October is a huge month in the Catholic liturgical calendar. We celebrate the feasts of some of the most beloved Saints in history: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila…the list goes on. I could have easily created a tablescape inspired by any of these incredible Saints, but my choice for this month was easy: Saint John Paul II. As many of you know, if I had to choose just one favorite Saint, it would be him. Growing up, my Polish heritage gave me a soft spot for this beloved Pope, but it wasn’t until I was in college and really dove into His writings and homilies that his role in my life solidified. I truly believe that his teachings and intercession have formed me as a person and as a Catholic more than almost anything else. On top of that, he is the patron Saint that Dave and I chose for our family during our engagement and Charlie is named for him (Charles is the English translation of Karol, JPII’s baptismal name) and was baptized on his feast day, October 22!
Since Saint John Paul II is a newer Saint, there are not really any “traditions” associated with his feast day yet. I pulled inspiration from sources like his heritage, his papal crest, and more to design the table below!
For this feast…
Polish pottery: Polish pottery originates in Southwestern Poland, just a few hours from where St. John Paul II grew up. I knew immediately that this table would be incomplete without it! My mom has collected Polish pottery for as long as I can remember, so it has always been a beautiful part of my childhood home. There are countless patterns and colors to choose from, though blue and white are the most common colorways. Find a fabulous selection online, or keep an eye on the china sections of your local HomeGoods, where we have found it from time to time.
White roses: Did you know there is a Pope John Paul II rose? This fragrant, pure white hybrid tea rose is even part of the White House Rose Garden. While I LOVE this idea of planting this exact rose type in honor of St. John Paul II, I bought a simple bouquet of white roses from Trader Joe’s to work in a pinch!
Wood: St. John Paul II is well-known for his love for the outdoors and was an avid hiker and skier from an early age. I layered these wood chargers under the plates as a nod to the outdoors. They also helped unify my three different plate patterns, which was a nice bonus :)
Kremówka Papieska, aka Papal Cream Cake: This tasty cream cake was a signature item at a bakery in Wadowice, St. John Paul II’s hometown. While on a visit back there in 1999, he shared that it was a childhood favorite–it has been known as “papal cream cake” as opposed to just “cream cake” ever since! I used this recipe.
Marian symbol: A Marian “M” with a cross on top is a symbol frequently associated with St. John Paul II and his motto, “totus tuus” (“totally yours”). I cut it out of parchment paper and laid it on top of the cake before adding the powdered sugar topping. I LOVE how it turned out! There are countless ways to include this symbol on a JPII-inspired tablescape, from piping it on top of cupcakes, to drawing it on menus or place cards, etc.
Key: I happened to have a key-shaped bottle opener, so I added it to the table to represent St. John Paul II’s role as Pope (“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19) and the key depicted in his papal crest. You could also tie place cards to vintage keys for a different look with the same meaning. Since mine is a bottle opener, it was the perfect excuse to pour some Polish beer as well!
Candles: As another easy nod to the papacy, I used a white candle to represent the smoke released from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel when a new pope is chosen. (Random fun fact, anytime you see silver taper candlesticks on my tables, they’re from our wedding reception!)
Saint John Paul II, pray for us! Let me know any of your favorite ideas or traditions for celebrating him below!