Oct. 22 is now the official feast day for Bl. John Paul in Rome and throughout Poland. Feast days for “Blesseds” are not universally inserted into the general calendar however. The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of John Paul’s inauguration as Pope in 1978.
The Suffering Servant
Pope Blessed John Paul II was a humble man. He did not seem to take credit for anything, but continued to push his deteriorating body, even though he had already written more and traveled more than any other Pope in history and he deserved a rest.
Our family began to love this saintly man in a special way beginning in July of 2010 because my son, Peter, was working on a history project. He chose to study Pope John Paul II. The project called for in-depth, college level research. Since Peter’s school doesn’t participate in this program called NHD, the research had to be done on Peter’s own time.
And so, as in any family, that meant he really did his research on OUR time! Around the dinner table he brought up Karol Wojtyla. On weekends we made research trips. All four members of our household tripped over Peter’s stacks of books at one time or another. When Peter was trying to contact a man in the Czech Republic we were all listening to the speakerphone conversation as Peter scribbled notes! Peter’s sister cut out photos of the Pope whenever she found them. Notes about Karol Wojtyla were scribbled in cryptic writing, on scraps of paper that hung out of Peter’s backpack and more were scattered throughout the living room.
Our family time was an immersion in information about a heroic figure from history. At the beginning, we thought of this as simply a worthy topic of study for Peter…After the project was finished, we all felt as if our lives were changed…as if we had shared the air with this holy figure!
Bl. John Paul II taught Peter courage. As the first ever Pope who came from a communist controlled country, John Paul knew what it was like to live under repression and fear. Still he stared down the USSR powerhouse that was slowly and steadily taking over Europe. He challenged the lack of freedom and the suppression of God-given human dignity under communist regimes. The Pope’s persevering voice for change was a beacon of hope for the world.
Peter’s thesis for his project was: the Pope’s prayerful support for freedom led to the largely nonviolent end of communism in Eastern Europe. He presented his project to secular, academic judges. Some were less than receptive; others were openly critical. But, for Peter, that didn’t matter. The point was to learn, grow in knowledge about a hero and accurately tell the Pope’s story.
So why did John Paul keep pushing himself even as Parkinson’s Disease ravaged his body? Perhaps it was because he was deeply prayerful. And deep prayer calls for an understanding of ourselves in relation to the Almighty Creator and Savior. So, in spite of the successes that came through his efforts in promoting human dignity and revitalizing the Church, Pope John Paul knew that God was still working through him. His prayerful attitude was, “God is all; I am nothing.”
John Paul was a servant of God who allowed his body, his words and his skills to be used for good. Just as the Blessed Mother was a servant, Pope John Paul allowed God to work through him, even when it meant that he showed the world his suffering. He didn’t back away from the window when his speech slurred and he drooled. Instead, he shined a light from the window of the Vatican.
And so, in Poland and in Rome they are officially celebrating the life and death of a saintly Pope on Oct. 22, the feast of Bl. John Paul’s inauguration as Pope in 1978. And around the world we remember.
Polish filmmakers have recently produced a new documentary called “John Paul II: I Kept Looking for You.”
Pictured here is my painting of the Pope. I pray that Blessed John Paul will intercede for those who are sick and suffering, so that another miracle will be credited to him soon! http://www.jp2ikeptlookingforyou.com/pressroom.html is the new documentary produced in Poland.
–Judith Costello. Judith is the mother of two kids. She and her family live on a small farm they call “Sagging Acres” in rural New Mexico. Judith writes for national and regional magazines. She is a catechist, artist and a Secular Carmelite (OCDS).