It wasn’t long after his Oct. 16, 1978 election that the new Pope John Paul II — the former Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla — began promoting Mary and the Rosary as one of the best ways to proclaim Christ to the world. In a General Audience on Oct. 28, less than two weeks after his election, Pope John Paul II declared the Rosary to be “my favorite prayer.” He also called it a “marvelous prayer — marvelous in its simplicity and in its depth.”
Throughout his pontificate, Pope John Paul II remained close to the Blessed Mother, signaled in his motto — an adaptation of St. Louis de Montfort’s phrase “Totus Tuus” (“Totally Yours”)— describing his complete devotion to Mary and desire to be closer to her and her Son. He also had a deep love for the spiritual fruits of the mysteries of the Rosary as outlined by St. Louis de Montfort and promoted them in his 2003 apostolic letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. He wrote: “… it is worthwhile to note that the contemplation of the mysteries could better express their full spiritual fruitfulness if an effort were made to conclude each mystery with a prayer for the fruits specific to that particular mystery. In this way the Rosary would better express its connection with the Christian life” (No. 35, emphasis in original).
Like all saints, we can turn to the example of Pope St. John Paul II, who incorporated vividly the spiritual fruits of each mystery of the Rosary into his life. Here are 5 ways in which Pope St. John Paul II lived these out.
- Pope St. John Paul II was humble. From the beginning of his papacy, Pope St. John Paul II habitually kissed the ground upon arriving in every country to which he traveled. This gesture, learned from St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, was a sign of great humility, and it was an action that conveyed respect, affection, and that showed him to be at the faithful service of those he was visiting.
- Pope St. John Paul II had a great, lifelong love for the Eucharist. His encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia was dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, and he directed the Church to dedicate an entire year — October 2004 to October 2005 — to deeper reflection on, and growth in, love of the Eucharist.
- Pope St. John Paul II sought conformity to God’s will. When John Paul II was elected pope in 1978, he responded with the greatest obedience, wholeheartedly accepting God’s will for his life. Upon accepting the papal responsibility, he simply stated: “In the obedience of faith before Christ my Lord, abandoning myself to the Mother of Christ and the Church, and conscious of the great difficulties, accepto.”
- Pope St. John Paul II showed patience in carrying his cross. Suffering was a significant part of John Paul II’s life, particularly in his final years as he battled Parkinson’s disease. But through infirmity and illness, John Paul II displayed a beautiful perseverance and humility, and he offered a witness to what it looks like to bear one’s cross with patience and purpose.
- Pope St. John Paul II had a lively faith. John Paul II was a gifted teacher, and he was especially gifted when it came to teaching on matters of doctrine. His arguments were clear and compelling, and always rooted in Scripture and Tradition. Through his clarity and consistency, despite facing much resistance at times, he helped all who encountered him better know and understand the teachings of Christ and his Church.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV and author of “Praying the Rosary with Pope St. John Paul II.”