His Devotional Life

Saint John Paul II practiced forms of popular piety. His personal devotions included adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; pilgrimages; processions; honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary through the wearing of the Brown Scapular as a sign of his total consecration to Jesus through Mary; the Rosary; the Angelus; novenas; the Stations of the Cross, the veneration of relics; the use of sacramentals and his devotion to The Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Every morning, the Pope prayed in his chapel, returned to his bedroom for meditation and reentered the Chapel at 7 AM to celebrate Mass. After Mass, he prayed the Morning Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus from a folded piece of paper, which he carried everywhere with him. It ended with the words, “Totus Tuus (totally yours), most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” After breakfast, he walked through the sacristy and kissed all of the relics kept there on a table.

Throughout the day he prayed the liturgy of the hours, the Angelus, Rosaries, meditations and adored the Blessed Sacrament. At noon, he prayed the Angelus which he recited on Sundays as he overlooked the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. On Fridays he prayed and meditated on the Stations of the Cross which he prayed daily during Lent. He prayed through the intercession of his favorite saints from a list that he kept in his pocket. He also carried a folded paper containing the words of his Act of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.

Many times Pope John Paul II was seen lying on the floor in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with his arms stretched out wide in the form of a cross. The head of the papal household warned organizers of papal visits to not arrange for the Pope to pass anywhere near the Eucharist within view because he would be certain to go before Jesus and spend time in adoration which would put his schedule behind.

He practiced the Divine Mercy devotion and explained that he “believed that God’s love for humanity assumes a special form in the gesture of mercy, in his haste to succor humans, sinners, the hapless, and the victims of injustice. He has shown us the need for a deep hope that springs precisely from an understanding of the mercy of God, and that must take a very specific, twofold form: on the one hand, it is necessary to entrust oneself to the mercy of God, and at the same time, one must have a profound sense of responsibility in order to be at the service of one’s brothers and sisters with this mercy.” He canonized Sister Faustina Kowalska, the apostle of the Divine Mercy devotion. He instituted the feast of Divine Mercy on the Sunday after Easter and he died on the vigil of the feast day on April 2, 2005

We should follow his example because the US Catholic bishops asserted that an increase of popular piety is evidence of the Church’s influence on society. They issued a document on November 12, 2003 entitled, Popular Devotional Practices: Basic Questions and Answers. “First of all, by introducing the Catholic faith, the Church transforms the culture, leaving the imprint of the faith on the culture,” they said.

“At the same time, however, the Church assimilates certain aspects of the culture, as some elements of the culture become absorbed and integrated into the life of the Church,” they added. “This twofold process can be seen in the development of popular devotional practices.”

Both the liturgy and popular piety have a role in this transformation, the bishops wrote.

“While this inculturation of the faith takes place in the liturgy, popular devotions carry the faith a step deeper into the everyday life of a particular culture,” they said. “When properly ordered to the liturgy, popular devotions perform an irreplaceable function of bringing worship into daily life for people of various cultures and times.”

While popular devotions are important, the liturgy always has primacy. “Since the liturgy is the center of the life of the Church, popular devotions should never be portrayed as equal to the liturgy, nor can they adequately substitute for the liturgy,” they wrote. “What is crucial is that popular devotions be in harmony with the liturgy, drawing inspiration from it and ultimately leading back to it.”