Today is a special day for Catholics all around the world as we celebrate and remember the life of our late beloved pontiff, St. John Paul II.
Hearing witnesses of people meeting him or reading his most famous quotes on the internet, I always knew he was pope when I was growing up, but I never truly understood why people loved him so much. Early in my teen years, I started attending retreats in my diocese. During that time, I started to have many encounters with the Lord, but didn’t fully understand the depths of these encounters because I had not understood who I truly was. There was when this man, St. John Paul II, who popped up on my book shelf. As an avid reader, I thought that his writing on Love & Responsibility would be an easy read, later finding out I was dead wrong as this book shook me to pieces. Through Theology of the Body, I found an invitation to authenticity. I then read several other writings by him, which called me further out of this shell of comfortableness I was living in and into the mercy of Christ. Now today, speaking as a 17 year old, I can say I’m beginning to understand who this Karol Wojtyla was and why he impacted my life so much.
A few reasons how St. John Paul II awakened my soul to the freshness of Christ:
As a teenager and as a human being, St. John Paul II called me out of my shell. He showed me the way to Christ through Theology of the Body. He answered the questions I had been seeking and spoke in a language that related to the parts of my heart I didn’t think Christ could enter. He understood where I was. I understood it was good to have a place for Christ in my life, but didn’t understand that a love between a husband and wife is a mere reflection of the trinity. I also didn’t understand in a relationship with a spouse, when God is taken out of the relationship, I no longer look at that person as an icon of the Father but rather my own idol for use of pleasure. He showed me that another person is not to be sought as a means to an end, but rather another that I am seeking the common good for. This ache for love, communion, or relationship in my heart was not a wrong desire, but a desire that could not reach its ultimate fulfillment unless in the love of the trinity. He was calling me back to a rightly ordered love, the love which Adam and Eve had for God before the fall, which gives freely, is receptive, and doesn’t see an end. He affirmed my dignity as a woman, he knew what struggles I face in such a demanding society that challenges my worth.
Humanity as a whole, he knew the trials we were facing as the third millennium approached. He understood that we easily throw around love as mere attraction or feelings, and taught that it is much, much more than that. He knew that by bringing souls to Christ he had to speak to their hearts where they painfully heart. By doing so, they sought a real and veritable Christ, a Christ rich in endless mercy. From this freshness of Christ, he invited them to sainthood. He knew man’s capacity, and he knew that sainthood was a high goal for him, but not impossible. He knew that by calling man to sainthood, he would eagerly strive for holiness and not settle with purgatory.
His hope gives us hope. Today, I pray that we may fall more in love with Christ through the words of St. John Paul II.
St. John Paul II, pray for us!