Pope John Paul II came to Chicago in 1979, and I went to hear his mass in Grant Park. I'm not Catholic, but I'd been looking for God and found Him while attending a Catholic college; and I'd followed the events after John Paul's election, including the beginnings of the Solidarity movement, still just a whisper in the wind in Fall of 79.
I read the Bible during my lunch breaks, and for a while I read other Christian books, including his "Sign of Contradiction", which went into a lot of detail about Mary, and how Christ's ministry confounds everybody's expectations, then and now. I also have a collection of his poetry, "Easter Vigil."
Our feet meet the earth in this place;
there are so many walls, so many colonnades,
yet we are not lost. If we find
meaning and oneness,
it is the floor that guides us. It joins the spaces
of this great edifice, and joins
the spaces within us,
who walk aware of our weakness and defeat.
Peter, you are the floor, that others
may walk over you (not knowing
where they go). You guide their steps
so that spaces can be one in their eyes,
and from them thought is born.
You want to serve their feet that pass
as rocks serve the hooves of sheep.
The rock is a gigantic temple floor,
the cross a pasture.
Words Spoken by the Woman at the Well, on Departing
From this moment, my ignorance
closes behind me like the door
through walls which you entered, recognizing
all I do not know.
And through me you led many people in silence,
many roads, and the turmois of the streets.
I hear tonight that John Paul has received Last Rites.