TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — On Eagles’ Wings

Someone asked me this week if I ever covered a papal visit. Not one in the U.S., but on September 16, 1984, I covered Pope John Paul II’s visit to Winnipeg for WDAY and WDAZ. It was part of a very long Canadian visit for John Paul, and a fairly historic one, marking the first time a pope had ever set foot on Canadian soil.

What I remember most is the size of the crowd waiting to be a part of John Paul’s Sunday Mass. I don’t recall the numbers, but the audience was so large it was to me, at different times, awesome and a little scary. Positioned, as we were, on top of a scaffold several stories high on a fairly breezy day didn’t make it any less scary.

A papal visit is a series of “moments,” for the crowd and for the cameras. To me, the most memorable Winnipeg moment was the pope’s “entrance” to the Birds Hill Park grounds in the Popemobile.

The song sung by a huge, mass choir just as the pope arrived at the site was “On Eagles’ Wings.” It was relatively new at the time, written about 1975. I had never heard it before. It’s a beautiful song and powerful. It was a powerful moment, too, at least for me.

Since then, “On Eagles’ Wings” has become a favorite of mine. Every time I hear it now I think of John Paul and Winnipeg.  It was played the other day at my mom’s funeral. Now, I’m sure, I’ll think of that day, too, when I hear it.

It has become hugely popular among nearly all denominations and recorded by Josh Grobin, among others. I love the music and I love the lyrics.

“And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn
Make you to shine like the sun
And hold you in the palm of His hand …”

I wish I’d written that.

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