May 13th, 1981: JPII’s Good Friday | Our Pentecost

By: John Sohl

May 13, 2021



On May 13, 1981—Pope John Paul II was shot at point blank range by what was likely a hired assassin. That was 40 Years ago today. Forty years of time is a profound period of trial, longing, and endurance. It is a profound encounter with the thirst of human existence, with a longing for more. More beauty, more truth, more goodness—more strong catechesis, evangelization, and apologetics!

Indeed, we are made for more! In 1981 sadly, the Church didn’t have an adequate or easily accessible Catechism of the Catholic Church. It didn’t have the profound impact of World Youth Days. There wasn’t a Fr. Mike Schmitz or Bishop Barron on YouTube so accessible we take it for granted. People back then were lucky to catch a glimpse of holiness on their television sets, let alone their bedrooms!

In fact, the morning after the tragic shooting of our beloved Holy Father, a young woman all the way in America was having a hard time watching the news reels herself. Certainly, this difficulty was out of compassion and worry for the Holy Father’s well-being, but more practically speaking, she was struggling to see the television set at all, for her boyfriend had beaten her so severely the night before that her eyes had swollen shut. So, she did the one and only thing in that moment that could give her any comfort.

She offered up for suffering for the Holy Father’s miraculous recovery.

That is what changed the world forever, at least—it changed her world in ways she could never fully imagine. For in the weeks and months that took place after this tragic encounter with death, both the Holy Father and this woman had to share in a recovery of sorts, a rebaptism that would shake the foundations of Heaven and Earth. This woman would go on to become my own mother, and after getting away from that terrible relationship, she would find the man, my father, who would love her the way she deserved. Together, they brought me into this world and gave me the gift of life.

Back in 1981, there was no easy access to Theology of the Body, and so the world of domestic abuse overshadowed the domestic church—and sadly, for many people unaware of the antidote to our times, such suffering continues. Families are suffering, wounded, broken seemingly beyond repair.

The story and fate of this saving work of Theology of the Body though was caught up mysteriously in the very survival of the Holy Father, for on the day of this Assassination Attempt, John Paul II was supposed to establish the Pontifical Institute for Marriage and the Family that would serve as the main teaching arm to disseminate these weekly Wednesday audiences. Christopher West among many others is a graduate of this very Institute. That same day, May 13th, JPII was to deliver the beginning reflection on Chapter 3 of Part I in TOB titled “Christ Appeals to the Resurrection.”

Indeed, the day of his Assassination Attempt—May 13, 1981—was a Wednesday.

On May 6th the week before, he had finished his long reflections on our Origin and History, affirming the innocence of Eden and decrying the abuse of pornography in media. He invited us to rescue the artist’s perspective and approach the beauty and glory of the human body with purity, and yet just seven days later—it seemed the powers of darkness would consume him to thwart these very efforts.

So just as Christ entered into the depths of Hell itself to untwist and redeem our darkest moments of despair, addiction, or death, so too did the Holy Father share in the Good Friday of today’s Eclipsing Church.

Forty years later, the Church’s influence in society seems all but non-existent. Many people may not see that or believe that, but the dark days are coming. The “Springtime” of Evangelization to which JPII referred may not be the flowering or blooming of new Church membership and increasing RCIA attendance. Rather, the springtime of the Church, the birth of the Church which began on Pentecost ultimately led these infant and jubilant apostles 2,000 years ago to the bloodbath of courageous martyrdom, the Red Crown of Total Sacrifice.

Remember though, we are an Easter People, and St. Joseph’s great love for us is guiding us in these sacred weeks and months ahead! Just as Christ was raised from death—likely bringing forth his own earthly father St. Joseph from death as well (see Mt 27:52-53)—so too did Pope John Paul II make his own comeback, stronger and more determined than ever to guide the Church into the Second Millennium.

After all, the date of this shooting, May 13th was also the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, for in the words of JPII, “One hand fired the gun, another guided the bullet”. Our Lady of Fatima promised that “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. These are the days of triumph, for the very Cross of Christ is a symbol not of defeat but of victory! On November 11, 1981—JPII would resume his Wednesday audiences in the Theology of the Body starting with the ironic and humorous line, “After a rather long delay…”

Now all these years later, just like my own mom encountered in her own way, we too can be a follower of JPII. We too can follow him to Christ who guides us to His Heavenly Father. In JPII’s Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, he introduced this reality quite simply.

“Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model. (1)”

As JPII loved us so dearly, God the Father loves us and cares for us infinitely more. Just as St. Joseph cares for us and strengthens our ability to see Jesus’ love for us more clearly—so too can we do the same for our families. Only through this love can we ever hope to follow Jesus to the Promised Land of Resurrection.

