We lived in a studio apartment on the Aventine Hill in Rome. It was basically a converted one car garage. I was on bed rest because I was having complications with Gregory's pregnancy and we were planning to fly home as soon as I could tolerate the flight.
As I lay on our bed, (which was a pull-out sofa-bed, ikea style) I read, I prayed, I watched endless hours of Lord of the Rings extras on the extended edition. I longed to be hiking to St.Peter's Square with my friends and pray for the Holy Father who was so sick, but I wasn't allowed.
The Aventine Hill is a very peaceful neighborhood. There are no stores on the hill, just residences, Churches, and monasteries. Nine years ago, as I was staring up at the ceiling and trying to drift to sleep, just before ten o'clock p.m. all the Church bells around us started ringing. The sudden break of the silence startled us, and the clangs continued. What on earth could be going on? Then all at once we both thought: the Holy Father died!
Pete reached for the radio, because we didn't have tv, and the first station we tuned into we heard a male voice crying "e' morto! il papa e' morto!" We cried; we prayed; we cried some more. The first time I ever saw Pope John Paul II in person was in 1999 on a semester abroad, he road right by me on his pope mobile. I cried then too. He carried with him such a profound presence. When Peter and I returned to study in Rome in 2001, we had our marriage blessed by him. I was caught in his gaze. He stared deep into my eyes and I into his. I didn't cry that time, but I couldn't speak- I was so blessed by him! So much so that I couldn't move. The guardian monsignor had to yank Pete's arm to move us on "Let's go, America!" he shouted. That one moment could have been an eternity - what profound love in his eyes.
Our studies center around his teachings, and our lives, especially the health of our sick boys, center around his intercession. His life, his challenge, his call to all of us speaks to our family in a particularly strong way. My book began as an answer to his plea and challenge that women would continue to take up the discussion of women's role in the Church and society; he said he has begun the conversation but it is up to us to continue it. It was he, in fact, who first coined the phrase "new feminism" when he said: "In transforming culture so it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a "new feminism" which rejects the temptation of imitating models of "male domination", in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation." Evangelium Vitae, 99
Even watching this video, I weep all over again. How can one man make such a difference in our world? That is the Communion of Saints, to be personally connected to someone you knew only in passing.
Blessed John Paul II, please pray for us! (I can't wait to say "Saint John Paul the Great, please pray for us"!!!)