John Paul II taught us to see the face of Christ in the poor.
by Brother Randall J. Meissen, LC | Source: JohnPaulMoments.com
John Paul II had tremendous compassion for the poor. He himself had experienced periods of serious want during the Second World War He also had experienced the life of demanding physical labor during the Nazi occupation when he worked in the Solvay chemical plant.
During his time as pope, there were several occasions when he showed love for the poor in dramatic ways. His long time secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, recounts that during a visit to Brazil the Pope wanted to visit a shantytown outside one of the large cities. There he was struck by frightening poverty. Cardinal Dziwisz says in his book “A Life with Karol” that he remembers the pope’s eyes. “He kept looking around almost in despair,” Dziwisz says, “because he didn't know what he could do to relieve the suffering of the people in that particular place and at that particular moment.” Ultimately, John Paul did something that no one expected, and took off his papal ring, leaving it as a gift to be sold for the benefit of the inhabitants.
On another occasion, after returning from a ten-day pilgrimage to India in February of 1986, the pope was moved by the selfless service to the poorest of the poor he witnessed in Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta. Upon his return to Rome, the pope resolved to establish a hospice run by her Missionaries of Charity inside the Vatican. Needless to say, given the tiny acreage available in the Vatican, this resolution ruffled some feathers. However, the pope could not be dissuaded. Two years later the hospice was opened later in a renovated building on the edge of the tiny Vatican City State and was dubbed “Dono di Maria” (the “Gift of Mary”).
Like John Paul II, let us learn to see the face of Christ in the poor.
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