Dr. Susan Waldstein's Personal Reflections on John Paul II
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Personal Reflections on John Paul II: John Paul II, the Pope of the Family
Dr. Susan Waldstein, Adjunct Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University
John Paul II was elected pope in the same year that Michael and I were married. We watched a TV interview with an American Jesuit shortly after the election. The liberal Jesuit expressed his disappointment with the election of a Polish Cardinal who would not be able to understand American problems like sexuality! We had to laugh at such absurdity, but we little knew how very wrong this judgment would turn out to be or how much our lives would be intertwined with his work for the family. John Paul II became the Pope for marriage, sexuality and the family. He gave his famous Wednesday addresses on Genesis for three years which were collected in the book, The Theology of the Body. Even as I write this article, Michael is downstairs working on a new English translation with commentary of the Theology of the Body. He also founded graduate schools for theological studies in marriage and the family all around the world. Michael was invited to be founding president of the session in Austria, the International Theological Institute for Marriage in the Family. After earning a Masters and Licentiate degree at the Institute (very slowly along side of home-schooling our eight children), I am now also teaching at the Institute. John Paul II wrote two marvelous documents on the family, Familiaris Consortio and Letter to the Family, which are included in our curriculum.
A sign of John Paul’s love for the family was his “preferential option” for babies and newlyweds at his general audiences. Michael and I had the privilege to “meet” John Paul II seven times at audiences. Several times we were at general audiences with thousands of other pilgrims but we managed to make our way to a barrier and when our late Holy Father saw a baby in my arms, he made a bee-line for us and kissed and blessed our children. I was so overwhelmed the first time it happened with Maria-Theresia, a two-month old baby in my arms and Johannes not quite two, that I couldn’t even answer him when he spoke to me. “You are a very young mother,” he said. The next time, however, we were prepared. We had to bring our newborn Thomas to be blessed, impossible though it seemed, in St. Peter’s Square with ten thousand other pilgrims. We prayed for the miracle and were ready with our message. We pleaded and pushed our way to a barrier, where the Holy Father did indeed stop and kiss and bless Thomas. We were able to blurt out, “We love you very much, Holy Father, and pray for you every day.” We were able to attend a private Mass and audience with the first graduates of the ITI and there our next three children were blessed. When our seventh child , Andreas, was born, John Paul II made a trip to Austria and said an open-air Mass in St. Polten, on the hottest day of June. As president of the ITI, Michael got tickets in the front section for us and Tom and Terry Dillon, who were visiting. In his homily John Paul commended the institute and prayed for it to thrive. Although we were not among the faithful invited to go up to the Holy Father after Mass, we decided to try. Michael was on crutches because he had broken his leg into thirteen pieces in a skiing accident. I was dripping with sweat and carrying six-month-old Andreas in my arms, who was clad only in an undershirt. Six enormous bodyguards walked towards us in a very threatening way shaking their finger “No, go back.” We started to turn around when the bishop signaled to us to come up. He explained who we were and the Holy Father greeted us very kindly and blessed Andreas. We were so happy that he had mentioned the Institute in his homily and blessed us and our work.
We are also members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which meets once a year and always ends with an audience with the Holy Father. At the last meeting in the fall of 2004, he was pushed in and an assistant had to read his speech for him, he could only speak a few words and then blessed us. Then we could each go up and kiss his hand. We cheered and cheered him and almost the whole council was in tears as he was pushed out because he was so weak but still made the effort to see us and radiate his love to us. That was the last time we saw him alive, but Michael was determined to pay him homage at the funeral. He called up many contacts in Rome for tickets to the funeral. Finally an archbishop, who will remain unnamed, said he might be able to get them. Michael flew to Rome, but the archbishop said that he hadn’t been able to get any tickets. Michael pleaded and the archbishop said to call again. Finally the archbishop said he had two tickets for Michel and a friend but that he had to use very tricky means to get them! Michael picked up the two tickets and one of them was only printed on one side. Were they from the trash? They got up early and took a taxi as far as it could go towards St. Peter’s and then got out and walked. They were stopped and displayed the tickets seven times to police, each time carefully showing the tickets together so that the unprinted side didn’t show. When they got to the square, a huge policeman looked at the tickets carefully and saw the unprinted side. “They are fakes!’ he declared and would not give them back. Were they fakes? We do not want to know. No amount of pleading would change the guard’s mind, so instead of sitting up above with the press in the logia by the statues they remained below. But by means of the tickets they had made it into the square and were even fairly close to that plain wooden coffin. Michael stood for seven hours without noticing any tiredness. The atmosphere of love and faith and the unity of the Church were so strong they were tangible. We were all so grateful that he could be our representative to bid farewell to John Paul the Great.
