Many aspects of Blessed John Paul II were revealed during what has been described as an extraordinary pontificate of almost 27 years. One writer summarises this pope as a witness to hope, lasting justice and peace among the nations and a strong believer in the dignity and sacredness of human life.
Blessed John Paul II was also considered as the Pope of the Youth and founded World Youth Day in 1984 in Rome. As he aged however, his own life ironically witnessed to the immense courage of the aged who have to face creeping disability, as he did in his battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Contributing to his courage was his praying of the Rosary, a practice which will be of invaluable assistance as we come face to face with the many challenges of catechesis in these times.
Interestingly, the decision to open the cause of the sainthood of John Paul II was announced on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima – May13, 2005. This was also the 24th anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II at St Peter’s Square and it is Our Lady of Fatima whom John Paul II repeatedly credited for preserving him on that day.
As the world awaits the ceremony of canonisation of this blessed Pope, it is fitting to remember the lessons contained in John Paul II’s apostolic letter on the Rosary of the Virgin Mary which was delivered on October 16, 2002. In that encyclical he introduced the Luminous mysteries of Christ’s public ministry.
John Paul II pointed out that the Rosary of the Virgin Mary is at heart a Christocentric prayer and that to recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ. He noted that the Rosary:
- is loved by countless saints and encouraged by the Magisterium.
- sustains the liturgy as it serves as an excellent introduction and a faithful echo of it.
- is a prayer for peace as it contemplates Christ who “is our peace” since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14).
- is a prayer for the family.
- is an expression of the maternal concern of the Blessed Mother.
- is a genuine path to growth in holiness.
- is an exquisitely contemplative prayer and without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning.
John Paul II pointed to the fact that Jesus is the ‘Supreme Teacher’. As catechists, we also need to sit with the Virgin Mary to contemplate his face. John Paul II stated in this encyclical: “Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from her to ‘read’ Christ, to discover his secrets and to understand his message.”
If as catechists we are to truly share the message of Christ, we need to fully understand that message. We thank God for John Paul II’s life and lessons on the Rosary.
– Rhonda Earle, Eastern Vicariate Catechetical Coordinator, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office