St. John Paul II, pray for us!


Today is the feast day of Pope St. John Paul II, one of the longest-reigning popes and of course well remembered in the lifetimes of all Catholics middle-aged or older.

He was truly an astonishing man and an inspiration to so many priests ordained in the last generation, including myself.  I have vivid memories of reading his encyclical letter on the sacredness of life while just a sophomore in high school and being astounded at the depth and beauty of his Catholic faith.  He was a prodigious writer whose letters will be studied for many many decades to come.  But more than just a scholar, he traveled to every corner of the globe fearlessly to bring the Gospel message to a hungry world.

In a time of tremendous confusion wrought by the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, he promulgated the first universal Catechism written in centuries, which largely put an end to that confusion.

He courageously stood up to the Soviet empire which tried to enslave his beloved Polish people and suppress their irrepressible Catholic faith.

He brought hope and a sense of meaning to millions of youth as he inaugurated the largest youth gatherings the world had ever seen.

Through it all, he preached the constant refrain, “Be not afraid!”  Do not be afraid to open your hearts to Christ and live the Gospel. 

He reinvigorated the world’s Marian devotion with his motto, Totally Yours (Totus Tuus) and taught the world to redevote herself to the Divine Mercy of Christ, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) that had fallen into disuse in many parts of the western world. 

Whole volumes can and have been written about this saintly man’s great accomplishments.

St. John Paul II, pray for us!


I am including a short snippet from one of the many, many writings he left to the Church and the world.  This is from his apostolic exhoration, Reconciliation and Penance (paragraph #10)

God is faithful to his eternal plan even when man, under the impulse of the evil one(43) and carried away by his own pride, abuses the freedom given to him in order to love and generously seek what is good, and refuses to obey his Lord and Father. God is faithful even when man, instead of responding with love to God’s love, opposes him and treats him like a rival, deluding himself and relying on his own power, with the resulting break of relationship with the one who created him. In spite of this transgression on man’s part, God remains faithful in love. It is certainly true that the story of the Garden of Eden makes us think about the tragic consequences of rejecting the Father, which becomes evident in man’s inner disorder and in the breakdown of harmony between man and woman, brother and brother.(44) Also significant is the gospel parable of the two brothers who, in different ways, distance themselves from their father and cause a rift between them. Refusal of God’s fatherly love and of his loving gifts is always at the root of humanity’s divisions.

But we know that God, “rich in mercy,”(45) like the father in the parable, does not close his heart to any of his children. He waits for them, looks for them, goes to meet them at the place where the refusal of communion imprisons them in isolation and division. He calls them to gather about his table in the joy of the feast of forgiveness and reconciliation.

This initiative on God’s part is made concrete and manifest in the redemptive act of Christ, which radiates through the world by means of the ministry of the church.

For, according to our faith, the word of God became flesh and came to dwell in the world; he entered into the history of the world) summing it up and recapitulating it in himself.(46) He revealed to us that God is love, and he gave us the new commandment” of love,(47) at the same time communicating to us the certainty that the path of love is open for all people, so that the effort to establish universal brotherhood is not a vain one.(48) By conquering through his death on the cross evil and the power of sin, by his loving obedience, he brought salvation to all and became “reconciliation for all. In him God reconciled man to himself.

The church carries on the proclamation of reconciliation which Christ caused to echo through the villages of Galilee and all Palestine(49) and does not cease to invite all humanity to be converted and to believe in the good news. She speaks in the name of Christ, making her own the appeal of St. Paul which we have already recalled: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”(50)

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