As we prepare for the feast of Saint John Paul II, we invite you to continue on this pilgrimage through our permanent exhibit, A Gift of Love: The Life of Saint John Paul II. We hope you will walk through each of the nine galleries with us, so that you can get a taste of the spiritual and informational journey that awaits you here at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.
This week we will explore the fifth gallery, Totus Tuus: Mary, Mother of Mercy. St. John Paul II had a strong devotion to Mary throughout his life, and he believed that devotion to her, the first disciple, leads us to Christ. His pontificate was dedicated to her in many ways—his motto being “Totus Tuus,” or “I am completely yours” and with an “M” beside the cross on his coat of arms.
During a weekly audience on May 13, 1981, when thousands of people were gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to hear St. John Paul II speak, a man shot the late Holy Father, intending to kill him. The shot did not have the deadly effect desired, though, and John Paul II attributed this to the Blessed Mother’s protection. On the day of the assassination attempt, he put his life into Mary’s hands.
Over the next three months, he recovered from his wounds, and the sainted pontiff gave thanks to Mary and her prayers for his recovery. He particularly thanked Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast we celebrate on May 13. He also prayed for and forgave his assassin, who he visited in prison in 1983.
After the assassination attempt, St. John Paul II expressed his desire for a mosaic of Mary, Mother of the Church, to be placed on the outside wall of one of the Vatican buildings. The mosaic Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church) now looks over Saint Peter’s Square, above the spot where the Pope was wounded. There is a replica of this mosaic at the center of the gallery’s Marian wall, pictured above.
John Paul II preached of Mary’s essential role in the life of Christ, the life of the Church, and in the life of every disciple. With a display of various Marian images, this gallery invites pilgrims to reflect on the place of Mary in the spiritual life and the roll she plays in helping us draw near to her Son. Ponder this as you continue on pilgrimage with us.
St. John Paul II, Pray for Us!