John Paul II entered my life in 1978. I knew nothing about him when he served as Cardinal Wojtyla. Although I was born and baptized in British Guiana, receiving my first Holy Communion at nine following my parents move to Canada in 1956, I had no Catholic upbringing or education.
Christ captured me at 23 in 1975, plunging my repentant heart into the healing current of His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. With my formation in top gear, John Paul II grabbed my attention in 1978 when he was elected Pope. He entered my life at an ordained time with my knowledge of the faith growing rapidly from zero at the time of my conversion.
At the same time as my unfolding interior transformation, my father died at 51 in 1977, the same year I met Liza, who was experiencing a conversion as well. We were confirmed together in April 1980, five months after our wedding in 1979.
Pope John Paul II guided me through the core of my life as husband, father, and teacher. The closest I came to shake the hand of the Church’s greatest Pope was 1984 when he visited the Holy Candian Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland Ontario.
His radiant wisdom and love covered my life through marriage, the birth of our seven children, separation in 1998, divorce 2003 and Annulment 2005 which I learned of about two weeks before John Paul’s entry to the Father’ House April 2, 2005. Already agonizing over the tragedy of my divorce and annulment I learned of the Pope’s death while I was a guest at Madonna House Apostolate. His life and teaching continue to shape my life as it will the Church’s life until the Lord returns.
Today, I praise the Lord of Life for his gift to me of St. John Paul II born 100 years ago on the same day as our seventh child, Rosemary, May 18, 1999.
Our great and infinitely merciful Christ Jesus brought Rosemary out of the womb in the month of His Mother, May 18, the same birthday as the greatest Pope.
She was in her mother’s womb on Oct 19, 1998, the year we separated. Three of our wonderful kids were born in January, three born in August. Our great and infinitely merciful Christ Jesus brought Rosemary out of the womb in the month of His Mother, May 18, the same birthday as the greatest Pope. Without him, I could not have received Christ so abundantly who has rescued me from crushing misfortune and continues to renew within me a heart of love and joy.
Rather than filling this page and twenty more with quotes from St. John Paul II, I’ll place just one. Perhaps you have experienced some family hardship, struggle, or tragedy that needs a touch of John Paul II who intercedes for the Church even more today. Here’s one given to me by a dear friend who shared my teaching years at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Wilno, Ontario from 2005 to 2015:
Homily excerpt, Shrine of Our Lady Ta’ Pinu, May 26, 1990
At the foot of the Cross, Mary is fully revealed as Mother of the Church, Mater Ecclesiae inviting each of us to trust in her prayers. Let us never hesitate to turn to her!
How often, in your families, do you feel powerless in the face of painful and apparently insoluble situations? How many people find it a constant struggle to forgive longstanding grudges, or to overcome deeply-rooted feelings of anger, hostility, jealousy or resentment?
How many people desperately long for someone they love to abandon a way of life or a course of action which they know will only lead to frustration and unhappiness? And how frequently do our hearts go out to someone who is caught up in the toils of mental anguish or a bitter grief which knows no consolation?
At moments like these, should we not trust in Mary’s loving intercession, confident that the most hopeless of human situations can be transformed by the saving power of Jesus, who in answer to her request turned water into wine, who died on the Cross that we might live forever?