Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


I am extraordinarily unqualified to speak to the life of Pope John Paul II. However I am impressed with great men. There is no denying that this man has impacted the world I live in. He has overseen great changes in our modern world all the while remaining committed to his principals and being a man of peace. The news of his passing has reminded me of my one brush with his faith.

The year was 1993 and the place was Denver Colorado. World Youth Day. Denver was hosting a gathering of thousands of pilgrims from around the world and the entire city had worked into a giddy mood anticipating the event. Even the secular population could not deny the fact that a great man was coming here to our doorstep. Personally I was fascinated by having such a world figure so close at hand. It was a spectacle I had to see for myself.

My friends and roommates were not so impressed. They found the extra police and closed roads to be an inconvenience. They referred to the gathering out of towners as "popers". I wasn't going to bow to peer pressure, I still wanted to see the pope. The big gathering was to be held at Cherry Creek Reservoir, an open space state park sort of place on the south of the city. The area was just a few miles from where I was living at the time. I would bicycle through the park regularly so I knew the area well. At one time my friends and I had toyed with the idea of growing some marijuana plants in the obscure corners of the park. Somehow we never got around to it.

Considering the crowds and security I figured my best way to get to the event was to walk. A friend of mine was traveling that day so I was able to get a ride halfway there first thing in the morning. For better or worse I had been up late the night before partying. So that morning while the air was still crisp and cool, and I was unfortunately weary from little sleep, I put foot to my own "poper" pilgrimage. There was no place near the event to park a car, so I found myself joined by many other people forced to walk the last miles. The weather was clear and forecast hot, I think we were expecting high 80's or perhaps 90's for the temperature. Every quarter mile or so along the road there was a police officer standing over cases of bottled water encouraging the walkers to take them. I decided that was a good idea and tucked a bottle into my pocket for later.

As I got closer to the entrance the crowd grew thicker. I have been a fan of huge throngs of people ever since my first visit to New Orleans and Mardi Gras. This was no rowdy Mardi Gras crowd and I found myself fascinated by the people around me. Quite a few had obviously not walked such a distance in years and while they were struggling with the exertion they held onto a pious attitude, this day was much more significant than the trip to the local church on any other Sunday. There was a husband and wife couple taking turns reciting the lords prayer as they walked. I figured with the distance they had yet to go they would repeat that verse perhaps five hundred times before they got to the pope. At one point I found myself walking in proximity to a small group of black garbed young clergymen. One of them was particularly agitated over something and I strained to eavesdrop their conversation. The agitated fellow was apparently upset over a seating chart and had some strong opinions over who should be allowed to stand next to the pope at an event later in the day. The clergy men gave me more respect for the praying couple who were obviously grateful that they even had an opportunity to walk miles to attend a papal mass.

The string of humanity trampled paths through the park that were formerly a source of solitude for me. Good thing I wasn't trying to grow pot there, even the remote thickets I had once charted were being overrun by the faithful. The trees and brush gave way to a large open area containing the greatest throng of humanity I have ever witnessed. I spotted representatives of every conceivable shade of skin color, people of every age. There were groups talking in dozens of different languages and shouts of "Haysus" often drowned out the more familiar "Jesus". Loudspeakers admonished people in several languages to drink plenty of water to avoid heat stroke.

The pope entered by helicopter to a great uproarious cheer from the crowd. The helicopter slowly circled the field three times while the thousands in the crowd rotated in place to follow it, waving and shouting. We strained to see into the windows of the aircraft for our first glimpse of John Paul II, but my imagination painted a much clearer picture of a man pleased to draw such a crowd as this.

I do not remember anything from the mass that the pope delivered that morning. I could barely see the man from my vantage point in the field. In my weariness I left early before the day grew too hot. My strongest memories of my proximity to Pope John Paul are of the people he drew to him. The couple praying as they walked to see him, the bickering clergy, the throngs of nationalities all gathered in open fields under blazing sun at risk of heat stroke. I'm glad I took the opportunity to be a poper.

Thanks for sharing your reminiscence of the Holy Father. Very cool.
Very nice account of that day. It must have been an incredible experience. He has been called the rock star Pope due to the large crowds and groups of young people he was able to attract. Thank you for sharing.
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