Many days in the liturgical calendar are rich with traditions. From having your pets blessed on Saint Francis of Assisi’s feast day to dressing up your oldest daughter for the feast of Saint Lucy, some liturgical living traditions date back centuries.
But how to celebrate a more recent Saint—as recent, even, as our own lifetimes?
The Legacy of Saint John Paul II
October 22nd marks the feast day of Saint John Paul II, the beloved Pope from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was canonized less than a decade ago, in 2014. While many millennials remember at least glimpses of his papacy, his legacy only reverberated in the years that followed. His teachings on the theology of the body, the dignity of the human person, the feminine genius, and so much more have resonated deeply in the hearts of a generation that has, all too often, felt lost in our rapidly-changing world.
Saint John Paul II saw us, knew us, and loved us. During his lifetime (and beyond, through his extensive writing and preaching), he pointed us to the Truth and adventure to be found in a life with Christ.
Ways to Celebrate the Feast of Saint John Paul II
I am a firm believer that the most profound and meaningful way to celebrate any feast day is to attend Mass, joining the Communion of Saints at the Eucharistic table. If you are unable to attend Mass, simply ask the Saint for his special intercession that day. Opting for an additional celebration outside of our normal routines, however, can be a powerful signifier—both in our own hearts and to our families—that this day is special and set apart.
My husband and I named Saint John Paul II the patron Saint of our family when we were engaged. We have a deep desire to share his legacy with our children, and in these five-and-under little years, sometimes, the best way to start that conversation is with dessert!
Below, find a few ideas for celebrating the feast of Saint John Paul II in unique ways.
Celebrating Through Reflection
Saint John Paul II left us with an astounding 11 books, 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, and 45 apostolic letters. That is in addition to the transcripts of the countless general audiences, lectures, and homilies he delivered during his 27-year papacy, his poetry, and his plays.
On his feast day, pick up one of his writings that has been on your list, or browse his extensive work for a topic that captures your attention. Carve out some time during the day to cozy up with a favorite fall beverage, a journal, and your reading of choice. Take in his incredible wisdom, slowly and thoughtfully.
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Celebrating Through Beauty
I find so much joy in curating beautiful, meaningful pieces for my home and my dinner table, especially to celebrate special days. I created a tablescape full of inspiration for celebrating Saint John Paul II here and would love to share a few of my favorite details. Whether you include just one on your own table or go all-out, I hope these ideas spark your own sense of creativity for creating visual representations of this feast day.
A perfect nod to Saint John Paul II’s Polish nationality, Polish pottery comes in countless beautiful patterns and colorways to pop off of any tablescape. It originates in Southwestern Poland, just a few hours from where Saint John Paul II grew up. Find a fabulous selection on websites like Blue Rose Pottery or Polish Pottery Outlet, browse Etsy, or keep an eye on the china sections of your local HomeGoods (I have found gems there a handful of times!).
Did you know there is a Pope John Paul II rose? This fragrant, pure white hybrid tea rose is even part of the White House Rose Garden. While I love this idea of planting this exact rose variety in honor of Saint John Paul II, a simple bouquet of white roses from Trader Joe’s is an easy substitute for those of us who are less gardening-inclined.
An avid hiker and skier from an early age, Saint John Paul II welcomed any opportunity to enjoy God’s creation in the mountains or woods throughout his life. Wooden details from chargers, to vases, to artfully arranged cutting boards evoke the idea of the outdoors and his favorite hobbies.
As an easy nod to the papacy, incorporate white candles into your tablescape to represent the white smoke released from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel when a new pope is chosen. Revisit this simple detail for any former pope’s feast day.
Celebrating Through Community
Saint John Paul II loved people. Over the course of his papacy, a half-billion people saw him in person through the 775,000 miles he traveled collectively. From the busiest cities to the smallest villages, he traversed the globe many times to spread the Gospel. Accounts of one-on-one interactions with him recall that he paid attention to individual people as if they were the only ones in the world, offering them his full attention at any given moment.
In 1985, he founded World Youth Day, an opportunity for young Catholics from all over the world to gather in community and be called on in holiness.
Especially after the last year-and-a-half, celebrating in community feels all the more significant and important. In honor of Saint John Paul II, consider inviting others to join you for one (or more) of the following:
- Attend Mass or Adoration together
- Go on a Rosary walk
- Do a reading of Saint John Paul II’s poems
- Host a Polish dinner
- If you live near a pilgrimage site, make a visit together
Saint John Paul II, we love you! Pray for us!
Read more about Saint John Paul II on the Blessed is She blog:
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