I was able to concelebrate Mass with Saint John Paul on a number of occasions. One of the times was in the year 2000, and I was able to have my parents come to Rome with me, and again, we had Mass in the private chapel of John Paul. And my Mother is Jewish, and I introduced her to John Paul II as my Jewish Mother. And he said, “A Jewish Mother to a Catholic priest: beautiful!”
Afterwards, Bishop Dziwisz, who was the Pope’s secretary at the time, cornered my Mother and said, “Are you really Jewish?” And so they had a bit of a conversation, and after that, my Mom and Bishop Dziwisz started to correspond with one another. So my mother was able to get this autographed copy of Crossing the Threshold of Hope from Bishop Dziwisz.
Actually, she sent him the copy and asked if the Pope would sign it. So this is again, one of those things for me, personally, that transcends the notion of the (Papal Artifacts) Collection. It’s a very personal connection for me—you know, my Jewish Mother, corresponding with the Pope’s secretary, was able to get that for me.
A friend of Father Kunst’s, Father Moravitz, added, “And the significance of you having a Jewish Mother as Christ did. The connection there that John Paul II simply was drawing is a beautiful thing. And his love for mothers and motherhood and his striving to raise that up was a beautiful thing.
To have had such a personal connection is a grace-filled blessing for you, Father Rich.
Yes. It’s humbling.
This copy was signed by the Pope on February 15th, 2001.
Be Not Afraid!
To accept the gospel’s demands means to affirm all of our humanity, to see in it the beauty desired by God, while at the same time recognizing, in light of the power of God Himself, our weaknesses: What is impossible for men is possible for God” (Lk 18:27).
These two dimensions cannot be separated: on the one hand, the moral demands God makes of man; on the other, the demands of His saving love—the gift of His grace-to which God in a certain sense has bound Himself. What else is the Redemption accomplished in Christ, if not precisely this? God desires the salvation of man, He desires that humanity find that fulfillment to which He Himself has destined it, and Christ has the right to say that His yoke is easy and His burden, in the end, light (cf. Mt 11:30).
It is very important to cross the threshold of hope, not to stop before it, but to let oneself be led. I believe that the great Polish poet Cyprian Norwid had this in mind when he expressed the ultimate meaning of the Christian life in these words: “Not with the Cross of the Savior behind you, but with your own cross behind the Savior.”
There is every reason for the truth of the Cross to be called the Good News.
—John Paul II
Crossing the Threshold of Peace (1994)
The following photos include a letter sent to Father Kunst’s mother from (then) Bishop Dziwisz, photos of him as bishop and cardinal, and a chance meeting in Rome that Father Kunst had with him in 2017. The story is included below.
January 3, 2017: An Incredible Experience Awaits the Curator of Papal Artifacts
Papal Artifacts joins in the Curator’s joy today as he was able to attend Mass with the former secretary to Pope St. John Paul II, Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz, who was presiding at his altar.
Fr. Kunst was the tour director of a small group of pilgrims who have all spent the past week in Rome. Truly this experience was a high light for all of them, and in particular for our Curator who was privileged to have seven audiences with John Paul, many of which were attended by then Bishop Dziwisz because of his role as secretary.
The Cardinal, who retired on December 8 of 2016, was so cordial and hospitable to this group. Papal Artifacts asks for blessings upon his retirement and continued best wishes for him.