Pope Saint John Paul II, known for taking down communism, theology of the body, many papal encyclicals and so so much more, has radically changed the world and, while all those things are absolutely amazing, I don’t think that is how he did it. There is a part of me that has always felt intimately connected to JP2… I’ve always had so much gratitude and respect and honest love for a man who died before I ever came to an age of reason and, while we all have saints that we are connected to, John Paul II feels different and that feeling is mutual among so many of my friends. I thought a lot about that yesterday on his feast day and what I realized is this, my conversion back to the heart of Jesus happened because years before that John Paul the Great saw the power and the dignity of young people and gave them a place in this church.
For so long the faith of young people was simply, ‘my parent’s religion,’ and many of them saw the church as a dying institution. But then, JP2 came along with his wit and charisma and awoke the fire of the church. He took young people seriously for the first time in a long time and it sparked a revolution… John Paul II showed young people that we have a place in this church and that the young fire and passion and idealism that we have, that so many people say will fade once we “grow up,” is a gift from Christ that we can use as one of the most powerful evangelizing forces.
How do I believe that John Paul II radically changed the world? He didn’t just see young people as the ‘future of the church’ but as human beings who wanted to be a part of the church now, in the present moment. He saw an inherent dignity within us and gave young people a voice to speak out, initiate change, and more than anything he showed us true love and friendship. In the end, he showed us the best way to evangelize is through loving the person first before anything else.
It’s those young people who were inspired by him who later were the ones who loved me back to Jesus. The people who showed me that the church is always modern, no matter what era, the people who taught me how to worship him freely, and the people who showed me the beauty of confession did so because John Paul II saw the fire within young people and called them to greatness.
Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ and spread that light wherever you are
So, am I just fangirling or is there a purpose to this post? Pope Saint John Paul II may be gone but his spirit is still very much alive and we must tap into that spirit if we wish to continue changing our culture. He gave us a voice and hope in salvation and now it is our turn to use those gifts to make a difference. “Dear young people, DO NOT BE AFRAID.” Do not be afraid of preaching the gospel of love. Do not be afraid of owning your faith. Do not be afraid of people telling you to give into the culture. You are a daughter of the King of the Universe and you weren’t made for comfort but for greatness! The faith of young people is on fire right now and it’s our choice whether we want to live into it.
“The Church entrusts to young people the task of proclaiming to the world the joy which springs from having met Christ. Dear friends, allow yourselves to be drawn to Christ, accept his invitation to follow him. Go and preach the Good News that redeems; do it with happiness in your hearts and become communicators of hope in a world which is often tempted to despair, communicators of faith in a society which at times seems resigned to disbelief, communicators of love, in daily events that are often marked by a mentality of the most unbridled selfishness.” – Pope Saint John Paul II