Courtesy of Mario Enzler

ANNIVERSARY FEATURE: ‘I Served a Saint,’ Former Swiss Guard Recalls Serving Saint John Paul II in New Book

Mario Enzler Offers Ideal Introduction to Beloved Pope

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Mario Enzler has cooked up a tantalizing appetizer for what is the remarkable feast of the life of Saint Pope John Paul II.

The appetizer is a new book: I Served a Saint, published by Newman House Press. At just 130 pages, it is not a definitive biography of the Saint, but an evangelization tool to help people understand why imitating saints like John Paul II is important. And Enzler’s text features a forward by George Weigel, author of Witness to Hope: A Biography of Pope John Paul II (the definitive biography).

The new book has received powerful endorsements:

Mario Enzler beautifully draws upon his everyday encounters with Pope St. John Paul II, both in the public eye and in private, to reflect upon the virtue, faithfulness, dedication to prayer, and witness that were not only central to the life of John Paul II but also fundamental to the universal call to holiness of every baptized Christian – the call for us all to be nothing short of saints! — Daniel Cardinal Dinardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

Mario Enzler has written a book about faith and virtue that leads us through the lives of saints and friends, and indeed the life of the author who gave himself to the Church by serving Saint John Paul II, Servant of the Servants of God. The men and women he encountered over the years led this young man to a life of service as a means of growing in virtue. May readers be inspired to find fulfillment and happiness in serving others through the examples presented in Enzler’s book. — Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State

The release of the book was timed so it would be available by the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Paul II on May 18th. (Enzler’s wife also was born on May 18 but not so many years ago, he noted.)

Mario Enzler, former Musician, former Swiss Guard, former Swiss Banker, and Tax Fiduciary. He wanted to introduce authentic gelato in New England; instead, he and his wife founded a classical-curriculum Academy in New Hampshire after finding inadequate educational options for their five children. Now, he not only works for the Church and teaches clergy Ecclesial Administration and Management.

He can also be found speaking at conferences or men’s retreats where he shares about the role Pope St. John Paul II had in helping him become a better man, executive, and leader.

Those talks about his days with the Pope were the seed that grew into the book. (Read a Zenit feature on one of Enzler’s talks here.) He has given dozens of talks and always gets questions – and sometimes people ask for his notes so they can remember his stories. Enzler, who admits he is more a talker than a writer, decided it was important to provide a written account of the lessons learned from being around a man who would become a saint.

“I’m not really an author but I wanted to put something down so we learn why it is important to imitate a saint,” Enzler said. “Lots of young people don’t know much about John Paul II. So my hope is that they will read my little book and be inspired to read more about him and especially his writings.

Looking to a saint for inspiration might be especially important during the coronavirus pandemic besetting the world, Enzler suggests.  For him, it has been an especially poignant moment: His father, Alberto, died just before Palm Sunday from complications related to Covid-19, in Bergamo, Italy.

Enzler grew up in Bergamo, an only child.  The northern Italian city has been at the epicenter of the pandemic with more than 20 Catholic priests dying from the disease. Due to travel restrictions, Enzler couldn’t go to Bergamo but did have more than 100 priests say masses in his father’s memory.

Like many of the people of Bergamo, the Enzler family suffered not only a death in the family but the disappointment stemming from a lack of normal reverence and caring for the dead. There was no funeral, he explained. His father’s body was taken away in a body bag, his ashes returned to Enzler’s mother a couple of weeks later.

Meanwhile, like many people around the world, Enzler is hunkered down at home.  He is in New Hampshire with his wife and three of their five children. The other two are in Washington, DC.

He admits being restricted to home has afforded time to work on the virtues he finds most challenging: Patience, prudence, and magnanimity.

It also has given him time to reflect on one of the most significant encounters he had with John Paul II during his time in the Vatican. It came when he first met the future saint and introduced himself. They shook hands, then the Pope took his hand with both of his hands and said:

“Well, Mario, thank you for choosing to serve one who serves.”

“John Paul understood what it means to be a servant leader,” Enzler recalled. “And that is especially important these days when we all need to be more, not just do more.”

“Be more not do more.” That is the deep message Enzler said the saints have for the rest of us, whether we are lay or religious. Like the saints, we can set an example through how we live, practicing the virtues, being rather than just doing.”

Enzler also has advice for the Church and its leaders during the pandemic, advice he says is important to implement in any crisis: be human, be persistent, be creative.

Saint Pope John Paul II was all three.

I Served a Saint, can be purchased from Newman House or Amazon.

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Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, and communications consultant. He also likes playing the piano and fishing. He writes from the Chicago area.

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