We're 'Just Touching the Surface' of St John Paul II's Teachings

By Adelaide Mena

-- St. John Paul II's life and teachings offer a witness to love that is so profound it is only beginning to be be mined for its riches, said the chaplain of the late pope’s national shrine in Washington, D.C.

“I think we’re just touching the surface, the scope of his teachings,” Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P., said Oct. 22.

The chaplain of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine told CNA this, pointing to the legacy and witness the newly-recognized saint brings to the Church, made known in part through his teachings in his numerous writings, encyclicals and public speeches.

“They’re so rich with defense of human rights, and also religious freedom,” he commented, also noting the Pope's writings on forgiveness and on human sexuality.

“And even his personal witness and the ways that he did those things,” Fr. Kalisch added.

Fr. Kalisch also spoke to how the saint’s life demonstrates “his witness to non-violence.”

Saint John Paul II, he said, “supported the churches under communism, never calling for a violent overthrow” and cautioned political leaders “to stand for the truth, even if it meant imprisonment. But never to resort to violence.”

Greatest, however, the chaplain said, was the Pope’s witness to love and friendship, noting that it’s demonstrative that Saint John Paul II “kept his friends,” and grew in those friendships despite changing life circumstances.

“I think he understood, having grown up under Nazism,” Fr. Kalisch said, “the power of fraternity. And he understood (that) under communism, where again you couldn’t be together in widespread circles, that he had to help create spheres of freedom.”

These friendships created a space that led to God and that deepened in exploration of truth and beauty. Throughout his life, the chaplain said, Saint John Paul II drew those around him to a greater relationship with others, with truth, and with God.

This habit of fostering deep and meaningful friendships also followed Saint John Paul II to Rome and the papacy, Fr. Kalisch said.

“You wouldn’t think that was the case: ironically you would think the Pope would be completely shut off,” he explained. “But no, they all came to him.”

“Despite whatever tragedies in his own family life that he went through,” Saint John Paul II was able “to flourish and to give a witness and example for himself personally, to inspire others to lead lives of holiness.”



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