The generation of John Paul II

Katarzyna Woynarowska

You have come to me...

They were said to be the generation of individualists, to be passive, apathetic and consumerist. Although the sociological research showed that young people appreciated patriotic values, acknowledged the sanctity of life and regarded family happiness as their priority more than their parents did, sociologists explained that it might be true but it would disappear when ideals smashed against the reef of everyday life.
If it were so, John Paul II performed another miracle. Or rather plenty of miracles. Thus we witness ourselves how 'the nothing generation' changed in 'the generation of John Paul II', called JPII Generation or Papaboys by the youth themselves.
This very personal experience of faith, the necessity to manifest it in public, solemnity, prayer and reflection made adults dumbstruck. We did not expect to see such a temperature of youth's soul. We were different. We saw the beginning of the Pontificate - October 1978, the phenomenon of the first visit of John Paul II to Poland when it seemed to us that 'we could move the mountains'. And here we could see a similar fire, the same heart beat, the same unity. Tens of thousands of young people came to the White March, to pray Divine Mercy Couplet or Rosary, to hear Mass.
'We are participating in a miracle', Archbishop Zimon of Katowice shouted with astonishment when he looked at what was happening at the Mass for the late Pope and at what happened around the Katowice Cathedral. Crowds of young Silesians came and stood shoulder to shoulder: members of sub culture and members of religious renewal movements, football hooligans and fans of Gornik Zabrze and next to them nice girls in school uniforms.
Such scenes could be seen all over Poland, from Bialystok to Przemysl, from Poznan through Warsaw, Wadowice, Czestochowa, to royal-papal Krakow. They were invented and realized mainly by young people.

A chain of miracles of John Paul II

The chain of miracles was inaugurated by the football fans of Wisla and Cracovia. They were the first to make an extraordinary gesture. A gesture of reconciliation. 'To shake hands, well no... instead of a blow in the back', a lad with a scarf on his neck was explaining. And then they paid tribute to the Pope in their own way, crying loudly, 'John Paul II is great!!!' and they applauded so loudly that the sky trembled.
On Thursday night Krakow was seen from the cosmos - the Astronomical Observatory of the Jagiellonian University informed. That blaze was from millions, or even more, of candles lit on the common, at the rock of John Paul II. Here the miracle was doubled because when it turned out that the lights made it impossible to prepare liturgical celebration the young people humbly carried these several thousands of candles to another place. 'For the Pope', they said. An American journalist, who was watching this event with a stone face, put aside his microphone and went forward without saying a word. 'Nobody is going to believe me', he was to say later. 'I myself hardly believe what I saw'.
In the Wloclawek Cathedral there was another chain link of miracles. Members of the two hostile scouts' associations (Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego and Zwiazek Harcerstwa Rzeczypospolitej) prayed together. They did not only mount common guard at the commemorative tablet of the Holy Father's visit to Wloclawek but also created a chain 'from life to Life' and promised to co-operate.
Czestochowa was not an exception. It was the young people that illuminated the city, as it had not ever been before, on the day before the Pope's funeral. One of the longest streets was shining like the Las Vegas promenade, people said the next day. The Jasna Gora sanctuary was 'besieged'. At least 200,000 people of not more than 30 prayed in solemn meditation.
A lot of young people wore T-shirts with the words 'I am from the generation of John Paul II' during the funeral of John Paul II. Such a T-shirt was the most precious acquisition on those days. Seeing that older people approached the young and made the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Both shed tears. Most people had rosaries. They wanted to be marked with this sign of belonging, they wanted to be recognized from afar. This need to belong, to have a master, teacher, guide, this discovery of one's identity has many faces, colours and shades.

Representatives of the generation

Rafal, from a small village near the Ukrainian border, describes how he was dying of lymphoblastoma, cancer of lymphnodes. He was lying with an enlarged neck and dreaming of the impossible - of meeting the Holy Father. The meeting was made possible with the help of some good people and in June 2004 Rafal, who is 17 years old now, went to the Vatican. The Holy Father was to touch his head and say a few words which changed the life of the young man and many others around, 'Everything that happens, what is good and what is bad, comes from God. So you should be thankful for everything. You should even accept a serious illness with humility and confidence because then your suffering will be rewarded'. Afterwards they prayed silently but Rafal does not want to tell anybody about this. And when he returned to Krakow he decided to fight for his life.
Lilka, today mother of two pretty girls, recollects:
- In the world of dubious authorities and diminishing values he let us believe that love, freedom, human dignity, life, that everything is so wonderful...And I met a man who admired him, too. After our wedding we went to Rome. Dressed in my wedding gown I was running along Conziliazione towards St Peter's. The Holy Father himself blessed us. A few words, touch, smile, sigh of the cross and rosary - he provided for our common life. This was the most beautiful wedding present. Patrycja did not notice the Pope for a long time. Today she says:
- This long, passive participation in the work he was creating was broken during his visit in 1999. I saw his physical suffering and tiredness. When I was looking at his trembling left hand, which did not want to do a simple action, I was shot with deep sorrow. And I realized so many things... But it was not my compassion for the Pope that made me pray with zeal and go to confession. I was led by sincere shame... I was ashamed in front of him and was ashamed of myself. That visit disciplined me spiritually. And today any contact with the Holy Father makes me have one thought, one simple thought: 'Be good to others'.
Ryszard, 22, is Polish but was brought up in the United States. For him John Paul II is an argument in all discussions about religious matters. He proved that one could and should live by faith.
- Although there are many events that bring us down to earth, Ryszard explains, he says: 'Go on this way, do not be afraid, demand a lot of yourself even when others do not demand much of you'. This is how, in Ryszard's opinion, the generation of John Paul II should feel.
- How to change emotion into conversion? Wojtek, student of chemistry, wonders. In a very simple way. Go to confession and begin living the way he taught... This can be done. After 10 years I knelt at the confessional for the first time. Do as I did...

Miracles happen every day...

On these days it was enough to stand in some anonymous crowd in a square or a street, preferably in John Paul II Street or in some church in order to experience a miracle of John Paul II, in order to be changed by him. And to listen, to look around, to feel.
- I am not a believer - I heard at the foot of Jasna Gora - And now I am wondering: if someone as wise as the Pope believed I might be wrong...
- When I saw how this fellow suffered I burst into tears at first and then I said to myself: Goska, you cannot continue living in this way...

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: