How does the Curator of the largest collection of papal artifacts outside of the Vatican ever decide which of them are his favorites? When ask about this, it took all of a moment for him to come up with an answer! He started with the three most historical artifacts connected to his favorite saint, John Paul II.
So we thought we’d show them to you together and at the same time tell you some things about them.
Here they are!
The Train Pass Issued to Father Karol Wojtyla
One of the most beautiful stories on Papal Artifacts involved the procurement of the Train Pass, featured above. Father Kunst’s excitement was palpable as he related the importance of it:
“Remember the story (in Witness to Hope, by George Weigel) of what Father Karol Wojtyla did right when he found out he was going to be named a bishop? He went to a convent and asked if he could pray in their chapel, and after several hours of him lying prostrate on the floor a nun came in and asked if he wanted something to eat. He said, “No, I have much to discuss with the Lord before I catch my train.'”
Father Kunst continues. “Remember that story? I’m being offered that train pass! It’s a photo ID of him issued the month before that happened!”
Being named a bishop set the stage for the future of this young priest–only 38 years old at the time.
Zucchetto From Saint John Paul II’s Elevation to the Cardinalate
A mere 9 years later, Pope (soon to be Saint) Paul VI created Bishop Wojtyla cardinal–and this zuccetto is the one given to him upon his consecration.
“This zucchetto is actually a very historically significant item. Although it is not absolutely certain, it is likely that this is the zucchetto given to Cardinal Wojtyla by Pope Paul VI. The reason this is plausible is because on the inside there is a small tag that says, “K J Wojtyla, 1967, San Cesareo in Palatio”. That is the name of the church that he was given as his titular church upon his elevation. Because more than one man is elevated to the cardinalate at a time, and because they are of different sizes, it is important to specify which zucchetto belongs to which cardinal. Therefore tags are put inside to assure each receives the correct hat.
This is a very rare item owned by the most recently beatified pope, and it is very likely the one given to him by Pope Paul VI.
It’s so fascinating to think that Karol Wojtyla wore this on the day that he was made a cardinal. And the way we know this to be true is because of that tag on the inside of the hat.
Also, since each cardinal is always given a titular church that, in and of itself, is proof that this is his original zucchetto.
I’ve also done a little research with the person I actually got the zucchetto from. And other people who have been secretaries to cardinals when they were elected have said it is a common thing when someone is made cardinal to put this little tag inside the hat. This is because every cardinal wants a different size zucchetto that feels comfortable to wear
Ultimately, of course, the elevation to the cardinalate gave us Pope Saint John Paul II, which is what makes the red zucchetto of incredible importance.”
Chasuble Worn by Pope Saint John Paul II For the Closing Mass of World Youth Day, Denver, 1993
This is one of my favorite items, of course, the chasuble that John Paul II wore for World Youth Day Denver. The chasuble came as a gift from our former bishop, Dennis Schnurr, who is now the Archbishop of Cincinnati. He was the head of World Youth Day Denver 1993. Over 500,000 people attended this gathering. And at the end of a very well run program, Pope John Paul gave the chasuble to him as a gift. And when Archbishop Schnurr became the bishop of Duluth, MN, of course, being the big collector that I am, I got very envious, and I probably had to go to confession at that point!
But then he appointed me the Vocation Director, and he said, “Father Kunst, if you get 25 seminarians at one time in the diocese of Duluth, I’ll give it to you.”
And so I worked really hard to accomplish this, obviously for better reasons than the chasuble. But eventually we got 23–close, but not the 25. And then he gave it to me as a gift. And so it’s an incredibly wonderful item (and a wonderful story included below this commentary).
We can see on the front of the chasuble we have the letters of the Virgin Mary–A V., and on the back there is an actual image of his coat of arms. This was used on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, at the closing Mass at World Youth Day.
Pope John Paul II inspired so many in my generation to the priesthood, through his life as a priest and as our Holy Father. The item is unique both for me and for Father Ryan Moravitz (who co-hosted a show on EWTN on Father’s Collection), because we both have such personal stories connected to it.
Father Moravitz helped to get a zucchetto of Pope Benedict XVI when he was studying at the North American College in Rome. The agreement that the two of us made was that if Father Moravitz could get a zucchetto of Benedict XVI for the Collection,
he could wear the chasuble of Pope John Paul II for his first Mass. And sure enough, Father Moravitz did get the zucchetto. So only Bishop Schnurr, the Holy Father and the two of us have worn the chasuble.
It is humbling to have worn this chasuble. Father Moravitz remembers Father Kunst putting the chasuble on him in the sacristy prior to his first Mass of Thanksgiving. “Just being able to celebrate Eucharist in that chasuble that our Holy Father used in the United States at such an historic event in our nation, with World Youth Day in Denver–it is just an awesome thing.”
The Catholic Digest right after the Pope died listed the top 10 events of the pontificate of John Paul II. And they listed World Youth Day in the top 10. So that’s pretty significant. And then for us to have this most important item associated with that event and with this great Pope, and to have been able to wear it, is such a wonderful thing.
Both of these priests were present at the beatification and canonization of John Paul II.
Father Kunst said he always had it in his mind that the last time he would wear the chasuble would be in the event of John Paul’s beatification. And so it was!
And there you have it: the 3 most favorite artifacts–and the significance of each of them. One wonders where they would have ended up were they not pursued by the Curator of this Collection who has made it part of his life’s work to preserve them while honoring the Popes who have lead our Church–and in particular his favorite saint!
Father Richard Kunst! What an undertaking. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!