It was World Youth Day in 2000. We were in Rome. Two million young people. One Pope. I remember sitting in the grass in the hot field with my friends, eagerly awaiting what was to come. I was 16, and it was Saturday night, the special overnight Vigil with the Holy Father. The Holy Father - Pope John Paul II - was coming to speak to us; and there was excitement and anticipation in the air. The little spot we had secured for the night was all set; I had my radio tuned in and ready, and I eagerly awaited the Holy Father’s address.
The Holy Spirit truly spoke through JPII and I was called to a new depth of holiness:
It is Jesus in fact that 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...”
There in that hot field surrounded by two million others, JPII’s words started a spark and ignited in me a desire to follow Jesus. I didn’t realize that night that the Holy Father’s words would speak to me time and time again throughout my life. My hope is that the words of JPII also ignite your heart to the greatness for which you were made!
...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.” –Saint John Paul the Great
Fast forward five years later - it was April, 2005. I was again in Rome. Through a crazy turn of events, a friend and I found ourselves in St. Peter’s Square along with thousands of others who had traveled to Rome to be near our beloved Papa. He was dying, and we were there with him, praying for him and cheering him on in his last heroic moments. This time was sacred.
We kept vigil in the Square that night, encouraging and lifting up this humble pontiff who had so many times before lifted us up and called us on to greatness. He was my Papa, and he believed in me. He constantly led me to Jesus and stirred in me a desire for holiness. May the words of Saint John Paul the Great continue to ring loud in our hearts and ignite in us a desire to follow the path that Jesus has for us.
“Dear young people of the century now beginning, in saying “yes” to Christ, you say “yes” to all your noblest ideals. I pray that He will reign in your hearts and in all of humanity in the new century and the new millennium. Have no fear of entrusting yourselves to Him! He will guide you, He will grant you the strength to follow Him every day and in every situation.”
Saint John Paul the Great - Pray for us!
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