I have no doubt your final place is in Heaven. None in my heart.
I know your papal name was John Paul II and your birth name was Karol Wojtyla. Those two names will live in infamy. But I doubt that you ever seeked fame. For you, it was never fame. It was about reaching out to others and helping them find God.
Millions of men, and women, have attempted this in history. This in itself is not amazing or different, exactly. Those people, I'm sure all or at least most, believed in their message and in their God. So there is nothing unusual in that either.
Yet, in my heart, I feel you did so much more.
Certainly, you should be given credit for uniting the Polish people. But that statement to the unaware ear sounds so empty.
One could claim a person uniting the people of the US. But it is not a country which for over a century did not exist on maps and only lived in the hearts of Poles and in the music of Chopin. It is not a country on who's soil The Great War was fought, where the sons' blood was spilled defending soil which they were not even allowed to claim as their own. It is not a country which was finally given back her rights as a free and independent country for only 21 years before the Nazis and WWII came and tore her apart again. And then had it's lands and people handed over to another country who's government had no interest in the welfare of the people.
No, to say you united the Polish people is not a fair statement to say at all.
I will say that to a people who were battered but never allowing themselves to be called beaten, you brought light and reminded us that there was hope and good in the world and that God loved us and everyone else.
I grew up hearing your name every single day of my life. Your name, Karol, is a family name for us as it is for many Poles now. In our family, at least 3 people are named for you. Not because we liked the name and it was just a nice name. Karol is a nice name, certainly, but rather, several family members were named after you to remember a great man in human history. To capture and daily remind us of a moment in human history. Of a feeling.
A feeling that, well, I lack the right words to capture and explain. Because you are so much more than one word, than a paragraph, an essay, an entire library of books.
You taught us inner faith the way my own father taught me about the world. Through debate, questions offered for questions, through helping lead our minds and hearts to our own personal truth and faith which just telling us would never create the same effect.
Continued next time...