Penance from the Pope


When Elizabeth told us about her meeting with Pope John Paul II, (her husband’s first cousin) and what he told her when she gave him my book A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families, she also told us a few other stories.

She spoke about the mischief the two boys would get into, when Karol would spend weeks in the summer with his cousin’s family after his own mother had passed away.

Elizabeth told us how Fr Wojtyla had married them in secret, in a cold Church…running down the aisle to chase after the rings when they were accidentally dropped on the floor.
[See My Direct Order from the Pope for the beginning of this story!]

When Elizabeth was brought to Strawberry Island to meet with the Holy Father during his visit to Canada for World Youth Day, the two were meeting as old friends.  They both knew that it would probably be their last visit: both of them were in their 80’s and the likelihood of another visit seemed pretty remote

treasure chest back (1)Elizabeth asked the Holy Father to hear her confession and he agreed.

When it came time to give her penance, the Holy Father pointed at my picture again, on the back of the book that Elizabeth had given him.

He said “Knit outfits for these 3 children”..


referring to the 3 kids I had at the time, listed in my bio on the back cover of the book.
Within a couple of days, she had knitted outfits for my 3 kids.

The Holy Father knew how much Elizabeth enjoyed to knit.  She knitted most of the day (especially when given this special penance!).  She spoke about how knitting had saved her life.


A few days after I had met Elizabeth, hearing about the meeting with the Holy Father and receiving these knitted outfits, we received a phone call at night.

Elizabeth called because she was alone in her house and the power had gone out.  Armed with candles, Bill and I went over to her house and Bill met her for the first time. By candlelight, Elizabeth told us amazing stories of how she survived Auschwitz.  She recognized that she had been useful to the guards because she could knit!

Upon release from Auschwitz at the end of the war, she and her best friend traveled across country with 5 orphaned children, returning them to the few relatives they could find.  They walked, accepting the kindness of farmers who gave them warm potatoes to warm themselves and keep them alive on their journey.

Grandma Elizabeth

We continued to visit Elizabeth regularly.  She loved to see our kids. We would bring her meals and she kept knitting us outfits, hats, scarves and blankets… and she told us amazing stories of her life.

She and Ludwig had come to Canada and raised 10 children, and at some point took care of her best friend’s 5 children after she had passed away. The mother of so many children, she was personally affected by so many world tragedies including a few different wars and 9-11.

more knit

She spoke about her regular (weekly?) phone conversations with Karol.  She talked about how it was cold and damp sometimes in his house (the Vatican!) and she knitted him clothing to wear underneath his pope clothes….but THAT’S another story…along with the First Communion Dress!

Copyright 2013 Monica McConkey



About Author

Monica, mom of 5, blogs about Catholic crafts and family traditions at She is an author and creator of Super Saints quizzing cards and over 45 Saint, Sacrament, Catechism and Prayer-packed Craft Kits to help teach the Catholic Faith. The Catholic teaching tools and gifts are available through Arma Dei, the Catholic family publishing company founded with her husband Bill.

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