Today is the anniversary of the assassination attempt on the life of (now) Blessed Pope John Paul II. It is one of those milestone years. It is the 30th anniversary of the attempt on his life. This got me to thinking of that famous phrase, “Do you remember where you were when this happened?”
I not only remember, I remember the conflict and confusion this caused me. I must have been in 4th grade. It was during Mrs. Dvorak’s math class when the news broke. The teacher across the hall came in with a TV on wheels and the rest of her class and said, just watch. She plugged in the TV and turned it on. The two classes glued their eyes to the tube watching the news reports. There was real sadness in the room as we heard reports that the Pope may have passed away. Facts later dismissed as baseless speculation.
My mind….raced. I wondered who would want to shoot the Pope? (Ahh, to be innocent again.) Then my heart fell when we heard the false reports. Once we knew the Pope was still alive, my 4th grade heart and mind started to drift to lessons from a class just a day or two prior. Yes, I was a nerd, but this was because of a practical application of one of those lessons. A lesson I’m sure I wouldn’t have faced today.
It was in a social studies class the day before we had a very brief discussion on the separation of church and state. It was not all that in-depth which, for this example, was a problem. A day after that discussion I was in a public school watching a news report about how there was an assassination attempt on the head of the Catholic Church. I wondered if this went against the very separation we had talked about days earlier. I wondered if I should ask. Ultimately, I did not.
I figured this man was one of the most important men in modern times. The world would be watching if someone took a shot at him. This isn’t religion, this is history. Little did anyone, much less this small-minded 4th grader, know that he would go on to become one of the greatest Popes in the history of the church. A man who would have a direct influence on the history world events.
At no time do I remember the words Fatima being said that day. Because that was a word I would have looked up. (Once a nerd always a nerd. In this case, Catholic nerd.) That event occurred on the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. And what is of particular interest to Catholics is that PJP felt that Mary was a huge part of his pontificate. Plus he was deeply devoted to Mary. He felt that she guided the bullets so to spare his life. He so strongly felt that truth that the bullet that went through him was given by him to the Bishop of Fatima. That bullet was eventually placed into the crown of Mary and remains there to this day.
In 4th grade I did understand that we don’t pray TO Mary. We ask her to intercede or pray for us. What started this morning with me thinking, “Remember where you were and what you were thinking that day?” turned quickly into a different realization. A realization that 30 years ago I may have ended a post like this with, “Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.” But given the impact this man who was shot had on the world, with Our Lady’s help, I’ll end it this way.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us…too.
Funny how both of those sentences bring a smile to my face and a comfort to my heart.