"My way of understanding the devotion to the Mother of God went through a change. While in the past I was convinced that Mary leads us to Christ, now I am starting to understand that Christ also leads us to his Mother." (J. P. II, "My Vocation, Gift and Mystery," Paris 1996)
Just after his election in October 1978, John Paul II added the letter "M" (for Mary) to his papal coat of arms, with the motto "totus tuus" ("totally yours") according to the words of St Louis de Montfort's Marian consecration. (The famous holy apostle of Vendee in the 17th century was one of his spiritual masters).
In each of his trips John Paul II always made a stop at a Marian shrine or dedicated a time of prayer in front of an image of the Virgin especially revered in the host country. (Renzo Allegri, an Italian author, even titled one of his books "John Paul II, the Pilgrim of Mary.")
We also know that the Holy Father's life became connected with the message of Our Lady of Fatima: John Paul II even declared that he recognized himself in the "bishop dressed in white" described in the third part of the Fatima secret, which he made known during his visit to the Portuguese shrine in March 2000. This Fatima "message," given to three young shepherds on May 13, 1917, and kept secret for a long time, was officially recognized by the Church as coming from the Virgin.
On May 13, 1981, "the hand of the Virgin" miraculously diverted the bullet, thereby saving the Pope's life
According to the shepherds' vision, the bishop "dressed in white" came under gunfire from a group of soldiers, just like John Paul II who was hit at Saint Peter's Square by the shot of Turkish terrorist Mehemet Ali Agca on May 13, 1981. The pope declared that "the hand of the Virgin" had diverted the bullet, thereby saving his life. He had the bullet, which nearly ended his life, encased inside a golden tiara that crowns the statue of the Virgin of Fatima, and gave his blood-stained belt to the Polish shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
As a sign of his devotion, John Paul II gave to these two shrines, as well as those of Aparecida in Brazil and Guadalupe in Mexico, the "golden rose" which, in Christian iconography represents either the cup that received the blood of Christ or the symbol of his wounds. John Paul II also gave one to Our Lady of Lourdes on August 14, after drinking a sip of the water from the spring flowing from the Grotto of Massabielle. The golden rose is actually a small bouquet of roses, made by Italian goldsmiths with gold and precious stones, whose central flower contains a cup of blessed balsam and musk.
The Marian shrines are like "oases in the desert," said John Paul II
The 1981 attempt on his life and the third secret of Fatima strengthened John Paul II's devotion to the Virgin, which dated back to his childhood. It was first instilled in him by his mother, who died when he was nine years old, then by his father and his spiritual mentors. While evoking the origins of his priestly vocation, John Paul II insisted in citing "the veneration to the Mother of God." During his life, Karol Wojtyla visited hundreds of shrines consecrated to the Virgin. Nearly 500, according to Renzo Allegri's count:
"The Marian shrines scattered throughout the world are like milestones placed to mark the route of our time on earth. They grant us a pause in the journey to restore joy and security along the way, with the strength to go forward, like oases in the desert," wrote the Pope.
(Source AFP 07/08/04