The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. This hiking stick, used by Pope John Paul II, has a silver clasp and a hook made of a hand-carved ram’s horn. Included with the walking stick is the stand that shows Pope John Paul’s coat of arms. The hiking stick was featured on the first episode of the series, Popes Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II.
Here is Father’s Commentary:
One of the things John Paul II was known for was his hiking. He loved to hike, especially when he was younger, but even as got older, he loved nature so much and loved to hike. It was a big part of his own spirituality. A big part of his life was to experience God in creation. And so we see so many images, so many different photos of him walking in the woods, rosary in hand. He also kayaked before he was Pope. But even as he got older, he always had a hiking stick with him.
And what we have here is actually one of his hiking sticks. He received it on a visit to some Polish priests in Scotland in 1982. They presented it to him as a gift. And that’s what the inscription says on the backside of it. On the front is an image of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Scottish Cross. The hook section of the stick is made from a ram’s horn. And so this was a gift to the Pope that I’m sure he used many different times.
The Holy Father of course is given gifts quite often. And lots of times, when they are given to the Holy Father, at least to John Paul II, what would happen is if it was not of historic significance or the Pope did not really have a use for it, then the gift was given to the poor.
If you go to any of the Wednesday audiences with the Pope, there are always gifts given to him, and you can just imagine how many are given each year to the Holy Father. And so a lot of these items the Pope will never see again. But this walking stick was actually left in a nuncio’s house in Austria, and so John Paul was using it.
The papal household left the hiking stick there after the trip for one reason or another; it just got left there. I’m sure he had several walking sticks. And the nuncio was actually a friend of a government worker in Austria. He was actually collecting things to do with bishops–not so much popes. But the nuncio, who was his friend, gave it to him. And when he liquidated his collection he offered items to people collecting papal items. So that’s how I acquired it a number of years ago, long before John Paul II died.
There are so many unique pieces in the Collection that have come through connections and different sources. And the walking stick is one example of this unique way of acquiring items.
The Internet is the most viable way of making these connections that lead to such unique items. It has made the world so very small. Being able to communicate with people who have similar interests all over the world, and who are on line doing the same thing I’m doing, is quite awesome. We are all trying to find people who are interested in sharing our passion for the Holy Fathers and for Mother Church. When we connect it’s a great thing for everybody involved to see each other’s interests, because we see each other’s love for the Church. And then we have an opportunity to share or trade or even, in some cases, sell items to amass a collection. And so the Internet has been great. I’ve met tons of people literally all throughout the world. I’ve made so many different connections from so many places. It’s humbling to think of how some of these things have come my way through different connections.
There is a “God” element to it. I mean, how else would I have connected to a guy that works for the government in Austria. It’s such a beautiful thing because it’s a connection to the Universal Church. To experience the Universal Church and then to have that experience right here in Duluth, Minnesota.
Every one of these items that come my way, I feel like God is involved in, because there’s no other way they should be here. And God is going to use this Collection for His greater glory in ways yet to be seen.
(The nuncio is the ecclesiastic and diplomatic representative of the pope to a country. He is similar to an ambassador.)