St. Robert's remembers Pope John Paul II
Published 6:50 am Monday, April 11, 2005
By By Lee Weyhrich
Two black wreaths hung triumphant against the wind and weather on the doors of St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church Wednesday.
Cool rain fell from the sky illuminated by brilliant flashes of lightning and punctuated with rolling thunder.
Inside the church the lights were bright and cheerful in contrast; the mixed settings perfect for a death's mourning or a celebration of a great man's life.
The passing of Pope John Paul II has been a loss felt throughout the world. Each part of the world is celebrating the pope's life and mourning his passing in its own way.
St. Robert Bellarmine Church began its mourning process shortly after the death announcement was made.
Tom Latino, chairman of the pastoral staff at the church spent much of Monday organizing certain aspects of a special Wednesday mass to commemorate the pope.
"In my own personal perspective it's a sad occasion of course because he's passed away," Latino said. "At the same time, we need to reflect on what this pope has done for the church, reflect on his life and celebrate his life and know that he is home with God. For us that's a joyous thing."
Upon the announcement of the pope's death in Rome the crowd at St. Peters Square clapped, as has been the Catholic tradition for centuries.
"They clapped because he was suffering and when he passed away that suffering was over and he was at peace with our lord," Latino said.
At 5:30 p.m Wednesday, St. Robert's held its own special ceremony for one of the most beloved religious figures in recent history.
A special mass was held and a rosary service was dedicated to the pontiff.
"The pope's death is of course very sad for the church and all Catholics, particularly for this pope since he was such an outstanding one," Rev. Jan Zagorski, the priest at St. Robert's, said.
A tradition of the Catholic Church is the reciting of the rosary. Each bead on the rosary represents a prayer and a stage of the life of Christ, which is called a mystery.
A special recitation of the five Illuminous Mysteries, written by John Paul II was held in his honor.
"He's the first pope in generations to come up with new mysteries for the rosary," Zagorski said. "Probably since the middle ages this is the first time we've been doing new mysteries."
Zagorski has always felt a certain connection to this pope. Zagorski is of Polish decent and the pope was a Polish national. This pope has also been in power for Zagorski's entire adult life.
Zagorski even offered up a sentiment of love in Polish to the pope at Wednesday's mass, but the church will have no more special ceremonies for John Paul II.
"We won't do anything else for John Paul," Zagorski said. "We (Catholic priests) are required to offer up nine masses for the repose of the soul of John Paul. Ordinary Catholics can offer up mass for the repose of a soul for a loved one, so I have to offer up nine of them to John Paul. We Catholics don't believe death ends a relationship with our loved ones, most Protestants believe that's it. We Catholics believe we continue to have that love relation with our loved ones, it's called the Communion of Saints."
Pope John Paul II was remarkable in the way he was viewed as a leader even among non-Catholics.
"I think it's remarkable how this pope has touched so many lives and not just Catholics," Zagorski said. "I have been just touched by the overwhelming amount of sympathy from non-Catholics and how they've been praying for us, praying for Catholics. I have been particularly touched by that."
The priest would not speculate on who might be elected the next Vicar of Christ.
"It's going to be interesting who the next pope is going to be and I feel sorry for him," Zagorski said. "He's got big shoes to fill."
Zagorski does believe the next pope will be an older man and also believes that the current favorite going into the papal election will not likely become pope.
"When a youngish pope is elected they seem to elect an older one the next time. I'm not saying it's on purpose," Zagorski said. "There's an old Italian saying: 'He who goes in as pope comes out as cardinal.'"
According to Zagorski, John Paul II was a surprise election. He was not the top favorite nor was he Italian as the majority of popes before him had been.
"Ninety-seven percent of the cardinals at the time John Paul was elected were Italian," Zagorski said. "This time it could be anybody."
The current top favorites come from as wide spread places as South America, Germany and Africa. It is highly unlikely an American pope will be named.
The pope has to serve as an example to the world of the qualities important to the Catholic faith.
"He's the Vicar of Christ and the successor of St. Peter and we can trace our heritage all the way back to St. Peter," Zagorski said. "He's the chief shepherd and he's the pope, pope is actually a derivative of papa, which means father."
Zagorski wants Catholics and non-Catholics alike to pray that the next pope can be as successful as his predecessor.
"I encourage people to pray for the bishop cardinals as they do the election and the Lord's will be done with the election of a new pope," Zagorski concluded.