In May e celebrate Pope St. John Paul II’s 100th birthday. Even 15 years after his death, he continues to impact Catholics throughout the world. But even with his notoriety, there are some facts you may not know about this saintly pope.
1.When his mother, Emilia, was pregnant with the future pope, she was advised to get an abortion because of pregnancy complications that potentially threatened her life. She found a new doctor.
2. He was born as the Litany of Loreto was being sung at the parish church nearby. Emilia had asked that the window be opened so the song could enter the room.
3. Growing up, his friends called him Lolek.
4. Karol Wojtyla was valedictorian of his high school.
5. After the Nazis invaded, for four years, Karol worked in a quarry and a chemical factory in order to remain in Poland.
6. Jan Tyranowski, his spiritual mentor, introduced Karol to St. John of the Cross. The future pope learned Spanish to better understand the Carmelite saint and wrote his doctoral dissertation on his writings.
7. As a young man, Karol doubted whether Marian devotion distracted from one’s relationship with Christ. To counter this, Tyranowski also introduced Karol to the writings of St. Louis de Montfort. We may have Tyranowski to thank for John Paul II’s strong love for the Blessed Mother during his papacy.
8. The outdoor Masses the young priest celebrated with his circle of young adult friends were technically forbidden by the communists.
9. As bishop, he took part in Second Vatican Council and played a role in drafting Gaudium et Spes or On the Church in the Modern World.
10. He chose the name John Paul to continue the work of his immediate predecessor and honor the two popes prior to them both: John XXIII and Paul VI.
11. While pope and Bishop of Rome he visited almost all of the 322 parishes in the Eternal City.
12. There was a second assassination attempt on his life. In 1982, a year after the famous attempt in St. Peter’s Square, while St. John Paul II was in Fatima he was stabbed. The assailant was a fanatical priest who allegedly disagreed with changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council. The wound was not severe and was kept quiet for many years.
13. He was the first pope to ever visit the United Kingdom, a highlight in his attempts at ecumenism.
14. Many were shocked when the Pope chose Denver to host the 1993 World Youth Day. But he was particular in choosing a modern, secular city over a traditional pilgrimage site or a historically Catholic location.
15. As he approached his final days of battling Parkinson’s disease the Pope struggled to pronounce words clearly. He told his closest aides that if he became unable to speak it was his time to die.
Bonus: His parents’ cause for canonization was opened this year in their home diocese.