Pope St. John Paul II, whose feast we celebrate today, is the only saint I, and probably a lot of other people, can remember from actually living during our lifetime. This makes us relate to him more and can make us feel like we knew him, even though most of us probably didn’t, at least not personally. And although we didn’t know him personally, we watched him throughout his papacy and were inspired by his acceptance of suffering, particularly at the end of his life, and by his devotion to the rosary. And since October is the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary, having his feast day fall during it is an appropriate way to honor him.
John Paul II was such a devotee and advocate of the rosary that he even implemented five new mysteries for the faithful’s consideration and meditation, the Luminous Mysteries, or Mysteries of Light. They are:
- The Baptism of the Lord: Jesus is baptized in the river Jordan by John the Baptist. We pray for rebirth in Christ.
- The Wedding at Cana: Jesus turns water into wine, His first public miracle and the beginning of His public ministry. We pray for the virtue of trust in God and in His Mother’s intercession.
- The Proclamation of the Kingdom: After the beheading of John the Baptist, Jesus proclaims to the people “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” We pray for the grace of conversion of heart.
- The Transfiguration: Jesus is transfigured on Mount Tabor in the sight of Peter, James, and John. We pray for the grace of union of our will to the Will of God.
- The Institution of the Eucharist: On Holy Thursday night, Jesus institutes the Holy Eucharist, His Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine, a sacrifice which would be made in the flesh the next day. We pray for the grace of true devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
John Paul II instituted these mysteries in order to widen the Christ-centered dimension of the rosary by presenting events that occurred during Our Lord’s life and ministry so that we may contemplate them with the guidance of Mary and learn to follow Him more closely through them.
Not long after his election to the papacy, John Paul II declared the rosary to be his favorite prayer. He often encouraged the faithful to pray the rosary often and to not be discouraged by others from saying it, even in public. He once said, “The rosary is a prayer both so humble and simple, and theologically rich in Biblical content. I beg you to pray it.”
If you struggle with praying the rosary, ask for the intercession of Pope St. John Paul II to help you do it well and meditate fruitfully on its mysteries.
Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us!