The Legacy of Pope Saint John Paul II

It was nineteen years ago, at 9.37 pm, when Pope St John Paul, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, left this vale of tears to enter the glory of Heaven following a long struggle with illness on April 2, 2005.

Countless books, documentaries and also movies were made to celebrate such a great man, who loved Jesus Christ with his own heart, soul and might under the caring direction of Mary, the Mother of God and Our Heavenly Mother. What were his outstanding contributions which qualify him as great?

Among the many wonders the Holy Spirit worked through this son of Poland, Pope Wojtyla managed to presenting a coherent as well as a voluminous body of orthodox, articulate, intellectually rigorous teaching thanks to his encyclicals and other documents regarding the Christian Catholic faith in all its aspects. Further, St John Paul II brought about a healthy stability in many Catholic circles amid the turbulence following Vatican II.

The third reason which can qualify him as a great Pope is that he promulgated the 1983 Code of Canon Law (for the Latin rite) and the 1990 Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches (for the Eastern rites), the latter being the first one ever that the Eastern Catholic churches have had as a complete code of canon law. The fourth reason, Pope Wojtyla consolidated the Catholic teaching by promulgating the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first catechism of its kind since the Roman Catechism in the 1500s.

Since he hailed from Communist Poland, Pope John Paul was certainly decisive in bringing the fall of Communism as well as the destruction of the Iron Curtain. The sixth reason which make this Pontiff really great was his staunch stance of pro-life and pro-family as well as by standing up to attempts which were made at the Beijing Women’s Conference and the Cairo Population Conference (both by the United Nations) to induce anti-family, anti-child policies on the entire nations of the world. Finally, Pope St John Paul was an outstanding and shining example of holiness marked by deep prayer. His example was the cause for conversion of many people worldwide.

Pope John Paul II’s intellectual and spiritual legacy is surely to be appreciated in the teachings he left to us to ponder. To start with, John Paul gives us a clear and sound definition of what true freedom is all about. He tells us:  Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. He encourages us not to waste time but use time wisely. He reminds us: The future starts today, not tomorrow. John Paul II was a great defender of women’s dignity. He said: It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.

He championed commitment and rejected mediocrity. He said: Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. For John Paul a hardened heart is the harshest prison that can ever exist. He said: The worst prison would be a closed heart. He was an ardent supporter of preaching the Gospel at the marketplaces. He said: This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis.

 Every person is an object of love and never of use. He wisely warned about this when he said: A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use. John Paul reminds us that Jesus is the beauty and happiness we are searching for. It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

Pope John Paul told us that we are the Easter people and hallelujah should be the song which we are to sing with our lives. He said: Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. He also reminds us that true authentic love between a man and a woman is built by sacrifices and self-giving. He told us: Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.

 He was the Pope who told us to open our hearts to Christ. This important message is still ringing in our difficult times. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for ChristThe Holy Father also assures us that with Christ we can face every challenge and win it, provided that we are with Him. He said: There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfilment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world. In another saying of his Pope Wojtyla encourages us with these words: If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.

John Paul II was the Pope who talked to us about the harmonization of faith and reason. He observes: Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself.

Let us pray to him today as we are celebrating his nineteenth anniversary from his entrance to the Heavenly abode.

Oh, St. John Paul, from the window of heaven, grant us your blessing! Bless the Church that you loved and served and guided, courageously leading her along the paths of the world in order to bring Jesus to everyone and everyone to Jesus. Bless the young, who were your great passion. Help them dream again, help them look up to the heavens again to find the light that illuminates the paths of life here on earth.

 May you bless each and every family! You warned of Satan’s assault against this precious and indispensable divine spark that God lit on earth. St. John Paul, with your prayer, may you protect the family and every life that blossoms from the family.

Pray for the whole world, which is still marked by tensions, wars and injustice. You opposed war by invoking dialogue and planting the seeds of love: pray for us so that we may be tireless sowers of peace.

Oh St. John Paul, from heaven’s window, where we see you beside Mary, send God’s blessing down upon us all. Amen.

Previous articleIt’s Official: John Paul II Day in Canada
Next articleSaint Richard of Sussex
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.