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St. John Paul the Great icon

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By Theophilia   |   
© 2014 - 2020 Theophilia

St. John Paul the Great icon
© Cecilia Lawrence
October 22nd 2014
4.5 x 6 inches
Ink, watercolor, gold leaf

“Gaude, mater Polonia,
prole faecunda nobili.
Summi Regis magnolia
laude frequenta vigili.

Rejoice, O Mother Poland,
Rich in noble offspring!
To the Highest King render
Worship with incessant praise.”

~ the beginning of the medieval Polish hymn
Gaude Mater Polonia (… )

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.”
- St. John Paul the Great

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”
- St. John Paul the Great

More great quotes from St. John Paul the Great:…

I started the sketch for this icon much earlier this year, and I hoped to get it done before I went to Rome for is canonization, but that didn’t end up happening, so instead I decided that when his feast day came in October I’d try to have it finished for that. However, the 22nd came and went, and as frantically as I tried to finish it, I simply was not able to post it in time. Here it is now, at any rate! I always try to depict the saints as young (since no one is old in Heaven), so I based the face on several pictures of John Paul II when he was a young seminarian (particularly:… and… ). So I decided to depict him holding his iconic Papal ferula (the iron Crucifix) and holding a gilded copy of his Theology of the Body with his Papal coat of arms on the front. His Marian chasuble and mitre is of my own invention, and the designs and colors are inspired by the famous, well-beloved Polish icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa. I even managed to fit her on his mitre, with John Paul II’s motto Totus Tuus.

Saint John Paul the Great, pray for us!



Saint John Paul the Great (May 18th 1920 – April 2nd, 2005 A.D.), known also as Pope John Paul II, and Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in the southern Polish city of Wadowice. He was the youngest of the three children born to Emilia Kaczorowska and her husband Karol Wojtyła, a Polish Army captain. The Wojtyłas were a very religious Polish family, and their father in particular worked hard to make sure that the boys were able to get a good education. His elder sister Olga had died as a baby before he was born, but growing up little Karol (“Charles” in English) was close to his brother Edmund, who was thirteen years his senior. His mother Emilia died from heart and kidney problems on April 13th 1929, when he was only nine years old. His father was deeply grieved at this great loss, and worked harder than ever to ensure that his children were able to go to school and study. Little Karol was nicknamed “Lolek” by his friends and family while growing up. He proved to be an incredibly bright child, was popular with his classmates, and enjoyed all sorts of athletic sports, particularly soccer.

His older brother Edmund became a doctor in his home town of Wadowice after graduating from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. An epidemic of scarlet fever broke out in the winter of 1932, and Edmund contracted the disease after visiting one of his patients. He died four days later at the age of twenty-six. Karol (now twelve) was utterly heart-broken by his death.

However, he continued on with his education, and after completing high school in 1938, he left home to enroll at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. There, he studied Philosophy, language, and Polish literature. He showed an extraordinary aptitude for learning languages, and by the time he was Pope he had studied twelve and was fluent in nine (Polish, English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, and Greek). He also became interested in acting, took part in plays, and even began to write his own. He also had to take some compulsory military training, but he refused to hold and fire a weapon.

When the Germans invaded Poland in the autumn of 1939, thousands of Poles fled to the east, where they learned that the Soviets were also invading. Karol and his father returned to Kraków. When they got back, they found that the Jagiellonian University had been suppressed, the professors were arrested, and all of the students were forced to find work or face deportation to Germany. Karol worked at the Solvay chemical factory and also found a good-paying job at a limestone quarry, where he worked for four years. In the meantime, he continued his studies at a sort of clandestine “underground” university as a kind of cultural resistance. In 1941, his father died of a heart attack. Some forty years later, Pope John Paul II, remarking on this said: “At the age of twenty, I had lost all the people I loved.” Discerning a call to the priesthood, Karol decided to enter the underground seminary that the Archbishop of Kraków had set up in the Bishop’s Residence in October of 1942. He survived a collision with a German tank that left him in the hospital for two weeks. He took his survival as a sign of an authentic call to be a priest. For the duration of the war, Karol studied for the priesthood, worked at the quarry, hid from the Gestapo, and saved the lives of many Jews in the city.

Karol Wojtyła was finally ordained as a priest on the Feast of All Saints, November 1st 1946 by Cardinal Sapieha, the Archbishop of Kraków. Afterwards Sapieha sent him to the Angelicum in Rome to continue his studies. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the Doctrine of Faith in the Writings of St. John of the Cross, and also studied Hebrew under his Dominican professor. In the summer of 1948, he returned to Poland for his first parish assignment in the village of Niegowić, near Kraków. In March 1949, he was transferred to Saint Florian’s in Kraków. He began to teach ethics at the Jagiellonian University, and at the Catholic University of Lublin, where he soon attracted a group of friends and students who gathered together to pray, discuss philosophy, and to do works of mercy. Calling themselves Rodzinka (“the little family”), the group grew quickly and they began to organize annual skiing and kayaking trips. They gave Fr. Karol the nickname Wujek (“Uncle”), since under the Soviet regime, priests were not allowed to travel with students. Fr. Wojtyła earned his Doctorate in Sacred Theology in 1954, and began writing for the Catholic Newspaper in Kraków. He also began to publish some of his own plays and literary works during this period as well. In July of 1958, Pope Pius XII appointed him as auxiliary bishop of Kraków. He was consecrated on September 28th, becoming the youngest bishop in Poland at the age of thirty-eight.

