By Susan Ciancio

Today we celebrate the remarkable life of Karol Wojtyla, the man who would become St. John Paul II. Elected pope in 1978, he served lovingly and faithfully until he died in 2005. Throughout his 27 years as our Holy Father, John Paul II helped build a culture of life in countless ways. His influence reached across the globe, and the love he instilled continues to live on to this very day. Among other things, he strengthened families and the sacrament of marriage; started World Youth Day; taught and wrote on the sanctity of life; preached and lived a Christ-like forgiveness; helped establish solidarity among different races, cultures, and religions; and worked toward bringing an end to communism.

We know that building a culture of life starts at home and that strong families are the foundation of strong societies. Below are 10 St. John Paul II quotes that are sure to inspire you. As you think about the life of this holy man, invite him into your kitchen or into your living room tonight. Talk with your family about the love he showed, the kindness he taught, and the truths of our faith that he worked so tirelessly to teach. And share his words and his love with your family so that you can go out into the world and evangelize to others. 

Human life is precious because it is the gift of a God whose love is infinite; and when God gives life, it is forever.”

God’s love knows no bounds. He loves us more than we can ever imagine. His gift of a child—a tiny human being created in His image and likeness—is one we should treasure. We are all unique and unrepeatable human beings. We all have something important to offer this world. And though we will all eventually die, our souls will live for eternity—an eternity that we pray is spent with Christ.

“All human life—from the moment of conception and through all subsequent stages—is sacred, because human life is created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing surpasses the greatness or dignity of a human person.”

No matter what we look like or what we can or cannot do, every single one of us has dignity. There’s nothing we have to do to earn it. It’s a free gift from God. And it is our job to see that dignity in others, to treat them as we would treat Christ, and to never hold anything (except God) in higher esteem than a human being.

“To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others and share their burdens.”

Each member of the family has a special role to play and has a vital part in helping the family function as a unit. Remember the saying “United we stand, divided we fall.” The family is strongest when both parents and children (and any extended family members) build each other up and care for each other.

“All human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God.” 

Sometimes seeing the dignity and value in every person is hard. It’s really easy to see these qualities in our friends and in our families. But do you see value in the elderly in a nursing home? Do you see dignity in someone nearing the end of his life? Do you see value in the homeless man you pass on the way to work? Christ calls us to love everyone, even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult.

“Stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked . . . stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life. When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need . . . stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God.”   

Stand up and make your voice heard! It is our job to take care of our fellow human beings—especially the ones who cannot defend themselves or who have difficulty doing so. You may be that person’s only hope.

“Courage is needed to resist pressures and false slogans, to proclaim the supreme dignity of all life, and to demand that society itself give it its protection.” 

Yes, courage is needed, but how do you get courage if you feel like you are lacking in it? Pray! Ask God for the strength and courage to stand up for the truths of our faith.

When the institution of marriage is abandoned to human selfishness or reduced to a temporary, conditional arrangement that can easily be terminated, we will stand up and affirm the indissolubility of the marriage bond.”

Marriage is beautiful, wonderful, joyous, and amazing, yet it can also be extremely difficult, mundane, and stressful. That is why, in a sacramental marriage, God confers His graces upon us. And these graces will help us through the tough times—if we let them. They will help us stay true to our vow and will help us work hard every day toward making our marriages better. A marriage without God will struggle. If you have not let God into your marriage, invite Him in now. You will see a change almost immediately!

“When freedom is used to dominate the weak, to squander natural resources and energy, and to deny basic necessities to people, we will stand up and reaffirm the demands of justice and social love. When the sick, the aged or the dying are abandoned in loneliness, we will stand up and proclaim that they are worthy of love, care and respect.”

When you have built that culture of life in your family, it naturally flows outward toward people in your community, toward the sick and the weak. Yes, they are worthy of love too, but often they have no one to give them the love they not only deserve, but that they so desperately crave. Remember that Christ told us: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.”

“Our Lord and Savior, through his death and Resurrection, has become for us ‘the bread of life’ and the pledge of eternal life. In him we find the courage, perseverance and inventiveness which we need in order to promote and defend life within our families and throughout the world.”

God gives us so much, and He asks very little of us in return. Take time each week to not only go to Sunday Mass, but to go to a daily Mass. Nourish yourself on the bread of life, for it is only in Him that you will feel strengthened and renewed to continue His mission on Earth.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” 

Love is wanting what is best for the other person. Love is the complete opposite of selfishness. When we love, we cannot act in a selfish manner. Open your hearts, not only to Christ, but to your families, to those who need you, to the sick, the imprisoned, and the dying. Turn away from the things that distract and the things that will keep you from spending an eternity with Christ.

St. John Paul II taught us all how to love, how to live, and helped us find a path to heaven. All we need to do is listen.