Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Faith Was My Parent's Faith Until I Fell In Love - Celebrating St.John Paul II

On Wednesday we had a little party at our house!  It was a party I had been waiting for 9 years to celebrate! A party in honor of St. Pope John Paul II, whose feast day we honored with Polish fare, cold beer and an ample amount of joy, storytelling, and fond memories.
Polish Sausage (minus the kraut, because, boys)
Sweet Potato Fries
Kale Chips
Beer (because, it's the right thing to do)

Celebrating the life of John Paul II with our children is really important to me, because he is the person to whom I can truly credit my conversion.  Now, when I say conversion I'm not talking about anything mind-blowing here.  No juicy story filled with scandal, no miraculous healing etc., etc.  I was just an ordinary sixteen year old girl, living in my own little world, a world comprised of family life, school activities, friends, a job, and all the little happenings of the small town where I grew up, when something inside of me came alive.

Growing up, I had a great love and respect for my parents (still do!). From that love and respect came the desire to embrace the values that they taught me as well to love and participate fully in my Catholic faith.  Naturally, though, my faith was, to a large degree, their faith.  It wasn't until I had the privilege of attending World Youth Day in Denver, in 1993, that my faith truly became my own.
{Chillin' in Denver with the Bishop. Man, was I tan! That should explain the sunspots and wrinkles. Hello, Missy. Have you ever heard of SPF??}
I went to Denver not knowing what to expect, and not knowing much at all about Pope John Paul II, although I was terribly eager to "meet" him and to hear what message he had for us, his young flock. There are two wonderfully profound moments from that trip to the mountains that I will never ever forget, two sparks that would burst into flames of love for Christ and His church, flames that continue to burn brightly within my heart today.

The first moment was when we were gathered together in Mile High Stadium listening to the Holy Father speak to us for the first time (read his entire homily here).  He said, "Be not afraid!" Be not afraid to be saints, to share the gospel, to celebrate life and to defend it, to say yes to God's call for your life, even if it's difficult, even if you must suffer.

I felt incredibly encouraged by him.  He spoke to my heart as a father who encourages his child.  His words filled my soul in such a way that I couldn't help but soak up all of the love and encouragement he had to share. And, the fruit that came from actually paying attention and listening to him was -get this - that I wanted to know, love and serve Christ forever and ever and ever. That was a big thing for this little small town teenager!
The second "spark" moment took place at Cherry Creek Park where we had camped out the night before the Holy Father came to speak to all of us.  When he approached his seat on the stage and sat down, he covered his face with his hands and wept, completely overwhelmed by the cheering and chanting of the crowd who was so deeply moved by his presence, so dearly longing to show their love and affection for him.

He wasn't a celebrity, he was our Father, our Shepherd, and he loved us, he truly loved us.  I was deeply touched by his humility and sincerity.  He had spoken truth, and whether I understood the theological and catechetical roots of his preaching didn't matter. I knew that what he had to say to us was real and true and good and beautiful. I knew I could trust him.  Through him I heard the voice of Christ. His words resonated within me as a light casting out darkness, doubt and fear, and suddenly I could see life in a way I had never seen it before.

I'm typing this and that Sara Groves song "Something Changed" is rolling though my head. She sang it right (love her!):
Something changed inside me
Broke wide open, all spilled out
Till I had no doubt
That something changed...

I will always be grateful to my parents for encouraging me to make that trip to Denver so many years ago.  My faith journey from that time up until now certainly hasn't been a perfect one, but it is one that has been strengthened and enriched by the beautiful writings and teachings of St. John Paul II. He turned my plans to become a missionary and then teach in the inner city until the age of 40 (after which I might entertain the idea of getting married) upside down. Down. Down.
{Proof of Love. Proof of Truth}
I read Love and Responsibility and Muliaris Dignitatum (The Dignity of Women) and well, here I am celebrating the author himself with 6 kids and one fine husband!

It's really special for Steve and me to be able to share our mutual love for this beautiful saint with our children.  To show them photos of our marriage being blessed by him, our wonderful library filled with his wisdom, and to impress upon them the real tangible desire our Lord has for each and every one of us to become saints. He's some awesome proof of that.

I have to admit I was a little ill-prepared for the party.  Especially, because I should have THOUGHT to make the Pope's favorite dessert, Polish Papal Creme Cake.  (Look for that one next year!)  But, we did have somewhat of a Polish inspired dinner, and during school we:
- Colored this picture and also this one 
- Watched a You Tube clip of him speaking and
- Baked Polish cookies for dessert.
(FYI - these are NOT kolaches. Thanks to my daddy, I'm 50% Czech, so I know these things, trust me. I'll post more details on that very important culinary point of view later, because I owe it to my Grandma Blanche, who is in heaven and has probably met the pope and told him about her 
ah-mazing kolaches.)
The highlight of the party was watching the Royals beat the Giants in game #2 of the World Series. The boys had read in the Holy Father's bio that he was an adventure seeker. He loved being outdoors and was a great sports enthusiast.  Reminding them that our beloved saint was watching the game with us from heaven made them smile.
{Can we just pause for a moment of silence here for that smile?? Gosh!!}
Even Joey, who just so happens to have been given the middle name Karol, after Karol Wojtyla, had a splendid time!  But, maybe that's because he's basking in Grandma's love. Grandma, who is here helping me this week (cue the angels singing). Grandma, the one who "made" me go to Denver to meet the man who changed my life forever. Thank you, Grandma!
Happy Feast Day, Papa! We love you!


  1. This is beautiful. The whole thing left me in tears. We converted and entered the church in 2005 at Easter and he passed shortly after. And I just wish I would have been around more when he was. Amazing man.

  2. Yes!
    We must be about the same age; I wasn't in Denver but that was the World Youth Day that my friends attended and came back on fire and taught us the music and make me take hold of my faith in a whole new way.

  3. <3 This was wonderful!! I was in Denver, then, too...but not attending! I wasn't quiet old enough. But we hosted some Canadian girls in our house. It was incredible. Then when I was older, I went to WYD in Paris and experienced some similar "spark" moments as you did! Visiting from Catholic Women Bloggers on FB. :)

  4. Does that happen to be Bishop Fitzsimmons from the Salina diocese? Looks like a fun night. Too bad the Royals couldnt hold one in game 7 :(


If you are having trouble leaving a comment, please feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a response on my Facebook page. Thanks!