JPII and “Be Not Afraid” – A personal story of conversion

I’m among the numerous souls brought to Catholicism largely by the witness of the man who will be beatified this coming Sunday.

During high school I gave up on the Christian faith I’d been raised in. I didn’t so much reject Christ or his teaching as become completely disheartened by the fact that all around me were professing Christians who seemed not to take much interest in striving to live the Gospel.

If love is patient, kind, and not quick to take offense, why were we Christians quick-tempered, gossipy and touchy like everyone else? To cope, I adopted the time-honored adolescent defense mechanism: cynicism.

Onto the world stage strode John Paul II, beaming his merry grin, encouraging us to “Be Not Afraid,” and seeming to embody in his person the antidote to 1970’s “malaise.”

He offered the cure to cynicism: Christian joy. His spirit and teaching gave courage to young hearts afraid to give themselves fully to Christ. And he backed up his smile with the physical and moral courage that brought down the Soviet empire, restored the missionary face of the Church, and faced down the slow wasting death by Parkinson’s.

Three memories of him I cherish.