Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pope John Paul II - a man of prayer

Let us Pray

O Jesus, we offer the whole Church to You
That all the leaders of the Church will be anointed in the Holy Spirit at all times.
O Jesus, help us to be people of prayer.

On 2 April 2005, when it was announced in Vatican that our Holy Father, John Paul II had passed away, tens of thousands of people were gathered in St. Peter's Square, tears flowing down from their eyes. They said, "We're orphaned." The pain of being orphaned was written on the face of the Church throughout the world during this period of mourning. After having ruled the Church as Shepherd, Pope John Paul II, had gone home into the arms of the Heavenly Father.

"Be A Praying Priest"

When I think of the Holy Father, what comes into my mind is the beautiful memory of meeting him in Rome a number of years back. I was studying in Rome. I had completed my doctorate in the Gregorian University and I went for a private audience with the Pope to present to him my doctorate thesis. I explained to him the theme of my thesis and he listened to everything. And then he asked me, "How is your Dad and Mum?" I told him, "My Dad is sick in hospital" and pressing my hands together, he said, "Tell your Dad the Pope is praying for them." Tears filled my eyes. I knew I was standing in the presence of a great Pontiff…a great Shepherd who cares for the sheep. I remembered what Jesus said (John 10:14), "I know my own. My own knows me." Here is the Holy Father, the great Shepherd, concerned about every individual - obviously he cannot know every one but his heart went out of him in concern and love to know and to care for everyone. He was not a shepherd looking after a crowd but he was concerned about every individual - leaving the 99 in the desert and going after 1 sheep. At the end of this meeting, the Holy Father told me, "Be a praying priest" - a message of love that I keep in my heart with a lot of joy and affection. When one stands in the presence of the Holy Father, one feels an aura of holiness filling everywhere. It is like one was in touch with the holiness of God.

Every Decision Taken in Prayer

Everyone who knows the inner circle of the life of the Holy Father knew this - that he was a great man of prayer. He spent hours in prayer everyday. Recently I heard a real incident that happened inside Vatican. The Holy Father was in prayer in his private chapel and the Cardinal in-charge of International Affairs in the Vatican came to the chapel wanting to speak to the Pope. His Secretary told the Cardinal that the Holy Father was in prayer. 

The Cardinal said, "The matter is very urgent and very important and I need to know the comment of the Holy Father immediately and urgently." So the Secretary went to the Pope and told him the 'the Cardinal is waiting for you. He says he has a very important and urgent message to discuss with you." The Holy Father smiled and asked his Secretary, "Did the Cardinal say the matter is very urgent and important?" And the Secretary replied, "Yes, that is what the Cardinal says." Then the Holy Father said, "Tell the Cardinal if the matter is so urgent and so important, I need to pray a bit more." A man of prayer - he always wanted to pray a bit more! He always wanted to be united with God. Every decision was taken in prayer. The Holy Father used to say, "All my teachings are evolved in the moments of my prayer." He taught great things - but not always pleasing to the men and women of the world. This is a Holy Father who did not please the world and yet the world admired him because he was different. He wanted to be different.

Committed To Please Jesus

There are many leaders today who want to please the people and remain in authority. The Holy Father knew his authority came from God - and he was committed to please Jesus. 

Here, I remember the scene described in the Gospel (John 21:15 onwards) - Jesus asking Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than everything else?" Jesus asked this question THREE times. The third time, Simon Peter was grieved. But whether Simon Peter was grieved or not, Jesus wanted an answer from him. And only when Simon Peter answered him in the affirmative, "I love you, Lord, more than everything else." Only then did Jesus say, "Feed my sheep." 
Everyone in authority in the church should be a person committed to please Jesus - to love Jesus. To love Him more than everything else and be committed to lead the sheep to Him. Not as the people want, not according to the whims and fancies of the times, but as Jesus wants them to be led. And the Pope was particularly aware of this - his commitment was to Jesus, the Shepherd.

Jesus – A Man of Prayer
Jesus was different. He did not flow with the tide of the people; with the current thinking of the times. He had his own thinking to give to the people - that's why Jesus was different. He got all those insights from the Father. 

