"Santo Subito! Sainthood now!"
This cry, which rang out from the crowds from the moment of Pope John Paul II's death, became reality recently when John Paul was declared a saint.
With John Paul's rise to sainthood, I've been remembering his 1979 visit to the U.S. His first stop was in Boston, near my hometown. Away from the church at that time, having determined with my youthful "wisdom" that the church was just a human institution and the pope merely its figurehead, I decided against going to see him.
Years later, I would come to consider John Paul my beloved spiritual father. But not recognizing him as "father" when he visited, I missed my only opportunity to meet him.
I returned to the Catholic Church years later. After my long absence, fearing that my sins were too great to be forgiven, I avoided the healing sacrament of confession. Because I didn't trust in the greatness of the mercy of God, I failed to confess and acknowledge my sins.
This is one of two fatal mistakes a Christian can make. The other is assuming we have no sin. Both are deadly, because they keep us from asking for forgiveness.
But God had prepared a special grace for me that gave me the courage to seek and receive forgiveness. I learned about the Divine Mercy messages, which John Paul brought from his native Poland to the whole world.
Jesus is said to have entrusted this special message to Faustina, a young religious sister in Poland during the 1930s, asking her to teach the world anew about his mercy. She described her vision of Christ, with rays of red and white light streaming from his wounded side, and his promise that all those who turn to his mercy in trust will be forgiven all sins, no matter how grave.
Jesus told Faustina, "Speak to the world about my mercy. ... It is a sign for the end times. After it will come the day of justice. ... I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of my visitation."
In 2000, Pope John Paul, who once stated he had the special task "to implore God's mercy for humanity in this hour of history," declared Faustina a saint and designated the Sunday after Easter as the Feast of Divine Mercy.
In 2005, on the evening before this feast day, Pope John Paul II died, just after the Mass of Divine Mercy was celebrated at his bedside. Not coincidentally, Pope Francis chose this year's celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday for John Paul's canonization.
Not realizing who John Paul really was, I once missed the visit of a spiritual father and future saint. Something greater is at stake now. If we don't recognize who Jesus really is, we might miss his visitation, this blessed time of mercy, which will pass with terrible speed.
Don't wait, turn to Jesus, trust in his mercy. Listen for his voice and come to know him. He longs to pour out his merciful love for you alone. You are his beloved.
-- Nancy Murray is a Catholic catechist and retreat facilitator. She attends Christ the King Church in Richland and blogs at www.CatholicEthics.blogspot.com. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.