Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Second Visit of the Pope to the USA

If you would like to read other articles by Rev. Joseph Dwight, click on his photo and choose the topic you are interested in. If you would like a good monthly meditation in MS Power Point Slide Show format with nice music and images in the background, choose the topic title “Spiritual Food” (or go directly to: and then choose “The Importance of a Meditation!”

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The photo above with Joseph Dwight and Raymond Frost with Pope John Paul II was taken in 1987 after the Good Friday liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica (Rome).

This article was written (November 1987) for the official magazine of the Religious Congregation, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary.

The Second Visit of the Pope to the USA

When we first heard that our Holy Father had accepted the invitation of the American bishops to visit our country for the second time, and especially our home state of California, we wanted very much to be able to contribute to the success of his visit. Following similar lines of the charism of our venerable founder of our congregation, Father Pio Bruno Lanteri (1759-1830), we found ourselves hoping to try in some way to help spiritually and pastorally prepare our fellow Americans and Californians for the Pope's second visit to our country.

Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri

With the encouragement of our superiors, the project began to take form in the early part of 1987 while studying theology in Rome. Receiving our initial impetus and ideas from the tremendous effort that our fellow Canadian Oblates put forth for the visit of the Pope to Canada over three ago, we began writing a suitable one-page leaflet (entitled, 'You Are Peter') as well as printing in Italy a prayer card with the Pope’s picture with a suitable prayer on the reverse side to help facilitate the success of the Pope’s visit. While considering ways of distributing the leaflet, we had initially considered reaching the goal of printing and distributing about 10-20,000 leaflets and prayer cards. Thanks to the prayers, help and generous financial support from many Catholic organizations and private individuals, we were able to print and distribute over 400,000 leaflets in northern and southern California as well as about 10,000 leaflets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio for the Detroit visit of the Pope. (To see the leaflet, visit:

In order to better insure that the leaflet would be read and not just tossed aside, the vast majority of the leaflets were distributed on a one-on-one personal basis. This was done both before and during the papal visit through the collaboration of hundreds of men and women of various groups, especially the Legion of Mary, the Knights of Columbus, the National Association of the Holy Rosary, St. Joseph's Radio and the Blue Army. Each of these groups helped distribute the leaflets in the manner according to the charism of their particular organization so that this modest, catechetical type preparation might reach as many people as possible whether it be in the parishes or groups or among family, friends, neighbors or fellow workers. We coordinated this distribution by way of numerous letters and phone calls as well as speaking at over a dozen major meetings of the above mentioned organizations with at least 50 people at each meeting, as well as at numerous minor meetings up and down our state of California. Many tens of thousands of the leaflets were also distributed at the papal motorcades in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as at the outdoor Masses of the Pope while the people waited to see and hear the Holy Father at Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Pope John Paul II poses in San Francisco, Ca, with the Golden Gate Bridge in background in this Sept. 17, 1987 photo.

Our goal for this project remained constant from start to finish. Right from the start, as we went through many draft copies of the leaflet with the very helpful criticism of many American and English speaking priests and seminarians in Rome, we always tried to put ourselves in the shoes and situation of our fellow Americans. We had hoped to recall to thousands of Catholics and interested non-Catholics a greater understanding, appreciation and love of our precious Catholic faith. Thus, our goal, as Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles welcomed and confirmed in his responding letter (May 19, 1987) to our proposal, was to help "in promoting a better understanding of the role of our Holy Father" as well as "to help people prepare spiritually and pastorally for his coming visit to us in California." We felt that one of the important tasks of the leaflet should most especially be to help the reader to understand and appreciate better the supernatural role of the Church and her visible head, the Pope, as given and intended by Christ so that we might help to overcome our very wide-spread mentality of a 'pick and choose, smorgasbord type Catholicism' and religious apathy in our country.

Keeping this situation in mind, ever so similar to the times of Father Lanteri but even more diffused by the mass media beyond the elite circles of the "aristocrates" (Introduction to the 'Directory of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary' (Italian edition, p.6)), we had hoped to help prepare a more open and warm response toward the Pope and his message by going directly to the people utilizing lay organizations. We worked along these lines so that, despite the spreading of confusion and misinformation in our country regarding the teachings of the Church and the essential role of her visible head, many Americans might come to a mature and trusting acceptance of the whole truth revealed to us by God, through Christ, which is preserved and authentically interpreted throughout time and culture by His Church. We felt that by helping our fellow Americans to overcome and to breakthrough our materialistic and non-supernatural-minded society of today, the supernatural character and task of the Church and her visible head, the Pope, would be more easily understood and welcomed. Thus, we hoped that by assisting in this endeavor, we, as well as all those who joined in the effort, could truly contribute to "Unity in the Work of Service; Building Up the Body of Christ", the official overall theme of the second papal visit to the United States of America.

