A Reflection On John Paul II On His Feast Day

By Abby Leary

“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 

These words were spoken by Pope Saint John Paul II during his incredible Papacy. It is quite difficult to write on the nature of this man. In order to unlock the mystery of his life, it is crucial to turn to prayer. Contemplation and recourse to God are necessary in approaching his mysticism. Why is it that so many are devoted to him? What draws us to Karol Wojtyla? The answer is simple. He allowed the grace of God to flow through him in a way that emanates undeniable beauty and truth. I can only imagine what being in his presence would be like. 

Looking at his life, he suffered greatly. He lost both his mother and brother before the age of 12. Due to Nazi occupation within Poland, his priestly formation took place in ‘underground seminary’. Despite the often difficult circumstances of his life, he found peace in offering his anguish to Our Lord, “The way Jesus shows you is not easy. Rather, it is like a path winding up a mountain. Do not lose heart! The steeper the road, the faster it rises towards ever wider horizons.” 

In order to maintain his peaceful demeanor through struggle, he dedicated his life to Our Blessed Mother. He understood that giving himself to Our Heavenly Mother, would simply mean a more direct path to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The motto of his Papacy was, “Totus Tuus, Maria”, which translates to “Totally yours, Mary”. His love for the Virgin Mary resulted in a devotion to the Holy Rosary. He relentlessly emphasized its daily prayer, and even added a set of mysteries, known as the “Luminous” mysteries of the Rosary. He repeatedly stressed the cruciality of recourse to Our Mother, “Like Mary, you must not be afraid to allow the Holy Spirit to help you become intimate friends of Christ.” 

In addition to this, he dedicated his life to the spreading of the Divine Mercy devotion. He wished for all of humanity to know that God is all loving and all merciful; always ready to forgive any sin, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son.” On December 28th, 1983, Pope John Paul II portrayed a profound act of mercy that he so often preached on. He visited the jail cell of Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who attempted to kill him in Saint Peter’s Square on May 13th, 1981. During his visit, JP2 sincerely forgave the man who shot him. 

It is clear that John Paul II fervently advocated for the dignity of human life. This is reflective on his teachings of mercy, poverty, sexuality, and the uniqueness of femininity and masculinity. He saw an infinite and irreplaceable value in each human individual, “The human being is single, unique, and unrepeatable, someone thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by name”. Despite his struggle with Parkinson’s disease, he continued to travel internationally to spread this message to every corner of the Earth. 

It is important to remember that we are only on this Earth for a short period of time. Saint Therese of Lisieux once stated, “The world is thy ship, and not thy home”. Considering this, the ultimate goal of the Christian life is to live in union with the will of God so that one might enter eternal salvation. Pope Saint John Paul II’s life how conveyed the beauty and significance of living intentionally. He stressed the universal call to holiness, encouraging each individual to strive for Sainthood, daily: “You perceive it in the depths of your heart: all that is good on earth, all professional success, even the human love that you dream of, can never fully satisfy your deepest and most intimate desires. Only an encounter with Jesus can give full meaning to your lives.” This may seem like a lofty task, and as many people know, the Christian life is not void of suffering. However, the saying that echoes the Papacy of Pope Saint John Paul II is, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ!”. When we allow Christ to enter our hearts, we are discovering the true meaning of life. A meaning that gives us a mission. The mission of love. The mission of mercy. The mission of Sainthood. “It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise”. Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

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