Today is Divine Mercy Sunday – a designation of the first Sunday after Easter by Polish-born Pope John Paul II in 2000 promoting the Divine Mercy devotions popularized by the early 20th-c. Polish seer and Saint Faustina Kowalski based on her mystical encounters with Our Lord. A bare five years later the Pope would die on the very eve of that new Feast. It is appropriate that this Feast has today, nine years further on, seen the solemn canonization of the late Holy Father as Saint John Paul the Great, Pope and Confessor. (I'm presuming that last is how he will be styled.)
Which means that I can say, “I have seen a saint” – with my own eyes. Granted, I have probably seen a great many saints in the more general sense, those who are commemorated on the Feast of All Saints, 1 November each year, but never other than once in my life have I been even remotely in the presence of one who would eventually be formally recognized as such by the Church.
And “remotely” it was indeed, almost three decades ago, on Saturday 12 September 1987, when I stood amidst a crowd of about 130,000 around a huge outdoor pavilion altar erected near the University of New Orleans' Lakefront Arena, in sweltering heat and humidity and a beating sun punctuated by rain as the Pope offered Mass. Here is the rather sketchy account from the journal I was keeping quite intermittently at the time: