Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
While St. John Paul II was influenced by many saints during his life, there was one saint who had a special place in his heart.
As a young adult St. John Paul II was introduced to the works of St. John of the Cross. A holy man named Jan Tyranowski was responsible for showing young Karol Wojtyla the many works of St. John of the Cross.
As George Weigel writes in Witness to Hope, “Tyranowski’s most enduring contribution to Karol Wojtyla’s life and thinking was to introduce the young student-worker to St. John of the Cross…The tailor must have sensed that the Spanish mystic’s poetry would appeal to young Wojtyla, and that first taste of the literary fruits of Carmelite mysticism led to Karol’s reading St. John’s major theological works.”
After St. John Paul II was ordained a priest and was sent to Rome for further studies, he wrote his doctoral thesis on the works of St. John of the Cross.
While visiting St. John of the Cross’ tomb in 1982, St. John Paul II gave thanks to God for his example:
I give thanks to Providence which has allowed me to come and venerate the relics and to evoke the figure and doctrine of St. John of the Cross, to which I owe so much in my spiritual formation. I learned to know him from my youth and entered into an intimate dialogue with this teacher of faith, with his language and his thought, up to culminating with the elaboration of my doctoral thesis on “Faith in St. John of the Cross.” Since then I have found in him a friend and teacher, who has shown me the light that shines in the darkness, to always walk towards God, “without any other light or guide / that what burned in my heart / this guided me / more certain than the light of noon.”
St. John of the Cross would permeate the life of St. John Paul II, and while he may not name him his “favorite,” he certainly was one of the most influential saints in his life.