By Mike Haynes
No, we didn’t drive to Lubbock to see it. Kathy and I were in the Hub City for a rock concert and a leisurely weekend.
With time to kill on a Saturday afternoon, though, we ventured west from the Texas Tech campus, down Fourth Street to the Catholic Renewal Center.
We had been to the Buddy Holly Center and the Texas Tech Museum before, so an exhibit that had been open just a day sounded appealing.
|This statue of Pope John Paul II was unveiled this year in Czestochowa, Poland, his home country.|
The exhibit is called “I Have Come To You Again,” and it’s in our neighboring city through May 31.
On our circular walk through the extensive display, we were behind a group tour, so we caught some of the commentary by a woman volunteer explaining John Paul’s youth as a talented athlete and how, as a young man in Poland, he was forced to work at a limestone quarry under the Nazi occupation.
You also can read that information and much more as you navigate through the glass cases protecting the pope’s official robes, a long staff that rested next to him as he lay in state after his death and such mementoes as a western hat given to him when he visited San Antonio.
With the March 13 selection of Pope Francis fresh in the news, Kathy and I spent several minutes examining the papal election paraphernalia on display, including a silver chalice and a dove-white bowl used to collect the cardinals’ ballots. On one glass shelf were boxes of cartridges that contain chemicals used to produce white or black smoke indicating whether a pope has been chosen.
John Paul has been credited with strong political influence, including contributions to the end of the Soviet Union, and the tour includes photographs and documentation of the 1980s era in which he, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher pushed for freedom in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
Former President George W. Bush loaned a piece of the Berlin Wall for the exhibit, and I was surprised to learn that Reagan’s famous declaration to the Russians to “tear down this wall” had been suggested to the president by John Paul.
Amid many photographic and artistic portraits of the pope is a section devoted to the 1981 incident when a Turkish gunman shot him four times in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Diagrams reminiscent of the Kennedy “magic bullet” theory show how a projectile made a dramatic turn away from John Paul’s heart.
When the pope later visited his attacker in prison to forgive him, the man asked, “Why aren’t you dead?” John Paul replied that the shooter’s hand had shot the bullet but that “it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path,” giving credit to the Virgin Mary.
We remember the kindly face of Pope John Paul II and the constant trips he made to 129 countries. The closest he came to the Texas Panhandle were his visits to San Antonio in 1987 and Denver in 1993, but he was familiar to most of us, Protestant, Catholic or otherwise.
His faith still can inspire.