Sixteen years ago, I was four years old visiting Rome with my family for my youngest brother's baptism. We traveled from Kansas City and attended a private audience with you. On your way out one of the guards walking with you plucked my baby brother out of the crowd and handed him to you, where you kissed his forehead and blessed him. My family has never forgotten that moment. We will forever hold it in our hearts and minds, the same goes for your memory.
The work and passion you showed the world will last forever both on Earth and Heaven. As I struggle with my faith through these young and difficult years, you will continue to be an inspiration and pillar of strength that I can grasp when I fall away from the path. Your legacy will live on in history and in my heart
I had the privilege of seeing John Paul the Great in D.C. when I was very, very young. I understood that he was important, but at the time I was much more excited about the big white vehicle driving down the road than the amazing person inside it. As I grew older, I still saw him on TV, heard about his sicknesses, and even listened to a couple of unbelievable stories about his life. Every Sunday at church, I heard his name during the prayers of the faithful. Still, this man was unknown to me. Then, in 8th grade, on my confirmation retreat, I was in adoration. My youth leader walked to the pulpit of the little chapel we were gathered in, and announced that this great, great man who I did not know, had died. Something inside me grieved. I felt a loss, even though I did not know what exactly I was losing. Now, as a practicing Catholic and sophomore in college, I have done two projects on him for classes, I'm reading a book based on his "Love and Responsibility", I have heard multiple talks on his Theology of the Body and am reading the beginner's book. The movie based on his life is one of my parents and my favorites, and his teachings on the dignity of the human person and relativism affect how I live and think in my day-to-day life.
He is the most well-known name of the modern world, and probably the most influential of our age. Still, for someone whose teachings were widely applicable, there is a feeling of intimacy between himself and those of my generation. He was the Youth's Pope. When speaking of the youth, he always seemed to speak of his hope in us, the future of the church. This, at first, seemed very daunting to me. He makes it very clear, though, that this is a cross that is joyfully borne, and a fight that is joyfully fought. For this inspiration of confidence, and for his penetrating wisdom, I will always be inexpressibly grateful.
I entered the Catholic Church the same spring that John Paul II went home to the house of the Father. I was so sad to miss out on being one of his children, but also immensely grateful, for his writings and witness were huge factors in my conversion. Now the more I read from his writings, the more footage I watch of him, and the more stories I hear from people whose lives he changed, the more grateful I am for his radical discipleship, his willingness to follow Jesus wherever He led, even to the heart of fallen humanity.
And now, as I'm a few months away from getting married, I know that my future husband and I have a faithful guide and teacher in this saintly man. Thank you for everything, and hope to see you in Heaven!
John Paul II, pray for us!
John Paul II--We love you!
I had a special connection with John Paul II. He mentored my uncle as a seminary student in Poland and ultimately ordained him. I grew up as a toddler hearing stories of his love for God and his equally profound love for people. I was told of how he risked his life to ensure seminaries remained open during the Communist era in Poland, as well as laughs they shared on hiking and skiing trips. Most of my family remained in Poland and personally witnessed his personal influence in the downfall of Communism in Poland. And I am forever grateful that my family was able to live a free life due to this.
I began showing an interest in my faith as a young child due to his inspiration. I would spend my summer vacations in Poland with my grandparents, where I was introduced to a drastically different zeal for faith than what I encountered at home, in the U.S. I remember children flocking to the church for daily Mass without being told to by parents. It was a regular occurrence for us to stop a game of soccer and run to Mass in the evening. At Mass, all the children would arrive early and pray. Six or seven altar boys would serve Mass on a daily basis. Children at a young age went to daily Mass, frequented Confession, and already had a deep understanding and knowledge of the faith. The source of this inspiration clearly came from one man, the current Polish Pontiff at the time. As an aside, I cannot remember visiting a single Polish town or city that did not have a street named after him.
John Paul II was a courageous man, who although gentle appearing, was a strong defender of the faith. He sacrificed his life to travel the world to be a true apostle and spread the faith. His love of God became most evident late in his life, as he continued to spread the Gospel although suffering greatly from physical ailments. In his weakness and frailty, he served as a witness to the strength that God provides to those who are faithful to Him.
Pope John Paul II is an instrumental figure in my life and faith.
His journey to the Papacy began as a common man and ended as an inspirational Saint.
Pope John Paul II,
When I saw you at the Los Angeles Coliseum, I was in awe. You drove by in the Pope mobile and it was as if you were looking right at me. I could see the twinkle in your eyes and the smile on your face and I had this feeling of peace come over me. It was a memorable moment for me that will always be in my heart.
You were known as the people’s Pope because you opened up your heart for all of us to see. Pope John Paul II, please pray for me, my family, friends, and all the little children who are suffering, hold them close to you.
In Loving Memory,
J. Santos, Carpinteria, California
Thank you John Paul for showing us how to truly forgive, how to sacrifice our wants and needs for the better good, that we can have a mutually beneficial dialogue with other religious traditions, and for making the world a better place to be.
Your footprints will never fade away.