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John Paul II
John Paul II

John Paul II, I Miss You

By Deacon Keith Fournier
The Anniversary of Pope John Paul's death is a time for Reflection

John Paul II, I Miss You


I awakened this morning with a deep pain of loss in my heart. It has been two years since a waiting world heard the words, “Pope John Paul II has died.” My won heart broke in two. Time stood still. The tears of the faithful around the world watered the world with their love. Since that moment, we have carried on, living in the light of the life and example of this incredible gift, Pope John Paul II. With the rapid progress of the cause for his canonization, it is clear that we had a saint in our midst, John Paul the Great.
With millions of the faithful throughout the world, I watched and prayed throughout those painful days, hoping for a miracle. We did not want to lose him. He showed us how to live for Jesus Christ. Yet it was Jesus Himself who showed him how to die with the same beauty with which he lived. John Paul lived and died with love, poured out for others. He witnessed in the flesh to the truth of the Christian faith that suffering joined to the redemptive mission of the Savior can produce a fountain of mercy where others can drink. As he had written so eloquently, joined to Christ, suffering for the believer can become an occasion of grace.

My wife and I knew at the moment of his death that we had to act in faith. We had to respond to God’s continuing invitation in our own lives. As his body was carried reverently through Saint Peters Square we turned to one another and wept. She commented with words that expressed the sentiment I held within, “…it is time to sell all and buy the field.” We always knew I had to finish my theological studies to the Doctoral level. We just thought it would come later. But, we both knew it was time.

We sold our home and I began what have been two very arduous but grace filled years of Doctoral studies in Moral Theology. I want to spend however many years I have left passing on the treasury of teaching left by this wonderful Pope. He captured my heart from the moment he stepped out onto the balcony of Saint Peters in 1978 and his life and teaching have guided my work for years.

On the morning of his passing to the Father’s House, he spoke these words to a friend at his bedside “I am happy. You should be too. Let us pray together with joy.” I wish I felt joy as I commemorate his passing today. I don’t. I still feel the deep pain and loss that comes when you lose someone you love. Somehow, I still think that I will awaken and he will still be with us. I know he still is, in the communion of saints, so I have some things to say.

Holy Father, I miss you.  

It seems like only yesterday that you stepped out on to the balcony in St. Peters Square and proclaimed: "Be Not Afraid! Open up, no; swing wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the State …open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development…. Be not afraid!" I heard those words and I knew I had to respond to the Lord’s invitation. You strode onto that platform with such strength and vitality and your smile electrified the watching crowds of faithful.

You were “naturally supernatural”. A talented and gifted "man of letters", a playwright, a philosopher, an intellectual giant, a poet, but more importantly, a genuine human being with a heart that you wore on your sleeves and a love that burst forth from those Marian blue eyes. You embraced the whole world like the One whom you so beautifully represented on earth. You had a bearing that made the phrase “Vicar of Christ” come alive for us all.  

You lived what you taught. Unafraid, you traversed the globe, proclaiming freedom to the captives and offering truth to the victims of failed false ideologies that had ravaged the people of the twentieth century, the bloodiest in all of human history. You passionately preached the Christian faith with a prophetic urgency, profound clarity and contemporary relevance. Many tried to label you a “conservative” or a “traditionalist”, yet you demonstrated how shallow the labels become when the Gospel is made flesh in a truly holy man. You were, quite simply, a Christian.

You stood on the shoulders of giants, rooted in the ancient rich tradition of the Catholic Church proclaiming the unchanging message of Jesus Christ while stretching forward and toward a future of hope illuminated by the Holy Spirit. To your beloved young people, you proclaimed that Christ was “forever young”, and so were you, even when you aged before our eyes from the weight of your office.

The lies and emptiness of the age were exposed because you had the courage to stand up to them with the bold message of the God who had become like us to make us new. You presented Jesus Christ as the path to authentic personal, social and universal freedom for every man, woman and child. You shared this “Good News” with us by authoring more encyclical letters, apostolic exhortations, constitutions and letters than any Pope in the two thousand year history of the Christian Church. You also became through your living witness what the Apostle Paul called a “living letter.”

In all of those wonderful writings you have left us a treasury of theological bounty that we must now unpack for the hungry and thirsty of the Third Millennium. Though we no longer have you, the legacy that you left is being carried and continued through the inspired leadership of your friend and successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

On this, the second anniversary of your passing to the Father, I rededicate myself and all that I have to building a living legacy in your honor.  


I am personally convinced that the body of work that the Servant of God John Paul II left is as significant for our age as the work of Thomas Aquinas was for his. In 1998 I was engaged in graduate studies at the Washington D.C. campus of his Institute. After the first semester, I informed a fellow student, a priest, that I felt that “a greater than Thomas was here” in the person of John Paul II. He asked if I truly believed that. My answer then, and now, is the same. Yes.

It is no accident that the God whom the Servant of God John Paul served with such beauty, the One who is “Rich in Mercy”, allowed his son to live until the Feast that he cherished and helped to bring to the universal Church, the Feast of Divine Mercy was celebrated. He understood the depths of that Mercy. He now lives in the heart of the God of Mercy and calls us all to “Be Not Afraid.”

On this second anniversary of his passing to what he told his companions at his death bed was “His Fathers House”, the work of honoring his memory continues. He is praying for us now. Like St. Therese whose little way he loved, he too “will spend his heaven doing good on earth.”

Deacon Keith Fournier will soon complete the coursework for a PhD in Moral Theology at Catholic University of America.


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