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John Paul II, transmitting an experience

September 1, 2009
John Paul II in Canada in 1984, L'Osservatore RomanoCrying at the office is generally not a good thing, but I've been doing quite a bit of that this past week. I do, however, have a legitimate reason. I've been watching hours of footage of Pope John Paul II's visit to Canada in 1984 in preparation for a one hour special Salt + Light Television will be airing in early September, and for some reason JPII makes me cry. I've been trying to figure out exactly what about him causes this emotional reaction. I've been asking myself that question since August 11th when I first screened some of the footage while on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver. (For the record, the one thing worse than crying in the office is crying on an airplane in mid-flight.)
I have a theory about why JPII is evokes such emotion. I'm reminded of something one of my professors said once in class. "Our faith is not a message. Our faith is an experience that becomes a message. The experience is a meeting with Christ. It becomes a message in that we move to share our experience with others. The key to transmitting the faith is not to spread a message, but to transmit an experience, share the experience, to draw others into an encounter with Christ."
I didn't have a chance to meet him personally, but from what I've seen in the footage I've watched, from what I remember of the general audiences and papal masses I attended, I think JPII had grasped this concept. He didn't transmit a message so much as trasmit an experience. He was so totally centred on Christ that there was something different about him, something wonderful and awe inspiring but at the same time concrete, real, and totally present. Wherever he went he didn't bring a message, he brought Christ himself to the faithful.
How can one not be moved when someone shows you Christ?
The one hour special John Paul II and Canada: A 25th Anniversary Special airs September 10th. Check back here in the coming week for broadcast times.

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