The week that the Holy Father's death followed close on the heels of Terri Schiavo's tragic starvation remains burned into the memory of Catholics worldwide.
The heartbreaking image of a Holy Father's broken body as he dutifully performed his role as pope with the last ounce of his strength, amidst cruel criticisms and calls to step down is my last impression of a Holy Father whose love for me was never in doubt. I felt it from his meeting with youth at Madison Square Garden, where I stood on my seat, screaming madly when he entered. I'll never forget his "Whooooooo" which we were told is a Polish father's loving response to his enthusiastic children. He told us to "look to Christ for the answers you seek".
Fast forward to World Youth Day in Colorado, when I was glued to the TV while caring for a colicky newborn, watching him transform the youth there into the John Paul II Generation, now famous for dynamic orthodoxy and vocations. I took that same baby, at two years old in 1995 to see the Holy Father one more time, at the Aqueduct Race Track in New York, on a hot October day where the water ran out but the enthusiasm never did. I wrote my first published article on that event, for Queen of All Hearts magazine.
John Paul became a rock for the Church to anchor herself on, in the midst of the turbulence of a post-modern culture, but, more importantly he became a saintly role model of how the moral decadence we live in should inspire us to even greater sanctity. This week I met a holy young Polish priest, Fr Tomasz, who reminded me of the young Karol Woytila, and once again, I thanked God for his saintly legacy.
He is to be beautified close to Easter in April of next year, the earliest possible date, as soon as the huge volume of testimony to his sanctity is processed. He already has the first miracle necessary for beatification. A French nun was dying of Parkinson's at the same time as the Holy Father, her congregation prayer for John Paul's intercession and she was completely healed.
Read the National Catholic Register's take on this fourth anniversary.