Look to Wujek: "Encountering the Person"

Fr. Wojtyła (St. John Paul II) received the title “Wujek” (-yĕk, which means uncle) from his group of friends in 1952 because it was not safe to call him Father in public. "Look to Wujek" helps us get to know the man who was St. John Paul II, little by little.

by: Laura Ricketts (Gore, VA)

It is so often said of Pope St. John Paul II that he had a particular “gaze.” That he had this gift of being able to be in a room of thousands and yet make each person feel as though he or she was connecting on a personal level with him. It was an encounter. That is the best word to describe the experience. Especially when his gaze fell upon you. You felt as though you were having an encounter with the late Holy Father. Many who were fortunate enough to meet John Paul II, to speak with him, or to serve the Church with him would remark that he also had this ability to make whoever he was interacting with, whoever he was encountering, at the moment feel as though they were the most important person in the world. Nothing else mattered except the person in front of him. This is a grace, and one that we can all pray to receive and practice. 

As we approach the Christmas season perhaps it is the perfect time to pray for the grace to truly encounter people, to look upon the person in your path with the love of God that communicates to them that they are loved, that they are valued, that they matter.  We can practice “the gaze of John Paul II.” Often at Christmastime we reflect on how we are to encounter the Christ-child. We imagine the shepherds and the wise men. We think about how we may have behaved if we had been able to enter the stable that Holy Night. Yet every day we have the opportunity to encounter the Christ in others and to be Him to others. We have the opportunity to “enter the stable” each and every time we interact with someone. Whether that person is in our family, in the workplace, fellow shoppers in a grocery store, or a stranger we may never meet again, in that moment of encounter we are meeting Christ and we have the chance to communicate the love of God the Father to the other.

That was John Paul II’s gift – that in encountering him, one encountered the love of God the Father. Perhaps this Christmas season we can pray for the grace to practice and to receive the gift of encounter.

Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us!