The beatification of Pope John Paul II will be in Rome in exactly one month’s time. When the Church takes this step with any person, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS) gives the reasons for its decision, and we want to use this time to look at the ones relating to the beloved Karol Wojtyla.
We will do so with the help of John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood by Jim Gallagher, an updated biography produced by CTS to coincide with the occasion.
You can find the nine main points made by the CCS for the beatification in their statement here. In this first post in a new series, we want to draw attention to the Polish Pope’s devotion to the Mother of God.
Mary was known as the ‘Queen of Poland’, and the piety that surrounded her in the time of the future pope’s youth was real and heartfelt. Karol lost his mother when he was just eight, and in Mary he found an even greater one whom he grew to know and love with the help of St Louis de Montfort’s Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a text which he read while working as a labourer in a stone quarry during 1941 and from which he took his motto “Totus Tuus” or “Completely Yours”.
Examples of holiness
Long before that, however, he had seen people like his own father show a deep love and affection for the Virgin Mary: a rosary was said to have been constantly in his father’s hand. And even when he was propelled onto the world stage, examples like these never left him. As Jim Gallagher writes:
“From his earliest years, the Blessed Mother of God had been Karol Wojtyla’s guide and consolation. As he sought to promote the cause of life in face of the pervasive ‘culture of death’ throughout his papacy, he knew, as he wrote in Evangelium Vitae, that ‘Mary thus helps the Church to realise that life is always at the centre of a great struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness.’”
Mary’s place in Nowa Huta
He saw plenty of that darkness first-hand in his youth and as a priest, a bishop and an archbishop, first in Nazi-0ccupied, then in Communist Poland.
While he was still archbishop, he fought for the right to construct a Church in the Communist-built Nowa Huta, a town in which, as the authorities put it, “There was no room for God.”
Wojtyla disagreed and as Gallagher shows, Mary was at the centre of this struggle as well. The Church was eventually built in a modern style to look like “An ark in which Mary, Queen of Poland would gather and lead her Son’s people to safety.”
Throughout his life and ministry – even in his Papal Coat of Arms – this understanding of Mary as a path to Christ was vital. As it says in this biography:
“What was evident to all was his total devotion to the Theotokos, the Mother of God and, as proclaimed by Vatican II, Mother of the Church. His personal motto of ‘Totus Tuus’, ‘completely yours’, showed his complete devotion to the service of the Lord through the intercession of Mary.”
John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood by Jim Gallagher is available from CTS at £2.95
Of related interest: