An Encounter With The Pope…
A Life Changing Moment Of My Life
Many people are looking forward to meeting Pope Francis. The moment the Vatican confirmed his coming to Japan, people were ignited and excited to know all the details - his itinerary, preparations to be made, chance to meet him, etc. I fully understand the excitement. This occasion took me down memory lane to 24 years ago when I first met a Pope, which led me to a decisive turning point of my life.
The memory is still very vivid and very fresh in my heart. It was in 1995, when Pope John Paul II came to Manila
for the World Youth Day. I was one of 5 million attendees, one of the many young people shouting out his name repeatedly, “Lolek! Lolek!” How could I ever forget that special encounter with the Pope? We were lucky to have found a good place where we could see him up close. When the Pope’s mobile passed in front of us, I felt enthralled by his presence. I felt enveloped with something I could not understand. I felt my sins were washed away at that moment and I was ready to die. Words were not enough to describe my experience I felt I had encountered God through him! It was like the Apostle Peter saying, “It is the Lord!” I felt a sense of peace and serenity of heart. I remembered muttering to myself, “He is so radiant and serene! What is it in him that makes him radiate peace and a gentle presence?” I want to have THAT in my heart too!
This desire was soon to be fulfilled. Inside the bus after that event, I found myself crying without any reason. I just could not understand myself. I did not realize that the impact of that encounter had brought forth such tremendous courage in my heart that I was able to speak to my father for the very first time about my desire to become a Religious sister. This eventually enabled me to break up with the person with whom I thought I would be spending the rest of my life. The encounter with the Pope had awakened in me the deepest desire of my heart – which would make my life complete - to serve God more fully and offer my whole self to Him. My original life plan suddenly changed. God`s plan was completely different from mine!
A year after that, I tendered my resignation to the Director of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company where I worked as an Engineer Assistant, a job that offered a promising career and a better future for my family. While all my family, friends and relatives were against my decision, I entered the Congregation of the Canossian Daughters of Charity. I found my home with them and I resonated so much with St. Magdalene of Canossa, our Foundress and her mission to “Make Jesus known so that He may be loved.” At the age of 27, I made my first vows, affirming in my heart what St. Augustine said, “You made me for yourself, O Lord, and my heart is restless until it rests in You!” My encounter with Pope John Paul II revealed the deepest longing of my heart “I want to have THAT in my heart! I realized it was the Lord whom I long to be with.
Now I have found that peace and serenity I longed for. I have found the great pearl – Jesus who is my “enough.” No other treasure or human being could ever compare with the joy and the fullness of life and love that I have experienced from Him. He can never be outdone in generosity. Then came a “call within a call,” to be a missionary to Japan. His invitation was irresistible. I hold his promise in my heart: “I will be with you till the end of time” (Mt. 28:20).
St. John Paul II is still a vibrant inspiration for me. When he was canonized, I felt I now have a personal Saint of my own praying for my fidelity and joyful perseverance in the mission as I respond to God’s daily invitation to proclaim His great love to many people, especially to the young people entrusted to my care here in St. Ignatius. I pray that they too may make Jesus known and loved by others
Yes, the encounter was truly an encounter with God! A life-changing moment of my life. What about you?
By Sr. Leny Fery, FdCC