“Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace.” Saint John Paul II wrote these words more than two decades ago in advance of the 15th World Youth Day.
In this new year where the pangs of 2020 are still a reality, the words of the great patron of the Saint John Paul II National Shrine still give us hope. They serve as a reminder that despite all of our worldly worries, we are called to be holy:
“[It’] not the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium? Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face” (Novo Millenio Ineunte, January 6, 2001).
On the sacred art tour offered daily at the Shrine under normal operations, pilgrims and visitors learn how the floor-to-ceiling mosaics that adorn the main church serve as a means of reflection on the key points of Saint John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis. The sacred art reminds us of our call through baptism to preach the Gospel…to be the face of Christ to others.
As we endeavor to stick faithfully to New Year’s resolutions, let’s explore ways the Saint John Paul II National Shrine can help meet your spiritual needs in 2021 and beyond.
Deepening Your Prayer Life
At a time when there is so much bleakness in the world, so much political discord, and so much isolation, prayer is greatly needed to provide strength. When speaking to young people at the Louisiana Superdome in 1987, Saint John Paul II said, “In prayer we express to God our feelings, our thoughts, our sentiments. We wish to love and be loved, to be understood and to understand. Only God loves us perfectly, with an everlasting love. In prayer, we open our hearts and our minds to this God of love. And it is prayer that makes us one with the Lord. Through prayer we come to share more deeply in God’s life and in his love.”
Saint John Paul II expanded on this in several of his writings. He taught us that “The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes into man’s heart together with prayer. In prayer he manifests himself first of all and above all as the gift that ‘helps us in our weakness’” (Dominum Et Vivificantem, May 18, 1986).
By focusing on our relationship with God, we are able to be the face of Christ our Savior through the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us. We can be a beacon of hope to others. To lead others in prayer, the Shrine offers prayer at the Hour of Mercy where the Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed daily, and we have a regular Art of Prayer series. This series uses Saint John Paul II’s own prayer life and teachings as a model of developing your own interior prayer so that the Holy Spirit can enter into your heart more fully, as the above quote suggests.
We invite you send us your prayer intentions at [email protected] and email us at [email protected] to enroll in our Prayer Guild. By becoming a part of this program, you commit to regularly joining us in prayer, and you will receive a special card featuring one of the mosaics inside the Saint John Paul II National Shrine.
We also invite you to join us in-person (as your comfortability allows) for some of the limited in-person gatherings that are announced on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Please note that while the pandemic is still present, we are adhering to the proper safety protocols prescribed by the District of Columbia government for places of worship. These special events will require preregistration.
Making YouTube a Place for Families
Since an in person visit may not be currently possible, we are pleased to bring the Shrine to you! With billions of videos watched each day, YouTube has a lot of choices. We have more than 100 original videos and nearly 1,600 livestreams in our YouTube channel’s library. Mass and the Divine Mercy Chaplet are broadcast daily.
Regular webinars are offered on a variety of topics, and videos explore Saint John Paul II’s teachings in greater detail. In case you missed it, be sure to read this previous article that explores more ways to “Visit Us Virtually,” especially as a family.
Reconciling Yourself with God and Others
Has your conscience been asking for forgiveness from God? Have you been holding a grudge against someone but have not sought to make amends with that person? Celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation might be a great start. The Shrine continues to offer confessions on-site daily. Saint John Paul II wrote, “Forgiveness is also the fundamental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people. A world from which forgiveness was eliminated would be nothing but a world of cold and unfeeling justice” (Dives In Misericordia, November 30, 1980). He continued, “[T]he longing for sincere and consistent reconciliation is without a shadow of doubt a fundamental driving force in our society, reflecting an irrepressible desire for peace” (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, December 2, 1984). As we begin 2021, consider how doing a simple, personal act like going to confession can have a ripple effect on the larger community.
Becoming More Charitable
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine greatly relies on support from the faithful to maintain our operations. This past Giving Tuesday, we greatly benefited from the generosity of 72 donors from 24 different states who have helped us upgrade our livestreaming equipment. This allows us to enhance the experience of those visiting us virtually. With additional support, we will be able to expand our ability to bring the Shrine to you in 2021 through the development of a mobile app that is already in the works and a digital membership program that will include exclusive members-only content throughout the year. All donations are tax-deductible and can even be made through the Faith Direct giving platform that you may already use for your parish’s Sunday offertory.
Making 2021 Full of Hope
As we all pray (hopefully in the spiritual sense and not just the figurative sense) that 2021 is a much better year than 2020, it will be our prayer that you join the Shrine either online or in person. We want you to be part of our community as we strive to meet your spiritual needs. In doing so, we provide hope that by focusing on you beyond the typical (and often short-lived) New Year’s resolutions, you will have a large impact on others by being Christ to others. In closing, we would like to leave you with another quote of our great patron, Saint John Paul II. “If it is genuine, the personal encounter with the Lord will also bring a renewal of the Church: as sisters and neighbors to each other, the particular Churches of the continent will strengthen the bonds of cooperation and solidarity in order that the saving work of Christ may continue in the history of America with ever greater effect” (Ecclesia In America, January 22, 1999).