Bernardo M. Villegas
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Imitating St. John Paul II

          Thanks to Jason Evert, world famous lecturer on chaste love and who has visited the Philippines several times, those who admire newly canonized St. John Paul II can go from mere devotion to imitation.  In a best seller entitled "Saint John Paul the Great:  His Five Loves", Evert  enumerates the heroic virtues that brought the former Pope to the altar for the veneration of Catholics all over the world.   Since every baptized person is also called to sanctity or the fullness of Christian life, the book about the five greatest loves of St. John Paul II reads like a manual on "How to be a saint in the middle of the world."

          For me, the most important virtue that every Catholic should imitate in St. John Paul II is his great devotion to the Holy Eucharist.  As Evert writes, "The Eucharist was the principal reason for his priesthood.  He said, 'For me, the Mass constitutes the center of my life and my every day.'  He added, 'nothing means more to me or gives me greater joy than to celebrate Mass each day and to serve God's people in the Church.'  John Paul didn't merely offer the Mass.  He lived it.  Like the Eucharist itself, he became an immolation of love--a living sacrifice offered to the Father for the salvation of mankind.  Because of his deep faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, he was adamant with priests and bishops about how the Mass ought to be celebrated.  He told a group of American bishops, 'This is why it is so important that liturgical law be respected.  The priest, who is the servant of the liturgy, not its inventor or producer, has a particular responsibility in this regard, lest he empty liturgy of its true meaning or obscure its sacred character.' "Parishioners can imitate St. John Paul in this great concern about the way the Mass is celebrated by making fraternal corrections to priests who are not meticulous in the way they follow the liturgy and introduce whimsical changes in the way they celebrate Mass.

          The great John Paul II knew that his first duty was his interior life.  In taking care of his interior life, he assigned the highest priority to the Eucharist which he believed was the greatest treasure the Church possesses.  As Evert writes, "Because of its inestimable value, he felt it was his mission to rekindle this Eucharistic 'amazement' in the hearts of the faithful.  To help Christians understand the reality of Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament, he appealed to the human experience of love.  During a homily in Brazil, he asked:  'How many times in our lives have we seen two people separated who love each other?  During the ugly and bitter war, in my youth, I saw young people leave without hope of return, parents torn from their homes, not knowing if they would one day find their loved ones.  Upon leaving, a gesture, a picture, or an object passes from hand to hand in a certain way in order to prolong presence in absence.  And nothing more.  Human love is capable only of these symbols.' "This scene can be witnessed thousands of time in our international airports as OFWs leave their loved ones.

          Then St. John Paul II explained that the God-Man Jesus Christ could do much more than just leave a picture, a souvenir, or a symbol to His loved ones.  He left His own Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist.  He explained:  "Thus, to say farewell, the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, did not leave His friends a symbol, but the reality of Himself...Under the species of bread and wine, He is really present..."  To show our gratitude for this inestimable gift of Himself, we should try to receive the Holy Eucharist frequently, if possible every day.  He referred to the reception of the Holy Eucharist as "an important daily practice".  He then suggested that if a person is unable to visit or receive the Holy Eucharist, he or she should make a spiritual communion, taking a moment to invite Jesus into one's heart.