Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Time of Great Mourning

This week is a time of Great Mourning in Poland. It is difficult for those of us who are not Polish and not Catholic to fully understand the significance of the death of John Paul II. I was raised Catholic and I have been in relationship with Poland and its people for nearly 20 years, yet there are many aspects I can’t quite grasp. For days now I have been trying to find a symbol or a person or even a group of people that could possibly have the same significance for an American. I think that it would have to be a combination of people: George Washington – a man who had a significant role in birthing the nation. Abraham Lincoln – the man who held the country together in the difficult times of war. FDR – the leader who cared for the needs of the simple people. A man who was connected to the hearts of the people, he was the father of people’s hearts. Billy Graham – a great spiritual leader and guide. Martin Luther King Jr. – A man who spoke out against social injustice.

For many Polish people a big part of their heart has a huge hole in it. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are particularly spiritual or if they agree with the Catholic Church they LOVED Pope John Paul II. Because they know that He loved them. In the Catholic Church the Pope is referred to as the “Holy Father”, here in Poland John Paul was referred by some as “Tata” “Daddy”. To others he was their beloved Uncle and still others a friend.

This part of Poland was a place of special meaning to the Pope. He enjoyed walking, kayaking in the mountains in this area. The people here are especially connected to him. Even though the Pope John Paul II, the man, was quite old and very sick there are people here that have a difficult time believing that he would actually die and leave them.

It is like any death of someone near to us, it makes us acutely aware of our mortality and it heightens our spiritual needs. For many people the death of this great man of God has left them with a spiritual void that is difficult to describe, define let alone fill. In some ways it is similar to the spiritual void that existed in Japan at the end of WWII. It is different as the Church is still here, physically, but many people have lost trust and confidence in it apart from John Paul. I really feel that in the months ahead many people will be looking for spiritual answers. But it will take individuals in love and patience who can listen to the Holy Spirit and give honor to the heritage of the Catholic while pointing the way to Jesus, the answer.

As a missionary in Poland, the question is how do I support these people in their grief and help them to see Jesus, the ROCK of our salvation, who will never leave us. I pray that the Holy Spirit would give me the words that bring the life of Christ into the lives of those individuals who loved the Pope but never really knew his Lord.

Proverbs 3:3-6

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