The Tale of Three Popes, Part 1: St. John Paul II

I was born in 1990, which technically counts for me being part of a few generational labels. I consider myself to be a 90s kid, many journalists would call me a millenial, and fellow Catholics would probably count me as being part of the JP2 Generation. I’ve written about my personal experiences about St. John Paul the Great on this blog before and there are a plethora of books and blog posts about how awesome this pope is.

So with all of the post-Oscars buzz, I want to bring attention to one particular aspect of the wonderful pope: the fact that he was an actor.

I always love aspects and quirks of the saints that remind me that they were human. Karol Wojtyla’s love for the theatre tugs at my heart, recalling my brief moments in high school and college when I strutted and fretted about the stage. I once read in one of his biographies that he was helping out with this play with his friends from university and the actor playing the villain became unavailable. Karol volunteered to play the role, knowing all the lines. Oh that I could grab a Tardis and actually watch a performance from this saint.

People often wonder how being in theatre can contribute to jobs outside of the arts. The life of St. John Paul II shows those nay-sayers how.

All the actors and actresses I love have one thing in common: they all have large personalities. There’s a charisma that draws people to actors beyond the polished, camera-ready faces. John Paul II’s charisma was powerful enough to draw the entire world to him and through him, many people were led to God.

Actors also know how to work with difficult people. Long hours of rehearsals can turn most companies into a pot of crabs, with everyone clawing at each other. John Paul II faced Nazis, communists, and his own assassin and shared the unconditional love of God with all of them. But this ability to work with anyone stems from a sense of understanding and empathy. Artists have a way of understanding other artists. John Paul II’s Letter to Artists is still one of my favorite writings from him.

But the best thing about actors is their perseverance and fortitude. For them, the show must go on, no matter what. They’ll go to auditions and callbacks, risking rejection on a constant basis. They deal with long hours with variable amounts of pay. They perform even when there’s an audience of one. When John Paul II’s health became so frail, he kept going, celebrating Mass and greeting the people, even when he couldn’t talk. And when it came time for the curtain to fall, the world was there to throw flowers on the stage, praying for a holy curtain call.

A testament to John Paul II's fortitude "JPII 29-09-2004 portret". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

A testament to John Paul II’s fortitude
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Whenever I think of St. John Paul II, I am reminded that becoming a saint, following that path to holiness, is worth more than all the Oscars in the world.

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