Today is the first feast day of Pope St. John Paul II. Even though I was born in 1990, I still consider myself part of the JP2 Generation. It’s just that for me, I learned more about the great pope after his passing. While Leah Darrow was beginning to turn her life around as she heard the news of Pope John Paul II’s passing and Fr. Roderick was building a following for his podcast, I was lost in a California daze. As a child, I didn’t know much about the pope and took his presence for granted because at the time, my world was limited to the Central New Jersey suburbs of Monmouth County and New York City.
It wasn’t until I started college that I learned more about Pope John Paul II. I watched a performance of his beautiful play The Jeweler’s Shop, read some of his encyclicals and letters, and learned about his life. His road to sainthood was a frequent topic of conversation amongst my friends. I often found myself wishing that I could have some kind of time machine so that I could’ve seen the pope in his prime.
But it turned out that even after his death, Pope John Paul II would make a personal impact on my life. One of the beautiful things about Catholicism is that the ones we love never really leave us when they die. When it comes to the holy men and women of the Church, there’s an assurance that their souls are in heaven.
When it came time for Pope John Paul II’s canonization, I was back in California. This time I was just visiting my cousin for her 18th birthday party, which took place the same day as the canonization. Once the party was over, I went to my hotel room and watched a livestream of the canonization via YouTube. Some of my friends were quick to point out how they used Pope John Paul II’s cross in the procession while I was excited at the sight of Pope Emeritus Benedict.
Although I eventually fell asleep (time difference between California and Vatican City), I felt the presence of Pope John Paul II as I watched the livestream. I realize now that the legacy of Pope John Paul II was there and it’s best seen by what he left behind: a generation of people who were inspired by him, countless priests and bishops who strive to follow his example, and 2 popes who continue to bring the world together.
As for me, I hope that I continue to learn more about Pope John Paul II and join the others who are carrying his legacy for the next generation.