This week I read the amazing book St. John Paul the Great – His Five Loves, by Jason Evert.
It was inspiring to learn about our late Pope’s story of growing up during World War II and how that impacted his life and mainly the road he took to become the Holy Father. I want to share with you his five loves.
It did not matter where the Pope was or where the young people of the church were at, Pope John Paul II had an amazing connection with them. He challenged them to better themselves and to strive to be like Jesus. He had an enormous amount of confidence in the youth of the Church. Like Jesus did.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
So it was John Paul the Great declared to them, “I believe in youth with all my heart and with all the strength of my conviction.”
The youth served as a wellspring of hope for him. On the day that he was inaugurated, he said to all of the young people gathered in St. Peter’s square, “You are the hope of the Church and of the world. You are my hope.”
It truly was a blessing to know that the Pope believed in the youth of the church just as Jesus had. He truly loved all.
“As a young priest, I learned to love Human love.” – Written by John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope
Jason Evert writes, “He spent countless hours counseling engaged and married couples, and often traveled with groups of them into the mountains, discussing God’s plan for human love.”
The late Pope had a great dedication to the couples who were seeking the sacrament of marriage. Marriage is so important in the Bible. God gave us the gifts to love one another like we love ourselves and to give ourselves to another person. During his time as Pope he encouraged couples to look deep in scripture to know what God says about marriage.
Among the 6o couples that he worked with individually, not a one of them divorced. It’s amazing to know that that type of love can exist and truly can only exist with the love of the Lord present in the relationship.
Today we are living in a world where 50% of all marriages end in divorce. However, it’s comforting to know that we have had those who believe in God’s love and in Human Love like Pope John Paul II… it gives me hope. He’s an inspiration to the entire Church in this way.
The Blessed Sacrament
The blessed sacrament, Eucharist, bread of life is amazing. And the Holy Father knew this to be true as it is written in the Gospel of John Chapter 6 – the bread of life.
Evert writes, “”The Eucharist was the principal reason for his priesthood.” He said, “For me, the Mass constitutes the center of my life and my every day.” He added, “nothing means more to me or gives me greater joy than to celebrate mass each day and to serve God’s people in the church.””
Because of his strong belief of Jesus Christ being truly present in the Eucharist, he became adamant to ensure that all priests and bishops knew how the mass ought to be celebrated and with what passion.
During the celebration of the Eucharist, one observer noticed, “He lingered lovingly over every syllable that recalled the Last Supper as if the words were new to him.”
He inspired Catholics all around the world, in every nation to contemplate the love in the Eucharist not just receive it.
The Virgin Mary
The Pontiff had an exceptional love for the Holy Mother. Several mothers that he came into contact with can testify to this.
Upon being greeted by the mayor of Boston and his wife, the Holy Father turned his attention to the wife saying,
“Ah, Mrs. Your husband has a very important job. Like the Pope does. But don’t believe it. Your job is more important. The future of the world is with the mothers. It is the mothers who raise the children. It is the mothers who will give us peace and make us free. Like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, we need you the most.”
He understood that Mary is the mother of the church to the inner core of his being. More importantly, he practiced and preached as such. Mary takes care of us like any Mother would, how thankful we should be to her for her love and guidance she offers.
He allowed his love for our mother to show and encouraged all members of our church to pray with her through the Rosary. It was enlightening to read about his dedication.
Evert also notes the biblical foundation of our Mother in his book:
“The scriptures state that the fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful (Jas 5:16), that everyone in heaven is righteous (Rev 21:27), that people in heaven pray for those on Earth (Rev 5:8), that the mother of Jesus could be seen in heaven (Rev 12:1-5), and that her offspring were “those who keep the commandment of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev 12:17).”
Pope John Paul II stressed true devotion to Mary: “doing everything through Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and for Mary, in order to do it more perfectly through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus.”
In John Paul’s eyes, the Passion displayed on the cross was not merely a death that took place over two thousand years ago.
“In the cross lies Love’s victory” explains John Paul. “In it, finally, lies the full truth about man, man’s true stature, his wretchedness, and his grandeur, his worth and the price paid for him.”
The Pope stressed the importance of the church understanding the suffering of the cross. He also explained, “Christ goes towards His own suffering, aware of its saving power.” We should also do the same and meet him there. Suffering is what transforms the human soul and when we go to Jesus during our suffering its transformed in an ever-enlightening way.
The Holy Father again referred to this joy in Memory and Identity:
“It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good. All human suffering, all pain, all infirmity contains within itself a promise of salvation, a promise of joy: “I am now rejoicing in my suffering for your sake,” writes Saint Paul (Col 1:24).”
The love he has for the cross isn’t merely for the cross, but rather for the suffering that occurred on the cross for our sake.
After reading this book, I feel a renewed love for John Paul the Great. I’m forever grateful for those who have served as our Pope to guide and lead us with Jesus’ helping hand.