I have recently been enjoying the great gift of watching films about St. John Paul II. My wife and I have viewed Witness to Hope, Nine Days that Changed the World, Karol: The Man who became Pope, and Liberating a Continent. Additionally, I have been rereading St. John Paul II’s Crossing the Threshold of Hope and Prayers and Meditations. To top off my JPII immersion experience I have attended weekday Masses at Our Lady of Czestochowa parish in Houston, and there prayed before the Black Madonna and a statue of St. John Paul II. What a tremendous blessing it is to return to one of my first loves as a new Catholic! I remain grateful that St. John Paul II was pope when I was received into the Church in 2001.
If it has been a while since you have spent time with St. John Paul II, I highly recommend turning to the documentary Witness to Hope (I got my DVD version from Amazon) and/or reading Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
As I write now I am struck by a story Carl Anderson (Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus) shared in Liberating a Continent. He says that when the 9-year-old Karol Wojtyla's mother died, Karol’s father took him to the Shrine of Kalwaria. Here Karol (Sr.) tells his son: “You have lost your mother but you will never lose this mother. She will always be with you.” The grieving Karol has lost his mother, but his earthly father reminds him that he will never be without Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Mother of us All, Our Lady of Calvary.
Young Karol was blessed to have two loving and Godly parents. Sadly he lost them both early in his life. Yet, he never lost what they gave to him. He never lost his faith. His parents gave him the tremendous gift of a vibrant spiritual life. As his father taught him in Kalwaria he would never lose this Mother, the Mother of God and his loving Mother.
I am grateful that Karol's parents shared their love of God with young Karol in the, sadly, short time they had with him. Saint John Paul II encouraged millions of Catholics to remember our Mother, to depend on our Mother, to love our Mother. He reminded us frequently to call on Her in our need as we strive (and often struggle) to offer our faithful love to her Son. For many of us our parents did not teach us about the love of God. They did not teach us about Mary, the Mother who would always love us and whom we would never lose. I am encouraged by the love St. John Paul II shared with his earthly mother and the Mother of God. The Church is also our Mother and I am hopeful that I may, with St. John Paul II as my inspiration, serve and love her as he did.
Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Calvary, pray for us!
Below is a beautiful prayer offered by Pope John Paul II in Kalwaria, August 19, 2002. St. John Paul II, pray for us!
Lady of graces, look upon this people
which for centuries has remained faithful to you and to your Son.
Look upon this nation,
which has always placed its hope in your maternal love.
Turn your eyes of mercy towards us,
obtain what your children most need.
Open the hearts of the prosperous to the needs of the poor and the suffering.
Enable the unemployed to find an employer.
Help those who are poverty-stricken to find a home.
Grant families the love which makes it possible to surmount all difficulties.
Show young people a way and a horizon for the future.
Cover children with the mantle of your protection,
lest they be scandalized.
Confirm religious communities with the grace of faith, hope and love.
Grant that priests may follow in the footsteps of your Son by offering their lives each day for the sheep.
Obtain for Bishops the light of the Holy Spirit, so that they may guide this Church to the gates of your Son’s Kingdom by a single, straight path.
Most Holy Mother, Our Lady of Calvary,
obtain also for me strength in body and spirit,
that I may carry out to the end the mission given me by the Risen Lord.
To you I give back all the fruits of my life and my ministry;
to you I entrust the future of the Church;
to you I offer my nation;
in you do I trust and once more to you I declare:
Totus Tuus, Maria!
Totus Tuus. Amen.