Jeff L. Thigpen Register of Deeds

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pope John Paul.....

My feelings related to the Pope have covered the gamut--from admiration of his efforts for world peace to disagreement on some of his conservative stands on social issues and struggle re: the paternalistic and centralized nature of the Catholic church.

I must admit this gamut was greatly impacted by a personal pilgrimage to the Vatican during my semester abroad at Guilford College in 1990. I made it to the gates but the guards would not let me in to the main building. No joke. I was wearing shorts and told I could only enter with long pants. A 3 day journey; 3 mile walk from the train station; hopes of seeing the Sistene Chapel; etc---all down the drain because I had shorts on. Where in the bible does it say that someone can't enter a religious establishment because they have shorts on? Yeah, ok, I wouldn't make it regular dress to church....but a slow rage bubbled in my gut as my inner voice kept repeating the words to the old spiritual song with phases "Just as I am.....Just as I am....God loves me JUST AS I AM! I could not walk to the train station and get back in time . I looked all over the surrounding blocks asking myself, "Where's a #@%* pants salesman when you need one?!?? I sat in that circular area outside of the Vatican and wondered why? why? Well, I was crushed, hurt, and it stuck with me for a long time. I saw that experience as a reflection of the Catholic faith probably more than I should have.

But putting that event aside, I appreciate the life of Pope John Paul and all he did for peace and justice in the world during his tenure as the world's most influential spiritual leader. I appreciate his personal story--coming from Poland during WWII, hearing stories from those touched by him, his humor, and the way he approached his own death--with real dignity and faith.

I would have liked to seen his house! Regardless, the Catholic church is in my prayers as they seek a new spiritual leader. God bless Pope John Paul II......may he make it through heaven's gates, even if he's wearing shorts!

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