My Favorite Saint
Our CCD students have occasional opportunities to ask priests questions. There are some standard ones that we get: do you have any siblings, what is your favorite color, do you own your own car, what made you want to become a priest, etc. However one that I have struggled to answer for years is: who is your favorite saint? There are so many saints from which to choose. There are obvious choices like the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph or St. John Vianney (the patron saint of priests). However there is another saint whose example and relevance have always enthralled me.
About four years ago I had the unique privilege of witnessing the marriage of my date to senior prom. She met a Catholic guy in college, became Catholic herself, and then decided to get married in a church in Cleveland. The church was traditionally a Polish parish and was a beautiful, massive, gothic building. During the rehearsal, the groom led me down a hallway that contained a picture of Pope St. John Paul II. Not just any picture, but a picture when he was preaching from the pulpit in that Church (before he became pope).
For the wedding, I climbed the ten stairs into the pulpit, proclaimed the Gospel, and preached from the same pulpit as the future John Paul II. Unbeknownst to me, the groom instructed the photographer to snap a photo of me from a similar angle as the pope’s. The couple gave me two framed pictures of me and Pope St. John Paul II.
John Paul II isn’t my favorite saint for this solitary reason. There are immense reasons that I could cite. As we begin Lent, there is much that St. John Paul II can teach us about Lent. First and foremost, he took Lent very seriously. He prayed the Stations of the Cross everyday during Lent, he made a retreat, and fasted from food in an incredible way. He knew that Lent was a time to enter the desert with Jesus Christ.
John Paul II loved the Way of the Cross. Every Good Friday, he led the devotion in the Roman Colosseum. In his younger days he carried the cross himself from station to station. The Stations of the Cross are the epitome of a Lenten devotion. They draw us deeper into the sufferings of Jesus Christ and reveal to us the redemptive power of our own sufferings.
Another way that John Paul II is a Lenten exemplar is his care for the poor. Organizers of his events realized very quickly that they couldn’t put too many handicapped people in the front row because the pope would greet each one individually which would throw off his schedule. For us Lent is also a time of care and compassion. Not only do we look to Christ in our own suffering, but we suffer alongside those in need. A famous priest writes that mercy is, “having a pain in your heart for the pains of another, and taking pains to do something about their pain.”
May St. John Paul II intercede for all of us this Lent. May we learn how to follow Jesus Christ in a deeper way by carrying our own crosses and helping others to carry theirs.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson