Our mission at St. Andrew Catholic Church is to become saints.
Following the example of our patron, St. Andrew, with humility we seek to:
Hear God’s call through the truth of the Catholic Church
Respond in love with acts of charity and mercy
Grow continuously through the sacraments and daily prayer and
Proclaim the Good News through our vocation.
I love this time of year (well I love the whole year around here), and even more now that after the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II, we celebrate his feast on October 22. I am going to depart from my reflections on France this week as I remember the pilgrimage to Poland and the many times I got to see the great pope of my youth (one is considered a youth or young adult until about age 35). He was the pope from the time I was 1 until I was 28. I didn’t really know who he was until I got the opportunity to study abroad in Florence Italy in the year 2000. That experience opened up for me a whole new way of viewing the world with the Church and her pontiff at the center of that view.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to visit Rome during my studies in Florence and while there I was able to attend Mass on All Saints Day at St. Peter’s Square with St. John Paul II. As I have related before, never have I felt so intense a feeling when encountering a person in my life. I was moved to tears in his presence as he passed by us in the procession to the altar to begin Mass. In addressing the pope we call him His Holiness. The holiness of JPII emanated from his person and affected millions of people. I had the opportunity to see him then on 4 or 5 more occasions in Rome. Each one was special and unique.
In 2012, on our pilgrimage to Poland, we had the opportunity to visit his birthplace south of Krakow, the town of Wadowice. It was a beautiful little town which has grown substantially since his birth due to his popularity and the thousands of pilgrims that now visit there each year. We visited the parish church where he was baptized Karol Józef Wojtyła. I love to pray at the baptismal fonts of the saints as it reminds us of their humble beginnings and that each of us is called, from our baptism, to be holy, children of God. In the church is a beautiful image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, at which St. JPII prayed almost daily. At the age of 8 his mother Emilia died during childbirth. Karol, his father, took his son to the shrine of Calvaria (Calvary) not far from their home. We also visited this beautiful shrine dedicated to our Lord’s passion and death. While there young Karol’s father took him to the image of Our Lady of Calvaria and told his son, “She is your mother now.” Little Karol took this to heart and dedicated his life to her, as he knew there was no more sure way to Jesus than by the gentle loving guidance of His Blessed Mother.
Shortly after the death of his mother, his older brother Edmund died. He was a doctor and contracted a disease from someone he was treating. Then, at the age of 18, the Nazis invaded Poland and not long after that at the age of 20 his father died. He said himself that by the age of 20 he had lost all the people that were closest to him, but that did not make him bitter, rather it made him into the man of faith that we came to know. He had great hope in the one who said, “…and behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) With great confidence in his savior, young Karol became a priest, then a bishop, and then pope John Paul II. During the inauguration Mass on October 22, 1978 he echoed Christ’s bold words in the face of evil, “BE NOT AFRAID!” He would echo this phrase until his death, giving hope to a world in darkness
God’s plans are certainly not ours and if we trust in Him, who knows where he will lead us. St. JPII spent hours on his knees in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He went to confession weekly (if not more frequently as I have heard daily). He trusted God and His promises with all his heart. This gave him the bold spirit that touched the lives of so many, including my own. Entrusting his priesthood to the loving hands of Our Lady he took for his Episcopal motto, “Totus Tuus,” the first words from a line in the writings of St. Louis de Montfort which reads, "I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart."
With loving trust may we place our lives, our families, our Church, our world in the loving hands of Our Lady.
For more of Father Jack's reflections click here