“JP2, we love you!”: a poetic chant for a poet

(National Poetry Month, Day 27)

pope stadium

I am a member of the John Paul II generation. I was beyond excited when he visited our archdiocese when I was fifteen years old. Tens of thousands of others and I boarded buses from our parishes on a rainy Thursday morning and arrived at Giants stadium, where we waited for hours in the torrential rain to celebrate Mass with Pope John Paul II and many of the faithful. It was an unforgettable experience for me (perhaps because it resulted in my contracting a protracted case of bronchitis, which turned into pneumonia…but also for other reasons). In the years since, I have met an incredible number of people, many of whom are now friends, who were also in the stadium on that day. For so many people of my age, Pope John Paul II, the only pope we knew until we were in our mid-twenties, represented the best in the Catholic faith, and his leadership helped us to define how—and why—we would live out this faith in our lives. When anyone says “the pope,” I still think first of John Paul II—and I probably always will.

Yesterday’s canonization in Rome of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II officially recognized the contributions to the causes of all of humankind that each of these men made during his lifetime. The pastoral, theological, and social contributions of these newly-canonized saints are far too numerous to discuss here, but I will mention one important contribution that Saint John Paul II made to the human experience: his poetry!

The poetry of Saint John Paull II, from early through late, is published in many languages and in several collections, and has been the object of the attention of literary critics and theologians.

I have not read much of the poetry of Saint John Paul II, but I would like to—and plan to—read more of his poems and learn about them soon.

In the meantime, here’s one of his most well-known poems for us to enjoy together.

Actor
by Saint John Paul II

So many grew around me, through me,
from my self, as it were.
I became a channel, unleashing a force
called man.
Did not the others crowding in, distort
the man that I am?
Being each of them, always imperfect,
myself to myself too near,
he who survives in me, can he ever
look at himself without fear?

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