Pope John Paul II is quite possibly the most popular pope in history. Catholics’ love for JPII is highly apparent, as his writings and quotes continue to aspire the masses — especially the youth!
Here are five things you may not know about the only Polish pontiff.
His mother’s doctor advised abortion
During her pregnancy, Emilia Wojtyla was suffering from the after-affects of rheumatic fever, a fairly common condition before the discovery of antibiotics. Because of her illness, Emilia’s heart valves had been weakened causing strain to the organ. This was treated mostly by bed rest and efforts not to exert the heart. Obviously, Emilia’s condition was adding to the demands on her heart— as every pregnancy does. Thus, it’s hypothesized that this is what led the doctor to advise abortion to the pope’s mother. Emilia was told her own life was at stake.
The Wojtylas chose not to abort. To the surprise of the doctor, Emilia survived the pregnancy and Karol Jozef was born healthy and strong. His mother knew she had the right choice and remarked that her son, would be “a great man someday.”
He was a Football Fan
Football –or “soccer” for us Americans– was the pontiff’s favorite sport. A quote from him that always brings a smile to my face is about the sport:
“Amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important.”
John Paul experienced great spiritual depths right alongside the goodness and beauty of everyday life and passions. From childhood, JPII was an enthusiastic athlete. As a boy he belonged to a sports club, played the position of goalkeeper and even volunteered to play on the Jewish teams when they were short players (this was a big deal as anti-semitism was on the rise). His passion continued into adulthood and the papacy. It is a known fact that Liverpool was his favorite team and he caught the games whenever he could. He also gave Shay Given (an Irish goalkeeper for Manchester) a Papal Blessing when he got married in 2001. There is even an International Tournament that takes place in Rome every year called the Karol Wojtyla Cup!
He was consistently late
The pope’s daily schedule is very rigid; almost every minute of the day is accounted for. Despite this, John Paul never hesitated to make time for prayer. In fact, it was his frequent visits to adoration chapels that caused delays to his schedule regularly. His aides have given multiple accounts of this. If they were in a church, which happened multiple times throughout the day especially when they were traveling, John Paul would not leave without spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It seems this Shepherd of the Church knew he couldn’t do his job without the Good Shepherd‘s constant guidance.
Many miracles are credited to him
There are hundreds- possibly thousands – of individuals who experienced medical healing after experiences with the pope. Some of these events happened in person, others via letter and phone calls, but all of them took place while John Paul II was still alive. Though the Gift of Healing is a real thing and many people in this world have been given it for the sake of building up the Church, JPII was not one of these people. It is believed that his charism was the gift of intercession; he was so close to the heart of Jesus that Christ would not refuse his offers.
Translated to English from Polish, this book is a collection of these miracle stories. I have no affiliation to this book, I just want to recommend it since I cried almost the entire time I was reading it.
He had a major sweet tooth
John Paul II had a major sweet tooth. As he aged and his health was declining, a religious sister was assigned to watch over his diet. He would often instruct servers to give him a bigger helping of the dessert than was allowed by his “chaperone.” He would even ask for cookies during important meetings (when he couldn’t interrupt the discussion) by making a circular motion with his finger on the table top. He’d continue this endearing act until the sisters would finally gave in and bring him one.
This sweet-tooth started as a boy. Growing up, Karol’s favorite dessert was creamy pastry cake that he and his friends used to buy from the local bakery by combining their allowances. Simple but delicious, a quick google search will bring up the basic recipe, consisting of a shortbread crust on the bottom, a layer of golden custard cream, and a sheet of puff pastry on top. His love for this sweet is so well known that in Poland, this is officially referred to as “Papal Cream Cake,” or the more commonly, “The Pope Cake.” You can buy it by the slice in almost every bakery in Wadowice (his hometown).
What’s your favorite thing about JPII?