by Ed Harpring
The Advent season is finally begun. Joy and anticipation are in the air as we try to patiently prepare ourselves for the Christ child. Advent season is also a time of Marian devotion with back to back feast days of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
St. John Paul II certainly had a special devotion to Mother Mary as well. In fact, he entrusted his priesthood to Mother Mary and consecrated himself and the entire world to her motherly protection. His papal motto was Totus Tuus, which means “totally thine.” This motto signified his complete devotion to Our Lady. When he was shot by Mehmet Ali Agca on May 13, 1981 (the anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima), in an attempted assassination, St. John Paul II attributed his survival to the Blessed Mother. He later recounted, “One hand fired the shot,” he would say, “but another guided the bullet.”
As we know, St. John Paul II, is regarded as a prolific writer, who published more than 50 major works and profound encyclicals including, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) and Veritatis Splendor: (The Splendor of Truth) and widely read books such as Love and Responsibility and Crossing the Threshold of Hope. He also wrote extensively about the Blessed Mother. In his book, Gift and Mystery, he gives credit to his father who regularly took him on pilgrimages to local Marian shrines.
While many are aware that St. John Paul that was a gifted writer, few are aware that he was a talented athlete, actor, and world class philosopher. Even less well-known, is that he was also a talented poet as well. He wrote about many topics close to his heart, especially his love for and devotion to the Blessed Mother. It wasn’t until he became Pope for a number of years, that his poetry became known throughout the world. Recently, I came across one of his poems venerating Mother Mary and the wonder of Christmas entitled:
Her Amazement at Her Only Child
Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)
Light piercing gradually, everyday events;
a woman’ eyes, hands
used to them since childhood.
Then brightness flared, too huge for simple days,
and hands clasped when the words lost their space.
In that little town, my son, where they knew us together,
you called me mother; but no one had eyes to see
the astounding events as they took place day by day.
Your life became the life of the poor
in your wish to be with them through the work of your hands.
I knew: the light that lingered in ordinary things,
like a spark sheltered under the skin of our days—
the light was you;
it did not come from me.
And I had more of you in that luminous silence
than I had of you as the fruit of my body, my blood.
Like many Catholics, I have a devotion to St. John Paul II. He is the Pope I grew up with for most of my life and the Pope who epitomized strong leadership and yet a tender devotion to the Blessed Mother. More than ever in our chaotic world where the dignity of human life is ever more devalued, we need to remember that we have hope and joy that the Christ Child brings. During this Advent season, we can follow in the footsteps of St. John Paul II and learn from our Heavenly Mother to meet her Son in the “luminous silence.”