The Legacy of St. John Paul II

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. John Paul II, and it’s a great time to pause and look back at the life and legacy of this modern-day saint. Even though he died just 15 years ago, his legacy is already apparent, and we can still see the seeds he planted during his pontificate blooming in the Church today.

Damon Owens, an international speaker and Executive Director of joytob, stopped by Morning Air® this week to discuss the legacy of St. John Paul II and the impact he had in his own life.

Owens explained, “I’m part of what you might call the ‘JPII Generation.’ If you think about the length of his pontificate, I was born in 1966 and he was elected pope in 1978. So for most of my faith life ‘pope’ meant Pope John Paul II.”

As a father of eight, Owens expressed his gratitude to have a figure like St. John Paul II alive during his lifetime, because he played a large role in Owens’ return to the Church.

“I marvel at the younger generations here who don’t have that memory,” he said. “For folks who are 15 years old, he died in 2005, so you think for high schoolers and younger now he is just one more name in the list of honored Catholic saints. It’s interesting being right at that nexus, where he brought me back to the faith with a zeal and desire that I’ll never forget.”

Morning Air hosts John Harper and Glen Lewerenz shared their memories of St. John Paul II, and pointed out how remarkable it is that they have personal memories of being at an event with the pope. Previously, popes did not travel extensively, but St. John Paul II was known for traveling the globe to proclaim the Gospel and fan the flames of faith in the hearts of Catholics.

“That was something that those of us who grew up in this ‘JPII Generation’ almost took for granted,” Owens said. “Because that became the icon, the image of the Holy Father. We didn’t appreciate, like the prior generations, how radically different that was. The way he traveled to numerous cities, the way he made himself available and accessible, and the humanity that didn’t detract or take away from his sanctity, his humility, and his love of Jesus Christ.”

And that availability and presence made a huge impression on the lives of countless young people, many of whom credit St. John Paul II with helping them discern their vocation.

“There was a huge shift there, he was very present,” said Owens. “And I think that’s what helped form this ‘JPII Generation’ of religious and priests and those in the seminary who responded in such a way that they said, ‘I want that intimacy. I want that gravitas. I want that joy of loving the Lord.’ And he just personified that.”

Owens also discussed the role that St. John Paul II had in history, and his role in bringing about the fall of Communism in Europe. The world was changed because of his leadership, but he didn’t need armies or force to fight against evil.

“Isn’t that the Christian way?” Owens pointed out. “It’s that humility that doesn’t come at you and say that I’m coming with a horse, a sword, and more men than you. It’s none of that. It’s that I come in the name of the Lord, with a slingshot and a couple of rocks in my pocket, and with the zeal of the Lord in my heart.”

“That’s more than poetry. That’s more than allegory. That’s anima, that soul is the way we are called to live. It confounds the wicked, it confounds the proud, the strong, and the rich. Because it doesn’t get to what they think is the source of power. It gets to the source of power, which is God himself.”

Listen to the full conversation with Damon Owens below:

Morning Air can be heard weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.