St. John Paul II was an extraordinary man. He left us the great treasure of his love and wisdom.
Most importantly, he lived the Catholic good life like a pro. Everything he said and did inspires us to do the same.
Although he never wrote a how-to guide, we’ve picked out three key quotes that shed light on how you can live the Catholic good life every day. The last one was especially near and dear to his heart.
So here are three things you can learn from John Paul II, in his own words.
1. Surround yourself with beauty
John Paul II wrote a wonderful “Letter to Artists” about the artistic vocation. In this letter he described what beauty means for everyone, even those who don’t think of themselves as artistic. He said:
“Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future…It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: ‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!’”
John Paul II loved the arts. He knew that beauty brings people to faith, or at least reminds them of it. Even atheists gaze in wonder when they walk through the grand old cathedrals.
Every person has a role in bringing beauty into the world. For some of us, it’s following the “divine spark” of creativity that JPII mentions in his “Letter to Artists.” For others, it’s supporting Catholic artists who spread the faith through beauty (That’s why we started EverythingCatholic.com).
So surround yourself with beautiful things (click/tap here for a few suggestions!). They’ll grow and sustain your faith.
2. Pray the Rosary every day (or at least a decade)
John Paul II loved the Rosary. He once told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square:
“The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and in its depth…the simple prayer of the Rosary beats the rhythm of human life.”
Of course, there are lots of ways to pray as a Catholic. But there’s something unique about the Rosary. In his apostolic letter about the Rosary, John Paul II said it’s one of the most effective ways to contemplate “the Christian mystery”: Christ’s life, death and Resurrection. For that reason, he referred to it as a “training in holiness.”
The best part is, it’s so powerful yet so simple. It’s mostly Hail Marys and Our Fathers, the basic prayers we’ve all memorized. You can pray it anywhere, in your house or while you’re traveling. You can pray it alone or with others.
John Paul II loved the Rosary so much he introduced a new set of mysteries into it: the Luminous Mysteries. He also had a special way of meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary called “the contemplative rosary” that anyone can practice too.
Praying the Rosary like John Paul II — at least a decade every day — is one of the best habits for the Catholic good life. (We've got a rosary inspired by John Paul II—check it out here.)
3. Make a gift of yourself
You might not know that John Paul II helped to write the documents of Vatican II. He especially worked on “Gaudium et Spes,” which he loved to quote from. One of his favorite lines was:
“Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”
This theme constantly popped up in everything he said and wrote.
John Paul II knew that we’re all anxious in some way. In the midst of our day-to-day work and leisure, we long to know that our life has a deeper meaning. John Paul II knew the way to discover that meaning is actually a paradox. It isn’t by “finding” or “getting” something — it’s by giving. And not just giving away your money or belongings, but giving yourself in love and service to another person.
So yes, it’s important to surround yourself with good Catholic things. And it’s necessary to pray. But the Catholic good life isn’t just about what you have and how you pray, it’s also about what you give: yourself!
What does that look like? It’s different for everyone. But it’s certainly something worth praying about.
In John Paul II, we have an incredible modern-day example of the Catholic good life. Though he was a famous and holy man, everyday Catholics like us can imitate his virtues.
There’s so much we’d love to say about St. John Paul II, but there’s not room to do it all here. A good way to get to know him better is with our friends at the Catholic Talk Show.
St. John Paul II, pray for us!