Recalling John Paul II’s love for young people

Assessing the late Pope’s impact

“Yes, Christ calls you, but he calls you in truth. His call is demanding, because he invites you to let yourselves be ‘captured’ by him completely, so that your whole lives will be seen in a different light.” (Pope John Paul II, address to the youth of Ireland, Ballybrit racecourse, Galway, Sept 1979)

When we accept our sinfulness and resolve to be the best version of ourselves in Christ and allow God’s love and mercy to be victorious in our lives, then the whole narrative of our lives is rewritten. This is what I believe it means to be a saint – to let yourself be captured by him completely, and this is part of the legacy that Pope John Paul II has at the centre of his sainthood.

By canonising him the Church is solemnly proclaiming that he has practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace and he is being further highlighted as a model to follow and an intercessor to grow in friendship with.

Put simply, the Church is confident that Pope John Paul II is seated with the Father in Heaven, having said yes to him on earth, and will help us on our own path to holiness and ultimate union with God.

Pope John Paul II often shared with and encouraged young people to say yes to this universal call to holiness and the vocation which all the faithful share – that of saints.

He died when I was 15 years old and at a stage in my life when the Church and the Gospel were not relevant to me, or at least this is what I thought.

Shortly after this, and particularly when I got to be a pilgrim at World Youth Day (a truly divine inspiration of Pope John Paul II) I started to realise his profound belief, heart and love for young people and he ultimately helped me, and many others I am sure, to understand that the Church truly cares and loves young people – in the reality of their everyday life and struggles.

I often return to the words he spoke when he addressed the youth of Ireland in Ballybrit racecourse, and how appropriate and timely they are for us as young people, and not so young people, today.

He warned us, out of his love for us and the Church, not to close our eyes “to the moral sickness that stalks our society”, that our fidelity to good principles would be tested in many ways, he also reminded us to love our enemies and never to speak hatred and reminded us of our call to mission and evangelisation and the role that we, as young people, play as key evangelisers.


Celebration in Ballybrit

“Young people of Ireland, I love you!” These heartfelt words of Blessed Pope John Paul II will soon be re-echoed in the very place where he spoke them almost 35 years ago. On April 27, when he is declared an official saint of the Catholic Church, many will gather in Ballybrit racecourse to celebrate his life and the canonisation of both him and Pope John XXIII.

The Diocese of Galway, Kilfenora & Kilmacduagh and Ballybrit racecourse committee will host an exciting and very special day of celebrations. The day will start at 11am with screenings of some of the footage from the soon to be saint’s visit in 1979, some highlights from the canonisation ceremony in Rome, brief reflection and sharing from people who were present for the papal visit, with Mass being celebrated at 12noon. This will then be followed by a special youth gathering at 2pm. In the true spirit of Pope John Paul II this youth gathering will be a real celebration of Catholicism – including catechesis, music, prayer and faith sharing. To find out more contact:

Living out that vocation today

As we continue our Lenten journey and invoke Pope John Paul II as a saint I, like many others, am drawn to reflect on his life and example. He embraced his journey to holiness, and we can follow in his footsteps by following his own example: growing in our love of the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, by praying the Rosary – one of the late Pontiff’s favourite prayers – by praying more to the Holy Spirit, by trying to live out the Gospel of Life in our daily lives through the upholding the dignity of the human person and culture, by accepting mercy and by receiving the courage to follow Christ.