Thursday, May 13, 2010


Actually, it was 29 years ago today (see comment below) that Mehmet Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II in the Piazza of St. Peter’s in the context of a Wednesday General Audience. Seriously wounded, the Pope nearly bled to death before surgeons at the Gemelli Clinic were able to get things under control.

People remember exactly where they were when the announcement of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was made (I am one of them). I also remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the word came to us about the Holy Father.

I was teaching an Honors Humanities class (world history/English/theology) at Montgomery Catholic HS that morning. Among the students was Laurie Gulley, now newly named the Principal of the St. Bede campus of Montgomery Catholic Prep. The word came, and I was stunned into silence and shock: I was leaning backward against my desk, and for what seemed forever I simply stood silent, eyes closed. I think it was at least 20 minutes. The students were all equally silent.

The fact the bullets missed the major arteries in the Pope’s abdomen was amazing: he knew it was a miracle, the protection of the Blessed Mother on the anniversary of her first appearance at Fatima in 1917. The Pope’s own devotion to the Mother of God, surely in its supreme expression for him in the “Black Madonna” of Jasna Gora, at Czestochowa in Poland, made it the most logical connection. It is no coincidence, then, that John Paul placed the bullet recovered from his wounds in a shrine at Fatima as a memorial and a thank-you. It is also no coincidence that the optional memorial we celebrated today was only added to the Church’s liturgical calendar by John Paul in the 3rd revision of the Sacramentary (this is the edition which has finally been officially translated into English and which will be implemented in the near future).

In commemoration of this sorrowful (yet joyful) day, I offer the following clip from the 20th century Polish composer Henryk Gorecki—from his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Enjoy the music, and pray for Pope John Paul II (now declared “Venerable”)—if ever there was a true “Servant of God,” he was it.
I attached a clip as indicated above, and was recently told that a number of minutes into it images that were clearly inappropriate were being posted--I am embarrassed and VERY SORRY!
The great 19th century Oxford scholar Martin Routh, asked toward the end of his life for a word of advice, thought carefully and then said: I think, sir, wince you come for the advice of an old man, sir, you will find it a very good practice always to verify your references, sir!
Clearly, I did not, and I am at fault. I ask your forgiveness, and I encourage you to seek out your own recording of the Symphony #3 of Sorrowful Songs without my "special help"!


  1. No worries Father. We know you were not responsible. A couple of weeks back a hacker was sending inappropriate messages from my facebook. Some use media to send wrong messages but you share the Lord's work and we know your heart. Have a good week!

  2. It was closer to 30 years ago. We were not living in Mobile at the time of the assasination attempt and we have been here 25 years.

  3. My bad (math, that is!). It was 1981, which means 29, not 21 years ago today... The correction will be noted, and thanks to those who reminded me that adding and subtracting is fundamental!