John Paul II: Things I have to thank him for

Blessed John Paul II will be canonised on April 27 (CNS)

John Paul II, along with John XXIII, is to be canonised on April 27, the feast of Divine Mercy. I have just read an article about him that has inspired me to add my own thoughts to it: Ten Things I did Differently This Week because John Paul Existed by Tom Hoopes of the Gregorian Institute. Wondering what Hoopes would say I examined his list. It includes many items I would also endorse and some I would not have thought of.

He says he “attended the newly translated Mass.” This puzzled me until I read Hoopes’ explanation: that although the new translation came to fruition under Benedict XVI, it had been begun during the pontificate and with the encouragement of John Paul II. Yes – I am glad of this too (and mindful of all the criticisms of this translation by the liberal brigade).

Hoopes then listed that he had said “the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.” Yes again. I try to say them every Thursday – the day of the week that I think is designated for them. Again, I understand this was not John Paul II’s own idea but he completely endorsed it – and it has added immeasurably to any meditation on the life of Christ. So much so, that I wonder why it ever took so long for the Luminous Mysteries to be established. I am taken aback by the response of some traditionalists that “this is not the Rosary as we know it.” It isn’t, but the devotion of the Rosary is not set in concrete, is it? And I especially like the word “luminous”, as these new Mysteries shed a real supernatural light over these ‘new’ five events of Christ’s life.

Hoopes “consulted the Catechism to answer questions.” I don’t do this often enough. When the Catechism came out I read the first 100
pages slowly and carefully, annotating them as I went along. Then I was sidetracked and didn’t carry on, so there are still several hundred pages of virgin territory for me still to cover. I’ll get there.

He also said the “Chaplet of Divine Mercy”. I confess don’t do this, not because I don’t want to but because I feel that if I’m not careful I will be like the old man, the boy and the donkey in Aesop’s Fable: struggling to carry out all the devotions that other people recommend to me as being “essential” and then becoming overwhelmed and doing none of them.

This next item is dear to my heart: Hoopes went to Mass “celebrated by priests who had found their faith at a World Youth Day.” Some years ago I wrote an enthusiastic blog about World Youth Day – to receive a cold blast from some quarters which were certain they were just giant “yoof” pop festivals surrounding the cult of “JP II”. They are not; of course in any huge gathering of young people (and not so young) there will be questionable elements, but these events have inspired a whole generation of young people to re-orientate their lives towards Christ.

Hoopes’ next item is a warm and personal one: “I kissed my 7th, 8th and 9th children”. People outside the Church will groan at this one: all those slavish Catholics being told by the Pope they have to have large families even when they don’t want them – and haven’t they heard of over-population? The writer puts it simply; Humanae Vitae, Paul VI’s encyclical explaining why artificial contraception is wrong, had become a dead letter in the 1980s; then John Paul II, by a massive personal crusade of theological input, brought it to life in his catechesis on the Theology of the Body. It is hard to list what was the most important aspect of his pontificate, but this must surely be high up on it.

As an affectionate extra, Hoopes says “my kids played with friends named Pio, Kolbe and Gianna.” SS Pio (Padre Pio), Maximilian Kolbe and Gianna Molla were among countless holy people canonised during the pontificate of John Paul II. To be a Catholic is to love the saints, to pray to them and to ask for their intercession. To those who sniff that the late Pope canonised “too many” people, I would respond: we can never have too many examples of holy men and women to give us encouragement as we struggle along through life.

I have only listed seven of Hoopes’ ten reasons as they are the ones that resonated particularly with me. I cannot include anything I did this week that would add to his list – but I will say that I have a new appreciation of the way suffering can be borne with dignity, patience and humility because of him. And that is a lesson for life that concerns us all, Catholic or not. Saint John Paul II: pray for me.


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