My Mother-in-law, Moses and John Paul II

Shortly after her retirement, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As it happened, as a member of the Catholic media, I had just received an invitation to attend a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Los Angeles. On the off chance that I could get his blessing for her, I purchased a rosary and went to the event.

When the Pope entered the hall he started shaking hands with those along the aisle. As he neared, I put the rosary in my right hand. With Hollywood stars pressing against my back, the Holy Father grasped my hand with the rosary. He stopped and, with his other hand, he turned my palm up and quizzically looked at the rosary. “For you?” he asked as he leaned toward me. At that moment, I could feel the Hollywood stars moving back.

The Pope was going to give a talk on communications, media and the arts. Held in LA, most of the Hollywood celebrities were also invited. Security was tight and all the invitees were required to be in the hall two hours in advance. The big hall was virtually empty when I arrived an extra hour ahead of schedule. Miraculously, my reserved seat was down front and on the aisle, which meant I would have a very good view of the Holy Father and I would be close to him when he walked by.

As my section began to fill in, I was surprised that I had been placed with some of the biggest names in show business. Bob and Delores Hope, Charles Durning, Patti Duke and Charlton Heston and others were taking their places next to me. With nothing to do (this was before cell phones) awaiting the Holy Father’s arrival, they chatted amiably among themselves, occasionally expressing curiosity about the stranger in their midst.

When the Pope entered the hall he started shaking hands with those along the aisle. As he neared, I put the rosary in my right hand. With Hollywood stars pressing against my back, the Holy Father grasped my hand with the rosary. He stopped and, with his other hand, he turned my palm up and quizzically looked at the rosary. “For you?” he asked as he leaned toward me. At that moment, I could feel the Hollywood stars moving back.

“No,” I said, “it’s for my mother-in-law. She has pancreatic cancer.”

He paused. I could see he was trying to think of the words in English. “What is her name?”

“Dorothy,” I said.

Still holding my hand, he blessed the rosary. As he began to move down the aisle he said, “I will pray for Dorothy.”

The Hollywood folks were impressed. The man that most of us know as Moses on the Big Screen slapped me on the back and said, “Good going. Why didn’t I think of that?”

A few weeks later I gave the rosary to Dorothy and surprisingly she got better. She continued to have health issues but she did not pass away from pancreatic cancer.

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1 Comment

  1. The Power of a Story –
    This article hit on the importance of telling the simple story of a relationship built in a brief moment in time. It speaks of John Paul’s compassion as well as the faith that the writer put in a simple blessing and assurance of prayers. Sadly, it also comments on the fact that many people in our culture, the movers and the shakers, don’t get it. They don’t understand that a simple request could be genuine and not just a ploy to gain recognition.
    Blessings on your life journey, Daniel.

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