing love, light, life, and hope as well as the eternal promise of darkness and death. When I look into the myriad of faces that continue to roam the winding streets of this city in this ever expanding and evolving, daylight vigil, each face presents a new complex assortment of emotions. Love, respect, sadness, relief, indebtedness, overwhelming gratitude, heart wrenching pain, bittersweet confusion, and national pride are all emotions that seem to be shifting within each person as well as from person to person.

I have taken solace in one of the many ancient and peaceful cafes that populate this city, although nothing seems peaceful or ancient today. I sit next to a girl who is weeping into her mobile phone, undoubtedly seeking solace and vetting anguish to an equally distressed companion on the other end. Across the room, a man stares blankly into space, searching. Finally he has decided to mine the dregs of his beer breaking the monotony of his thought. I take a second to consider myself in this scene, in this city, on this day, in this bar; I feel as though I can’t think and I think as though I can’t feel. Not being Polish or Catholic, I finally feel completely out of place for the first time in six months in this my adopted city and country.

On earth as it is in heaven Give us this day our daily bread

Mass. Masses everywhere. Mass anywhere. Mass for people. Masses of people writing letters in the inner sanctum of what was John Paul’s private apartments when he was the Archbishop of the Krakow Metropolitan Diocese. Three year olds and eighty three year olds, side by side composing letters to heaven, allowing their bleeding hearts to shed ink on paper. I haven’t heard a word spoken in about a half an hour. Their words are written but for one, transcending time and space. Serene Silence. Perpetual Prayer.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

I wrote a letter to his holiness as well. I was compelled to share some of my thoughts and prayers. I wrote about how much I revered and respected his work, albeit from a distance. And how only after moving to Krakow and experiencing the beauty, austere reality, endless struggles of Polish life, did my cynical heart and suspended spirit both spring too life. I wrote how I thought he was the embodiment of strength, resilience, compassion and piety, which are characteristics I have found to be ever present in the Polish People. I told him how confused I was about what to think or do about his passing and what to think about this crumbling, chaotic, and increasingly cruel world.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Karol Wojtyla was a renaissance man. He was an actor, athlete, writer, scholar and soldier before he ever entered the church. Born in the small town of Wodowice, Poland in 1920, he first moved to Krakow in 1938 to begin his studies at the Jagiellonian University. At the outbreak of WWII, Wojtyla risked certain death at the hands of the Nazi occupiers, in order to continue his studies. He went into hiding and began studying theology at a clandestine Catholic University. After the war, Wojtyla continued his studies in Rome and other cities in Europe before returning to Krakow to join the Mission. Slowly but surely he worked his way up through the channels of leadership and responsibility within the Krakow church. Finally in 1964 Karol Wojtyla was appointed the Archbishop of the Krakow Metropolitan Diocese. He remained Archbishop from 1964-1978 and during this tenure he did much for the city as well as for the Polish people in general. He was a beacon of hope and strength for a country that was strangled by the iron fist of Soviet Communism. When Karol Wojtyla was made the first Polish Pope and consecrated John Paul II in 1978, he immediately became a beacon of light for the entire world.

On this day, April 3rd, 2005, one only needs to turn on a television or log on to see images of people from every single corner of the globe weeping, and praying, standing silent and swaying, singing praises and speaking of the amazing deeds and actions that this great man performed. This is one of the few men, perhaps in the history of the world, which transcended the intense dividing lines of politics, war, religion, spirituality, and nationality in order to deliver his message of hope and peace.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever

And the Vigil Continues on into the night. No end in sight.

No more words to write.


Anonymous Krakovian Expatriate

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is amazing, I can not wait to speak with him to feel the essence of his soul at that time. He certainly portayed that in his writing but sometimes words on paper are not enough. You need to be able to "see" their heart.