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REMEMBERING THE POPE

The clouds have broken. The sun appears. The clouds drift away. Everything is beautiful.

Beauty is absorbing a sunset at the Erie Basin Marina, or watching snow fall on the maple tree outside. Our lives are sustained through the beauty and kindness of others.

It is often difficult to see that beauty and kindness in others, though, because of the masks of hatred, prejudice or false personalities we wear. Do we wear them because we don't want anyone else to see where we're coming from, or because we feel no one else understands us?

If everyone knew where everyone else was coming from, if everyone knew everyone else's story, or the suffering they encountered, people would understand each other so much better. If you knew the girl in science class had a mother who was battling cancer, or that the boy who sat behind you was working nearly every day after school to help with his parents' money situation, wouldn't you see them differently? If those around you knew the struggles you are going through, wouldn't they understand more about where you came from?

The late Pope John Paul II encountered suffering at an early age. His mother died when he was 9, and his brother died when he was 12. He took the suffering he had experienced as a child and realized that the only way to try to surpass the pain of suffering was to become a light for others. He experienced more pain in life after that though; close friends died in the Holocaust, and while a seminary student he was hit by a car and nearly died. Even when he was shot as pope, he forgave and embraced his assailant. He was a remarkably resilient man, and whether one is Catholic or not, or agrees with the pope on all issues, one must agree Pope John Paul II was a solid leader of the Roman Catholic Church (even if no one under 30 has experienced a different pope).

The way the pope reached out to our generation was truly incredible. Through his own suffering as a youth, Pope John Paul II was able to realize the suffering and pressures that today's youth experience. He constantly appealed to our generation and told us to follow him. He wanted to show us how through the darkness we could become a light to others.

I'd like to share my personal experience of seeing the pope. I was fortunate enough to travel with my parish youth group to see the pope at World Youth Day at Toronto in 2002. Nearly 1 million others from around the world gathered that morning to see that one man. Our group was tired, we had tried sleeping on an old blue tarp all night, and all we had eaten was some type of stew-like meal they had offered us. Morning came, and a strong thunderstorm arrived, dumping blinding rain on Downsview Airfield. We were soaking wet when Pope John Paul II arrived, this one man, whom over a billion called their leader and whom many more still looked up to. We squeezed to get a glimpse of him as he sputtered by in his popemobile, amid chants of "J.P 2, WE LOVE YOU!" The pope kept on making the sign of the cross and waving, giving his blessing to all the people there. That was incredible. Seeing the pope himself was just as extraordinary as seeing the reaction those around me had to the pope. The pope made his way onto the large stage. As soon as he started to say Mass, the rain stopped.

Within a few minutes, the clouds had broken. The sun appeared. The clouds had drifted away. Everything was beautiful.

Brian Hayden is a junior at St. Joseph's Collegiate.