Karol Wojtyla, the newly canonized Saint John Paul II, has made an immeasurable impression on my life. No, he hasn't turned me into an instantaneous saint; no one makes saints anyway, but the Holy Spirit; yet, he has left an impression on me which has provided a living image of genuine Catholicism, true courage, and an appreciation for all of life's little gifts within a spirituality faithful to Jesus Christ.
Here are 5 things I learned from Saint JPII that might just save me.
1) Saint JPII taught me that love of athleticism, love of art, love of nature, and love of life is genuinely Catholic. While kayaking, climbing mountains, honing his acting talent, or waxing poetic or philosophical, Karol Wojtyla--Saint John Paul II--taught me that there are no non-religious, non-spiritual activities (barring intrinsically evil activities). Through the example of Saint JPII, everything we do is both prayer and Eucharistic offering if only we let Jesus in.
2) While Pope, and even before as a Bishop in Poland, Saint JPII taught me that suffering is not the death of me, but a time to shine the Light of Christ in the glory of the Cross. Karol Wojtyla weathered many storms in the early deaths of his mother, brother, and father, while navigating faithfully through both the Nazi occupation of Poland and the Communist Russian takeover. Hit by a Nazi truck and left for dead, he not only survived but thrived as a priest, spiritually cultivated in an underground seminary. As Pope, through the grace of God and the prayers of Mary, Mother of Jesus, JPII exemplified forgiveness in suffering and forgave his would be assassin. Later in life, Saint JPII triumphed in humble apostleship through years of the ravage of Parkinson disease. Through the example of Saint JPII, suffering is not a bitter end, but a blessed means to growth in faith and hope through the Resurrection of Jesus.
3) Saint JPII brought to me, a cradle Catholic, raised under the shadow of the Crucifix, the clarity of Divine Mercy. Through his endorsement of fellow Pole Saint Faustina (Kowalska), Saint JPII's emphasis on the Divine Mercy of God, through the Loving Self-Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus, shone brightly upon my life, and, I'm confident, upon the lives of millions of Catholics, inspiring us to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession), while re-entering into relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus, appreciating His Mercy even greater. Through the example, and teaching, of Saint JPII, Divine Mercy radiates more clearly through the wounds in the side of the Body of the Crucified and Risen Christ.
4) Though a struggler in perfect sanctity concerning my sexual thoughts and desires, Saint JPII's teaching, concerning the Theology of the Body, has opened the doors wide to a more mature understanding of God's Original, and continual, plan for me concerning marriage, family, love (nuptial sexuality), and Life. I, like many a Catholic born around 1960, was sold a bunch of lies--by popular society--concerning marriage, family, love (nuptial sexuality), and Life. Through the crystal clear teaching of Saint JPII, in what has become known as the Theology of the Body, I, like so many other misled Catholics, have reentered the path of Truth in faithful fidelity to the teaching authority of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
5) Finally, Saint JPII taught me the obvious! With his Universal--worldwide--outreach, evangelization, and charity, I was reminded that to be Catholic is to be Universal, worldwide, for all people, in all times, on all continents, whether, like Jonah, we like it or not. Through the example of Saint JPII, my eyes were opened to the fact that our Jewish Messiah has a Body that is made up of male and female, young and old, of all colors and ethnicities, of all tribes and nations, united in one faith, one baptism, and one Merciful Lord.
May we remember the intercession of such a great saint in our suffering, and praise the Lord for such a wonderful gift in the life of Saint JPII. Thank you dear Jesus for such a genuine Catholic influence in my life.
What do you think? e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org