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The Holy Father’s (Not So Subtle) Kick in the Pants

We were packed in like sardines—sweaty, exhausted, ravenous—yet, no one really minded.

It was July 2002 in Toronto, Canada, at World Youth Day with then-Pope John Paul II. Mass was starting and our pilgrimage group was fresh off the high of having been just feet away from him as the Popemobile rolled right in front of us, the Holy Father’s eyes fixated on our entire group.

It’s a rare Mass for a Polish pope, living in Italy, to celebrate in English in North America. The words he spoke have stayed with me nearly fifteen years later: “The world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs a new sense of brotherhood and human solidarity. It is a world which needs to be touched and healed by the beauty and richness of God’s love. It needs witnesses to that love.”

And as I looked around the crowd of nearly a million pilgrims, we were all nodding our heads. Y’all. These people were from all over the globe, yet we could feel the impassioned words from the Holy Father. And we shouted, “AMEN!” There might’ve also been a few “JP2, we love you!”

If I felt it at Downsview Park on a deserted aircraft manufacturing campus and Canadian military base, can you imagine how forceful that wind and the power of the Holy Spirit must’ve been all those years ago on Pentecost? How puzzled, yet emboldened those people must’ve been?

In all the years since I converted to Catholicism, nothing compares to that specific moment at World Youth Day, when I saw the Holy Spirit in action. To see the universality of the Church on display was to feel God’s desire for us to receive the Holy Spirit and then go forth and preach the Gospel.

I think we worry that somehow our gifts aren’t as spectacular or as useful to the New Evangelization as we hope. That’s hogwash. We each have a unique gift to share with the world. Why are you hoarding it, comparing it, filtering it? Use it, sister!

Take Pope Saint John Paul II’s words to heart: it needs witnesses to that love. Get to sharing His big love with bravado, mercy, and confidence.

Kathryn Whitaker is a former agricultural communications consultant turned mom and freelance graphic designer. She enjoys writing, practicing her charism of hospitality, planning killer parties, organizing/DIY projects and discovering good food trucks in Austin. She likes her tea sweet, her men handsome, and her kids obedient. Two out of three isn’t bad. She’s a fifth-generation Texan who found the love of her life on a blind date at Texas A&M. She and her husband, Scott, have six kids, teen to toddler.  Find out more about her here.

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Janice Villeneuve
    June 4, 2017 at 6:42 am

    The Holy Spirit at work among all the Pilgrims at Downsview was absolutely amazing. It will be an experience I will never forget and had a profound influence on my faith journey as a Catholic.

    • Reply
      Kathryn
      June 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Wasn’t it though? It really, really shaped me.

  • Reply
    Maribeth
    June 4, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Thank you for inspirational push to see, accept and embrace the gifts the God has given me!

    • Reply
      Kathryn
      June 6, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      I’ll pass the thanks along to the Holy Spirit. I sometimes worry if I’m being too bold, thanks for reminding me to speak truth!

  • Reply
    Suzanne King
    June 4, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Ahh, I was there in Toronto when you were. Your description of the event is exactly how I remember. Although the Pope’s gaze was not fixated on my group, I certainly felt the Holy Spirit when he rode by. I shocked myself by bursting in to tears of awe and joy. I just couldn’t help it. That’s all i could do in the presence of someone so holy; a saint.
    I am currently struggling with understanding God’s plan for my sister who is schizophrenic . She has been institutionalized most of her life, been abused and assaulted within the system, and has warped beliefs about God. I can’t help but ask, why God.? Why does she suffer so? Why her and not me? I know she has gifts, and a great light in her that shines through in rare moments of lucidity, but how do I help her see that without putting my own spirituality in harm’s way? How do I use my gifts in this situation?

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