I'm in San Diego these days with about 180 priests, giving presentations at their annual convocation. The focus of my talks is "Having a Priestly Heart Like the Heart of Jesus." At dinner last night I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bishop Robert Brom who told me a story that was sparked by something I said in my first talk.
I talked about God's love for us and how each of us, because we are completely unique, have a place in God's Heart that no one else can fill. In our uniqueness we give to God a pleasure that no other human being who ever lived or who is living or who will live can give to God. I used a quote from Blessed John Paul II: "Each person is unique, precious, and unrepeatable."
It was this quote that sparked a memory that Bishop Brom had of Pope John Paul. During the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Brom was studying at the North American College in Rome. He and a number of other seminarians were standing outside the Vatican one day when various bishops and cardinals walked past. One of them was the future Pope John Paul who stopped to greet the seminarians. Bishop Brom's Slavic name caught Bishop Woytila's attention. Years later, on his first "ad limina" visit to meet the Holy Father, Bishop Brom introduced himself at the beginning of their meeting. Pope John Paul remarked how they had already met. Bishop Brom tried to correct him, informing him that he was a new bishop and that this was the first time he was meeting His Holiness. Pope John Paul stopped him and reminded him of that day so many years before when he was a 25 year old seminarian studying in Rome.
Last night Bishop Brom told me that this was a particular gift of Blessed John Paul II. He met people and did not forget them. He truly had a heart like the Heart of Jesus which saw every person as "unique, precious, unrepeatable," and, we might add now, unforgettable.