The long pontificate and life of St John Paul will have a lasting impact on the church until Jesus returns. Given his canonization today, I thought I’d share with you some of John Paul’s gifts to the church, and extraordinary accomplishments, that have held meaning for me through the years. He’s been an inspiration to me since I was 18, a college frosh when he was elected. I’m so grateful that in 1979 I was among the youth who greeted him in New York, as I chaperoned a trip to see him. (More on that below.) Decades later in Rome, I was, again, among the throng at a 2004 papal audience alongside my husband and daughter. Both experiences were unforgettable!
Today I woke up at 4am to watch the canonization. This, after giving a women’s retreat at Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, NS, that highlighted our new Saint’s writings and teachings! But I could not miss it “live”. And as I sat there in my bed in my hotel room before I had to catch a plane home, all the fondness for this Saint flooded back to me. It’s not just who he was, but what he wrote and taught that has inspired me and helped to shape me as a Christian.
Here’s my Top Ten List of Inspirations from St John Paul II:
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church – This was a monumental achievement, as it was the first update to the Roman Catechism in over 400 years. From my archives: some commentary on catechism trivia.
- His Marian Devotion, especially through his Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and his writings on Mary, including Redemptoris Mater and Rosarium Virginis Mariae. The latter gave us the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. I’ve been personally inspired by John Paul’s devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on his life.
- The feminine genius, as described in Mulieris Dignitatem and Letter to Women… and other related homilies and writings, such as Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). I truly believe these were the fruit of the Saint’s devotion to Mary, our Mother. These specific works also had a positive influence in my own life, and I tell that story in my book… which I’m giving away in a free drawing here.
- The Theology of the Body – a series of papal audiences and teaching given over several years on human love, sexuality, and anthropology. You can find classes in this area of study here. In the US, there is a Congress this summer.
- His Apostolic visits to 129 countries around the world — including 7 trips to the United States.
- The myriad of saints he canonized.
- Restoration of the Sistine Chapel.
- His books, outside of his magisterial teaching, that are now read in popular culture, especially Crossing the Threshold of Hope and Love and Responsibility.
- The Jubilee Year 2000 (and the years of preparation for the new millennium).
- World Youth Days (I never did get to attend one, but I was at a special gathering for youth in Madison Square Garden with JP2 in 1979.)Below is a favorite quote from WYD 2000.
It is Jesus in fact that 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; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.
Dear young people, in these noble undertakings you are not alone. With you there are your families, there are your communities, there are your priests and teachers, there are so many of you who in the depths of your hearts never weary of loving Christ and believing in him. In the struggle against sin you are not alone: so many like you are struggling and through the Lord’s grace are winning!
Thank you St John Paul for your holy influence in my life! St John Paul, pray for us!