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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II Dies at 84

No I am not catholic, I am prebysterian and has always been presbyterian. I attended all private catholic schools most of my life so I grew up with catholicism and really was totally immersed in it, even thought I was not a catholic. Thus , I am affected by Pope John Paul II passing. I have heard some news reporters refer to his passing in the last few days as "gently slipping away." It does make sad as I do believe he was an excellent Pope.

I remember those days of catholic school. We had really mean nuns. One in particular, Sister Amelia was the most feared nun in the entire school. Everyone feared her and I mean everyone. Literally. She taught spanish and she ended up being my homeroom teacher one year and I took spanish from her. I remember when we came into class we had to sit perfectly still and could only look straight ahead. She would command the front of the class with a very large yard stick and she would use that to wack you if you moved a muscle. She yelled and she would rock back on her hips and berate and belittle all of us. If you moved aroung too much in your seat, she called us hamsters and she would wack the yard stick on the desk and tell us not to move. And we had better says 20 Hail Mary's, as we hamsters sat like stone statues in our chairs. All she wanted to hear was the whispering of the Hail Mary's as we sat very still.

I remember one day I had a cold and had used up all my tissue blowing my nose the whole morning. Sister Amelia had a big box of tissue on her desk. It took me 20 minutes to get up the nerve to ask her for a tissue. She yelled that I could get 1. Just one. I used it, but it was not enought. I asked for another. Wack went the yardstick on the desk. "No, you little hamster, you are allowed just 1 tissue." I suffered throught the rest of class. My nose was running all over and all I had was that soggy tissue. I sniffed and wiped and when class was over, I ran to the bathroom just as fast as I could.

Sister Amelia was also the keeper of the uniform code when you were in her class. So, if you were hiking up your pleated skirt to make is shorter and unbuttoning your 2 top buttons on your shirt, that did not fly in her class. She inspected each and every one of us for proper uniform. Woe be the girl who did not have on the proper uniform. You had to come to the very front of the class. She would point at you with the yard stick, and make you stand right in front of the class. Skirts, when I was in school had to be knee length or longer. Nothing above the knee. She would measure your skirt and tell you just how many inches or centimeters it was too short. You then had 2 options. She would give you scissors and right there you had to rip out the hem so that it would be longer or you could go to the office and rent a skirt that was the proper length for her class. After a while, all those rebellious girls gave it up. Dealing with Sister Ameali was just not worth it. In additon to this humiliation, a note was sent home to your parents for improper uniform and you got demerits. White shirts had to be buttoned all the way up! Not one button could be undone in her class.

While us non catholics conformed to everything, we could get away with just a little because we were non catholics. My great sin was nail polish. I would wear it. That was not allowed but it was over looked by most nuns. All except for my typing teacher, Sister Moose. I have long forgotten her real name because we all called her Sister Moose. Can we say beat with an ugly stick? Hence the name. She was always after me about polish...everyday. She would tell me it was a sin and to say a Hail Mary for that sin. I would say the Hail Mary, but then I would tell her that I was not catholic and for me it was not a sin to wear polish. After daily Hail Mary's with her for at least 2 months, she stopped. Then she would only say something to me about the polish if the color was in any sort of red or burgundy. Then I would have to say Hail Mary's.

Yes, those days of catholicism are still with me. After having religion class every day for years and mass at school and having to walk to the local Cathedral for mass at easter during school--which was said by the Bishop, that stays with you.

Have you ever been hit in the eye with flying holy water? No, well I have. I was at mass and the Bishop would always walk through the main aisle with the septor of holy water and incense swinging both. Holy water would fly everywhere as he blessed us students. I just happened to be looking up once as he swung the holy water and PLOP! Right in my eye it went.

Pope John Paul II has passed away and the world I think is just a little dimmer.


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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul II, whose 26-year papacy helped defeat Communism in Europe but left a Roman Catholic Church divided over his rigorous orthodoxy, died on Saturday after a prolonged struggle with ill health.

"Our beloved Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father," said Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, announcing the death to a huge crowd that had gathered under the Pontiff's windows to pray for a miraculous recovery that never came.

The Pope died in his bed at 9:37 p.m (1437 EST), surrounded by the only family he had -- his closest Polish aides.

As the news spread through Rome, thousands of faithful streamed to the Vatican to join those already there, paying homage to a man who revolutionized his office and took his uncompromising message far beyond the confines of the Vatican.

The slow mourning toll of one of the great bells of St Peter's Basilica was the only sound to break the silence.

Far beyond the Vatican walls, John Paul's death triggered a rare outpouring of global grief, with people of all faiths and none praising his humanity, courage and moral integrity.

The exact cause of death was not given but the Pope's health had deteriorated steadily over the past decade with the onset of Parkinson's Disease and arthritis. Earlier this year it took a sharp turn for the worse.

He had an operation in February to ease serious breathing problems, but never regained his strength and last Thursday developed an infection and high fever that soon precipitated heart failure, kidney problems and ultimately death.

"The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd. The world has lost a champion of human freedom and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home," President Bush said in a televised address from the White House.

Two hours after his death, around 130,000 people were in St Peter's Square, police estimated.

Necks craned up toward the lighted windows of the Pope's apartments where his once vigorous body lay

"I can't believe that's it. I know God will provide a new Pope but we'll miss him so much," said Irishman Adrian McCracken, who apologized for crying.


