John Paul II, We Love You: Young People Encounter the Pope
By Father Peter Mitchell
Servant Books, 2007
160 pages, $11.99
To order: catalogue.americancatholic.org
Catholics remember with deep emotion what they were doing on the evening of Saturday, April 2, 2005, when Pope John Paul the Great left us to “go unto his Father’s house.”
Father Peter Mitchell, a student in Rome at the time, wrote daily private e-mails about the events that week. To his surprise, his e-mails spread “virally,” some even coming back to him from unknown sources.
Those dispatches have now turned into John Paul II, We Love You.
Father Mitchell describes St. Peter’s Square the day after the Pope’s death, Divine Mercy Sunday, when then-Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano was celebrating the first memorial Mass.
“I felt a desire to get up above the crowd, and so I hopped up onto a lamppost,” Father Mitchell wrote. “It all started hitting me as I gazed around, the bare altar, the black window, the dome of the basilica, the cardinals, the empty white chair by the altar, the mass of cameras and microphones lining the edge of the square. I started whispering, ‘Lord have mercy on us,’ praying for all this mass of humanity gathered here and fixing their eyes on this place from all over the world. It became clear to me that we were witnessing salvation history. This was a milestone, and the Church and the world will never be the same again after the pontificate of John Paul II. This moment of his passing was undoubtedly a moment of conversion for countless souls, a moment of opening to grace, which will never be repeated.”
The world was astonished at the sight of millions of youthful pilgrims lined up for days to view Pope John Paul’s body and the enthusiasm with which funeral attendees held signs and chanted, “Santo Subito (Sainthood Now!)”
The same vibrant voices of Catholic youth resound through Father Mitchell’s book. These are the voices of the John Paul II generation, the young people energized by their experiences at World Youth Day events here in North America, or papal audiences in Rome. Though most of them only saw the Holy Father from a distance, they felt that the Pope loved each of them personally; they felt challenged by his call to live their lives radically for Christ. They are enthusiastically participating in the New Springtime of Evangelization, whatever their vocation.
Father Mitchell’s narrative of the Holy Father’s death and funeral is so compelling that the interspersed stories from other writers were a bit of a distraction.
The book ends with Father Mitchell’s eyewitness account of the election of Pope Benedict XVI and the unbridled joy of the crowd, which many pundits felt would not take to the new Pope easily. This testimonial suggests that the New Springtime of Evangelization begun by John Paul shows no signs of abating.
John Paul II, We Love You powerfully revives the readers’ memories of the death of John Paul, and Father Mitchell’s perspective lends fresh insight into the importance of that week.
Leticia Velasquez is
based in Connecticut.