In October of 1962, Bishop Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council, and contributed to the drafting of two important documents: Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes. In 1964, he was appointed Archbishop of Kraków, and in 1967 he was named to the College of Cardinals by Pope Paul VI. After the Paul VI died, John Paul I was elected Pope. However, his reign lasted only thirty-three days, and so another Papal conclave was called on October 14th 1978.

On October 16th 1978, Karol Wojtyła, at the age of 58, was chosen as Pope by the conclave. He accepted with the words: “With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.” October 22nd 1978 was the date of his Papal Inauguration, in which he became the 263 successor to the Chair of Peter, the first Polish Pope ever, and the first non-Italian in 455 years. Karol Wojtyła chose the name John Paul II to honor both his predecessor and Paul VI, and chose as his Papal motto Totus Tuus (“Totally yours”) in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

His twenty-seven year pontificate is extraordinary for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he defined an entire generation of Catholics (“the JP II generation) because of his outstanding zeal, his great love for the youth and for the family, and for faithfully upholding the Church’s teachings. Secondly, he visited more foreign countries than any previous Pontiff. He made 104 international apostolic visits, and as the Bishop of Rome he made 146 pastoral visits in Italy, and visited 317 out of 322 of the parishes in Rome. His great love for Catholic youth led him to establish World Youth Day 1985. The World Youth Day closing Mass at Manila in the Philippines, has the current world record for the largest number of people gathered for a religious event (5 million). He convoked many Synods, sessions and assemblies of Bishops to discuss various issues within the Church. He made numerous visits to other religious leaders around the world and was known for initiating ecumenical dialogues with peoples of other faiths. During his tenure as Pope he canonized 110 people, and beatified 1,327 people, more than any other pope in the history of the Church. The Pope was also credited as playing a major role in the fall of Communism, especially in his native Poland, where he helped inspire the Solidarity movement that toppled the Soviet Regime there in a peaceful revolution.

He was also a prolific writer, and his principal documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions and 45 Apostolic Letters. He also wrote five books: Crossing the Threshold of Hope (October 1994); Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination (November 1996); Roman Triptych, meditations in poetry (March 2003); Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way (May 2004) and Memory and Identity (February 2005). Arguably his greatest and most ground-breaking “work” is his Theology of the Body, which is composed of 129 lectures that he gave at the Wednesday Audiences from September of 1979 until November 1984. The Theology of the Body is a great work that speaks about the Sacramental reality of human beings, about Divine and human love, about human sexuality, about the intrinsic value of the human person, on the nature of love, on the nature of men and women, and is essentially a revolutionary philosophical work on human sexuality in light of the Incarnation. He also promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church on October 11th 1992.

On May 13th 1981, as the Pope was entering St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday Audience, he was shot four times by Mehmet Ali Ağca. The would-be assasin was apprehended by a nun, a security guard, and several other bystanders and was soon arrested. The Pope was critically injured and was rushed to the hospital. As it was the anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, the Pope credited his survival to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, and he later made a pilgrimage to Portugal in thanksgiving. Ağca was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Italian court in July. Following the assassination attempt, the Pope visited Ağca in his cell and had a private conversation with him in which the Pope forgave him. The Pope also interceded on his behalf to ask for the Italian president to pardon Ağca and send him back to Turkey, which the president did.

Eventually the Pope’s health began to deteriorate, after two assassination attempts and other health problems. In 2001 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Despite his bad health, he continued to be a joyful inspiration to all those who suffered from painful illnesses by continuing his visits and travels. He was hospitalized with breathing problems in February of 2005, continued to suffer from various infections and medical complications until April. Finally, on Saturday, April 2nd 2005, (the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday) he uttered his last words in his native Polish tongue: “Pozwólcie mi odejść do domu Ojca" ("Allow me to depart to the house of the Father"). He fell into a coma and died at the age of 84. The Requiem Funeral Mass was celebrated on April 8th, which was attended by one of the largest gatherings of heads of state in history. He was buried in the Tomb of Popes in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

His immediate successor, Pope Benedict XVI, waived the standard 5-year waiting period for the beatification process in John Paul II’s case. After thorough investigations into his life, Pope Benedict declared that John Paul II had lived a life of heroic virtue, and confirmed that the miracle needed for his beatification (the complete healing of a nun from Parkinson’s Disease) was a genuine miracle. He was beatified on May 1st 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI. A woman from Costa Rica who was miraculously healed from a brain aneurysm supplied the second miracle needed for canonization. After more thorough investigations, Pope Francis finally canonized John Paul the Great on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27th 2014.


Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.

Peter came to Rome! What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord could have guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire? Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. Yet guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!

