Written by: Summer Jarro, UF Student
Throughout his life and years of service, Pope John Paul II has become a symbol and major figure in the Catholic life. He has been a true father of the Church spreading love and knowledge of the Catholic faith to everyone around the world.
Pope John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. At a young age he dealt with tremendous loss. His older sister, Olga, died as an infant, his mother Emilia died of kidney failure when Karol was 12 and his older brother, Edmund, died while helping those with scarlet fever. Even dealing with tremendous suffering growing up, Karol never lost sight of the faith, crediting his father for helping him maintain his religious beliefs. “My father’s words played a very important role because they directed me toward becoming a true worshiper of God,” Wojtyła said, according to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.
In 1938, Karol began attending Jagiellonian University. His time at the university would become a titular moment for the life he would lead later on. While studying topics like Polish language, literature, theater and poetry, Jagiellonian University is where Karol met his spiritual mentor, Jan Tyranowski, and was introduced to the Carmelite mysticism of St. John of the Cross, which ultimately led him to the priesthood.
When World War II started and Germany invaded Poland, Karol dealt with several events that helped him mature and shape his identity as a future priest. During the war, he was forced to put his studies on hold and work in a stone quarry and chemical plant, he lost his father from a heart attack in 1941 and was almost killed in 1944 when he was hit by a German truck. Through all of this, Karol’s strength and faith never wavered. During the war, he secretly joined the seminary in Krakow showing him as a true disciple of God.
In 1946, Karol was ordained on the Feast of All Saints. On July 4, 1958, he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of Krakow, the youngest in Poland’s history. His attendance and support in the Second Vatican Council starting in 1962 helped him become a cardinal in 1968. Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope on Oct. 16, 1978, taking the name Pope John Paul II. He remained in the position for 27 years, one of the longest in the history of the Church. As Pope, John Paul II, became a true missionary traveling to over 129 countries to spread love and teach God’s word to others. He helped with the removal of Communism in Eastern Europe, stopped a war between Chile and Argentina, and even restored peace and relationships with the major religions of the world.
On May 13, 1981, Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. Being the Godly man he is, Pope John Paul II didn’t show hatred or anger to his attacker but love and forgiveness even visiting him while Agca was in prison.
Throughout his years, Pope John Paul II has become a legacy in the Church by transforming it for modern times, and continuously spreading love and the word of God to everyone around him until his death on April 2, 2005.
Pope John Paul II has become an inspiration to many especially through his ability to show love and forgiveness even through time of adversity. He was beatified on May 1, 2011 and canonized April 27, 2014. To celebrate his life and lasting legacy for the Church, the Vatican also dedicated Oct. 22 as the feast day of St. John Paul II. The Vatican chose this this day because it was the day he was inaugurated as pope, and to recall the momentous days that proceeded.
Information from the Saint John Paul II National Shrine website.