Saint John Paul II, Our Mentor in the School of Mary
We need good mentors who enable us to become the people the Lord wants us to be.
In his early twenties, while Poland was in the throes of World War II, Karol Wojtyla had lost all of his family and was on his own in Krakow. Meanwhile, at the local parish, a humble and unassuming tailor led a Rosary group for young men. Karol joined, and he found in this humble tailor, Jan Tyranowski, a mentor for whom he was forever grateful. This invisible saint unlocked for Karol the treasures of the Rosary, the “School of Mary,” and then, through it, he led Karol to begin to understand the mystical teachings of the great Carmelite Saints Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross.
Decades later, as newly elected Pope John Paul II, he proclaimed, “The Rosary is my favorite prayer,” becoming mentor for the world as Jan had been for him. Through the Rosary, he desired to guide us on the path to holiness with the help of what some might consider simply a string of boring and childishly repetitive prayers.
Throughout his pontificate, John Paul II insistently called for a renewal of the prayer of the Rosary. By means of some wonderful short phrases, he let us know what the Holy Rosary is: a “Compendium of the Gospel,” “The Gospel made Prayer,” “Contemplating the Face of Christ with Mary,” and “THE SCHOOL OF MARY.”
In 2002, after 24 years in the Chair of Saint Peter, he penned an apostolic letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, intending it to be a capstone text for his papacy. Writing at the beginning of a new century, a new millennium, at a crucial time in our confused world, there is an urgency in his teaching of the importance of the Rosary NOW:
“A number of historical circumstances also make a revival of the Rosary quite timely. First of all, the need to implore from God the gift of peace. The Rosary has many times been proposed by my predecessors and myself as a prayer for peace….“
A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes …. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age.” Rosarium Virginis Mariae #6
Pope John Paul II continues to say: “the grave challenges confronting the world at the start of this new millennium lead us to think that only an intervention from on high… can give reason to hope for a brighter future.” RVM #40
Prophetic words calling for prayer for peace and the wellbeing of the fundamental building block of society: this call is more urgent now than ever.
Yet his words are full of tenderness and hope, and they call us to turn to the One Who made us in love. The Rosary … represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery. It is a means of ‘training in holiness.’ What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer". RVM #5.
His mentor, Jan Tyranowski, had introduced young Karol on a Way of Love. It was the same Way of Encounter on which the Blessed Virgin had walked with Saint Bernadette, deep into the Heart of Christ, toward love, union with God.
Saint John Paul II knew that in our heart of hearts what we all look for is love and union with another. That Other is ultimately God. He is absolutely our Destiny and the Destiny of this World in spite of whatever barriers we humans ourselves put in our way. He knew that the mentor and Mother of us all, the Blessed Virgin Mary, above all wants to lead us to that Other, Jesus Christ her Son. She has made it clear that the Rosary is her privileged tool for removing the barriers leading us ever closer to Him.
About Fr. James Phalan, C.S.C.
Father James Phalan, C.S.C. is a Catholic priest, member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and the National Director of Family Rosary. He served as a missionary for many years as part of the Family Rosary team, travelling the globe to help people come to Jesus through Mary. Now he is happy to be serving back at home in the USA!