With events and news currently breaking I want to share a story that I have been thinking about since Monday’s explosions. A few weeks ago, before we would have been able to connect the words marathon and bombings, Lisa Berman–Temple Shalom congregant and Director of Education at Mayyim Hayyim–relayed to me a story about Pope John Paul II. It has lingered with me in full force.
Pope John Paul II traveled constantly. In every trip he made, he met with Catholics and others all around the world. He would sit with those individuals, and he would often pray with them. As they prayed together, he would take on their prayers, their confessions, and their stories. The Pope weaved a cloak out of these experiences that he would wear and take with him from location to location. The more visits he made, the more prayers he took on, and the cloak would become heavier.
When the Pope would arrive back at the Vatican, no matter the hour of the day, no matter the day of the week, the first place he would go was St. Peter’s Basilica. He would make his way across the grand floor, straight to dais. Yet, he did not stay there. He made his way into the tombs underneath the Basilica, kneeling at St. Peter’s grave. There–alone–he would take that prayer-filled cloak, and lay it down at St. Peter’s feet. All of those prayers, all of those confessions, all of those stories from the people he had met all around the world were left in Catholic safe, sacred territory.
Every time the Pope traveled, he was witness to the brokenness and woundedness of our world. As he met with others, those breaks and wounds became his own. Yet he knew he could not let those weigh him down permanently. He had to take them somewhere, to leave them somewhere, to do something with that hurt. For Pope John Paul II, he transferred that weightiness through his own prayers at the feet of the man who was the first to hold his post.
Given the events of this week, we too need a place to take our prayers, our hurt, our brokenness, and our woundedness. If it were near the High Holidays, I would say that we Jews have Tashlich as an opportunity to cast off those worries. Yet, we need immediate help, and so I give thanks that Shabbat is coming. Events continue to break, and we do not know when it will be safe to go about our day. Should it be safe for us to congregate tonight, I cannot wait for us to be together, to share in prayer, and to lessen our burdens. Please, let beautiful Shabbat arrive.