Forty years ought to do it, right?

Sharing the Father’s Love – 16th Anniversary of JPII’s Death

Sharing the Father’s Love

By: John Sohl


During the Year of St. Joseph, the FRP team like so many others is slowly working its way through the Consecration Prayers to Jesus through St. Joseph written by Jen Settle of the TOB Institute and Dr. Greg Bottaro of the CatholicPsych Institute. Fr. Donald Calloway’s book is of course another powerful option for Consecration to St. Joseph, and so my wife and I are reading through some of that as well during these days leading up to our Consecration. What this essentially means for the Church is that God the Father is preparing our hearts for a profound transformation in the world. The last 100 years have witnessed some intense changes in both good and bad ways. Modern conveniences like the microwave, central air and heating, indoor plumbing have all become staples of the developed world. Yet also in the name of convenience, other less neutral changes have taken place in society that deserves our attention and our outcry. Yet, it’s important to understand the how when going about seeking justice for the poor, marginalized, and dehumanized. The phrase “toxic masculinity” has been used in countless ways to degrade men and to make it seem that healthy leadership, real protection, and stable, reliable commitment isn’t possible for men today. Authority itself has been attacked quite brutally. In truth, the Father’s Love is real and is reliable! Our Dad loves us, even if we have never experienced that love from our earthly dad. St. Joseph is meant to guide us in being reparented in the most tangible, spiritual, emotional, and masculine way possible. St. Joseph is the man’s man! He guided and instructed and helped raise the most masculine man to ever live. Whenever Jesus would speak about the love of God the Father for each of us, who do you think came to mind as the visible presence who showed him such invisible love? His earthly father Joseph! Jesus felt invincible because of his earthly father’s strength. He was invincible because of His Heavenly Father’s powerful love. This same love was exuded in profound ways in the Holy Father John Paul II. During his pontificate, he traveled more than practically any human being in the history of humanity. He wrote enough books that an entire publishing house could dedicate its existence to his works. His opening words to us in St. Peter’s Square in 1978 were “Be not afraid!” and THAT phrase followed him all the way across the threshold of hope through his death 16 years ago. In fact, the anniversary of his death this year was on Good Friday, the very day in which the Father’s Love was most perfectly shared with the world in Jesus Christ. JPII’s entire life, his entire existence, his entire travel itinerary throughout civilization was to share the love and relationship with a man who never walked beyond the boundaries of what would be essentially Jefferson, Bullitt, or Oldham County. The saints JPII canonized, the feasts he established, the international festivals he inaugurated, the institutes he founded were all meant to bring us closer to St. Joseph’s foster-son and God, our loving Father’s only begotten Son Jesus! As we continue our petitions during this Way of Trust 54-Rosary Novena leading up to Pentecost, let us ask Mother Mary and her husband St. Joseph to pray for us intensely during this time. Come, Holy Spirit, let us speak your truth, your goodness, and your beauty to everyone we meet! Let us share your identity with the world. After all, the Holy Spirit IS the mutual Love that has always existed between the Father and the Son—and that love is the only love that truly satisfies our hungry hearts for passion, romance, encounter, nostalgia, and meaning. From wonder to wisdom, from life to love, from sorrow to joy, we will one day see the true Bridegroom in all his glory ready to meet us face to face in Heaven! In the words of our beloved Pope, let us “be not afraid” to go out into this world to meet Him in the faces of our families and friends. Let this Easter Joy, this Father’s Love, that is relived and re-experienced every year spill over into the hearts and minds of the whole world. May God bless each of you and your families during this Easter Season

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Happy 41st Birthday TOB!

Forty-one years ago today, Pope John Paul II stepped onto his balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square and delivered his first Wednesday audience on the “Theology of the Body”. One year ago today –on the 40th Anniversary– I began recording myself as I read aloud the text of each Wednesday audience delivered by Saint Pope John Paul II in Vatican City. This is a dense text to traverse…as my friend DJ Heunemen at Ruah Woods said, “Reading the TOB Audiences is a bit like wading through concrete.”

Indeed! The text of TOB is certainly not something one might pick up and begin reading for pleasure. Should you be intrigued and decide to wade into the deep of this ocean of human anthropology, know that it took St. JPII five years to present this profound teaching to the world!  It was said that the Holy Father went to bed each night around 1am and awoke at 5am every day of his pontificate. Talk about discipline!

During his papacy JPII wrote an average of 3,000 pages per year. Yet, this masterpiece which he chose to begin his extraordinary legacy as our Holy Father was something he had planned to publish as a book while still a Cardinal Archbishop in Krakow, Poland.

He began writing the TOB text on December 8, 1974 –the Feast of the Immaculate Conception– with the words “Totus Tuus” [Totally Yours] dedicating the work to Our Lady. These were the same words he would enshrine as his papal motto, and his Theology of the Body came right along with it!

During the papal conclave that would elect John Paul I, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla brought with him the manuscript (a work in progress) which he hoped to work on should he have time during the conclave.

After the election of his predecessor, Cardinal Wojtyla returned to Poland and completed that manuscript; then, as my teacher Bill Donaghy once said, “It was almost like [while the final ink was still drying on the page] the Holy Spirit tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Come with me…'”

Just weeks later, in October of 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II and within the first year of his papacy he began using that completed manuscript–not as a book, but as a teaching tool to evangelize the unbelieving world he had inherited.

Now, by God’s grace and the direction of the Holy Spirit, Family Renewal Project is honoring JPII’s commitment to Marriage and the Family. I’ve come to realize four main principals of FRP:  Family, Formation, Friendship, and Faith.

First, we want to become a trusted resource throughout the area for building strong Families.

Second, we hope to establish FRP as the area leader for Formation & Education in JPII’s Theology of the Body.

Third, to emphasize our friendship and collaborative spirit with our Families and Educators, we hope to establish Good Shepherd Institute of the Bluegrass as the trusted Catholic psychological services provider in the area.

Finally, and most importantly, none of this would be possible without the gift of Faith in Jesus Christ and His Church – ours and yours! Without the prayerful support, participation, and generosity of so many FRP would not exist. And my simple attempt at mimicking JPII’s TOB Wednesday audiences would’ve never gotten off the ground. Praise You Jesus Christ, now and Forever! We Trust in You!

John’s recordings of the TOB audiences can be found on the FRP YouTube Channel. 

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TWO FIRSTS (actually three): LARGEST TOB Gathering in History & Flagship “Head & Heart” Course Available ONLINE

I just spent the afternoon pouring through the outline of my TOB Immersion Course workbook, and what an incredible refresher it was! That week was one of the most life changing and important weeks of my life, for it brought me out of my self-inflicted desperation and prepared me for my true calling in life. Theology of the Body is God’s great gift to humanity in our times, as was its composer, St. John Paul the Great.

I was in 8th grade when JPII passed away on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday that year, just a week after my Confirmation, and since then, I have felt directly affected by his prayers in Heaven. My introduction to this Theology of the Body happened just a couple years later as I entered high school.

It was then that I found myself enamored with the message of authentic love between men and women, especially when the dating world has become so confusing and chaotic! He gave me the answers to my deepest questions, and thanks to Christopher West’s beautiful translation of the deeper theological language, my 16-year-old self could understand it!

That’s when I decided in my heart to attend the TOB Institute one day, though at the time, I knew the cost would be the most significant obstacles to a teenager getting ready to enter college. How could I have known that just 10 years later, I would be driving to the first official TOB Immersion Course that was being offered in Dallas, TX in March of 2017! Now, by God’s grace and through the generosity of an incredible donor, I have completed eight courses at the Theology of the Body Institute and will finish my certification program by April of 2021!

Family Renewal Project was founded in the midst of this incredible journey, and now, we are beginning to offer wonderful opportunities for people of all ages to have greater access to this message in Louisville! One day, we hope to offer more in-depth, retreat-like courses similar to the Institute, but in the meantime, we remain grateful for their unique ability, and the breadth of their wisdom and experience!

This past weekend, the TOB Institute offered the largest TOB Gathering in Human History, with almost 80,000 people who registered and took advantage of over 30 hours of powerful presentations and live discussions offered through this beautiful lens! Theology of the Body, after all, gives us the answers to two of our most burning questions: What is My Identity? and What is My Purpose? By delving into the full vision of what it means to be human, from our origin [beginning] to our history [now] to our destiny [future]—we can discover our story and see how each of us fits into God’s great plan for eternal happiness!

Now, for the first time ever, the TOB Institute is offering the same Immersion Course ONLINE! If you’ve ever considered attending this course at the Institute or had a desire to go deeper into the specifics of what it means to be human and how we can best live out our purpose and vocation, then this course is for you! This course will enhance your life, open up your senses to new horizons and only add to the incredible life God has planned for you. Sign up today to start your incredible journey to the Promised Land.  [Registration Deadline: midnight Wednesday, May 13, 2020

* Another first: On May 5 FRP hosted our first ever online webcast. View the replay HERE.

