Tag: Pope John Paul II

A Time of Decision: Ireland’s Vote and the Prophecies of Pope John Paul II

The Following article originally appeared in the Renewal Ministries’ August 2018 newsletter.


“If you would like to visit a place where the symptoms of the sickness of our time are found near their furthest limits, come to Ireland. Here you will see a civilization in freefall, seeking with every breath to deny the existence of a higher authority, a people that has now sentenced itself not to look upon the cross of Christ, lest it be haunted by his rage and sorrow.” 1

These words, from Irish commentator John Waters, are in response to the people of Ireland’s choice to deny the unborn the right to life. Ireland is the first nation in history to enshrine the law through a majority vote of its people; it wasn’t imposed upon them by cultural elites or the courts.

The vote, as Waters indicates, is a manifestation of a deeper reality. This is Ireland’s desire “to deny the existence of a higher authority.” It is the “sickness of our time.” In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “God is disappearing from the human horizon.”2

For now, Ireland has made its decision to say no to Christ. Like many, I was shocked and sickened as I watched the crowds dance with glee, asserting their new-found freedom. What they were celebrating, whether they grasped it fully or not, was the euphoria of fallen human nature and its constant desire to “suppress the truth” about God. St. Paul tells us that it is through the “ungodliness and wickedness of men” that human beings refuse to honor God as God and to give Him thanks (Rom 1:18, 20).

A friend recently reminded me of how, during St. John Paul II’s historic visit to Ireland in 1979, he framed in stark prophetic terms the spiritual battle that country was facing. St. John Paul II made it clear that Ireland was at a point of decision about whether or not to follow Christ. He knew he was sent by Christ to warn Ireland and to help them see and understand that they were facing a great temptation, and that, if they fell to this temptation, it would have grave consequences for the whole Church.

“Lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment: to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history . . . Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus preserve Ireland’s soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the pope when he repeats the words of Christ:

‘What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?’ (Mt 16:26)

What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul?

Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the ‘kingdoms of this world and their splendor’ to the Kingdom of God (Mt 4:8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. What a victory he would gain, what a blow he would inflict on the Body of Christ in the world, if he could seduce Irish men and women away from Christ. Now is the time of testing for Ireland. This generation is once more a generation of decision.
Dear sons and daughters of Ireland, pray, pray not to be led into temptation . . . pray that Ireland may not fail in the test. Pray as Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Lead us not into temptation’ . . . May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death.”3

Ireland has failed the test. We pray that she may repent and turn back, but for now she has fallen to the temptation of the Adversary of Christ. The majority have decided to turn a deaf ear to the warning Christ brought to them through the prophet St. John Paul II.

Of course, we know that Ireland is not alone in its acquiescence to the spirit of the age. The whole world is being drawn into this same temptation, to prefer the “kingdoms of this world and their splendor” to Christ.

The important thing for us in the Church is to heed the warnings of the prophets the Lord has sent to us. If we don’t, we too will join the throngs of the baptized who have been seduced into embracing a false freedom that calls darkness light.

What are we to do in the face of the unrelenting forces of evil that seem to have gained the upper hand in so many of the countries that once marched under the banner of Christ? Again, St. John Paul II:

“What is going to happen to the Church? . . . We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ . . . With your and my prayer it is possible to mitigate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectively renewed. How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from blood! This time too, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong and prepared, and trust in Christ and His Mother, and be very, very assiduous in praying the Rosary.”4

There is much work for us to do, but first and foremost we must pray. What is unfolding in the world is above our paygrade. As St. John Paul II said on numerous occasions, this trial lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a profound spiritual battle. Our plans, strategies, and organizational techniques are necessary but insufficient. We don’t just need better organization, we need courage to “give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ.”

Prayer is what will prepare us to face the trials that have already begun and that will not only continue but will intensify. Jesus will give us all we need to be faithful and fruitful in this time of trial. He will turn the devil’s strategies against us to our good and to His glory, if we stay united to Him.

While Ireland was casting its vote, my wife Debbie and I were in Krakow, Poland. We took a half a day to visit the St. John Paul II Center and the Divine Mercy Shrine. At one point during the tour, we came upon the white cassock that St. John Paul II wore the day he was shot in Vatican Square. The cassock, encased in glass, is stained in his blood. As I knelt down to pray, I was overwhelmed by the power of his life, his beautiful and profound witness to Christ. As I wept and prayed, my heart was filled with the words he spoke to all of us from the first day of his pontificate:

“Be not afraid!”


Notes:
1 John Waters, “Ireland: An Obituary,” First Things, May 28, 201, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/05/ireland-an-obituary.

2 Benedict XVI, Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Remissino of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops Consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, encyclical letter, Vatican website, March 10, 2009, http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/letters/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20090310_remissione-scomunica.html.

3 Pope John Paul II, “Absolute Inviolability of Human Life”, homily, Vatican website, October 1, 1979, https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1979/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19791001_irlanda-limerick.html.

4 Pope John Paul II, interview with Catholics at Fulda, Germany, in November 1980, published in the German Magazine Stimmes des Glaubens in October 1981, cited in The Pope and the President, by Paul Kengor (Willimgton, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2017), 209.


