I give thanks to God for giving me the opportunity to get to know personally a saint who, although the whole world now acclaims him as “Saint John Paul the Great,” was for me an example of a very down to earth sanctity. He was always very affectionate and concerned about each person, one by one.
“Aleksandra!”, he would call out
when he spotted me among a group of Polish students. But I have to admit that it
was sometimes Bishop Stanislaw Diswisz, his personal secretary, who whispered
to him: “She’s from
He truly loved people and had a universal heart that led him to love each charism in the Church. I once saw how he went up to a group of Carmelite nuns and joked with them: “So you’ve escaped from your cloister?” I also saw how he became an Italian when with Italians. After being introduced to an Italian family he remarked with surprise: “But how is that that Grandma and Grandpa are standing.” And he insisted that chairs be brought for them.
He paid close attention to each person. In an audience when I was present someone there showed him a book. Since it was quite heavy, John Paul II suggested that it be placed on a table. His secretaries moved several chairs to make room. The man with the book didn’t realize it, and when he tried to sit down he ended up on the ground. People there began to laugh. The Pope looked intently at them, expressing surprise at their lack of charity.
In these audiences with small groups of Polish people, many different institutions were represented: scouts, choirs, bishops with seminarians. He had a great capacity to converse with each one there and listen to their comments. He would ask the bishops about their seminarians, and how they were doing.
When I was with him I realized how quickly he grasped what I was concerned about. Once I told him I was worried about a person who was quite distant from God. Turning serious, he said: “Have you asked Saint Josemaria for that person.” “Yes, I’m asking him to help her,” I told him. “Well, trust in his help,” he insisted. Afterwards, with his great ability to go from transcendent topics to very human ones, he gave me an encouraging smile and said: “Don’t worry, the Pope is going to pray too.”
When he met my parents he was very affectionate. Almost his first words were: “I want to thank you.” He was referring to the fact that they had a daughter dedicated to God and that they were happy to have her living far from them.
I especially remember the time I
saw him when I was with a group of young women from
The last time I saw him, a few days
before his death, was in the Library of the Pontifical Apartment. I had an opportunity
to tell him a few things and he looked at me without saying anything. He was
very sick. I had just taken part in the UNIV Congress, the gathering in
Finally, just as I was about to leave, John Paul II told me: “Be faithful, be an apostle.”