October 22nd is the feast day of Blessed John Paul II, the second time his feast has been observed since his beatification. Since he is not canonized yet, the feast day is not observed everywhere at this stage. However, we can observe the feast in the Liturgy here in Ottawa.
One of my favourite memories of John Paul II is from when he visited Australia for the beatification of the now Saint Mary of the Cross (MacKillop) in January 1995. During one of the nights of his stay in Sydney, a small crowd of people gathered outside the cardinal’s residence where the Pope was staying. We were singing songs and cheering, and eventually he came out onto the balcony. I recall that he had a walking stick at the time, and he playfully swung it in time with our singing, obviously enjoying the moment. You can imagine the cheers of “Viva il papa!” as he did that.
As a young and new[er] priest at the time of the end of his life, he made a deep impression on me by his faithful perseverance in his ministry. Even when he was visibly weakened he didn’t stop, carrying his cross for the sake of Christ’s bride, the Church. Who could forget that moment towards the end of his life when he came to the window of the papal apartments to bless the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square, but he couldn’t speak.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us!
O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
— Collect for the Mass.