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Team Spotlight: John Sohl

1. How long have you been with the FRP team?  I’ve known Donna Burry since 2013/14 and began collaborating with Family Renewal Project within weeks of its founding. My official employment began in February of 2019 after coming home from World Youth Day in Panama.

2. How did you get involved with FRP?  I got involved through my ongoing relationship with Donna Burry and Susan Gendron. I’ve known Susan since I was in 7th grade at St. Aloysius in Shepherdsville, KY (before it closed down!). I read The Good News About Sex & Marriage by Christopher West (a book I believe Susan lent my mom who gave it to me to read!) and  have been enraptured with Theology of the Body (TOB) ever since. I’ve been involved with many TOB-related ministries within the last few years and in March of 2016 was granted a very generous gift that allowed me to attend the necessary graduate-level courses at the TOB Institute toward completion of my Theology of the Body certification. Family Renewal Project was founded only 2 weeks after I completed the first of eight TOB courses and because everything FRP offers is through the lens of TOB, joining with them seemed like a logical next step. 

* OF SPECIAL NOTE: Literally, today John is completing the last day of his final TOB immersion course. He will soon begin his practicum and once completed & accepted by the Institute he will be the ONLY person in the ArchLou who has earned the TOB Certification! 

3. What is your favorite thing about FRP?  My absolute favorite thing about Family Renewal Project is that it serves as a vessel for major transformation! I believe FRP is positioned to become a beacon for men and women seeking healing and renewal in their lives, understanding their purposes, and their family relations. Our TOB Crash Courses have already taken 100’s of people on a deeper dive into their own family and faith formation and are set to become a catalyst for incredible healing and renewal (and now we have the option for professional, Catholic psychological assistance when needed). 

4. What’s one of your favorite FRP memories to date?  I will ALWAYS remember the day in March of 2019 when we came together as a TEAM for the first time [in the Reide Room at Holy Family Church] and began facilitating the powerful message of TOB to people from across the ArchLou. Praise God for such incredible timing and openness to the Holy Spirit! 
5. What’s one of your favorite things to do?  Beyond spending time with family and friends, I absolutely LOVE to act in theatrical performances. I have been Nephew Fred in my parish’s production of A Christmas Carol since I was 15 years old, I’ve also played the Prince in Cinderella, and had parts in comedies and other short skits. Acting and producing plays is one of my greatest passions; I never knew it would become so near and dear to my heart. One day I hope to write and produce a play on the lives of the Saints through the lens of what the ideal modern + messy Catholic family might show us! 

6. What’s one of your favorite books and/or movies?  Without saying the obvious choice–the Passion of the Christ—I would say my favorite movie of all time is a more obscure movie called Frequency. It’s got Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid, but my oh my it is a thriller and a beautiful story of father and son finding a bond they didn’t think was possible, all through a mystical encounter from above. That’s all I’m gonna say about that!

7. If you could learn to do anything right now, what would it be?  It would definitely be to play the piano near perfectly and with effortless ease. I’ve taken lessons off and on for years, but I’ve always longed to be able to sit down and play anything (and everything!) for the sake of my family and friend’s enjoyment…AND for the ability to compose my own music!

8. What’s one place on your travel bucket list?  Rome! My parents visited Vatican City/Italy in 2005 and I’ve been mesmerized with their stories ever since. It not only changed their life, but I think it positively changed the life of our family from that point forward. (Jerusalem will be checked off the bucket list for me and my wife next month, when we go on a “Theology of the Body” Pilgrimage to the Holy Land — the place where God became man and took on a BODY!)

 9. What’s the last experience that made you a stronger person?  GETTING MARRIED! October 5, 2019 Crystal Ann Rose Sohl and I entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. So much goodness, beauty, and truth has come from that day, and I’m so excited to renew our vows every year and deepen our relationship with Christ together as husband and wife!

10. What’s one of your favorite Bible verses?  My all time favorite Bible verse is Psalm 139: “You have formed me in my inmost being; you have knit me in my mother’s womb. Behold, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I love the whole verse, but that’s the most recognizable part of it.

Our incredible Formation Coordinators – John and Cathy!

John and his wife, Crystal

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FRP, TOB and Respect Life

Emails, text messages, coffee dates, carpools…our lives are short, but FAST! Many lament about the affects of our fast-paced lifestyles and yet can’t seem to slow down if they wanted to!