According to an ancient tradition, Peter tried to leave Rome during Nero’s persecution. However, the Lord intervened and came to meet him. Peter spoke to him and asked. “Quo vadis, Domine?” — “Where are you going, Lord?” And the Lord answered him at once: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” Peter went back to Rome and stayed here until his crucifixion.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter’s Son (as he was thought to be), the Son of the living God (as confessed by Peter), came to make us all “a kingdom of priests”.

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past the tiara, that triple crown, was placed on the Pope’s head in order to signify by that symbol the Lord’s plan for his Church, namely that all the hierarchical order of Christ’s Church, all “sacred power” exercised in the Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose: to ensure that the whole People of God shares in this threefold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord; a power that has its source not in the powers of this world, but instead in the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.

The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.

The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants.

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.

Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “that which is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.
- From the Homily of St. John Paul II, Pope, for the Inauguration of his Pontificate


Prayer for the Intercession of St. John Paul II

O Blessed Trinity, we thank you
for having graced the Church with
Saint John Paul II and for allowing
the tenderness of your fatherly care,
the glory of the Cross of Christ
and the splendor of the Spirit of love
to shine through him.
Trusting fully in your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of
Jesus the Good Shepherd.
He has shown us that holiness
is the necessary measure of ordinary
Christian life and is the way of
achieving eternal communion with you.
Grant us, by his intercession,
and according to your will,
the graces we implore,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

:rose: The Feast of St. John Paul the Great is celebrated on October 22nd. :rose:

“ For all eternity, God’s Church stands firm.
And the powers of hell will never overcome it.”

~ Antiphon from the Common of Pastors

St. John Paul the Great is the patron saint of World Youth Day, of Catholic Youth, and of young Catholic families.

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that blessed John Paul the Second
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Image size
1520x1956px 1.55 MB
anonymous's avatar
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celticsorcerer1's avatar
celticsorcerer1Hobbyist Writer
God bless him. He was Pope all throughout my life. I was born during his pontificate and I mourned his death. I also witnessed his canonization. I am blessed
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Amen! He was a truly amazing man!
Severusiana's avatar
SeverusianaHobbyist Artist
He suffered a lot when he was young in the Second War World. I remember when I watched a film that talk about his life and I cried with lot parts because is very hard. He was a great man and is my favourite Pope. 

Ah he met to Mother Teresa of Calcuta too. Both great people.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Indeed! A wonderful Pope! I grew up during his pontificate so he's my ideal of a pope. :nod:
Severusiana's avatar
SeverusianaHobbyist Artist
and the mine too.
FelipeMariposa777's avatar
October 22,2018 Happy feast day, St. John Paul II. I love him so much. I read Jason Evert's book about him. I also read ''Crossing the Threshold of Hope''. He is my favorite saint. He was such a faithful servant of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
I've only read snippets of Jason Evert's book on him but the parts I read were really good! :D

Have you seen this video? I think you'll enjoy it! :D…

My favorite part: "We love you! We love you! We love you!" "Perhaps I love you more!" :D

Hahah, and then there's this:…
FelipeMariposa777's avatar
I have seen the autotuned video of St. John Paul II before. But the last time I watched it was May. I also watched another video of St. John Paul II that was old since it was made before he was beatified.
captainstapler's avatar
captainstapler General Artist
Beautiful! Amongst other things, I think my favorite thing about this is his eyes. They're so JP2. Never realized how amazing he was till recently, and how cool it was to have been alive the same time as this servant of God. I'm actually going to a school named after this great saint! 
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thank you! :meow: I always try to be particularly careful about making the eyes look just right. In this case,  think my sketch of JPII turned out better, and then inking it made it look worse. :hmm: Ah well. 
TheStrangeGirl091200's avatar
I've always thought he was quite handsome when he was young... and a great man 🌟
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
TheDoctorIzIn's avatar
TheDoctorIzInHobbyist Digital Artist
Pope John Paul II and I share the same birthday :D
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
That's so cool! :D
TheDoctorIzIn's avatar
TheDoctorIzInHobbyist Digital Artist
Who do you share your's with?
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
St. Rita of Casica.
TheDoctorIzIn's avatar
TheDoctorIzInHobbyist Digital Artist
Cool :D
TheDoctorIzIn's avatar
TheDoctorIzInHobbyist Digital Artist
Looking back at this, you can't deny that if John Paul II wasn't going to be Pope, that he looks like he could have owned a fashion company and modeled in his early days, just saying!
olga1983ledok's avatar
olga1983ledokProfessional Photographer
Such an interesting style of icon drawing! Saints looks like real people and very beautyful))
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
THANK YOU!!!! :dance: :glomp:
theleblancprocess's avatar
Rock on st JP II!! Are prints available?
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Yep! :D
mithril1971's avatar
Such a great man - what a stunning portrayal in icon.
I am writing my dissertation for theology on this work you feature here :)
John Paul II changed my life.
Any chance this icon is for sale? Or a print? Thanks!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thank you! Yes, JP II is an amazing man! One of the greatest of our time, certainly. :D Have you ever read Jason Evert's book about him?… My sisters are reading it right now and they just rave and rave about it. I only read a little snippet from the beginning, but it's very beautiful. :love:

Certainly I offer prints! The information for ordering prints is in my journal entry. Pricing depends on what size you want. :nod:
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