Albino Luciani was born in Italy on 17 October 1912. • He became Pope on 26 August 1978, and took the name John Paul. • He was always smiling and in Italy is remembered as ‘The Smiling Pope’. He reached out to everyone.
When he was Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI said: “The smile was not a mask, behind which a person can hide.”
John Paul identified with St Francis de Sales (who was born in 1567 and died in 1622). • St Francis worked hard to convert people to Catholicism. • Francis believed that whatever God had in store for him was good, because ‘God is love’. • Francis studied law and religion, but eventually decided during his time at University that he wanted to serve God instead of money and the world. He decided to become a priest. • St. Francis developed a sign language so he could teach a deaf man about God. Because of this, he is the patron saint of the deaf.
Before he became Pope, John Paul I wrote some letters to famous people from history and books which were published in an Italian newspaper. One of these letters was to St Francis, who he called, the “gentlest of saints”.
“As priest, missionary and bishop you gave your time to others: to children, the poor, the sick, sinners, heretics, the middle classes and princes.”
Pope John Paul I was encouraged and inspired to reach out to everyone and speak in language that everyone understood by St Francis de Sales.
St Francis knew that he wasn’t perfect and was honest about this. He talked about “our dear imperfections”.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”1 Corinthians 11:1 God our Father, Pope John Paul identified with St Francis de Sales. We pray to you and to St Francis for Pope John Paul, that he too may become a Saint. Help me to know the lives of the Saints better, and find out about the ones I can identify with. Amen.