Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Power of Peace and Forgiveness by Chris Gillen

This is my first blog post from my spring break trip of 2016 of my junior year.  This year, I decided to study abroad for the week in Oswiecim, Poland.  For those of you who do not know, in German, this town is known as Auschwitz. I cannot tell you what made me decide to study here, except that the course seemed really interesting in its uniqueness of opportunity.  Other than that, for some strange reason I felt like this was going to be a good experience for me.  I can’t explain it with words.  However, I can firmly tell you that God brings us to places in our lives and we may not know exactly why at the moment, but he reveals to us slowly but surely in ways we would never expect. 

That being said, we started our first full day in Poland with a trip to Whometown of the famous Karol Wajtyla.  Of course you know this name!  If your like me and you didn’t, this is the name of the man who came to be known nationally as Pope John Paul II.  I did not realize how remarkable of a man he was.  As a boy Karol had a variety of backgrounds.  He played soccer, kayaked, performed in theatre, wrote poetry, and loved to ski. After wanting to first become an actor, Karol changed his path and decided to study to become a priest. His various well-rounded background definitely gives life to his legacy as life-loving human being. 

Something that struck me about Pope John Paul II is his passion to push for peace and forgiveness.  The first thing I witnessed upon entering the museum is a copy of the prayer he said at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on March 26, 2000 that reads:
God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of Yours to suffer and asking Your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.” 

This prayer touched my heart in the sake that he truly did his best to hold utmost respect for all peoples in his attempt to seek peace between the Jewish and Christian faith.  This was a sensitive topic to address but he spoke about it with an open heart and with genuine love. 

His ability to forgive is powerful too as we learned about how he forgave Mehmet Ali Ağca. This is the man who attempted to assassinate him on May 13 1981.  Pope John Paul visited the man in prison and developed a friendship with him. It is hard for some of us to not yell at the Toyota Corolla who cuts us off on the highway without putting their blinker on.  Pope John Paul II was able to be at peace with a man who tried to take his life! To be able to forgive and love your enemies is a foundational teaching of the Church and he truly embodied this in an empowering way. 

The most moving part of the museum trip for myself was a room that had walls covered with letters that were handwritten to the former pope. These prayer requests were sent during the time of his papacy and from people all over the world. They ranged from a variety of problems, but two of them that I distinctly remember were from parents asking the pope to pray that their children would come back to God.  This was so touching to see that he received such deep concerns for forgiveness and peace for peoples’ loved ones with God. I was saddened at first but a strong sense of hope came about when I realized that these parents still believed through the power of prayer that God would listen to them. 

Pope John Paul II was an inspirational man. Learning about him through his actions of peace and forgiveness was a perfect introduction for this week. 


Post a Comment