Saint John Paul II

22nd October

Karol Josef Wojtyla, born on the 18th May 1920 in Wadowice close to Krakow, Poland, was the man who became known worldwide as Pope John Paul ll.
He has been a Pope, a Saint, of our generation. We might have experienced his voice via social media, even experienced his presence, being among the millions of pilgrims at the Vatican or on his visits to our country.
He was only 9 years old when his mother died. His elder sister had died in infancy and when he was 12 years old, his brother, a dedicated doctor died at the age of 26. Then when Karol was 21 years old his father died. Without any family support, Karol struggled on, to face the challenges of life that Poland was facing at the time.

By 1938, Europe was on the brink of the Second World War.  Karol had enrolled in Krakow University and also in a school for drama! Then the Nazis occupied Poland and closed the University. For 4 years, Karol  worked in a quarry and in a chemical factory to earn a living. It was at this time that he experienced the call for the priesthood. He began his studies for the priesthood in  Krakow Seminary that was operating secretly, without giving up his activities in the “Rhapsodic Theatre”! The Major Krakov Seminary reopened in 1946 and after completing his studies, he was ordained priest in 1946.
His pastoral work included serving as vicar in various parishes as well as attending to Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland, besides being chaplain for University students.

After continuing with his studies, he was appointed Professor of Moral Theology in the seminary of Krakow and Lublin. In 1958 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, later an Archbishop, and a Cardinal in 1967, taking an active part in the Second Vatican Council.

He was elected Pope on the 16th October 1978. During his pontificate he carried out 200 pastoral visits, meeting Prime Ministers and Heads of State, of various cultures and beliefs opening up possibilities of dialogue with other religions. He wrote 13 Encyclicals, 13 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 14 Apostolic Letters and published 2 books.

Pope John Paul ll continues to be remembered as the Pope who remained human in his attitudes while his charismatic presence inspired hope and courage. He remained so connected with young people, transmitting love, compassion and cheerfulness, inviting them enthusiastically to participate in Evangelisation, paving the way to the concept of the organization of World Youth Days.
His courage continued to shine not only physically but also morally, during his long recovery after the assassination attempt that occurred on the 13th May 1981. The image of the Pope  ‘sitting in total love with the enemy’ in deep conversation, shaking hands with his aggressor, handing him a gift box with a Rosary, still stands out as ‘ a heroic act of forgiveness’.
His courage and love for the faithful continued to shine in his suffering especially towards the end of his life as he struggled with his illness.

Pope John Paul ll passed on to the ‘Father’s House’ on 2nd April 2005. He was proclaimed Saint on the 27th April 2014.

One of the great acts identified with Pope John Paul ll is the image of the Holy Father with the aggressor in the assassination attempt that left him fighting for his life. It is an image that is the epitome of forgiveness.
– An essential value to pass on to our children, even early in life, is the value of forgiveness. We need to realize that when one holds on to hard feelings and anger, we are easily led along a path of anxiety, a feeling of sadness, slipping unconsciously into a role of a victim.
– Let us as adults be role models of this great value. Let us not hold back from saying “I am sorry” to each other, even to our children if need be, and to refrain from reminding our children about past misbehaviour.

Discuss with the children their feelings in situations when: they had to say ‘ I am sorry’. they expected somebody else to say it to them, ways to show that they are sorry, how to accept the ‘I am sorry’ from others. Give it time, so that it comes from the heart!

Accept trivial experiences. We need to remember that what seems trivial to us could be heartbreaking for them. Give it time, so that it comes from the heart! 

In his inaugural speech, Pope John Paul ll included the message “Do not be afraid”, a phrase that became synonymous with him, as he practised it himself.

  • You might consider addressing the issue of overcoming fears as you come across this exhortation of St. John Paul ll and reflect how to react when the child says ‘I am afraid.’
  • Let us refrain from dismissing it by saying “ That is not scary” thinking that it will reassure them. Listen to what they are really afraid of. Show empathy.
  • Discuss with them how you can work it out together and how to deal with the situation, reassuring them using words of encouragement and an endearing hug.
  • Include the concept of the Guardian Angel, who is there to guide and protect us.
  • With the older children you might discuss what St. Pope John Paul ll meant when he continued to proclaim his message “ Do not be afraid.”( When fears become strong and obsessive seek professional help so that fears do not develop into lifelong phobias)

For Family Prayer Time
– Pray/Sing the Our Father as a family, stopping to reflect (briefly!) on the phrase of forgiveness. Follow St. John Paul ll on this Video.

God the Father is always ready to forgive us! Revisit the parable of the Prodigal Son from the Children’s Bible or from The Parable of the Prodigal Son

– Continue with a family experience of addressing “Forgiveness” : to ask for it, accepting it, between the members of the family.

Also watch:

Key gestures in the life of John Paul ll  

St. John Paul ll and Children  

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.