Pope St. John Paul II is rightly nicknamed John Paul the Great because of his tremendous impact on so many spheres of our life and on world history. Not only will he be remembered as the Pope who traveled more than any of his predecessors, but his legacy also includes a myriad of writings and inspirational speeches.
Saint John Paul II left us far more wisdom than can be fit on this page, and his writings edified different people in so many diverse ways. Here are just 15 things he said that remind us of the inspirational and revolutionary figure he was to the world:
1) On family life:
“To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others and share their burdens.” – From his homily at a Mass in Washington DC (October, 1979).
2) On the meaning of true holiness:
“True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement. – From his message to participants in the Seventh International Meeting of the Catholic Fraternity of Covenant Communities and Fellowships (November, 1996).
3) On society’s role in upholding life:
“The first and most fundamental of all human rights is the right to life, and when this right is denied all other rights are threatened … A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members; and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.” – From the address to the new ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See (May, 2000).
4) On choosing God over worldly pleasures:
“Faced with problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility: escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. But today, I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape. If you really accept that love from Christ, it will lead you to God.” – From a homily given in Boston (October, 1979).
5) On God as the author of life:
“Man’s life comes from God; it is his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life. God therefore is the sole Lord of this life: man cannot do with it as he wills.” – From Evangelium Vitae (March, 1995).
6) On living life in Christ:
“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery – the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!” – From an Angelus address in Adelaide, Australia, during JPII’s apostolic journey to the Far East and Oceania (November, 1986).
7) On marriage:
“Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.” – From his book “Love and Responsibility.”
8) On the fruits of suffering:
“For it is above all a call. It is a vocation … as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him. He does not discover this meaning at his own human level, but at the level of the suffering of Christ. At the same time, however, from this level of Christ the salvific meaning of suffering descends to man’s level and becomes, in a sense, the individual’s personal response. It is then that man finds in his suffering interior peace and even spiritual joy.” – From Salvifici Doloris (February, 1984).
9) On politics:
“What justifies the existence of any political activity is service to man.” – From his address to the 34th General Assembly of the United Nations (October, 1979).
10) On persevering with grace:
“God’s love does not impose burdens upon us that we cannot carry, nor make demands of us that we cannot fulfill. For whatever He asks of us, He provides the help that is needed.” – From his book “Rise, let us be on our way.”
11) On life in Christ:
“Only in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ. When you wonder about the mystery of yourself, look to Christ who gives you the meaning of life.” – From his address to high school students in New York City (October, 1979).
12) On hoping in the Lord:
“Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives! He has called you and chosen you to live in the freedom of the children of God. Turn to him in prayer and in love. Ask him to grant you the courage and strength to live in this freedom always. Walk with him who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’!” – From the 12th World Youth Day in Paris, France (August, 1997).
13) On the need for evangelization:
“[The] Third Millennium brings the urgent challenge of the new evangelization. True, it is not easy to proclaim the Gospel in a world which claims not to need God. Yet we are bound by the compelling words of St Paul: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel’ (1 Cor. 9:16).” – From his message to participants in the Seventh International Meeting of the Catholic Fraternity of Covenant Communities and Fellowships (November, 1996).
14) On chastity:
“Chastity is a difficult, long-term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness.” – From his book “Love and Responsibility.”
15) On forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.” – From his message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace (January, 2002).