John Paul II we love you!
Many of you know this famous chant which many young people used whenever the Pope made his presence known.
Pope John Paul II was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920. He was the youngest of three children. Wojtyla lost his mother in 1929, then his brother in 1932, followed by his father in 1941. The deaths of his family members did not deter him. He received First Holy Communion at the tender age of nine and the Sacrament of Confirmation as a grown man of eighteen years of age. In 1938, Wojtyla registered at the Jagellonian University in Krakow. As Nazism spread around Poland, the Nazis shut down the university forcing Karol to find work at a quarry and in a chemical factory. It was there that he earned a living and avoided being deported by the Nazis.
In the 1940s, he felt called to the priesthood and began to study at the clandestine major seminary of Krakow. Karol continued his studies and was ordained on November 1, 1946. In Rome, Karol would earn a doctorate in theology in 1948. His dissertation would be on the writings of St. John of the Cross. As a parish priest, Karol worked in a church at Niegowic. There he would work with youth groups while at the same time continuing his studies. His advance degrees would lead him to become a professor of moral theology and ethics in the major seminary at Krakow.
Karol would be ordained a bishop on July 4, 1958 and would then become Archbishop of Krakow and then a Cardinal of the Catholic Church on June 26, 1967. As a bishop, Karol participated in the Second Vatican Council. He played an important wrote in drafting Gaudium et Spes.
It wasn’t until October 16, 1978 that he was elected the Roman Pontiff. He took the name John Paul II in honor of his predecessors. As Pope, John Paul II would become the most traveled Pope in history visiting many nations including the United States where he celebrated Mass at Yankee stadium, St. Patrick’s cathedral and the Great Lawn at Central Park on October 7, 1995. He holds the third longest pontificate and remained in office despite suffering many health problems.
John Paul II would be no stranger to controversy. He spoke firmly on issues regarding social justice and morality. John Paul II reaffirmed the priesthood as only being possible with male candidates. This put him at odds with some American religious sisters who felt women should be allowed to become priests. Pope John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 45 Apostolic Letters as well as five books. He had beatified and canonized the most people in Church history and led the Church into the new millennium. John Paul II also began the very popular World Youth Day which brings crowds of young people to a place in the world in order to celebrate their faith. He currently holds the world record for gathering the most people ever in one location at the Philippines.
On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II would be shot as he bent to bless an image of Our Lady of Fatima. He credits Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life. A year later, he would visit Fatima, Portugal in order to place the bullet in the crowd of the statue there. John Paul II was no stranger to Marian devotion. He loved her with a passion and even his motto “Totus Tuus” demonstrated this. It means “I am all thine.” He was a strong advocate for praying the Rosary as well as Eucharistic adoration.
Pope John Paul II passed on to the Lord on April 2, 2005 which was the vigil of the Divine Mercy. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on May 1, 2011 and canonized April 27, 2014. His feast day is today October 22.
His life entailed preaching Christ. Even in his suffering, Pope John Paul II preached Christ.