In Witness to Hope George Weigel writes that Karol Wojtyla “brought to the papacy a striking set of personal talents. But the talents really don’t explain the man or his impact. That only comes into clear focus when we remember that Karol Józef Wojtyła was a thoroughly, indeed radically, convinced Christian disciple. It was the passion of his discipleship that made him the most influential man of his time.”

Before he was a priest, bishop, or pope, the young Karol Wojtyla was radically in love with Jesus, Mary, and the Church. He was a disciple. How did this happen? 

As a convert to the Faith who spent his first 36 years of life without the Church, I am more than a bit jealous of Karol Wojtyla’s great faith, which began practically at birth through an outpouring of grace working through the tremendous dedication of his saintly parents. What an incredible gift for a young child to have parents who love and share their faith! I will be eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit lead me (I finally stopped saying NO to the grace of God) to the Church and am truly blessed to have been received at Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston in 2001. To have a faithful, vibrant, beautiful parish in which to worship and receive the sacraments allows us to be in our true home (and has been a gift for our children and grandchildren) and put us on the path to true discipleship.

In his book The Story of My Life St. Pope John Paul II tells a group of children in Wadowice:

Here, in this city, in this ancient parish church, I heard Peter’s confession (of faith) for the first time. It came from the baptistery, the altar, the pulpit, and the school. It was all wrapped up in the life of this Christian community. This confession formed its life, as it forms the Christian life of the entire world. This confession came to me as a gift of the faith of the Church. It gave my life a direction that began in the Father, and in the Son, opened itself to the Holy Spirit, to the inscrutable mystery of God. My Mother’s hands taught me this mystery, as she joined my baby hands in prayer, showing me how to make the sign of the cross, the sign of Christ, who is the Son of the Living God.

I believe this is the key to St. John Paul II becoming a “radically, convinced Christian disciple.” He had parents of great faith who immersed him in prayer and in the sacramental life of his parish. As he tells us the message that Christ was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” came to him from “the baptistery, the altar, the pulpit, and the school.” It seems that Pope St. John Paul II built his ministry upon the centrality of discipleship, loving Christ, Mary and the Church. All of his moral and cultural insights were manifested in his teaching us, and the whole world, that with Christ all good things are possible. Without Christ no meaning is available to us for only Christ reveals man to himself. This is a mystery and grace! 

St. John Paul II learned from his earthly mother to “make the sign of the cross, the sign of Christ.” He stayed a disciple of Jesus Christ his entire life. Thanks to his mother and father, to his Lord, Mary the Mother of God, and Holy Mother Church he taught the love of Christ to millions of people across the world. Each of us has an opportunity to cooperate with grace and to help bring to all peoples the gift of Jesus Christ and his Church. Thanks be to God! St. John Paul II pray for us! Our Lady of Walsingham pray for us! Amen.