Friday, July 05, 2013

Pope, Scholar... and Saint!

John Paul II's ski-jacket, now a relic,
a gift of the Vatican to our students.
I woke up this morning to a text message that John Paul II was just declared saint. People are already asking me if Pope John Paul II High School will be need to renamed. It usually takes fifty, one hundred, two hundred years to become a saint. Who would have guessed just eleven years ago when our school was founded, with JPII still pope, that we'd have to have a serious discussion about that so quickly?

But such is the soaring figure of our namesake.

History will chronicle JPII as one of the most significant world figures of the 20th century. There's a lot of reasons for that: his influence in helping Europe shed off communism, his prolific writings and scholarship, his ecumenical and inter-faith emphases, his role in reinvigorating the faith for millions of Catholics around the world. George Weigel, the principal biographer to JPII in Witness to Hope, lectured at our school in 2010 about the enduring influence of JPII on the Church and world, which I've summarized here.

But to understand the "why" of his influence, look no further than this prophetic remark someone made about Karol Wojtyla when cardinals elected him pope in 1978:  “They picked a man not from Poland but from Galilee.” 

He returned the papacy back to its Scriptural roots--more pastor than monarch--traveling to over 100 foreign countries during his papacy, always to hundreds of thousands of people.  He connected with people on a scale that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes—literally millions of people from all over the world came to Rome for his funeral, in what NBC news said then was the “human event of our generation.”

His example and his writings have been a great inspiration to us at JPII. He loved young people.  He started World Youth Days, which were attended by hundreds of thousands of teens wherever they were hosted, and his consistent message to them was to have the courage to seek greatness in their lives, to not give in to mediocrity, to make Christ known to others, and to make the world more human. 

It’s a great challenge, and a great honor, to be the headmaster of a school that tries to live up to the example of its namesake, a saint! 

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