The gospels present to us Jesus as a man in prayer. In Luke Chapter 11, Jesus was in prayer and the disciples were waiting outside. After Jesus had finished his prayer, they asked Him, "Master, teach us to pray." St. Augustine becomes eloquent when he interprets this passage and he says the only thing the disciples wanted to do as the Master did was prayer. Jesus was doing great things in the presence of the disciples. He calmed the sea; he fed 7000 people with just 7 loaves of bread; he healed lepers. But not once did the disciples want to do anything as Jesus did. The only thing they wanted to learn was to pray as Jesus did! 


For the disciples, Jesus was first and foremost a man of prayer - His life and his teachings flowed out of prayer.
It is written in the gospel of Mark Chapter 2 -"the whole night Jesus prayed and when he came down from the mountain, he chose the Twelve Apostles." In the gospel of Luke Chapter 5, Jesus healed a leper and the leper went about all over the place shouting, "I 'm healed and Jesus healed me!" The name and fame of Jesus increased - his popularity spread everywhere. Yet in the next sentence- "Jesus retired to a lonely place to pray." In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus healed a man with a withered arm on the Sabbath and the Pharisees found fault with him. "How can Jesus heal on the Sabbath?" and they were plotting against him, planning to kill him. Jesus knew this - and the next sentence - "He retired to a lonely place to pray." The pain of misunderstanding - he went to the Father to share everything with Him.

In moments of decisions, in the moments of popularity, in the moments of sadness and misunderstanding, at all moments in his life, what Jesus did was to retire to a lonely place to pray. The one picture of Jesus that loomed large in the mind of the Holy Father was - of Jesus in prayer. He was a great man of prayer. We have seen beautiful pictures of the Holy Father with the rosary in hand praying, concentrated in prayer. In prayer, he got everything from God and he decided everything in the light of prayer.

Pope For the Youth

Pope John Paul II was the Pope of the Youth. He understood the wavelength of the heart of the youth. It is the Youth that came to see him at the end of his life. Most of the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square were youth who came to be with him in his last hours. In fact, the Pope did not try to please them. No, He did not! He did not try to win affection from them by giving them what they wanted instead he gave them Jesus. He knew Jesus should be the model for the Youth and the young picked up that wavelength very beautifully and powerfully. They understood the Pope was giving them what was necessary for their growth and for their future. And they loved him for that.

Be A Saint

The Holy Father challenged the Youth to stand up for the ideals of the Gospel. He told them that they needed to be the saints of the times. A saint is person who is different. In the world, the corruption of sin is prevalent. Injustice and greed reign everywhere. He told them to fight for justice for every individual and for every nation in the world. 

Sexual licentiousness is rampant all over. prevalent everywhere. He challenged them - "You need to be pure as Jesus was pure." Consumerism is the rule of the day. He challenged them, "Be simple in your living that you may be able to help everyone in need." Be saints of this century! -this was the message he gave to the Youth.

India Remembers

We in India are particularly grateful to the Holy Father. He visited us twice - once to declare two Indians as Blessed - Blessed Alphonsa and Blessed Cyriac Elias Chavara. And then Mother Teresa was declared Blessed in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father had great admiration for this country. I remember he told me in that meeting, "Your country is a land of spirituality, of sages and saints." When he came to India for the second time, he said to us, "The Church in India has a special mission to proclaim Jesus the Saviour to this land of spirituality" - and that is our mission.

My dear brothers and sisters, the day before the death of the Holy Father, he called the Reverend Sisters and those who were serving him close to his bed and he told them, "I'm happy. You also must be happy. I don't want any tears." So we have no right to shed tears. What we need to do is to raise our hearts up to God, the Eternal Shepherd, to thank Him for giving us such a great, such a holy, such a wonderful Shepherd to lead the Church.

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.


Official Website of Pope John Paul II -


Anonymous said...

When he visited Australia in 1986 we were all excited and happy. Like one huge family, we all got together and cheered him on. His whole persona seemed charged with the Holy Spirit.
It was a memorable time for Catholics and even non Catholics.


Anonymous said...

Whenever I see a picture of John Paul II, I see love flowing from his eyes and it feels like he is looking directly at me.


Akjer said...

I loved him so much....thank you Jesus for giving a great us all to live a life according to his teaching that is rooted in your principles

Anonymous said...

Our God is merciful God. Thank you Jesus, for giving Holy Father-The man of Prayer.

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