We wish to sincerely thank all those who prayed for the success of this project and the many Oblates and generous friends who contributed so much time and effort toward helping to prepare a warm welcome for the Vicar of Christ to the United States of America.

In Jesus and Mary,

Joseph Dwight, O.M.V.

Raymond Frost, O.M.V

When Joseph Dwight and Raymond Frost met the Pope for the first time on the first of January 1987, we offered to try to help prepare for his visit to our state of California that same year during the summer. Precisely during this photo taken on Good Friday 1987, the Pope actually remembered us and said "California"!

"You Are Peter"!

In preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II to the USA in 1987, over 400,000 of the following leaflet were distributed in northern and southern California as well as about 10,000 leaflets in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio for the Detroit visit of the Pope.
(See also “The Second Visit of the Pope to the USA” at:


California! Land of opportunity; land of promise; land of sunshine; land of treasure!

Over a century ago one could almost breathe the excitement that filled the air! Thousands of our ancestors came flocking into the rich valleys and mountain ranges of California. Many risked their lives in the hope that their dreams for a better future might pan out in the gold fields and mining towns of California. Some did get rich. Others died on the way. But many more made their homes in the richly blessed land of this new frontier.

A Happy Future!
How much we desire a better future! Our innermost longings and deep natural yearnings are restless until we find enduring peace and true joy. But this deep craving of our hearts can only be satisfied by the infinite God; He created our hearts with these longings for eternal peace and contentment. "You have made us for Yourself, 0 God, and we will be ever restless until we rest in You" (St. Augustine). The eternal kingdom of God is our home and our treasure - "the pearl of great price!" (Mt 13:44-46) "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him" (lCor 2:9).

A Treasure Guide
But how do we get there? Like hunting for treasure, we need a map to find the prize. We need a guide to help us to interpret the map and to show us the safest and shortest way to this most highly prized goal. It is precisely to encourage and to help guide us during our earthly pilgrimage toward our eternal home that Pope John Paul II comes to our homeland this September of the Marian Year.

Christ's Church
Christ, the eternal Shepherd of the People of God, "established and even sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which He communicates truth and grace to all men… Christ was sent by the Father 'to bring good news to the poor ... to heal the contrite of heart' (Lk 19:10). Similarly, the Church encompasses with her love all those who are afflicted by human misery and she recognizes in those who are poor and who suffer, the image of her poor and suffering Founder" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church 'Lumen Gentium', 8). But at the same time, while harmoniously fulfilling her "earthly responsibilities ... and temporal duties" (GS 43), the Church "seeks and is concerned about those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until she appears in glory with her Spouse (Col 3:1-4)" (LG 6).

We should be very thankful for such a precious gift, the Church, bought and paid for by the Son of God Himself. Jesus had on one occasion compared the Church to a mustard seed - "the smallest of all seeds; but when it grows up, it is larger than any herb and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in its branches" (Mt 13:31-32).

One, Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic
Although she has truly grown "larger than any herb" with over 800,000,000 members and constantly growing, she is still, as she always was, as intended by Christ, ONE (LG 4) in her doctrine, her Baptism, her Sacrifice (the Mass), her sacraments, and her government under one visible head, the Pope. We should rejoice that we are members of the Church whose Founder is all-HOLY - a Church whose doctrines are holy and lead to a holy life. Many thousands of her members in all walks of life, by the imitation of Christ with the help of her sacraments, have attained great sanctity and holiness. Their example is worthy of our imitation. We should be grateful, indeed, that the Church teaches the divinely revealed truths to all nations at all times, and is therefore UNIVERSAL. Her priests and bishops have gone to all parts of the earth to teach and preach "the full and living Gospel" (DV 7), to celebrate the Eucharist, and to administer the sacraments. We should also be thankful that the Church to which we belong can trace her origin back to the APOSTLES. The Catholic Church is governed by the lawful successors of St. Peter who can claim an unbroken succession from the first to the present Pope (CD 2). The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, teaches the same truths that were taught to the Apostles by Christ Himself. We should therefore constantly pray for the grace to be true and faithful members of this glorious heritage - the Catholic Church!

The Indefectable Ship
This incomparable barque, launched by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is sailing the high seas of life today, still captained by Christ. He, through the person of His visible representative and Peter's successor, the Pope, stands at the helm (LG 18). The chief mates are the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, who in union with their helmsman, teach, govern, and sanctify all those on board, and seek in every way to bring all to the fulness of truth and saving "elements of sanctification" (LG 8) given by Christ to the Catholic Church (UR 1).

