To commemorate Pope John Paul II’s first feast day as an official saint, we threw a party! I searched the internet for some Polish-pope-saint inspiration but pickings were slim. I know this will quickly change (because a saint as awesome as John Paul is sure to inspire his share of parties) but here’s my contribution to Google results for “john paul ii feast day celebration.”
Our tablecloth featured the polish flag (just two layered plastic tablecloths) and a centerpiece designed by the talented Katie. She contributed this legit photo of John Paul acquired in Poland. Our friend Jenay brought the statue, and this framed quote of his is one of my favorites.
“Freedom consists not in doing what we like but in having the right to do what we ought.”
Fun fact: Katie finished up the centerpiece and then wistfully noted that some red flowers or a rose would complete the array perfectly. Since I wasn’t hiding any fresh flowers in my closet, I told her we’d have to do without. When our friends’ young daughter arrived, she presented me with the pictured bouquet of bright red leaves.
We had a nice Polish flag garland made out of construction paper and ribbon; the Polish flag is ridiculously easy to make if you can use scissors. (Apparently one version of it includes the Polish coat of arms but ain’t nobody got time for that. Dual-colored paper blocks FTW.) And of course, this party was the perfect excuse to become the owners of a Vatican flag. Thanks, Amazon.
Katie contributed her household t-shirt complete with papal crest and our buffet table held the JPII shrine. I loved that our guests each brought something of their own to help decorate. When we were planning, I realized I owned a small amount of John Paul II paraphernalia. But that’s what friends are for! Amber brought the JPII/John XVIII canonization photo and Margaret contributed the photo of John Paul II embracing her as a baby. (None of us was jealous or anything.)
This is was a great opportunity to display some of JPII quotes and since it was my party I picked which ones. I also cleared the library out of photo biographies and left them out everywhere.
“You are our hope, the young are our hope. Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it.”
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”
Our dinner had a Polish theme. Paul and I went to the West Side Market for pierogies and kielbasa. The main course was this kielbasa and cabbage recipe that turned out pretty well! And the pierogies did all the work on their own. (Here’s a homemade recipe if you’re into that.) Our friends contributed drinks, tossed salad, carrot salad and cookies and apple cake. I also made pope cake, which is never a bad idea. I used this recipe from Melody, including the part where you buy puff pastry instead of making your own. (See above side note regarding Polish coat of arms.) It was served in an authentic Polish pottery dish.
We had such great conversation around the table. Our guest David suggested we each share how JPII has made an impact in our lives. What struck me was how many of those gathered had seen him in person, and what an impact that left each time. John Paul was certainly the type of man whose presence itself was a gift to those who encountered him.
At the end of the meal we all prayed the official Vatican prayer to John Paul II. Everyone went home with a St. John Paul II holy card.
It was such a great evening. There was good wine, good food and good people. As Paul said afterward, John Paul II would probably have been happy with that gathering.
P.S. Why do Catholics do crazy things like celebrate dead people with parties? Here’s a nice explanation if you’re new to the idea.