The Vatican announced that the Pope's body would lie in state for public viewing in St Peter's Basilica from Monday afternoon at the earliest. No date was set for a funeral, but it was not expected to happen before Wednesday. Full Story Here

When I look back on his life I remember just few highlights. There are many in the papal world I am sure, but the things I remember are, his meeting with Tony Melendez, the young man who played the guitar with his feet because he had no arms, when he was shot in the stomach and when he went to Israel. He died the death he wanted to have, at the Vatican in his own home.

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Tony Melendez and the Pope

I would love to go to the Vatican, just to see it. Several years ago my mother went to Europe for about a month or just a little longer. The Vatican was one of the places she went but when she was there, the Pope did not make an appearance.

Now the Pope is in a far better place. He will be missed. John Paul II, we love you!

Just a little more about Tony Melendez:

Tony Melendez Website

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Never Be the Same was an appropriate song, for those few moments changed Tony Melendez' life and brought his unrestrained abilities as a guitarist into national attention. It seems to be a fitting place for a man who has spent his life putting personal confidence above his handicap.

A "thalidomide baby," Tony was born without arms because his mother was prescribed thalidomide a drug used to help calm morning sickness during her pregnancy. He was brought to the Los Angeles area from Nicaragua to be fitted with artificial arms. He wore them until he was ten, when he disposed of them. "I didn't feel comfortable," he explains, "I could use my feet so much more."

His proficiency with his feet extended to more areas than just day-to-day care. He remembers that "at first, I started playing push-button organ. Then in high school I began playing around with the guitar and harmonica." He also began writing his own songs. Whether it was "playing around" with music or merely adjusting to a normal high school routine, Tony never let his handicap get in his way. "I was pretty secure in what I could do," he says.

It was also in high school that he became deeply involved in the Catholic Church. "I went when I was a kid because my parents took me. I drifted away as I got a little older. When I was in high school, my brother kept saying 'come on, you've gotta go. It's great!' So I went again and made a lot of friends, and wound up changing my life in the process.

During this time, he considered becoming a priest but couldn't, because priests were required to have an index finger and thumb. The news disappointed him but he persevered in his church activities, using his talents as a guitarist and composer for masses and church related events. Demand for him increased to the point where he was directing and singing in music groups at up to five masses on a given Sunday. It caught people's attention, including someone with the group organizing activities for the monumental visit of Pope John Paul II in 1987.

"Someone pulled my name out of somewhere and asked me to go to a meeting," Tony recalls. "I wasn't sure what it was." It turned out to be an audition and Tony was accepted. "I was really excited when I heard."

Excitement became nervousness and then jubilation when the Pope responded to Tony's playing, with a kiss. He notes now that he wasn't sure how to react. "I was told not to move or the security might take me out, so I was very surprised when the Pope leaped off the four-foot stage to greet me."

Since then Tony has traveled across the United States and twenty-seven foreign countries, making countless television appearances, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, Geraldo, CBS This Morning, The Late Show with Arsenio Hall, 700 Club, Robert Schuller, and prime-time network specials for Variety Clubs and Very Special Arts. He also performed at The World Series, where he sang the National Anthem for the fifth game of the 1989 series. Tony has had the opportunity to give four additional performances for the Pope, twice in the Vatican and the another in the Pope's homeland of Poland, and in Denver Colorado for World Youth Day 1993. Along with television and major personal appearances, newspapers and magazines articles have appear on him through out the world. Now an author his best-selling autobiography, A Gift of Hope, was published in 1989 by Harper & Row.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including special commendations from President Reagan, The State of California, Variety Clubs of America, Very Special Arts, The City of Los Angeles, and countless other civic and charitable organizations. He has also received the first annual Inspirational Hero Award from the NFL Alumni Association at Super Bowl XXIII in Miami.

A highly talented composer and musician, Tony recorded his first album in 1989, a collection of contemporary Christian songs entitled, Never Be the Same, which resulted in nominations for Best New Artist of the Year from Cashbox Magazine and the Gospel Music Association. His debut Spanish LP, El Muro Se Cayo And The Walls Came Tumblin' Down, was released to critical acclaim by Latin radio stations across the country. Ways of the Wise, Tony's second Christian album, includes the musical talents of Gary Chapman and Phil Keaggy. The fall of 1990 CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) Magazine Top Pop List charted Ways of the Wise, Tony's first single released from the album, at #3.

Tony's latest album Hands In Heaven (Toe Jam Music), which he co-produced, is a musical look into the heart and soul. Selections such as "Lowly Servant," is a prayer for help and guidance in the struggles of life. "Everybody Sing," is an uplifting Calypso praise and worship song. "Love Is the Answer," is a remake of the 1970's England Dan & John Ford Coley hit. "I Wish I Could Hold You; " Tony's touching dedication to his wife Lynn and kids. The title song, "Hands In Heaven," is a beautiful tribute to those friends and relatives who have passed on and are now praying for us before the throne of God in Heaven - all reflect the perceptive and deeply-rooted insights into the life and faith of Tony Melendez.

Currently, Tony resides in Branson Missouri, which is most known for its small-town hospitality and world class entertainment. There you can see Tony and his family and an all star cast in an award-winning variety show, The Tony Melendez Show: "A Gift of Hope" at the IMAX Entertainment Complex.

Branson has given Tony a chance to stay home, to be a loving father and husband and at the same time continue his music. "Lynn and I love each other deeply and music brought us together. So, one day we’ll share all of these memories with our children. Music has opened the door to my dreams and I will keep singing, continue to share my life, and keep making' music for all who will listen."

Be sure to check out his website: Tony Melendez Website

What I do is kick them in the pants with a diamond buckled shoe!
~~Aileen Mehle~~

2 Broken Heels:

Joann said...

The next Pope will have a lot to live up to.

Tinker said...

you are right joann! :)