AMU's Chamber Choir receives favorable reviews after performance at Artis-Naples
Sunday, April 13, 2014
The Ave Maria University Chamber Choir performed Beethoven's Ninth alongside the Naples Philharmonic and the Naples Philharmonic Chorus at Artis-Naples this weekend. The Naples Daily News article can be seen by following this link to the Naples Daily News' website, or viewing the image below.
Mother Teresa Project Exhibition Hall at Ave Maria University will open to the public on April 2
Monday, March 17, 2014
AVE MARIA, FL (March 17, 2014) – The Mother Teresa Project Exhibition Hall at Ave Maria University will open to the public on Wednesday, April 2.
At that time, the exhibits for the museum will be finalized and ready for public viewing.
The April 2 date of the opening is significant because it marks the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa’s dear friend, Blessed Pope John Paul II.
Hours for the Exhibition Hall, which is located at 5060 Annunciation Circle, #105, are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m., during the AMU academic year. For more information, please call 239.280.2576.
At the Exhibition Hall, the University offers students, tourists, pilgrims and area residents the opportunity to learn more about “the saint of the gutters” in a 3,000 square foot space showcasing displays of her life and memorabilia. More than 30 panels that tell the story (in English and Spanish) of Mother Teresa’s life are featured. These panels are identical to those used by the Missionaries of Charity in their exhibit in Calcutta.
Items for public viewing also include handwritten letters by Mother Teresa, a crucifix from her own rosary, a first-class relic, stunningly beautiful photographs, original publications from her State funeral in India and Beatification ceremony at the Vatican, and other items.
Myra Janco Daniels, nationally-renowned founder of the Naples Philharmonic Hall, and world- class architect Gene Aubry collaborated in the design of the Exhibition Hall to create a space that is simple – and simply beautiful. The state-of-the- art technology of the museum provides visitors the opportunity to view actual footage of Mother Teresa and hear stories about her from some of her closest friends. Oral histories like these make Mother Teresa present to Exhibition Hall guests in a very special way.
Visit the Mother Teresa Project at Ave Maria University's website here.
Ave Maria alums to make first full-length film
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Ave Maria University alums Conor Hennelly ('11), John Broadhead ('11) and Joe Donovan ('13) are currently working to raise money for their first full-length film, Fire Drill. Find out more about the film by visiting Reflection Films' website.
Librarian of Congress James Billington to be Honored by AMU, Address Class of 2014
Friday, March 7, 2014
Commencement Will Be Held May 10
(March 6, 2014, AVE MARIA, FL) ---Librarian of Congress James Hadley Billington will be the commencement speaker this spring at Ave Maria University, Jim Towey, the university’s president, announced today.
“This remarkable man is one of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars, and when you consider the fact that he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and has served for 26 years at the helm of the Library of Congress, his ability to transcend the partisanship in Washington is simply amazing,” Towey said.
The University’s 10th Commencement Exercises for an expected 198 undergraduate and graduate students of the Class of 2014 will be held on Saturday, May 10 at 10 a.m. in the Golisano Fieldhouse on campus. The University will confer an honorary doctorate on Dr. Billington in recognition of his exemplary public service and lifetime achievements at home and abroad.
Dr. Billington was sworn in as the Librarian of Congress on September 14, 1987 and is the 13th person to hold the position since the Library was first established in 1800.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Dr. Billington was educated in the public schools of the Philadelphia area. He was class valedictorian at both Lower Merion High School and Princeton University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1950. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. Following service with the U. S. Army, he taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962, and then moved to the faculty of Princeton University, where he was professor of history from 1964 to 1974. Between 1973 and 1987, Dr. Billington was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the nation’s official memorial in Washington to America’s 28th president.
Dr. Billington is highly respected for preserving sacred history, particularly in the Middle East where religious rivalries can lead to the destruction of documents and other artifacts of faith. In October 2004, as Librarian of Congress, Dr. Billington led a delegation to Tehran, Iran, that expanded exchanges between the Library of Congress and the National Library of Iran. He was the most senior U.S. government official to openly visit Iran in 25 years.
Dr. Billington has received more than 40 honorary doctorates and in 2008 was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by U.S. President George W. Bush
Dr. Billington was a longtime member of the editorial advisory boards of Foreign Affairs and Theology Today. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is on the Board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Dr. Billington has championed the Library of Congress’s National Digital Library program which makes available online millions of American historical and cultural documents.
He is married to the former Marjorie Anne Brennan. They have four children. Dr. Billington and his daughter Susan are the first father and daughter to both be awarded Rhodes Scholarships and use them to earn doctorates at Oxford University.
“Dr. Billington’s remarks will be an inspiration to our students,” Towey said. “They will be meeting a singularly unique individual who is both octogenarian and humanitarian, and a genuine man of faith.”