May 13

Pope John Paul II leads mass at Laguna Seca, California


September 17, 1987
Pope Benedict XVI is currently touring Israel.
His predecessor Pope John Paul II set a record for pastoral travel. According to Wikipedia he made 104 trips outside Italy in his less than 27 years as pontiff.
He was born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Poland on May of 1920. He was the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. Another measure of his vigor as Pope was the numbers of names he added to the rolls of saints. He beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints.
Beatification is the fourth of five steps in the canonization of a saint.
09-17-1987-pope-john-paul-i.jpgThe steps are:
Servant of God
Declaration ‘Non Cults’
Venerable/Heroic in Virtue
Five centuries of predecessors did not add as many names the lists that John Paul II did.
This quest to highlight the universal call to holiness brought The Pilgrim Pope to the Central Coast in search of the past.

Fray Junípero Serra founded 9 of the 21 Alta California missions including the fifth, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in 1772. Serra took extraordinary steps to move a congregation to penance. While in the pulpit he would pound his breast with a stone, scourge himself or apply a lighted torch to his bare chest.

Serra died at the age of 70 in 1784 and is buried under the chapel floor of Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Carmel had been the founding priest’s headquarters and the second mission in Alta California was his favorite.

John Paul II came to Carmel to pray at the resting place of Serra and it was expected that he would beatify the man he had named venerable in 1985. Native Americans protested their treatment under the Catholic Church and Spanish colonization and the pope postponed until a 1988 expected step of Serra’s beatification.

pope-john-paul-ii-3.jpgNearby an estimated 72,000 devout Catholics gathered at the Laguna Seca raceway to attend mass. John Paul II spoke in accented English; one of the ten languages was fluent in.
Teresa Mariani Hendrix wrote the story excerpted here.

The first rays of the sun broke through the fog and lit the altar around 10 a.m., just in time for the arrival of the pope.
A cry of “There he is!” raced through the crowd as a police escorted limousine with Vatican Flags drove into view.
Next instead of stock cars speeding around the racetrack, came the popemobile.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe it,” said Sally Minor, one of two “mother hens” guiding the Old Mission charter bus crowd, as the waving pope came into view.
As photographers and children ran after him the pope took two turns around the raceway waving and smiling broadly at the adoring crowd.

john-paul-ii.jpgThe pope’s serious warning to attend to the spiritual world not the material did not dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.

“With (this) background of extraordinary beauty of mountains and the sea…with land among the richest and most fruitful of earth…be careful not to forget the Lord your God,” the pope warned the crowd.
“In this country, among the most economically and technically developed in the world, part of humanity is being specifically tempted as never before…to imitate an old sin,” the pope said.
That sin, he said, “is to say ‘I will not serve.’ To forget God is to promote the death of man and of all civilization.”

Tony Hertz made the photographs, he remembers the scene:

“Reporter Teresa Mariani Hendrix and I traveled and waited the entire day to cover the pope and the devoted people to see him. Access to the pope was very tight and he was gone before we knew it.”

Teresa Mariani Hendrix remembers:
“I remember hopping on the shuttle bus full of Pope fans before dawn in SLO, and riding up to Laguna Seca, where it was foggy and freezing the whole time we were there. I was using one of those prehistoric 80s ‘portable’ computers that you had to hook up to the phone to transmit your story. Tony and I were on the Laguna Seca grounds with thousands and thousands of people, and the closest we got was about a 50-yard view to the brand-new ‘Pope in a Clear Bullet-Proof Box’ popemobile when JPII was driven to the stage. He was waving from inside his glass box, and the crowd was waving back and cheering. Mostly what I did was go around and ask people from SLO what they were feeling like in the presence of the pope. And then we went home. I’ve still got a (black and white) photo of me sitting on the ground typing in my story with my Papal Visit Press credential on. Tony shot it. Never did meet the Pope in person, though.”

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