FIAT Talk: Saint John Paul II
Hi - I’m John Nemmer. You probably remember me, since I first came to talk at FIAT on November 6th last year. Just a little while after that time, Brian asked me to come back in the Spring and give another FIAT talk about a saint that I like who has a great love for our Heavenly Mother Mary. I accepted Brian’s offer and I’m going to tell you all about Pope Saint John Paul II - but first I have something to ask you all – Did you know that FIAT actually tells some of the events of Holy Week, in another form, in a symbolic way? I don’t know if anyone ever thought about it that way before. You all are probably very confused right now, but at the end of this talk, I will tell you my thoughts.
First, I’m going to tell everyone about the life of Pope Saint John Paul II. I was named after him and he is my third favorite saint, right after St. Michael the Archangel, my Confirmation saint, and St. Padre Pio, another contemporary saint who I love.
Pope Saint John Paul II, was born on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. Karol Wojtyla, the Saint’s given name, was the youngest of 3 children in his family. Although the young saint was blessed with a very loving family, he experienced great suffering in his early life. One of his siblings died as a baby, and his mother died when he was 12 years old from kidney failure. His older brother passed away from scarlet fever when he was a young boy too. All throughout, in the middle of such pain and suffering, he never gave up his wonderful Catholic faith. His father greatly loved him and strongly brought his son up in the Catholic Church.
I am going to say something here. It is truly amazing how this man had so many painful hardships in his life, yet, he still became a really great and holy Saint by trusting in God’s most perfect and Divine Plan for his life. That should truly be a wonderful example for us to live by.
The young saint studied at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University in 1938, to learn the Polish language, literature, theater, and poetry. Interestingly, the saint thought God was calling him to be an actor before he even was thinking about becoming a priest. During that time, God, in His wisdom, allowed Pope Saint John Paul II to meet his spiritual mentor and was placed into the Carmelite mysticism of Saint John of the Cross.
When I was researching this saint’s life, there was so much about him that I wanted to put into this talk, but that would take way too much time; so I will skip ahead and tell you all about how Pope Saint John Paul II became the Pope. Then I will tell about his great love for the Most Holy Mother of God.
Karol Wojtyla was ordained as a Catholic priest, on All Saints Day in 1946. He was made a bishop in 1956 and then became Pope in 1978. He was first named Cardinal Wojtyla but he took the name, John Paul II when he became the 263rd successor to Peter. He was the Pope for 27 years. Did you know when Saint John Paul was just a young priest, he met St. Padre Pio in person and it is said, that Padre Pio actually told John Paul that he was going to be the pope someday? Also, when John Paul became pope, he named Padre Pio a Saint of the Church. I think it’s really cool how God allowed that to happen.
Saint John Paul II had a really wonderful love for Mary. He strongly believed Mary was his own mother as he lost his earthly mother, as a child, and Mary loved him so much. He also believed Mary once asked Jesus, to save his own life. On May 13th, 1917, Mary started to appear to three poor, shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. Mary told the children to pray The Most Holy Rosary daily, do penance and if the world doesn’t turn back to God, a second World War would break out and the Holy Father will have much to suffer.
Then, Mary gave the children a vision of a bishop in white getting shot and killed. This was very troubling for the children to experience because they didn’t know who this bishop even was yet. On May 13, 1981 – just thirty-six years after Mary first appeared in Fatima, to the exact hour, Pope Saint John Paul II was doing his weekly tour of Saint Peter’s Square when someone from the crowd sadly shot him two times. Then, he was rushed to the hospital where he needed a five and a half hour surgery to save his life. The Saint recalled later on, that he truly believed he was the bishop in white that Mary showed the Fatima children in the vision. He also believed Mary asked Jesus to save his life. The saint said, “A hand fired the gun, but another hand guided the bullet’s path.” He truly believed with all his heart, that Mary guided the bullet and saved his life.
One year later, Pope Saint John Paul II went to Fatima, Portugal, and beatified two of the young Fatima children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Sr. Lucia, the third Fatima visionary, who passed in 2005, is declared a servant of God. When he was celebrating Mass at Fatima, he said, “The message of Fatima is a call to conversion. In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came here to Fatima to ask men and women ‘to stop offending God, Our Lord, who is already very offended.’ It is a mother’s sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake.
For this reason, she asks the little shepherds, ‘Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners; many souls go to Hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.”
Pope Saint John Paul II actually took one of the bullets removed during his surgery, that the assassin shot him with, to Fatima to thank Mary for saving his life. He requested for the bullet to be placed inside the crown of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima there. They did what the pope asked, and anyone can go to Fatima to see that same bullet even today.
Saint Faustina was one of John Paul’s favorite Saints, whom he canonized. On that same day, Pope Saint John Paul II did what Jesus requested of Saint Faustina, and marked Divine Mercy Sunday, as the second Sunday of Easter. Pope Saint John Paul II amazingly ended up willingly going to visit the person who shot him, in jail, and totally forgave him for what he did. The man was named Mehmet Ali Agca, and Pope Saint John Paul II touched his heart so much by coming to him and offering him mercy, that he ended up turning to God, and became Catholic later on in his life. That is just one of many examples of how we know God can bring the greater good out of evil.
Pope Saint John Paul II actually died on April 2nd, 2005, which was the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. Before he died, Mass was celebrated in his room. Pope Saint John Paul II received a drop of Jesus’ precious blood, the sacrament of the sick, and passed away soon after.
Now, it’s reasonable to believe the saint skipped Purgatory and went straight to Heaven, as he met the promises from Jesus to Saint Faustina of Devine Mercy Sunday for complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. Jesus told this to Saint Faustina, “On that day, the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of grace upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession, and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sin and punishment. On that day are opened all the divine floodgates through which grace flow.” Because of that beautiful promise of Jesus, we know Saint John Paul was crowned a great saint in Heaven.
I am finally done speaking about Pope Saint John Paul II tonight. Thank you so much for having me back! Now, here are my thoughts about how FIAT tells some of the events of Holy Week symbolically. When the priest starts walking with the Eucharistic Jesus throughout the church when there is praise and singing, that reenacts Palm Sunday. When Father puts Jesus on the altar for Adoration, that reenacts when He was on the cross, and he was gazed upon by Mary, His Mother, the apostle John, and other followers of Christ present that day. Just like when Mary was at the foot of the cross, there is a statue of her at the altar; and just like how Jesus was placed in the tomb after He died, He is placed back in the tabernacle once FIAT is over. We will also receive His precious body and blood tomorrow at Mass.
I bet nobody ever thought about it that way ever before. It’s always cool to let your imagination go and think about something from a different perspective so we can better understand the holiest mysteries of our Catholic faith; The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Okay, everyone, I would like to wish you a glorious Palm Sunday tomorrow, a wonderful Holy Week, and a most joyful Easter – when we know, we believe, we celebrate how Christ, our true and final Passover Lamb gloriously rose from the dead to save us from our sins and offer us everlasting life.
Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!!!
May the love of our Eucharistic Lord Jesus Christ, the help of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of God the Father be always with you! Amen!!!
John is a regular writer for SGYM3 and a guest speaker for Fiat. He shares insights and prayer language from the heart as a parishioner at St. Greg's. You can find John faithfully at Mass every week with his loving family. Feel free to say "hi" when you see him!