Kevin Leaver

My Brother, My Inspiration: St. John Paul II

You know that feeling of overwhelming pride due to something so exciting that happened, either to you personally, or to a family member or friend? I’ve experienced it countless times. It is an emotion I am sure that we’ve all felt, and that we love to feel.

On April 27, 2014 my entire family and I were bursting with pride… all 1.2 billion of us, because Pope Francis declared two of our brothers to be venerated as members of the Communion of Saints. And one of them is a huge reason I am studying for the priesthood.

In July 2002, I attended World Youth Day in Toronto with Stoughton Life Teen.

At the Eucharistic Holy Hour for Vocations the night before the WYD Mass, the Holy Father gave a talk—I honestly can’t tell you anything he said, but we (the crowd) were continually cheering “JP2, WE LOVE YOU!” Finally, he paused and said, “JP2 loves you too!”

I knew he wasn’t just saying it. I knew that this 82-year-old man from Poland, the spiritual father of over one billion souls, meant it. He really loved us — the youth. He desired so much for us to know that we are loved and needed by the Church. His message was that Jesus Christ loves us and wants us to love Him and live our lives entirely for Him.

Though we never had any personal encounters or conversations, in my heart I knew that he prayed for me. I knew that he loved me. I knew that he wanted me to realize that true happiness comes from having a relationship with Christ, and being in constant communication with Him to discover His will for my life.

St. JPII inspired me to draw closer to God. It was from this relationship that I heard the Lord inviting me to follow him in a deeper way by entering the seminary. As I reach the end of my third year in formation, my desire to lay down my life in service to Christ and His Church, and to serve my brothers and sisters out of a genuine love for them because of my love for Christ has continued to grow stronger.

I was blessed enough to be in St. Peter’s Square for the canonization Mass. It was a very exciting moment when Pope Francis said (in Latin)

“We declare and define John XXIII and John Paul II Saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

And then we sang, “Shout to the Lord! Sing to the Lord!” (in Latin), rejoicing that the Church was given two new saints. Saints aren’t made saints for their own sake, they’ve already received their reward (heaven). Rather, they are made saints for our sake. They inspire us as role models. They are men and women who gave their lives to Christ and so sought to conform their will to His, and because of their earthly lives, they now enjoy the heavenly promise!

John Paul II was the first pope I “knew,” he was the pope who showed me that not only did the Pope love me, but also that my Church loves me and, most importantly, that my Heavenly Father loves me. As I’ve already said, because I recognized the Father’s love for me, I was able to hear Him inviting me to discern the priesthood, and the entire course of my life was changed!

Seminarians

All because John Paul II, my brother in Christ and the first Holy Father I knew made it a priority to reach out to the youth. And on April 27 he officially became my newest intercessor in heaven as he was raised to Sainthood, and for this I am bursting with pride!

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, pray for us!

Editor’s Note: This blog is part of a series of blogs that relate to our 2014 theme Inspire[d]. If you would like to submit about a blog about an Inspire[d] story that you have, please see these guidelines.

Kevin Leaver

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