October 22nd is the feast of the great St. John Paul II!
Here are 13 amazing facts about his incredible life that you may not have known:
1) At age 15, he was almost killed in an accidental shooting by a friend
His friend was showing him a gun that he thought was loaded. When the friend jokingly pulled the trigger with the gun facing him from just a few feet away, the gun fired. Thankfully (miraculously?), the bullet just barely missed him.
2) He had a Jewish “girlfriend” as a young man
Her name was Ginka Beer, and she was “a Jewish beauty, with stupendous eyes and jet black hair, slender, a superb actress.” Though “dating” might not accurately describe their relationship, she was the first and possibly only young woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.
3) He was an actor and playwright
A member of an acting troupe, he considered acting as a career before being called to the priesthood.
4) By age 21, he had lost his entire immediate family
His mother died when he was 8 from complications in child birth, his three siblings died during his childhood, and his father died of a heart attack when he was 21.
5) He was run over by a Nazi truck during WWII and almost killed
In February 1944, while walking home from work, he was struck and knocked down by a German truck. The German officers stopped and, seeing that he was unconscious and badly injured, commandeered a passing vehicle to use as an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He spent two weeks in the hospital. The harrowing experience, and his unlikely recovery, confirmed to him his call to the priesthood.
6) He escaped arrest by Nazi soldiers once by hiding behind a door
In August 1944, during a polish uprising, Nazi soldiers swept through his town looking to arrest all young men. As they entered his house, he hid behind a door somewhere. The soldiers searched the house but didn’t find him, so they left. He then escaped to his Archbishop’s residence, where he stayed until the end of the war.
7) He attended Vatican II as a bishop and helped draft several documents
He contributed to the final text of Dignitatis humanae, the Decree on Religious Freedom, and Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.
8) He was the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century
John Paul II was Polish. And, of course, we haven’t had an Italian pope since: Benedict XVI is German, and Francis is Argentinian.
9) As Pope, he spoke 9 languages fluently
He knew Polish, Latin, Ancient Greek, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese. As a young man, he may have known up to 12 languages.
10) He visited 129 countries during his pontificate
This makes him one of the most travelled world leaders in history.
11) He beatified and canonized more people than all other popes before him combined
He beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 people as saints.
12) He was a Marvel comic book hero in the 1980s
13) He’s the fourth pope to have the title “the Great”
Though bestowal of the title has no official process and is only by popular usage, only three other popes in history have merited such an honor: Ss. Leo the Great (440–461), Gregory the Great (590–604), and Nicholas the Great (858–867).