Saint Pope John Paul II: How His Influence Lingers On
November 6, 2019
In my recent article, I recounted thirty reasons to love Saint John Paul II. Just a few days after its release, someone asked, “So how did the Pope of your generation influence you as a Catholic?”
I was fairly new to the charismatic group of our parish when the youth leaders organized a group that would attend the closing ceremonies of World Youth Day in 1995 at the Luneta Grandstand in Manila. Millions of young people thronged Luneta Park and we were fortunate to make it to the grounds across the nearest hotel.
POPE OF THE YOUTH
After a few hours of waiting, Pope John Paul II came out to greet the cheering crowd. The next scenes were very emotive. Some people were crying! Perhaps they were crying tears of joy to see the Pope; some were crying tears of excitement, like seeing a good friend again after a long time. Wait, who didn’t cry? I caught myself crying too! At that moment, I felt God’s love radiated by the “Pope of the Youth.” The warmth of his personality was bursting with so much love that comes from the Lord. It’s as if God was telling me, “I care for you. Know that I am always here for you.”
It was a few years later when I realized that the ultimate source of the deep connection of the Pope to the young people was actually the love of God. Adolescence is a time of transition when young people face issues and struggle with love and acceptance. It is during this life stage that teens need the assurance of His love and care; that God loves and accepts teenagers exactly as they are.
The young recognized the Father’s love in the Pope! The Pope became a friend of young people. They felt God’s love in his enthusiasm to be with them, in his empathy when listening to them, in his compassion when embracing them, in his concern when teaching them.
As I look back, the Pope’s great love for the youth clearly had a great influence on my life as a youth minister. Only two years after the 1995 World Youth Day, I responded to the call of ministering to young people. It all started when I was asked to represent the youth of our charismatic group in a meeting. Little did I know that the representatives would soon form the Parish Youth Ministry. That began my journey. I was totally clueless then, but I tried my hand at it.
Year after year, my love for the ministry grew. I became passionate in serving and guiding young people. I was relentless in sharing God’s love to the youth and inspiring them to dedicate their lives to serving God. In my two decades of journeying with young people, St. John Paul II’s great example taught me the significant role of the youth in the Church and that they are gifts to be taken care of.
INSTRUMENTS OF LOVE
The youth hold a special place in God’s heart. We have to be instruments of His love for them. They are the hope of the Church. Guiding them in their personal and spiritual growth at their young age will nourish the Church both present and in the future.
The World Youth Day, as of one of the many legacies of St. Pope Paul II’s love for the youth, is indeed a blessing not just to young people but to the entire Church as well. It’s a continuous reminder for the world to celebrate them, to rekindle and personify God’s great love for them, to deepen their faith and to send them forth to proclaim the good news.
St. John Paul II being the longest reigning pope in the past century has, in one way or another, left a mark in our journey as Catholics. I ask you the same question, “How did St. John Paul II influence you as a Catholic?”
about the author
Jewelle Mendoza-Reyes was the Parish Youth Ministry Coordinator, Education Ministry head and iTweet (Information Team called to Witness, Evangelize and Educate through Technology)head of Holy Cross Parish in Makati City. She is now based in the United States.