Six years ago today, we witnessed scenes that no one was prepared for. All over the world, in churches, streets, chapels, schools, squares, hospitals and homes, people were keeping vigil with Pope John Paul II. His condition was not well and many of us had seen this for ourselves when the previous Sunday, Easter Sunday, he came out of his window. All over the world, people were keeping vigil with a dying old man. Old people die every day, this death was special, it was holy, it was the death of a person who gave himself totally to the Church, because he was totally given to Triune God and consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Venerable Servant of God John Paul II turned his death bed into a pulpit, into a book of life, a constant pointer towards the way of holiness. These events spoke deeply to me, very deep indeed. I knew then although I could not admit to myself that my Anglican days were over. Unlike my mind, my heart beats with Peter, loves with Peter, needs Peter. How could I keep away from Peter? Six years on I am so at peace that now heart and mind are submitted to Peter.
Six years ago we lived in London. I celebrated the Vigil Mass at Margaret Street. My wife Claudia said that it would be good to go to Westminster Cathedral and join in the world wide spontaneous vigil. We heard on the grapevine, my son attended Westminster Cathedral Choir School, that the Cathedral will remain open late. So we drove to the Cathedral saying the Rosary. We arrived and parked on Ambrosden Avenue. There were not more than fifty people in there. We went to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, we were alone, and continued our Rosary there. All of a sudden the bell tolled, a voice came on the PA system announcing the passing away of the Holy Father. We moved to the nave and suddenly people flooded the Cathedral. It is still a mystery for me, but within five to seven minutes the Cathedral was full, I mean jam-packed, and one could hear a pin drop. Where did they come from? Most people were out in London for a Saturday night. They just heard the news and walked in Church. They were old and young, rich and poor, the confident and the hesitant, the one with all shades of make up to the very plain, the well dressed to homeless, they were all there, all silent. The Cardinal came and led us in prayer. As we had young children and it was getting late we made our way through the crowds to the nearest exit. We went back home, as we arrive I saw that our choir were leaving the church after doing a recording. I broke the news. The director and members were clearly moved. They left the Church, I went in, I found it peaceful, I just vested and said Mass. Whatever, was happening was earth shattering and I needed to be on the altar, the one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I didn’t know that someone stayed behind and was following Mass from behind the grill; I found this out on my way back to the sacristy. We looked at each other and parted and never ever spoke about it at all. That evening a pope died and a saint was born, that evening someone touched countless hearts in events that prepared the Church for Pope Benedict. That evening an old man in Rome told us that holiness is achievable, that simplicity is great, and that life is sacred and eternal. Like countless others I know where I was when it happened, I just hope to imitate him in my life, to throw myself completely in the hands of Divine Mercy and Mary, Mother of the Church. May we achieve this through his intercession.
Westerham Catholic Church