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We Will Miss You, John Paul

Open letter from a protestant minister to the Holy Father.

by Richard 'Mr. Moo' Moore
April 2, 2005

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We Will Miss You, John Paul
The Honorable John Paul
Vatican City

I knew very little about the traditions and the beliefs of most Catholics. Other than dating a Catholic girl or two and having a devout Catholic roommate while in the US Air Force, I knew little. I was told that Catholics were the folks that worshipped Mary and never carried a Bible to church. Catholics were people that were so focused on going to Mass no matter what, some would go get drunk at a bar but leave in time to receive the sacraments at midnight Mass. Catholics were to blame for overpopulation and poverty in third world nations because they refuse to talk about conception while they were there to "help the downtrodden". Now however, I feel like St. Paul, when he said in his first letter to the Corinthians, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Back to the fall of 1978. I was wrapped up in marrying the love of my life and in my senior year of college. I had just begun my student teaching when the white smoke appeared over St. Peter's Square. So much was going on personally; I barely paid attention to the beginning of a historical moment. I'm sorry that I didn't pay closer attention.

Well, over the last 26½ years, we both have changed big time. You have traveled the world in record miles. I guess you already used your frequent flyer miles, huh? Never mind. You survived an assassin's bullet right outside your own residence. I remember how tough of a person you were, fighting back from the attempt on your life. I remember the statement you made following the attack. You spoke of forgiveness and no death penalty for the one who tried to take your life. It was as close to "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." as I had ever experienced. You entertained and visited presidents, Prime Ministers, royalty, dictators and the common folk. Not sure why I sensed that you were more comfortable with the common folk. Especially the children. They loved you and it was apparent to me, the feeling was mutual. The blessings for these little ones reminded me of Jesus calling the little ones to himself to be blessed.

There were other things I noticed about you. Aides said that you would pray up to 4 hours a day. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how long I spend daily. Oh, by the way, I love the Popemobile. Pretty cool when I first saw it. But I'm getting older, as you are Father and it's what you have inside that impresses me. It's you, the real deal as some would say, that has spoken to me.

For me, I have married and had two great sons. I entered the ministry in 1991 and for PK's, the boys turned out pretty good. The oldest son married a great girl, yes, she is Catholic. Her faith is so deep it has taught my protestant son some lessons about the one we serve. I even got to preach, er, give a homily in the wedding mass. Never thought I'd be able to preach in a Catholic Church. I find myself during Lent attending the Stations of the Cross. I attend the celebration of an Easter Vigil and I consider one of my closest friends to be a Priest of the neighboring parish. (Some of his flock have challenged me to even convert.) Heck, I even have been caught watching Bishop Sheen reruns on EWTN at times. My library includes books that you have written and history of the church. I even have a copy of the catechism book and a missal in my office.

Well, sir, you have other things than do listen to this minister ramble. Remember, protestant ministers normally talk for at least 20 minutes at a time. I thought that might make you smile. Your example of the one that we both serve has been an encouragement to me in ministry and life. I know your place has been prepared in heaven and I hope that if we know folks in heaven, I'll be able to stand arm in arm with you singing praise to our God. Bless you, Karol.

Your partner and colleague in ministry,

Rich

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Michael H. Thomson from Paeonian Springs, Virginia writes:
April 2, 2005
Richard,

My father was a Catholic who married a Baptist - of the anti-papist variety. He left the church rather than signing one of those agreements to raise the children as Catholics. He was constantly harassed in our little Baptist Church because he was not born again. He never got the concept because of the way he was raised. I learned more about prayer from my father than I learned in the Baptist church because my father made a point to pray - on his knees - with me every night. He prayed for everyone, even the people putting peer pressure on him for not being born again. The most agitated I ever saw him was when a Baptist minister with a radio program criticized the funeral ceremony of John F. Kennedy and derided it as a pagan ritual. My father, technically ex-communicated as he was, marched into the local radio station and made a challenge under the since abolished equal time law and gave an eloquent defense of the components of the Roman Catholic funeral service. He was immediately besieged publicy and in print by the local members of the John Birch Society and an activist Baptist congregation who branded him as a communist for defending anything remotely associated with the Kennedy family including the Roman Catholic Church. Despite all of this, instead of boiling in bitterness, my father continued to pray with me and made sure I was up and off to the local Baptist Church every Sunday morning and exhorted me to make prayer a regular part of my life - even if I didn't feel like praying. My father who didn't go to church during most of his life with my mother, once again began attending services not too many years after the ascendancy of Pope John Paul II. When he died he received the Last Rites of the Church. As I with billions across the world mourn for a man who left a giant footprint in the world, I also too think of my father - a journalist - who is probably at this moment seeking an interview with the former pontiff.

Richard, I'm physically tired at the moment because of the day's activities. I was tempted to miss church and sleep in. Your article of healing has prompted me to pick out what I'm going to wear for tomorrow's service.

God Bless you!



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