Pope Saint John Paul II reinvigorated the Church during his 26+ year reign, and now the official door is opened to his heavenly intercessions. While JPII’s impact on the world remains well documented, the depth of his impact on the Church continues to unfold. With Divine Mercy celebrated today, this is the perfect time to start a Novena to Pope Saint John Paul II.
The Church has always spoken clearly of the dignity of the human person, but JPII gave a renewed focus on the uniqueness of the human person. Rather than merely emphasize all people’s common faculties of intellect and will, JPII emphasized the radical uniqueness of each individual’s experiences in dialogue with the divine movement guiding one’s life’s journey.
Under JPII’s reign, then Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) finalized a new Catechism to reinvigorate faith formation in the Church. I had the privilege of reading through the entire Catechism, under the direction of a priest, when my husband and I were received into Holy Mother Church 18 years ago. The clarity of the Church’s teaching, the sweep of Scripture, and the integration of the messages of Church Fathers and saints, truly makes the Catechism an expression of the fullness of our faith.
JPII reminded us what it means to be a family. The family is the foundation of psychological wholeness in children, and children thrive when they are raised by fathers and mothers who remain open to life and who nurture their domestic church. Children are always a blessing; and any practices that undermine the life-giving character of marriage necessarily erode the family. JPII reminded us of our wholeness in the Garden of Eden, and that we are meant to live in full communion with God and with each other. Love is total self-giving; as Christ gives his life for us, so parents give themselves fully to each other and sacrifice all in nurturing their children’s lives. Parents are also primary educators of their children, and they delegate the education of their children to others with grave responsibility to ensure that their children’s souls are nurtured toward Christian values in their learning.
Youth as Our Hope, though Imperiled
Pope Francis has announced that Pope Saint John Paul II is recognized as the patron saint of World Youth Day. JPII’s love for children is one of the most marked images of his papacy. He would go out of the way to kiss babies and bless children, and he paid special attention to teenagers and young adults. Though imperiled by a “culture of death,” JPII reminded the youth to “fear not!” Listen to his messages at some World Youth Day events:
- “You are the future of the world, you are the hope of the Church, you are my hope.”
- “Young people of America and of the world, listen to what Christ the Redeemer is saying to you! ‘To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.’ The World Youth Day challenges you to be fully conscious of who you are as God’s dearly beloved sons and daughters.”
- “…I pray that young people from East and West will walk together along the path of freedom, working to overcome all conflicts between races and peoples, so as to build a world of authentic brotherhood and carry the liberating message of the Gospel everywhere.”
- “In a very real sense, the twenty-first century…belongs to you. I ask you, therefore, to think carefully about the choices in life which you have to make.”
JPII instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy in the Church, and he is known as The Apostle of Divine Mercy. St. Faustina, a fellow Polish saint, was made known to JPII when he was working in a stone quarry, studying in the underground to become a priest, and after he had lost his father — his last surviving family member. He would often go to St. Faustina’s grave to pray, though she was not recognized as a saint until his papacy. Later, when he became Archbishop of Krakow, he would use her convent as a place for retreat and instruction. In his homily upon her beatification and the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy, JPII’s homily was profound. He said:
You are burning with the desire to be loved and those in tune with the sentiments of Your Heart learn how to build the new civilization of love. A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow, of doubt and desperation. The rays of Your Divine Mercy restore hope…
Novena to Pope Saint John Paul II
The novena places love as the first day’s focus of intercession. In the words of JPII, “Have the courage to live for love… A person’s greatness lies not in his possessions but in who he is, not in what he owns but in what he shares with others.”
The novena outlines intercessions most desperate for our world in prayers that intersperse St. JPII’s words to intercede for love, truth, the person, the family, youth, sin, mercy, Mary, and the Eucharist. That sums up all there is to pray for!
Join me in praying this Novena.
Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us.
Pope Saint John XXIII, pray for us.