He was indeed Great. And is now even greater, in glory in the eternal presence of God. He continues to pray for us now in heaven as he did here on earth. This 264th successor of St. Peter was 26 Pope for 26 years, the third longest in history.
He died on April 2, my birthday. He died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, which he established based on the canonization of Saint Sister Faustina. He died after Easter, as if to not take attention away from the focus on Christ and his Passion and Resurrection. He died in the Year of the Eucharist.
We were camping at the time he accepted his death and it reminded me of how he loved the outdoors – hiking, skiing, kayaking – and how he used to meet with Polish youth and say Mass in the woods in defiance of oppression.
The last few days have been very emotional, to say the least. We all knew this day was coming, but when the Holy Father finally passed away and went home to God, it was very tough for me. This Pope did so much to bless the Church and affected me in many ways. He showed us what it means be human, how to be a faithful follower of Christ. He brought us face to face with the truth and with the love of God. But he did it with humility, dignity, and humor too.
As with most things in life, we take them for granted, and so with our Holy Father. Now that he is gone, I miss him terribly. He is the only Pope I have known, chosen when I was 8 and in a way it’s hard to see anybody else taking the office in his place.
He reached out to the world. He was a missionary, pilgrim Pope. He lifted up the youth so much, establishing World Youth Days, and always lifting up the importance of young people. He traveled to so many countries, year after year, because he believed that we had a right to see our Pope and to encounter him as he brought the message of Christ to all the corners of the earth. Not only did he go to Catholics, but he reached out to other religions in a spirit of ecumenism.
He taught in faith. His 14 encylicals opened new insights into Christianity and the faith of the Church. His last encylical on the Eucharist sought to reawaken our respect for the highest of the sacraments and the most intimate communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. His Wednesday audiences were a regular way for him to preach to all of us. A couple years of this were devoted to his Theology of the Body, which has done so much to help us understand how our bodies communicate the truths of God. One of the greatest accomplishments of his teaching office was the creation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which communicated the beliefs of the Catholic Church for all to see objectively.
He defended. This Pope emphasized the dignity of the human person, that we are all valuable in God’s eyes. He spoke out against the oppression of Marxism, especially in Poland. He was a large factor in the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. The protection of human life in the unborn and elderly were always promoted. And he consistently applied the teachings of the Church concerning the value of human sexuality.
He suffered. His suffering started at an early age with the death of his mother. He endured under the persecution of Nazism and then Communist oppression. He was nearly assassinated by a gunman in 1981. He suffered numerous ailments in his later days including Parkinson’s. His sufferings, united with Christ, showed us the value of our suffering.
He reintroduced us to our Mother, Mary. He promoted the praying of the Rosary, and even created a new set of mysteries, the Mysteries of Light. His motto was “Totus Tuus”, which means “totally yours”.
There is so much that can be said. Hindsight and years to come will help us to realize the impact this papacy had on the Church and the world at large.
Most of all, he was an instrument of God. The Holy Spirit used his gifts to minister to us. All Glory to God for this holy man, Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla.
Pope John Paul II, pray for us.