On the way to Father's house
The last teaching of John Paul II
Fr Krzysztof Pawlina
John Paul II's death stopped the world. Goodness and love, which were asleep in us, have woken up. Many of us were surprised at our reactions, that we could show kindness and express our human solidarity. Then questions were asked: Did John Paul II really change man? It was exactly this curiosity that made me carry out researches among high school students in Warsaw two months after the Pope's death. Now the researches are being thoroughly analysed. But the first analyses allow me to state that that death, that person of John Paul II, did not only stay in the sphere of manifested feelings.
Five questions were asked. The first one: What has changed in your life after John Paul II's death?
The most frequent answers refer to: deepening of faith, change of attitude towards life, interest in the person of the Pope, feeling of emptiness and longing. There were also answers: nothing has changed.
As far as deepening of faith is concerned the young people indicated that this was first of all the fruit of John Paul II's death. One can ask what they meant by that. I will quote the following answers: 'For the first time in two years I went to confession, which was very sincere. I began going to church and I really listen to what a priest says', third form female student, grammar school. 'I began taking faith seriously. I have not neglected daily prayer for two months', second form male student, technical vocational school.
When the young people wrote 'change of attitude towards life' we asked what they meant.
'After the Pope's death, writes a third form female student, grammar school, I understood that everyone dies, even a person that was so close to God. My world of senseless fan has suddenly fallen down. I understood that one must live a good life and not play with life. You have only one life and then...' Her mate from the second form added, 'Through the Pope's death I have realised what an egoist I am. I concluded that I should sow good around me and not look at how other people do it. I have also understood that one should be prepared for death and one should get accustomed to it'.
'Through the Pope's death, writes a boy, first form of technical vocational school, I have realised that we all are equal to death. Everyone dies: banker, driver, soldier and the holiest Pope. Since the death of John Paul II I have had a greater respect for the old and the sick'.
The third answer was the opinion that the death of John Paul II made people get more interested in him. The young people wrote, 'After the death of John Paul II I have understood that I know very little about his teaching. I lost a lot of wise advice and instruction, which he gave systematically. I got interested in his life and what he was saying'.
Another answer, 'I feel guilty. I did not participate in his pilgrimages and actually I made little effort to understand his teaching. The death of John Paul II aroused my curiosity - why he was such a man. Since his funeral I have already read two books about him'. However, the most moving words are: 'Someone very close to me passed away, someone I trusted. 'As if someone from my family died'. 'I lost happiness and some part of me'. 'A great Father died'. But there were numerous contrary opinions, 'Nothing has changed in my life after John Paul II's death'.
This statement 'nothing has changed' can be divided into two groups. The first group of respondents state, 'Nothing has changed, before the death I believed in God and went to church, and so do I after the funeral'. And the second group answered that nothing changed, which meant the death did not influence the personal lives of the respondents.
The first question referred directly to the person whom we asked about whereas the second one referred to the environment that the young man lived in. We asked, 'What has been left in your environment from that spiritual commotion after John Paul II's death?' Although we must wait for the percentage results the sequence of answers is as follows: remembrance and recollections have remained, sadness and regret, participation in prayers, nothing or very little, souvenirs and conversions. The young people put that in the following words, 'Since the death of John Paul II my brother has carried a photo of the Holy Father in his wallet, writes a fourth form female student, grammar school, I asked my brother why. He replied: He reminds me how I am to live. He helps me'.
'In my environment, writes a third form female student, grammar school, I know people who have been converted after the death of John Paul II'.
Another boy, third form, grammar school, adds, 'At Mass I see such people who never went to church before'.
There are also such answers as 'Just after the death of John Paul II there were various Masses and actions, for example 'light for John Paul II'. It was temporary. Then everyone wanted to show how much he experienced the death. And now? Now very few remember. We are living our earthly lives. The death was our departure from daily life, it was something tragic. But time heals wounds', a boy, fourth form, grammar school.
'This is horrible but some three weeks after the death everything became quiet. People returned to their daily lives', a first form male student, technical vocational school.
The third question referred to the Pope's teaching. We asked, 'What in John Paul's teaching is most important to you?'
The faith in the youth that John Paul II had is the key to intimate relationships, which exceed the whole content of the pontificate. This is the opinion of the young people. Then they mention the Pope's tolerance, fight for peace, ability to unite people and love.
Three questions referred to the past two months after the Holy Father's death and possible changes in the life of the JP II generation. But there was also a question about the future: What could you change in your life because of John Paul II? The sequence of answers is: I could change my behaviour, I could stop living a life of debauchery, I could give up drugs, I could stop quarrelling with my mother and stop cursing her in my spirit, I could try to make greater efforts in my studies, I could stop rebelling against the Church. I could pray more and regularly go to church - that is the second group of answers.
The third group - I could try to 'work out willingness' to help others.
What did you miss most after the death of John Paul II? - the last question of the questionnaire.
'Certainly the very person of the Pope. His beautiful pure soul, the positive aura. His cheerful spirit, true inner good and great wisdom', replies a first form male student, grammar school. And his friend adds, 'I miss the only Great Pole, wise Pole who could care for his fellow countrymen, cheer them up and unite. I feel that a herd of elks is alone and there is nobody that is responsible for us'. We will miss his sense of humour, his spiritual leadership. We will also miss his pilgrimages as national retreats...
What are the conclusions after having read hundreds of young people's answers? The first conclusion: somebody who loves young people has the power to rouse them. Somebody who lovingly demands from people becomes their leader. Somebody who does not instruct people but who teaches people, becomes their master.
What will the Polish Pope's sowing yield?
The soil reveals its values only after its sowing, not earlier. The fruit will come - let us be patient.