By Tom Quiner
Readers of this blog know I am passionate about politics, religion, and music.
The three come together tonight in a musical I wrote called “The Pope of the People, the John Paul II Musical.” It will be performed at 7PM in the Church of the Land at Living History Farms on this, the 32nd anniversary of JPII’s trip to Iowa.
Pope John Paul II has become a huge influence in my life. I was there when he came to Des Moines on a chilly Autumn day. I was a Protestant at the time with no clue that one day I would join the Church and write a musical about a Pope.
JPII had just been elected the year before on the day that my mom died. As you might guess, I was pretty distracted and didn’t pay a lot of attention to the news of this first Slavic Pope.
The next year, Pope John Paul II made it clear that he was a Pope the likes of which the world hadn’t seen before. He said he wanted to return to his homeland, Poland, on a spiritual pilgrimage. Poland had a communist government, a puppet of the Soviet Union.
The commies faced a dilemma. If they didn’t let the Pope come, they’d look like they were intimidated by him. If they let him come, there was concern that he would stir up the restless citizenry who were so unhappy with the sorry state of their economy and lack of liberty.
They said he could come.
On June 2nd, 1979, Pope John Paul II said mass in Victory Square in the heart of Warsaw, Poland. A million people showed up! To put this amazing number into perspective, we “only” had 350,000 show up at Living History Farms later that year to see him.
As their communist overlords looked on, JPII told the gathered faithful that Poland belongs to Christ, that Poland had belonged to Christ for one thousand years. Even more, he said that the Blessed Mother, Mary, was the Queen of Poland!
In the middle of Mass, the crowd broke out spontaneously singing a Polish folk tune: “We Want God!”
We want God! Can you imagine such a response in a country that imposed atheism on its people!
This primal truth erupted from the souls of a Polish nation that had been hammered by twentieth century politics. Millions had been killed by Nazism and Communism in this nation alone.
That moment unleashed the Force that would change the geo-political structure of the world.
That moment is the critical scene in The Pope of the People. It is performed and sung masterfully by KIOA radio personality, Maxwell Schaeffer, who plays the part of the Pope. You can hear a brief excerpt in the YouTube movie above.
The rest is history. The newly elected Reagan administration joined forces with The Vatican to provide each other intelligence on communist activity behind the Iron Curtain. They both lent support to the emerging Solidarity Labor Union that agitated for more freedoms for Poles.
The forces of Evil tried to kill the Pope and Ronald Reagan. Both miraculously survived. These two men felt that the forces of Good had a plan for them, and that their mission was to fight the godless scourge of communism.
They asked God for direction, support, and courage in taking on this seemingly impossible battle.
This strange mix of politics and religion led to the fall of communism. Ten years after the Pope said Mass in Victory Square, Poland held free elections.
The winner? Some would say it was Lech Walesa, the newly-elected president and leader of Solidarity.
The faithful simply smile. The winner was God.
When people cry out “we want God,” they have a captive audience of the One who created them, the One who loves them, the One who responds to their needs with Godly Wisdom.
The Pope of the People has it all. Politics, religion, music.
I hope you can come tonight. You can order your will-call tickets online at www.thePopeofthePeople.com. Or call us at 515-276-9266. If you miss tonight’s show, we have four more coming up, including this Sunday in Waukee, Iowa, at St. Boniface Church.