One of the Greats
There have been more than 260 popes in the history of the Church. Only four of these, because of the outpouring of popular acclaim at the time of their death, are known to history – though not by any official proclamation of the Church – as “the Great”: Pope St. Leo I (reigned 440–61), Pope St. Gregory I (590–604), St. Nicholas I (858–67), and Pope Saint John Paul II (1978-2005). This week, on October 22, the Church celebrates the feast of John Paul the Great. What’s so great about him? FORMED offers several good answers.
First there is a film ideal for the whole family, those who remember John Paul as well as those too young to have any recollection of the John Paul phenomenon: Pope John Paul II. It follows a young Karol Wojtyla from his early days in Poland under the Nazis and Communists through his late days on the Chair of St. Peter. Shot on location in Rome and Poland, it shows the dangers he faced and the sufferings he endured, as well as how he touched the lives of millions of people. Pope John Paul II is long, almost three hours, but what a great story it has to tell.
Then there is John Paul II in America. Though John Paul is justly famous for the role he played in ending Communism in Poland, this video documentary makes clear that his mission as pope was a global one, extending far beyond Poland and Europe. He made this point early in his papacy: His first mission abroad was to Mexico. The documentary highlights his role in the fall of dictatorships in Chile, Haiti, Paraguay, and Brazil, in addition to his call for a "United American Continent" under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Finally, if you’re going on a car ride and want to make time fly, listen to Saint John Paul Great, written and presented by Jason Evert. Evert must have done thousands of interviews to come up with the truly remarkable stories he recounts about John Paul. Some range as far back as the young Wojtyla’s early days in Poland and others to his final days at the Vatican. The result is a portrait of a man whose great faith was matched by an equally great love. Not only did he frequently give away the shirt off his back, he also gave away the shoes off his feet.