Friday, October 21, 2011

Lisa Hendey: Blessed John Paul II and Me

Lisa's promoting her book, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, which you already know that I love. I asked her to write something extra about a saint for us (an author's work is never done, y'all, and I'm proud to help her keep her writing credentials).  The result? This great personal reflection.

Thank you, Lisa, and welcome to Happy Catholic on your tour of the Catholic blog world. (Hey, if you need extra towels, just look in that cabinet behind the sink!)
When I set out to write a book about the lives of the saints at the request of my publisher in the early weeks of September 2010, I could never have anticipated the way in which my life would be touched personally by the project. With a blank slate and a lot of leash from Ave Maria Press and my editor Eileen Ponder, I set out to create a “dream team” of 52 saints, reflecting for several weeks upon their individual charisms and qualities. One definite on my “must include” list was – as we knew him at that time – Pope Venerable John Paul II.

As with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the man so many of us lovingly knew as “JPII” was a saint we were able to watch, learn from and love during our own lifetimes. In many ways, his call to the New Evangelization and the celebration of the Great Jubilee in the year 2000 led me to what has now become my own life’s work. How audacious is it that one little mom, living in a suburb with a then non-Catholic spouse, two young sons, and no technical capabilities, could launch a little website that eleven years later would be welcoming millions of visitors each year to know, to love, and to celebrate our Catholic faith? And yet when he called each of us, I did my best to answer.

I put the finishing touches on my then “Pope Venerable John Paul II” chapter for A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms in late December 2010. At that time, I dwelt upon the role of his writings on the Theology of the Body had in my life, doing my best to celebrate the dignity with which he taught us to see and to treasure all human life. Little did I know that a few months later, I would be invited to attend the Vatican Blogger Meeting being held in conjunction with the Beatification of Blessed John Paul II.

Like a dream that just kept getting better, my trip to the Vatican in May 2011 found me nestled amidst a million and a half of my closest Catholic friends on Divine Mercy Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI beatified this man who had beckoned me into an ever deepening relationship with Christ, with our Church and with my spouse. When I filed past his coffin the next day, kneeling amidst a group of priests for an impromptu decade of the Rosary before the Swiss Guards moved us along to make way for the throngs of pilgrims who had come to pay their respects, I gave silent thanks.

I never met Blessed John Paul II personally in life, and yet in so many moments since his death he has been a spiritual companion, and intercessor, and a model of virtue for me. God willing, I hope to be present at his canonization. But in truth, my trip to Rome and my time spent studying the dignity of the life of this man has taught me to look around me at the everyday saints in my own life with greater awareness. Like this humble man from Poland who went on to bring peace to our world and transformation to our Church, each of us are called to the path of sainthood. My path plays out one step at a time, in simple, joyous fashion. I’ll be forever grateful for the companionship of Blessed John Paul II along that journey – wherever it may lead.

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