John Paul II, The Great
By Rev. Robert J. Hermley
Stories for Life Index
The Church has added the epithet, "The Great" after the names of only two Popes, thus far - Leo the Great (d. 461 A.D.) and Gregory the Great (d. 604 A.D.)
Leo was called great because he stopped Attila the Hun by his eloquence and defended papal Primacy. Gregory was named the great because of his magnificent contributions to the Liturgy of the Mass and Office. Gregorian Chant was named after him and he is one of the four Great Doctors of the Latin Church.
Why should John Paul II be called the Great? - because it was his elevation to the Papacy that started the demise of Atheistic communism. Marx's doctrine was strong and vibrant when John Paul II ascended the chair of Peter. It seemed strong enough to live for centuries. Communism knew of the Catholic church's opposition to it, but never for a moment did it fear the Pope's disapproval. Stalin once sarcastically pushed aside Papal opposition by saying, "How many legions does the Pope's army have?" He did not live to see, but his successors would.
Karol Wojyla's elevation to the Papacy united the heroic Polish spirit. Here was one of their own elected to be the successor to St. Peter - Christ's vicar on earth, and it made the Polish peoples' hearts swell with pride; and they had reason to be proud. Lech Walesa took up the political fight against Communism's injustice to Poland's labor movement through this solidarity Union and the rest was a matter of time.
John Paul II resurrected the heroic spirit of the great Polish nation which had been dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Queen of Poland, by King John Casimir in April 1656. This indomitable spirit of a heroic nation carried out to their Patroness for her help. Our Lady of Czestochowa took her time, but in the end, answered their cry of anguish. With her legion of Angels she toppled the mighty communism from its throne and exalted the humble Polish fidelity to her and to her Son.
Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's last communist leader said in Rome that John Paul II's support for religious and political freedom ws "decisive" in the collapse of Communism in Poland. Mikhail Gorbachev said practically the same thing shortly after the Soviet Union fell apart at the seams.
Jaruzelski led Poland from 1981 to 1989. These were the turbulent years which saw the rise of Solidarity Union under the direction of Lech Walesa. This movement was backed by the Church and became the main political opposition to Communist rule.
We have already mentioned the strong faith demonstrated by he determined Polish people during their Russian captivity. The Communists took down Crucifixes in the Catholic schools; the Polish you put them up again at great risk to their own lives. The Polish nation never once gave in to Atheism but believed with all their strength that God through our Lady would one day deliver them from the Russian beast. During all those trying years, Poland looked up to one of her sons who had been elected to the highest position in the world-the Vicar of Christ on earth, John Paul II. How could they not succeed with a deep faith like theirs?
Yes, I truly believe, and hope you do too, that Communism had many foes, but none so strong as John Paul, the Great. Stolat - may he live a hundred years.