“Christ is the Lord! This will be confirmed in the Resurrection, but it is already contained in the Crucifixion. Precisely in the Crucifixion.” —Pope St. John Paul II
It was hot in Phoenix when I got there, mid-September, 1987. Sunny, hot, and dry — just the way I like it.
But I wasn’t there for the climate or a tan. I was there to see Pope John Paul II on his swing through the southwestern United States — a Catholic convert’s pilgrimage to honor the Vicar of Christ, but also a pilgrimage of healing after a string of personal misfortunes.
A year back, I had been KO’d by a clinical depression that triggered an abrupt retreat from my do-gooder life in Chicago. Then, within a couple months of moving back home with my folks, I came down with some odd paresthesias — numbness and tingling — that drove me to a neurologist for diagnosis. “You have multiple sclerosis,” she told me after examining my MRI results.
“What?” I mumbled, bewildered. “What do I do?”
“Get air conditioning in your car,” she said. “Heat can lead to exacerbations.”
That was it — there were no treatments or meds back then to help mitigate M.S. I thought it was the end of my life — certainly the end of my dream to become a priest — and when I heard the Holy Father was going to be in Arizona, I was determined to get there and see him.
To help facilitate matters (and cut down on costs), I re-connected with my brother’s high-school chum, Scott, who was doing graduate work at Tempe’s Arizona State University — home of Sun Devil Stadium where the Pope would be celebrating Mass. When I reached out to Scott to ask if I could crash with him for the papal event, he not only agreed, but also insisted on participating himself.
“Really?” I asked him, knowing he’d grown up Presbyterian like me.
“Absolutely,” Scott replied without hesitation. “I mean, he’s God’s righthand man — I want to see him, too.”
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