The Saint Who Influenced Pope St. John Paul II’s Profound Devotion to Mary
Pope St. John Paul II was well known for having a deep and abiding love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. His devotion to her was evident in all that he did: his teaching, his prayer life, even his papal motto and coat of arms were dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
When he was nearly fatally shot during his papacy he credited the intercession of the Virgin Mary, specifically Our Lady of Fatima, with the miraculous save of his life.
But how did he develop this life-long devotion to Mary?
In his book, Gift and Mystery, Blessed Pope John Paul II credits his home parish and the nearby Carmelites for their early influence on him. He also had a very devout father who regularly took him on pilgrimages to local Marian shrines.
However, as he matured in his faith as a young adult, he singles out one overwhelming influence which changed his life. He gleaned his profound devotion to Mary largely through the writings of one man: St. Louis de Montfort.
The book that changed Karol Wojtyla’s life was True Devotion to Mary. The Pope relates that,
“At one point I began to question my devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ. At that time, I was greatly helped by a book by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort…
There I found the answers to my questions, Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ… The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God”.
Pope John Paul II thought so highly of the writing of St. Louis De Montfort that he spoke about the saint on many occasions. In addition, on December 8, 2003, he wrote a special letter on the occasion of the 160th Anniversary of De Montfort’s publication. In this letter he wrote: “I myself, in the years of my youth, found reading this book a great help.”
True Devotion to Mary had such a lasting influence on him that when he was elected Supreme Pontiff in 1978, he chose his papal motto, Totus Tuus, from words written by St. Louis De Montfort, as he describes below:
“As is well known, (in) my episcopal coat of arms … the motto Totus tuus is inspired by the teaching of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. These two words express total belonging to Jesus through Mary: “Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt.” (“I am all Yours, and all that I have is Yours.”) . . . “This Saint’s teaching has had a profound influence on the Marian devotion of many of the faithful and on my own life.”
There is no better way to advance quickly in holiness, no better way to please God, and no better way to guarantee one’s present sanctity and eternal salvation than with a true devotion to Mary. Pope John Paul II learned this and demonstrated this truth in his life, proven now that he has been raised to the altars and numbered with the saints in heaven.