Turning to Prayer in St. Peter’s Square

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Ralph recently receive the following letter in response to a mention made on The Choices We Face about meeting Pope John Paul ll in St Peter’s Square on Pentecost 1998.

By Kerri Dunn

Dear Ralph,

I want to share with you an experience I had at the same event. I thought it might put a smile on your face; it still does for me, almost twenty years later!

Our Father is so good to us! We really just are His little children, and I do believe that He delights in the chance to do things like this for us.

In May of 1998, I was given the chance to go to Rome to celebrate the feast of Pentecost in St. Peter’s Square with Pope John Paul ll. This was a dream of mine. I had always wished that I could be in the presence of this holy man.

I had been joking around with God for a while prior to this—asking, or rather telling, Him to make it possible for me to just be somewhere near Pope John Paul ll. I didn’t know how I would ever make it work. I was about twenty years old, and I had no money. I asked God to work out the details for me of when, and where, and how I would ever afford to make it happen. It sounds pretty bossy! It was very much a Father-daughter conversation between me and my Daddy in Heaven!

Shortly after this prayer request, a woman I knew came into the place where I was working. She told me her daughter was going to Rome to see the pope. I was excited and told her I would like to go. She said I could probably join the trip. She said the whole trip only cost $500.

Airfare, simple lodging at a camp ground, and meals were included. I realized that I could really make this work! This in itself is pretty miraculous to me—how it all just fell on to my lap—but something even more amazing happened once we got there.

We arrived in Rome. Since I was a little older than some people on the trip, I was put in charge of ten girls. I had to hold on to their tickets to get into St. Peter’s Square. The time came for our first gathering there with Pope John Paul ll! With 500,000 people, it was very crowded. We were walking in a huge crowd through the streets of Rome leading into St. Peter’s. There was such an energy and excitement all around! I was so excited! Suddenly, I realized that I had forgot all ten tickets and my own behind. There was no way for me to get them back. Without the tickets, we would not be able to get in. I just sunk inside. I had just ruined this trip for these ten girls.

I knew there was only one thing left to do—put my trust in the faith that got me to Rome in the first place! I turned to the girls and said, “I am very sorry; I lost your tickets. Now we have to just pray for God to help us.” I proceeded to lead them in prayer as we walked, calling on God’s mercy, knowing that He had brought us all this far and wasn’t going to end it this way. I begged. I asked Saint Michael the Archangel to help me fight this battle. I pled with Mary, as my mother, to fix the problem for me: “Beg Jesus for me; He always listens to you.” I knew the Holy Father had a special love in his heart for Mary, so I played on that a little too: “Come on Mama, I know how special the Holy Father is to you too! You want us to see this man!”

But above all, I trusted my Jesus.

We came to the entrance. We waited in a long line, body-to-body with people. We watched as two guards checked each person ahead of us, examining their tickets and their bags before they could enter. Finally, our turn came, and I led the way. I told the guards that I lost our tickets, hoping that my innocent face would be enough. NOPE. They said, “No, no, no, you must go down there and stay on the outside, where people go with no tickets.”

I was weary and turned away, with the ten girls following me. We got about sixty to one hundred feet away from where the guards were. A large crowd stood between us and the guards.

(I am literally shaking as I type this next part, as I do each time I have ever told this story; it is all very real and amazing to me.)

In a crowd this large, you have trouble hearing the person next to you, never mind someone far away. As we were walking away, I suddenly felt the urge to turn around. When I did, I instantly locked eyes with this very large guard, who I had not see before. He was standing at the gate we had just tried. In that same very instant, I clearly heard him say, “Go.” I did not take any time to think about it. If I had, I might have realized that this did not make sense, but I think that it was a grace of the Holy Spirit that caused me not to question it. I just turned to the girls and said, “Let’s go!” We made our way through the crowd again and went to the same gate, with the same guards who had just told us “no.” The large guard who I had just seen and heard through the crowd was not there. I walked up to those same guards and this time said nothing; I just passed by them, with the ten girls behind me. They did not stop us or speak to us. It was as if they could not see us. As soon as we all passed by, I looked back, and directly after us, they were checking each person’s ticket and bag carefully, one at a time. AMAZING!

Now for the Star Wars fans out there, I have to put this in; one of my prayers that day was: “Jesus, You know that scene in the movie where they are looking for the droids, and Obi-Wan uses a Jedi mind trick on the soldiers who are looking for them? He just waves his hand in front of their face and says, “these are not the droids you are looking for,” and the soldiers just let them pass by. Make that happen, Jesus!”

Basically, that is what happened! I was so thankful, I just cried out, “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Mary!” And just as I did, I smelled a very strong scent of roses pass by me. My eyes filled with tears, as I quickly scanned the concrete for any sign of roses being around. Of course, there weren’t any! I turned to my cousin, who was standing there with me, and she asked, “Did you smell that?” We just smiled. I knew that God, through the intercession of my mother Mary, had just done a great thing for us! All for a chance to be in the presence of Saint John Paul ll!

This is my miracle in Saint Peter’s Square. And, who was that large guard who told me to go? I don’t know; he was dressed in a different uniform than the others. I once told this story to a priest, and he told me it was probably Saint Michael the Archangel, like I had asked for!