While many of us folks of a certain age think of Pope St. John Paul II as a contemporary, many of our young people probably would consider him as “ancient history.” After all, he passed away in 2005, which means that none of our pre-K through grade 8 children have a living memory of him. Likewise, those college-age young adults who may have vague memories of him from their childhood probably only recall him as old and frail. So how can we convey the energy and vigor of this Pope, whose pontificate lasted almost 27 years (the third longest pontificate in Church history)? I think that a good introduction to the excitement that Pope John Paul II stirred among young people is captured in his visit to World Youth Day in Los Angeles in 1987. There, a young man named Tony Melendez, who was born with no arms, appeared on stage to play guitar (with his feet) and sing for His Holiness. In this episode of Pop-Up Catechesis, we revisit this incredible moment when Pope John Paul II embraced not only Tony Melendez, but an entire generation of young people!
By the way, I had the honor and privilege of accompanying Tony Melendez for a song when he performed at the high school where I taught in 1989! Likewise, he was one of the last people I saw on the road before the pandemic shut down my travels in early 2020.
For more information about St. John Paul II and Tony Melendez, check out the following links:
- Tony Melendez Sings for Pope John Paul II in 1987
- John Paul II: Lessons for Living
- Go in Peace: A Gift of Enduring Love
- Canonization of John Paul II
- Biographical Sketch and Timeline
- Pope John Paul II Was Influenced by Pope John XXIII
- Pope John Paul II Lesson Plan
- Pope John Paul II and His Message of Forgiveness
- Pope John Paul II and Young People