Heroic souls tend to be chiseled out by tragedy. Whatever life throws at them, they refuse to get bitter. Instead they get better.

St John Paul II had a really rough childhood. Before he was born, his big sister died. Growing up as a little boy, he loved his Mother like any little boy did. He called her the “soul of home”. When he was eight, his mom died. Four years after his mom died, his big brother died. People described him in six, seventh grade as being kind of withdrawn and quiet. His dad was everything to him. His dad was like his father, mentor and friend. When he was twenty, his dad whom he loved so much died. At twenty, the Pope John Paul II said “I’ve already lost all the people I loved, and even those I might have loved – like my own sister.”

Very early in life, he experienced the tragedy of mortality and the tragedy of human evil. Yet he was renowned not for his bitterness and hardness. But Pope St John Paul II was known for his courage and optimism, in the face of evil. He had a supernatural grin in the face of what he called the “culture of death”.

Despite all the suffering he went through and witnessed, Pope St John Paul II faced everyday with prayer. People who worked with him said he visited the Blessed Sacrament constantly. He had a superhuman heart of love for the people of God. His heart was close to the heart of God. He prayed several Rosaries each day, went to confession each week, and did not let a day pass without receiving Holy Communion.

In a world where we lose ourselves in materialism, in sin, in godless philosophies, Pope St John Paul II stood out like a light shining in darkness, reminding us of who we are – in Christ.

Pray for us, Saint John Paul II!

1.
The Eucharist is the secret of my day. It gives strength and meaning to all my activities of service to the Church and to the whole world… Let Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament speak to your hearts. It is he who is the true answer of life that you seek. He stays here with us: he is God with us. Seek him without tiring, welcome him without reserve, love him without interruption: today, tomorrow, forever.

Pastoral visit to Young People of Bologna, 3, 1997, full text

2.

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands… Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task. […] This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops!

Eucharistic Celebration of the 8th World Youth Day, 6, 1993, full text

 3.
It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

“It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

Address of the 15th World Youth Day, 5, 2000, full text

 4.
Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ!

Inauguration Homily of his Pontificate, 5, 1978, full text

Pope John Paul II gestures during his 1980 visit to Paris. Pope Benedict XVI approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul's intercession, clearing the way for the late pope's beatification on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday. The late pope has also been named patron of World Youth Day in Madrid. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo) (Jan. 18, 2011) See JPII-WYD Jan. 18, 2011, and JPII-BEATIFICATION Jan. 14, 2011.

Photo credit: CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo 

 5.
We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.

Apostolic Voyage to Toronto, 5, 2002, full text

6.
We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

Evangelium Vitae, 28, 1995, full text

7.

Genuine love … is demanding. But its beauty lies precisely in the demands its makes. These demands are precisely capable of making your love a true love.

Message to the young people of Cuba, 5, 1998, full text

8.
“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery – the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”

Angelus after Mass, Apostolic Journey to the Far East and Oceania, 5, 1986 full text

9.
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

Fides et Ratio, 1, 1998, full text

 10.
Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart. You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life.

Message to Youth at the World Youth Day, 2, 2002, full text

11.
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself.”

Redemptor Hominis, 10, 1979, full text

12.
Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives! He has called you and chosen you to live in the freedom of the children of God. Turn to him in prayer and in love. Ask him to grant you the courage and strength to live in this freedom always. Walk with him who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”!

Address at 12th World Youth Day, 9, 1997, full text

Top photo: Central Press/Getty Images

Written by VITA Scribes.

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