Above the ship, under the figure of a dove hovers the Holy Spirit. It is He Who keeps the ship intact as Christ built her; He it is Who infallibly guides her unswervingly along the narrow course of Christ's teaching throughout time, to the harbor of eternity and the City of Eternal Happiness.

Our Personal Challenge
We enjoy the protection of Holy Mother Church and share in her graces. This remembrance should cause us to thank God every day for such a privilege. But it should also cast before us a challenge.

The history of the Church has shown us those things which hamper the Mystical Body of Christ in her efforts to carry the graces of the Redemption to mankind as well as those things which help her bring the inspirations of the Holy Spirit to their fullest fruition. With the challenge and the warnings of the lives of the saints and the sinners of twenty centuries before us, the torch of Faith is placed in our hands. We now are to have our brief day. Will we bravely carry the light forward or will we timidly carry it back? Will we hold it high or smother it in the ground? Will we build up Christ's Body or tear It down?

The Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, has been walking the earth, preaching and teaching and doing innumerable works of charity and service through her clergy and laity for almost 2000 years. Yet she has been despised and rejected by many and disobeyed even by her own sons. She has suffered and died a thousand times in her martyrs and saints, all that men may live.
But WE are that Mystical Body (ID 5), the "People of God"! - a "visible assembly and a spiritual community, ... one complex reality composed of a divine and of a human element" (LG 8). "For by communicating His Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as His Body those brothers of His who are called together from every nation" (LG 7). Christ can now live and work in the world only in and through us. He can also be persecuted in and through us. What shall it be? Our human wills, under God's grace, hold the answer. Will we be with Him or against Him? Will we be with or against "our Mother" (LG 6), the Church, the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-28)?

Mary - Our Mother
Let us raise our eyes to Christ's "first ... and most perfect disciple," Mary, our "model of the virtues" (Redemptoris Mater 20, 47, 6). She is not only the most illustrious member of the Church, but also the Mother, "full of grace" (Lk 1:28), dispensing through her gentle hands the life saving graces of her divine Son as "the advocate of grace... Mary, the exalted Daughter of Sion, helps all her children, wherever they may be and whatever their condition, to find in Christ the Path to the Father's house" (RM 47). Thus, just as Christ came into the world through Mary and died on the cross before her very eyes, may we complete our "pilgrimage of faith" (RM 25-37) with Mary's maternal, intercessory help and constant care so as to arrive safely to our heavenly home of eternal peace and happiness with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (LG 52-69).

Let Us Welcome Our Holy Father
Pope John Paul II has certainly become a popular Pope. But truly, his real dignity and character come from the fact that he is the successor of St. Peter and the visible head of the whole Church. The divinely given attributes of the office of the papacy, such as the charism of infallibility or the attribute of authority (LG 18), are not a personal prerogative, nor a reward for virtue, but rather a result of the assistance of the Holy Spirit as promised by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Jn 14:16,26).

But above and beyond the great dignity as well as the tremendous responsibility of the office of the papacy, John Paul II has been truly blessed by God. He speaks eight languages fluently; he is the author of many books; and he is a philosopher in his own right. Before he became a priest, he earned his bread as a factory worker. He has suffered for the Christian faith. He came from Poland, a nation persecuted for its religious beliefs for centuries. His work in defence of human rights and on behalf of the poor has given hope to many. As we all know, the present Pope was shot in 1981 and remained in critical condition between life and death for several days afterwards. He later embraced and pardoned his would-be assassin, Ali Agca, while visiting him in his prison cell. Recently the Pope received Agca's mother in the Vatican. Everytime he goes out abroad to serve and embrace his beloved brothers around the world, he is exposing himself to other possible bullets. Yet, since 1981, he has made numerous journeys and visited numberless lands. He is now coming for the second time to our own country. Let us all unite to receive the Vicar of Christ with open arms so as to give him a welcome worthy of our faith and traditions.

Lord God, You Who have chosen Your servant John Paul II to become the successor of St. Peter, head of the apostles, and to be the representative of Christ in these times, help him to strengthen your people: that he might build your Church in unity, love and peace, that all the Church might be in communion with him, and that all might find in You, 0 Father, truth and life. Dispose our minds and hearts to receive the words which he will speak to us in the name of Your Son, under the movement of Your Spirit, so that we may find in them the expression of Your will for us, the response to the questions that the world presents to us today, and the courage of a renewed interior fidelity. May his presence in our land help us to free ourselves from slavery to sin and vice in order that we might truly live in the liberty of the sons of God. We ask You this through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

With Ecclesiastical Approval.