Meeting the legacy left by St. Pope John Paul II amidst ancient historical ruins, cathedrals and streets of England, Ireland and Scotland.
England October 2, 2023
I would have missed it altogether. I was looking at the inscription on the stone floor marking the place of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 when the tour guide suddenly spoke about Pope John Paul II and pointed out the memorial plaque on the side wall commemorating his visit to the chapel. On May 29, 1982, two major church leaders – the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, the leader of the world-wide Church of England, and Pope John Paul II, leader of world-wide Roman Catholic Church knelt together in silent prayer in the spot where Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, was murdered when he opposed his king and placed the rights of the church before any government interests.
The Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom, which had begun the day before, made history. It was the first time a reigning pope had ever visited the country.
From left: the newer altar (1986) at Canterbury (author photo); Pope John Paul and Robert Runcie at prayer (Canterbury Cathedral photo); the commemorative plaque on side wall of the chapel (author photo).
Ireland October 8, 2023
Clonmacnois was a stop on our way to Dublin. Located at the geographical center of Ireland, Clonmacnois was founded by St Ciarán and his small band of monks. It became an outstanding spiritual center for one thousand years where people sought silence, renewal and a sense of the sacred. There really was something otherworldly about the ruins and the location. And again, it was the tour guide who startled me when he said Pope John Paul II visited the ancient ruins of Clonmacnois in 1979 and pointed to the modern covered structure where he said mass during his that visit.
Pope John Paul II became the first pope to ever visit Ireland when he had arrived in Dublin the day before for a three-day visit .
From left: Ruins at Clonmacnois (author photo);Pope John Paul II at Clonmacnois in 1982 (Clonmacnois photo); covered building where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass during his visit (author photo).
Scotland, October 11, 2023
In Edinburgh, Scotland our hotel was on Princess Street, almost directly across from the magnificent Balmoral Hotel, once a great railway hotel built in 1902. It is a main thoroughfare and highly traveled. I discover that it was on this very same street that His Holiness traveled in his pope mobile during his visit to Edinburgh in 1982. Some 40.000 young people from all over Scotland came to greet him, singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone” referring perhaps to the pope’s constant reminder in his many addresses and homilies “that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives.”
He became the patron saint of World Youth Day.
Photos from Edinburgh Herald News 2022 in a retrospective of his visit 40 years earlier.
He was: the first non-Italian since 1523 to become Pope; the longest serving Pope in history; a Pope that circled the globe fulfilling a mission to be present to all, praying with Anglicans, Jews and Catholics alike; a man so many agree to be the most consequential pontiff of modern times.
Something I also didn’t know. As a result of Pope John Paul II’s special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he had the following Latin motto engraved on his coat of arms: “Totus Tuus,” meaning, "I am totally yours." It was taken from a book written much earlier by St. Louis de Montfort’s (1673 – 1716) titled True Devotion to Mary. The full line reads: “Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt… I am totally yours and all that I have is yours.” He entrusted himself and his purpose completely to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The small, unexpected encounters during this trip; to see and be in a few places of what I know to be a very, very tiny portion of the travels and sphere of influence of St. Pope John Paul II, felt extraordinary and very personal.
(Photo left from St.Peter's Basilica)
Photo credit on Princess Street: https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/heritage-and-retro/heritage/the-pope-in-edinburgh-40-years-on-here-are-27-amazing-pictures-of-pope-john-paul-iis-visit-to-the-capital
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.