“Without Christ we can do nothing,” he said; it is not “the ability to act and plan” which would transform the Church, but Christ himself found in prayer.
He asked specifically for scripture-based Lectio Divina prayer, which was also endorsed by his successor. "If this practice is promoted with efficacy, I am convinced that it will produce a new spiritual springtime in the Church," Pope Benedict XVI said of Lectio Divina.
Pope John Paul then followed up with a series of General Audiences on the Psalms. But most significantly, he promoted the Rosary.
When the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had the attention of the world, John Paul asked all Catholics to pray the rosary every day for peace.
Then came one of his signature “facts”: He created five new mysteries of the rosary, raising curiosity and injecting new vigor into the ancient prayer. Along with the new mysteries came a “Year of the Rosary,” repeating and formalizing his call for daily rosaries.
It worked: My family is one of those who committed to the daily rosary for the first time in response to these extraordinary papal measures.
Fourth is serving the poor.
Citing the last judgement in Matthew 25, John Paul asked Catholics to “Stake everything on charity.”
He asked that we “ensure that in every Christian community the poor feel at home.” He tied this to the New Evangelization, saying “The charity of works ensures an unmistakable efficacy of the charity of words.”
Again, he followed this up with a fact: He beatified Mother Teresa in 2003, on World Mission Sunday. He asked Catholics to follow her example, calling her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.” He died in 2005, leaving behind writings that became the encyclical Deus Caritas Est by Pope Benedict XVI, proposing Mother Teresa as a model of Christian service and prayer.
There are other requests in the document that he followed with “facts” — importantly, ecumenism — but these four are wishes that we lay Catholics in particular can fulfill.
The beauty of his “program” is its simplicity. No need for anything complicated. Convince people that Sunday Mass (the Third Commandment, after all) will help their family, share how healing confession is, ask them to pray the rosary for peace in our troubled times, and start serving the poor.
These basic practices are simple to explain, they are an easy sell for most people and, when followed, they transform lives. If we do them, we will spark a major religious renewal.
What better way to honor St. John Paul the Great?
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.