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St. John Paul II: What Made Him Truly Great
July 25, 2021

St. John Paul II: What Made Him Truly Great

To be able to live in the lifetime of a pope and a saint is a blessing. Many of us have been blessed with the immense privilege of living in the lifetime of one of the greatest popes in history: St. John Paul the Great.

Yes, St. John Paul has been bestowed the title of not just “Saint”, but also “the Great”. Only 2 other popes in history have been bestowed that title: Pope Leo I (440-461), and Pope Gregory I (590-604).

As explained by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, what gave St. John Paul II the title of “Great” was principally his huge role in history. He was the Pope who helped bring down the atheistic Soviet Empire: “The power of faith turned out to be a force that finally unhinged the Soviet power system in 1989 and made a new beginning possible. Undisputedly, the pope’s faith was an essential element in the collapse of the powers. And so, the greatness that appeared in Leo I and Gregory I is certainly also visible here.’’

But for many of us, who had the grace to live under this great saint’s lifetime, St. John Paul II was great for many other, more personal reasons.

I still remember the time that St. John Paul II visited Manila way back in 1995 for World Youth Day. I was only 17 years old at that time. Life was so much simpler back then. We lived in the era of fax machines and landline phones. There were no iPhones. The internet wasn’t that prevalent yet. Mark Zuckerberg was only 9 years old at that time, and was still many years away from inventing Facebook.

And yet, despite the fact that there was no social media back then, the visit of the Pope to Manila was truly a huge one, and was very much the talk of the entire Philippines. I was one of the many millions of people who braved the crowds, and tried to fight my way to a good spot - just to catch a glimpse of St. John Paul II.

I remember one particular encounter with the Pope. I was scrambling with my friends to find a good spot, since we knew that the Pope’s motorcade was about to pass a certain location. We didn’t think we could make it to that spot, but we ultimately did.

The motorcade passed, and we caught a glimpse of the Pope - his face beaming and smiling, waving at us. I remember the feeling: it was overwhelming, to say the least. I truly, truly felt the Divine Presence during that short moment when I encountered the Pope. It is hard to explain, but the Presence of God in the saintly Pope was like an overpowering wind that simply overwhelmed me, and embraced me with an explainable feeling of joy, peace, exuberance.

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