Today is the feast day of St. Pope John Paul II! For many of us, St. Pope John Paul II, or JPII as he’s lovingly called, was a defining figure in our faith journey. His enthusiasm for embracing people from all over the world, and in all walks of life, makes us at Verso particularly excited to celebrate his feast today.
John Paul II was born in 1920 as Karol Józef Wojtyła. Raised in Poland, his childhood was full of sporting events, time with friends, and time spent with his family. From an early age his devotion and aptitude with languages were notable. As Pope, his ability to speak a large number of languages allowed him to win the hearts of many and hold important conversations that might not otherwise have happened.
Throughout his life, JPII was a lover of the outdoors. When he was appointed an auxiliary bishop by Pope Pius XII he was on a kayaking trip, and there are many images of him skiing and hiking even after his election to the papacy.
While Pope, John Paul II visited a record-setting number of countries (129!) and spoke many languages (at least 6 fluently). He worked to improve the relationships between the Church and the Jewish and Orthodox communities, and was vocal about a number of current events. He clearly lived out a call to be in the world but not of it–repeatedly he insisted on reminding people that they were called to higher things.
One of the groups most particularly beloved by John Paul II during his time as pope were young people, who he made a special effort to reach out to. When he established World Youth Day early on in his papacy, he most likely didn’t envision it becoming the multi-day event attended by millions that it is today! But his insistence on making young people feel known, loved, and welcomed into the Church had dramatic results.
The life of St. Pope John Paul II is rich and full of many stories that are worth hearing, but his love of life and young people in particular are near to our hearts here at Verso, where we believe that everything is sacred. As we begin to prepare for World Youth Day 2023, we hope to carry on JPII’s legacy of enthusiastically bringing our faith wherever we go.
St. Pope John Paul II, you worked tirelessly to bring a message of hope and love to the whole world. Pray for us as we try to bring that same message to the people in front of us today.