John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope: Beatification Edition by Rev. George W. Kosicki, CSB, is a genuine treasure for all who wish to make St. John Paul II's legacy of Divine... Read more
Ministry to the Sick and the Poor
To mark the first anniversary of the beatification of Blessed John Paul II on May 1, the following is an excerpt from our Beatification Edition of John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope, by Fr. George W. Kosicki, CSB, and David Came. This comes from Chapter 4, "Ministry to the Sick and the Poor":
John Paul II responded with mercy to the sick. He established a yearly celebration, The World Day of the Sick (February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes).
On February 11, 1989, I personally saw his compassion for the sick as he laid hands of blessing upon each of the hundreds of sick in wheelchairs and stretchers assembled in St. Peter's Basilica.
In the encyclical Gospel of Life, May 13, 1993, John Paul II wrote:
Pain and suffering have meaning and value when they are experienced in close connection with love received and given. In this regard I have called for the yearly celebration of the World Day of the Sick, [February 11], emphasizing the salvific nature of offering up of suffering which, experienced in communion with Christ, belongs to the very essence of the redemption (94).
In the apostolic letter On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering (Salvifici Dolores), February 11, 1984, John Paul II describes how Jesus Christ transforms suffering into salvific love. Moreover, He has opened His salvific suffering to man. He lives in the one He has loved by suffering and dying (20). "At one and the same time Christ has taught man to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer. He has completely revealed the meaning of suffering" (30).
In his conclusion, John Paul II prayed that all peoples of all times might find in the Redeemer, the Man of Sorrows who has taken on all our physical and moral sufferings, the love that gives salvific meaning to their sorrows. He asked all who suffer to support him. "May your suffering in union with the cross of Christ be victorious!" (31).
In his pilgrimages around the world, John Paul II visited the ghettoes, the poorest of the poor, and the native peoples. His very presence was a sign of hope and encouragement.
The progressively increasing infirmity of John Paul II was a model of offering suffering and pain as a powerful means of intercession, united with Jesus at the Throne of the Father, for mercy on the whole world. He was a living homily that became stronger than words, especially when he lay dying in the papal apartment in late March and early April of 2005.
+ DURING THE PILGRIMAGE OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II TO LOURDES on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
On August 14, 2004, at Lourdes, with the infirmity of his advancing age he was like a living homily, identifying himself with the suffering of the sick:
Here at this Grotto of Massabielle, I wish first of all to greet the sick who come in ever greater numbers to this Shrine, those who have accompanied them, their caregivers and their families.
I am here with you, dear brothers and sisters, as a pilgrim to Our Lady. I make my own your prayers and your hopes. With you I share a time of life marked by physical suffering, yet not for that reason any less fruitful in God's wondrous plan. With you I pray for all those who trust in your prayers.
In carrying out my apostolic ministry I have always trusted greatly in the offerings, prayers, and sacrifices of the suffering. During this pilgrimage I ask you to join me in offering to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, all the intentions of the Church and of the world.
Dear brothers and sisters who are sick, how I would like to embrace each and every one of you with affection, to tell you how close I am to you and how much I support you. I now do so in spirit, entrusting you to the maternal love of the Mother of the Lord and entreating her to obtain for all of us the blessings and consolations of Jesus, her Son.
+ IN HIS BOOK, Rise Let Us Be on Our Way (2004), John Paul II gives his very personal testimony about visiting the sick during his pastoral visits in Krakow:
I have always been very conscious of the fundamental importance of what the suffering contribute to the life of the Church. I remember that at the beginning the sick intimidated me. I needed a lot of courage to stand before a sick person and enter, so to speak, into his physical and spiritual pain, not to betray discomfort, and to show at least a little loving compassion. Only later did I begin to grasp the profound meaning of the mystery of human suffering. In a sense, the sick provoke mercy. Through their prayers and sacrifices, they not only ask for mercy but create a "space for mercy," or better, open up spaces for mercy. By their illness and suffering they call forth acts of mercy and create the possibility for accomplishing them. I would entrust the needs of the Church to the prayers of the sick, and the results were always positive.
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Father George W. Kosicki is a longtime collaborator with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in spreading the message of Divine Mercy. In 1987, he headed their Divine Mercy Department in Stockbridge, Mass., which was responsible for editing and proofing the English translation of the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass.
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass. He is the author of Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate.