“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The first part of our new exhibit, A Gift of Love: The Life of Saint John Paul II, can be surprising for some of our visitors. Saint John Paul II was a great lover of humanity, even though, as our exhibit shows, he experienced humanity at some of its darkest hours.
As a child, John Paul II was known as Karol Wojtyła. Born in Wadowice, Poland in 1920, young Karol lost both of his parents and his two siblings by the time he was 21. Amidst the losses he suffered, Karol grew up in a world in which his faith, his culture, and his freedom were all under attack. The Nazis occupied his country until he reached adulthood. Once they were defeated, the Soviet Union took over.
Throughout this time, Wojtyła flourished. Studious, athletic, and artistic, he did not allow outside forces to quell the love inside of him. Sustained by his family, friends, and faith, he instead lived as a light to others. The shadows of the 20th century did not keep him from his vocation to the priesthood, they did not keep him from nourishing his flock in Poland, nor did they keep him from bringing his love for the human person to the Second Vatican Council.
St. John Paul II spent his younger years surrounded by the darkness of evil, but this did not stop him. For as he later wrote in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae:
…the glory of the Cross is not overcome by this darkness; rather, it shines forth ever more radiantly and brightly, and is revealed as the center, meaning and goal of all history and of every human life.
Like Christ, St. John Paul II did not allow the darkness of his times to overcome him. Instead, he made way for the Light of the World as he gave himself in love to the Church and to all of humanity.
Please join us here in the coming weeks as we continue to explore the themes of our permanent exhibit. As you learn more, prayerfully consider a pilgrimage to see these themes come to life yourself.
St. John Paul II, Pray for Us!