John Paul II, Young People and Suffering

Rafael Tronquini

What do you remember about John Paul II in his latter years of illness. What witness did he give the Pope give you in that period?

I especially remember the last year of his life. There was so much media coverage and images of the Pope who had difficulty speaking. But his love for me and all young people around the world was incredible. John Paul II was the first Pope I knew. In 2005 I was 21 and the Pope, with his great wisdom, was like a grandfather figure for me… I would say that he was a travel companion! He said so many amazing things. In the parish youth groups he was a reference point, an example of someone who continued to love in painful situations.

I wanted to respond to the invitation he gave at the Canada World Youth Day in 2002 and so in 2007 I took part in the WYD in Cologne. It was a chance for me to really experience the unity of the Church. I will be eternally grateful to John Paul II for the proposal he launched to all of us young people to share that unforgettable meeting and when I went to visit his tomb I thanked God for the gift of his life. After that GMG I understood lots of things; I committed myself above all to following Jesus in the joys and sufferings everyday life.

The Pope tried to find God/Jesus in his pain: can you tell us something about this idea?

Jesus’ walk to Calvary, his death on the cross and his resurrection come to mind. I believe that if we love Jesus we can have this same experience of resurrection. When I arrived home in Brazil after the WYD I heard that my grandmother was really unwell. I thought: What can I do? What can I say? John Paul II came to mind and I remembered how he faced suffering. A few days later my gran died. It was the first time I lost someone close to me. Losing her and John Paul II- very different but both very much loved people- in the same year was a new situation for me. I think that, when faced with illness, we can’t expect to find answers if we don’t love. We can find God’s face in those who are ill and truly love them. Jesus who died on the cross out of love is waiting for us to offer all our pain to Him.

The day the Pope passed away my sister called me at work crying. I couldn’t understand what she was saying; I could only imagine that it was bad news. When I understood that John Paul II had passed away I too started crying but at the same time I thanked God for the impact that John Paul II had had in my life.

Do you too have the ideal of “Jesus Forsaken”? What does this mean to you?

Yes I am a member of the Focolare and Jesus Forsaken is central to the Spirituality of Unity. What does this mean for me? It means choosing him forsaken, in his nothingness, in his cry: “Why have you forsaken me?” I want to choose him in that moment when he made himself nothing, in the climax of his love for the whole of humanity. And so when I’m tired after having studied hard or after a long day at work I remember that, in that tiredness, I can find an aspect of Jesus Forsaken and this pushes me love. This also helps me overcome temptations in order to be a coherent Christian and gives me the strength to start again when I make mistakes. When evening comes I offer all my sufferings, my limitations and my failures to him because he already took all this upon himself. He is unity.

(Interview by  Corinna Muehlstedt, for Bavarian Radio – 18 March 2011)

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