Pope John Paul II died on Saturday. I feel more sad about it than I thought I would have. I have also been fascinated by all of the news around his life and death. In fact, he was pope since before I was born, and I have learned the most about him in the last four days. I am in awe as I watch people filling St. Peter's Square and making their way to see his body. Is this normal behavior? Is this man revered as more than just a man in the Catholic faith? There is talk of him becoming a saint. I think that is amazing!
There are some things that leave me a bit more puzzled, though. When it was evident on Friday evening and into Saturday that his death was close at hand, the news scroll on MSNBC said, "Catholics are encouraged to pray for thier pontiff" and as things got worse, "People should really focus their prayers." What does that mean? Are they praying that he won't die? Are they praying that he'll get into heaven? Are they simply praying that he won't be in pain? Or that he will just go in peace and be able to meet his Father?
Another thing that makes me think is how he has been displayed since his passing. His body has been made very public and royal-looking. Thinking back over the few public deaths and funerals I have seen, this is a first. I have pictures in my head of caskets draped with flags. Not bodies lying on a board, heads propped up with velvet pillows.
No doubt this man did many things for good during his time as pope. The things I have heard just these past few days have amazed me and made me want to know more.
Imagine being around when Jesus had died. Were crowds in the tens of thousands gathered at the cross? Did droves of people come to pay their respects when they heard of his crucifixion? Sometimes I wish I had been there. I'd like to hear the reaction of the crowds when the final announcement was made. Jesus had died. Even more, I'd like to join the women assigned to going to the tomb and finding it empty two days later. Oh the joy!