St. John Paul II is a saint for our times. He had so many varied interests, like poetry and theater, the outdoors, phenomenology, and theology of the body that it’s hard to encapsulate him here. But, here we go!
JPII was born Karol Wojtyla outside of Krakow, Poland and his friends knew him as Lolek. He was raised by his devout father who made their home a sort of “domestic seminary”.
Wojtyla went on to university where he studied theater, poetry, and literature (he even wrote a play!). Not long after, the Nazis invaded Poland and his studies came to a halt (this didn’t stop his budding vocation, however). As a result, he had to work in a quarry and a chemical plant so he could stay in Germany. By the age of 21, his entire immediate family had died, having lost his father last in 1941.
He became a priest in 1946 and spent a lot of his time camping and hiking with his young friends (he was the original Catholic hipster). In 1958, He was made an auxiliary bishop and began to encourage his fellow Polish citizens to stand against communism, which reigned after the Nazis lost the war. After that, he attended and contributed to the Second Vatican Council, was made a Cardinal, and eventually was elected Pope in 1978.
JPII served as Pope for the next 27 years, canonized more than 400 saints, survived an assassination attempt and forgave the assassin. He established World Youth Day, founded the World Meeting of Families, and wrote 85 apostolic letters, exhortations, and encyclicals (what a resume!). Many credit the fall of communism to JPII (and President Ronald Reagan). Above all, the motto of his papacy, “Totus Tuus” – “I am completely yours“, encapsulated his missionary heart and incarnational ministry.
On Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005, St. John Paul II died. He was canonized in 2014.
Why an Open Door?
St. John Paul II is beloved throughout the world for his heart for young people, and early in his papacy he encouraged all young people to “Open wide the door to Christ” and to not be afraid.
Read more about St. John Paul II here and check out his shrine in Washington D.C. which has a first class relic!
Who would be friends with St. John Paul II?
- Young people
- Polish people
- Campers & Hikers (generally outdoorsy people)
- Those struggling to forgive
“Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ….”St. John Paul II
Keep St. John Paul II close and make “Totus Tuus” your motto by shopping his collection here.