| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    Fortunate tourists When visiting the Vatican in July, 1985, we noticed a group of well-dressed people waiting to enter a room. We asked about them and were told they had an appointment, a private viewing, with Pope John Paul II. We never dreamed that they would let us follow this group of 50 people into this room, since we looked so very much like tourists, holding cameras and carrying bags - but they did! Here we were in a room approximately 50 feet by 30 feet and we were the only two looking out of place. The Pope entered and although we didn't understand the language, we spent an hour with him. Needless to say, he was the highlight of our vacation in Italy. They even permitted us to take pictures. Marion and Anthony Gargano Sparta A man of goodness The year 1989 was exciting. I was doing public relations for the organization Up With People in Germany. This was during the reunification of the East and West. Witnessing borders come down and families reunite is an experience one does not forget. That year I was also fortunate enough to be part of a private audience of the Dali Lama when he spoke and received the Nobel Peace Prize - another incredible moment. The experience that year that affected me the most, though, was touching the hand and looking into the eyes of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, Italy. That October of '89, friends and I made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia. From there we crossed the Adriatic Sea by night ferry and slept under the stars. We made it to Rome and found lodging at a convent. Without agenda, we explored. Before we realized it, All Saints Day was upon us, and we learned that the Pope would be canonizing a saint. I don't know how we got that lucky to be in St. Peter's Cathedral when Pope John Paul II walked through, but I recall an aisle roped off for him and squeezing through to get closer. As he approached, I reached out to him, and he took my hand and looked right in my eyes. When he touched me and held my gaze, time stopped. I felt as though I had been completey caressed. He had this aura n a holiness that was palpable. He was stooped low, bald and smooth, and I could only liken him to a new baby n pure. My overwhelming feeling was that this man was goodness, a personification of hope, a messenger from God. This brief encounter impacted my life; it deepened my faith not only as a Catholic but also as a believer that God is present in our lives if we stop and allow him to be, and if we aspire daily and strive earnestly to be pure of heart like Pope John Paul II. Cindy Wooldridge Andover The power of God I went to see and hear the Pope, but I met someone much larger than Pope John Paul II. I met God himself on that rainy day. How else can I explain the power and energy that came forth, that permeated, surrounded and eneulfed the entire congregation present at the Giants Stadium on Oct. 5, 1995? The man was hunched, his voice feeble; he appeared physically weak. If I passed him on the street, I probably would have barely noticed him. Yet, there emanated from him a joy and love that was unmistakable and infectious. The crowd behaved, I thought, irreverently. They chanted "Pope Paul II, we love you" as they banged their feet on the bleachers until the place shook with the force of their stamping. I imagined there would be headlines in the next day's paper telling how the bleachers collapsed during the Pope's visit to Giants Stadium. Pope John Paul surveyed the crowd as he lifted his almost continually bent head. He appeared amused at the goings on, yet radiated such love it was palpable. And the people, mostly teens, responded in kind. I heard that the Pope referred to this area of the world as "God's playground." To me, that means that God loves us just as we are. St. Paul said, "I came to you in weakness and fear and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God." 1 believe this is what I witnessed on the day this simple man of God came to Giant Stadium. I continue to be moved and nourished by my experience some 10 years later whenever I recall that special day. Josephine O'Rourke Newton A sign of new life My husband and I were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to receive tickets through a lottery in the church to see Pope John Paul II at the Papal Mass in Giants Stadium in October, 1995, along with 83,000 other people. We were well-prepared for the weather with ponchos and chamois cloths to wipe off our seats. The rain did not dampen our spirits but filled us with a love of what the Holy Father represented as we focused on his message. As His Holiness said, "Water is a sign of new life," the heavens opened up, and we had torrential rain for a few more moments. It was truly an emotional experience. The most intense rain came during the time Communion was being distributed and a bird began to circle the stadium - so symbolic of the miracle of it all. My only regret is that I would have liked to bring the shut-ins that I visit a token of the event. Instead, I spent time with them (on Sunday) reliving my feelings of his special presence. The memory of this visit will be in our mind and heart forever. One gentleman mentioned to me that if this had been a Giants or Jets game, he would have left a long time ago and would not have sat in the rain. Jackie and Bill Howell Franklin Absolute joyous bedlam In 1995, Pope John Paul II came to the United States. He was scheduled to celebrate Mass at Giant's Stadium on Oct. 5th. Our parish distributed its tickets via a lottery. My parents both won a ticket. My father gave me his ticket because he knew how special sharing this opportunity would be for my mom and me. We set off in buses on a very rainy Thursday. We were among the fortunate ones; our seats were undercover, but far away from the altar. Hence, we used our binoculars. Mom and I will never forget the emotions of the crowd when the Pope came into the stadium. There was cheering, singing, crying - absolute joyous bedlam. The weather didn't dampen anyone's spirits, and it certainly did not stop the Pope from circling the stadium in his Popemobile and celebrating Mass with the thousands of people who had gathered to see him. The Mass was the most beautiful one I had ever participated in - and I got to share it with my mom! Judy Beebe Zoeller Spart