The memorial of Saint John Paul II is celebrated each year on 22nd October. The Dioceses of United States of America inscribed St. John Paul II as an Optional Memorial into their Proper Liturgical Calendar in 2012. Then, Pope Francis ordered the inscription of St. John Paul II into the General Roman Calendar in 2014, as a Memorial of the Common of Saints.
In 2020, the Church will celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s birthday and the 15th anniversary of his death. In conjunction with these anniversaries, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, requested Pope Francis to declare St. John Paul II as a Doctor of the Church and Patron of Europe. The Bishops’ Conference saw the richness of the pontificate of St. John Paul II and his personality as poet, philosopher and theologian who led the Universal Church to great heights. He changed the face of the Papacy through his personal testimony of holiness, his writings and his contribution towards the restoration of unity in Europe, after more than fifty years of division.
Last Tuesday (22 October 2019) the Church commemorated the Memorial of St. John Paul II. I remembered how influential Pope John Paul II was to the Church and to the world. He brought about a New Evangelisation in the Church. The greatest gift of John Paul II to the Universal Church was the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which was published in 1993. With this CCC, many of us are certain about the doctrines and teachings of the Church. At times, I pray to him for guidance to understand my life as a priest. He encouraged priests to remain faithful in their vocation through his message, especially on Holy Thursdays and through his experiences as a priest in his book on “Gift and Mystery”.
After his death, many wanted the Vatican to speed up his sainthood (“Santo Subito” means Sainthood now). On 27 April 2014 (Divine Mercy Sunday), Pope Francis canonised Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) together with Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) who initiated the Second Vatican Council. (St. John XXIII’s memorial is celebrated on 11th October).
I was reading two articles this week pertaining to St. John Paul II and I recalled my pilgrimage to the cities of Wadowice and Krakow in Poland in August 2005. My pilgrims and I had the opportunity to meet Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz at Church of the Mother of Perpetual Help, Wadowice, Poland (where John Paul was born, baptised and raised). Cardinal Stanislaw was the long-time personal secretary of Pope John Paul II then, and is now retired. We had few minutes of conversation with him and then we dedicated a Malay Song to him – “Betapa Hati Ku”. Before leaving he gave us his blessing.
I feel blessed to have visited his hometown and also his tomb at Vatican. I am fascinated by his pastoral zeal, his teachings and writings. He impacted me a lot during my initial stage as a priest. He has become the Pope that so importantly influenced my priestly ministry.
After John Paul II’s death, the Church started to give him a title of “John Paul the Great.” He is labelled as the “Great” because he possessed the extraordinary ability to imitate the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. Three other virtues that make him worthy to be called the “Great” are simplicity, humility and holiness.
Oh St. John Paul II, from heaven’s window, where we see you next to Mary, send God’s blessing down upon us all!
by Rev. Fr. George P.