The city in which I live has a large immigrant Polish population. I am thinking right now about two families who live nearby: Pete (or Piotr) and Kascia next door and Marzin and Evelyn across the street. Both of them have Polish flags with a black ribbon tied to the top flying outside of their homes.
My neighbors' flags remind me that our Holy Father was not just the extremely charismatic Bishop of Rome, but he was a national treasure in Poland. No matter how deeply I feel the loss of our Holy Father, my neighbors feel it more. It is also so much more personal to them because , while they are close to my age and were teens when the Berlin Wall fell and the Solidarity movement in Poland began, they grew up under Communist oppression and they value him more than I can as an American, who, truly, has taken her freedom for granted.
John Paul the Great was not just their pope, but he is the one who brokered an end to communist rule without there having to be a nuclear war. He encouraged the Solidarity movement in its infancy, during his electric first visit back to Poland after his election as supreme pontiff. He is a hero to them spiritually and politically. With no John Paul, they may not even have been able to come to America.
Thank you, Lord, for our Holy Father. Thank you, Pete, Kascia, Marzin, and Evelyn, for your flags; for reminding me that I have to be grateful for more than John Paul, but for being born an American. And thank you, John Paul, for reminding us all that as Americans we are greatly blessed, but that we are also endowed with great responsibility to share more and to do more.