Born: May 18th, 1920
Died: Apr. 2nd, 2005
FEast: Oct. 22nd
world Youth Day, children, relationships between faiths
St. John Paul II
John Paul was born in Wadowice, Poland in 1920, and was given the name Karol Wojtyla. He lost both of his parents and his older brother very early on, but he also had some joys in his early life, such as playing sports in his community. His town had a very large Jewish population, and he was in fact very good friends with many members of the community, both a girlfriend and best friend were included. He also loved acting, and enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University for drama when he graduated high school. While there, he learned 15 languages, playwriting, and philosophy, and he also participated in mandatory military training and volunteered as a librarian.
When the school had to shut down in 1939 because Nazis had invaded Poland, Karol worked in a quarry and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He continued to study and participate in a theater group secretly, and soon met a friend who introduced him to Carmelite spirituality, which helped convince him that he was meant for religious life. He personally asked the Archbishop to teach him, and so he attended an "underground" seminary until the war was over, completing his education, and then going on to teach philosophy himself. It was not an easy path - he survived a few severe accidents and hid in a basement to narrowly avoid deportation.
After becoming a priest, he thrived despite Communist restrictions, writing poetry and also organizing outdoor sporting and camping trips with theological discussions with young members of the community. The groups called him "Wujek", the Polish word for Uncle, and the nickname stuck.
Very quickly, Karol was appointed as the Archbishop of Krakow, and continued to defy Communist restrictions, traveling extensively to communicate when he was denied media coverage, and holding Mass in an open field where he desired to build a church. He was extremely influential in the second Vatican Council as well, aiding in writing and distributing many important theological pieces still relied upon today.
Karol was elected Pope John Paul II in 1978. Among his many missions as Pope, he worked to bridge relationships between world faith groups, and to write and speak about a number of topics that had been rather "off-limits" before. Included in this, he formally apologized for the involvement in the Church in persecution of indigenous peoples, women, suspected heretics, people of other faiths, and victims of the Crusades. He traveled extensively, established World Youth Day, and even survived assassination attempts. He unfortunately suffered from Parkinson's disease in the last few years of his life, and passed away in 2005.
You were there as our church leader during one of the most challenging, new, and changing times in history. So many new ideologies, government types, scientific breakthroughs, and types of technology were developed during your service. Help us, as these things continue to change, to see what about our faith changes and what stays the same. Amen.
This piece was a commission, and some of the details I enjoy most were the decisions to have him smiling, wearing something open and simple, and looking right at the viewer. Making his glasses a fun yellow was the last detail I added, and I enjoy it most since it is a symbol of Pope John Paul's playfulness and style. His tattoo is a Marianist symbol for his strong dedication to Mary, and he holds a book to symbolize his many influential writings.