The Knights of Columbus asked me to write a reflection on what Pope John Paul the Great meant to me and to Millennial Catholics. I will be in Rome this Sunday for JP2′s Beatification Mass, so this was an excellent opportunity to gather my thoughts:
I was born in 1985, almost eight years into the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
Like millions of young Catholics around the world, I grew up knowing only him as the pope and universal shepherd of the Church. In grade school I learned about popes who had preceded him, but if I wanted to see a pope, and when I heard about what a pope was doing and saying now, all of my experience was of Pope John Paul II.
This reality begins to explain in part why John Paul II’s 26-year reign had such a universal and formative effect on Millennial Catholics. But of course his effects on my generation go far deeper.