But when you get a minute--usually right before you go to bed or maybe as soon as you wake up in the morning–do your thoughts ever bring you to a subject you know not of? In the silence of your heart…What do you wonder about? Are there any “existential questions”–resting just below the surface–that perhaps really only pop their head up in those moments when you’re confronted with silence? 

Questions like: “Is there more to life than what I do on a daily basis?” ” Is there more to love than what I see around me?”  “What the heck am I even here for?” 

If your answer is “Yes!” then could we venture to say: you probably don’t know why? WHY those thoughts are there or what you should do with them? One could argue, if we wanted to, we could banish that silence from our lives completely.  A quick click of the remote or swipe on the smartphone makes it pretty easy. Notice, I’m not saying that’s a good idea (it’s actually a very bad idea), but it is possible and even desirable to some.  But why?

There is deep within each of us the desire to be loved.  Intensely… Immensely… Unconditionally… But then more questions pop up.

What would happen if I actually let myself feel and connect with that desire?  Wouldn’t I just end up being disappointed?  Can anything REAL even come close to satisfying?

I think a good place to start is to think about where that desire comes from. I propose that it is “written in our DNA” and it calls out from within us.  God created you and has inscribed His very own love in your heart.  He loves you with that kind of love and He made you for that kind of love.  You are: Unrepeatable!  Irreplaceable!  Indispensable! 

Do you believe that? When the current world population is estimated at 7.7 billion…and when you imagine the count of all the people who have lived throughout history and will live in the future….how is it possible that you are unrepeatable, irreplaceable, AND indispensable? 

We’re talking about it! October 22nd.

If you attended the “Made for More” event(s) in Louisville this September, the theme of this presentation will feel familiar. We’re giving you MORE about the uniqueness of YOU and every person. WHY it’s so important that we respect ALL life. And HOW we can do more of that in our daily lives–busy or not!

No registration is required. It’s going to be a great night at Holy Family Parish (The Reide Room) and we hope to see you there!

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Theology of the Body + YOU!

Hey everyone, summer is beginning, the days are growing long and the warm nights are perfect for hanging out with friends, discussing and debating the important things of life. You might have heard that the FRP team is excited about a huge event coming to Louisville in September called Made for More!  It will be a multi-media experience, involving all the senses and directing our hearts, souls and minds to reflect on the creation of the world, the Creator and the significance of being created HUMAN.  

In preparation for this event, we are offering a four part series based on St. John Paul’s teachings.  Not often available locally, we want to be sure to invite YOU!  

By learning about John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, you will have the answer to the questions:

1)    What does it mean to be human?

2)    How can I live my life in a way that will satisfy the deepest longings of my heart?

Sadly, the world and our culture seem to be unaware of the beauty and goodness that is naturally in created reality!  We no longer allow ourselves to contemplate this mystery and be wowed by the fact that we humans are made in God’s image, having been given divinized bodies.  Instead, we have accepted the lie that our bodies are separate from our spirit, which is another way of saying that all that is spiritually exciting, beautiful and meaningful is totally unrelated to what the physical body finds exciting, beautiful and meaningful.  

This is a grave error and a complete distortion of the magnificent order God created from the beginning of the world!  Subsequently, some of us find ourselves aimlessly wandering from one idea to the next, or one relationship to the next, in search of the truth, in search of a love, goodness, or beauty that satisfies that deepest ache and longing – and we never find it!

This 4-part introductory series is free of charge and includes video presentations each week by Christopher West, followed by discussion and reflection.  Many people leave the series wondering “Why hasn’t anyone told me this before?”  

Why?  Because no one understood and explained it this way before!  St. John Paul II’s teachings are a gift!  

There is a tidal wave of cultural change sweeping America and the world.  Many feel lost, swept up in fear, seeing only confusion and uncertainty.  Now, with JP II’s help, we dive deeper into the mystery of creation itself.  Using Scripture as his guide, JP II helps us to see the absolute goodness and beauty of God’s creation of man and woman from the very beginning, and our ability to image God in love in a way we have never heard of before!   It is stunning, and it will take your breath away!

I hope you do not delay!  Get out your planners, check your calendars!  Then, please, sign up for Introduction to Theology of the Body to learn and hear for yourself what God had in mind when He created YOU!! 

WHO:  Cathy Blandford and John Sohl have been trained at the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia and will facilitate the discussions.

WHERE:  Holy Family Parish, Poplar Level Road, Reide Room.  (Look for signs)

WHEN:  Tuesdays June 11, 18 and July 2 and 9. Choose afternoon 1:00 – 4:00 PM; or evenings 6:30 – 9:30 PM.