26/07 - 31/07/2016

John Paul II




                                                                                             

                                                                                              John Paul II (1920-2005)

His name was Karol Wojtyła. To his friends, he was Lolek. Being a friend of Karol… who wouldn’t want that? Simply put… having a (future) Saint as a friend. And especially since he didn’t shy away from people. As a young boy he was always among his friends. In his studies it was similar. Then as a cleric – he wanted to be there for everyone that was in need. He reconciled, loved, prayed and listened. He understood people and their problems. He was a sensitive and smart person. From childhood he entrusted his life to God in daily prayer, which he did not cease until the end. Difficult experiences of his youth together with a persistent and trusting contact with God made up the solid foundation that his life mission was based on.


“Here everything began…”

He was born on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, a town located around 50 km from Krakow. His father – Karol senior – was a soldier (lieutenant). He worked as a military official, even though his learned profession was as a tailor. His mother – Emilia née Kaczorowska – took care of the house and raising the children. Karol had a brother 14 years older than him – Edmund. He also had a sister, Olga, who died not long after his birth. He was baptized on June 19, 1920 at the nearby Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with which he would be strongly connected until the end of his time in Wadowice. At his baptism he was given the name Karol Józef. His parents were good, respected and religious people. His mother was deeply faithful, and dreamed (prayed?) that one of her sons would be a doctor, and the other a priest – the order wasn’t very important. Emilia was a fairly sickly person. She died at the age of 45, when Karol was nearing 9 years old, and Edmund 23 years old – he finished medical studies in Krakow. From that time Karol was looked after by his father. He took care of raising his sons – especially young Karol. A few days after the death of his wife, he went with Mundek and Lolek to the close-by Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, to the Sanctuary of Our Lady, to entrust himself and his sons to Her. A month later Karol received First Communion. The Father of Karol took care of the schedule of the day, in which there was always time for prayer, learning and fun. Young Karol went to Mass everyday before class, at which he served as a minister. After school he played soccer with his classmates and… ping-pong. Besides school education, his father also took care of his intellectual development – he taught him the German language, and also fostered his patriotism in him, relating Polish history to him.


Sensitive Boy

At age 10 Karol began learning at the Boy’s Junior High School in Wadowice. Here he was fascinated by poetry and theatre. He belonged to the school’s theatre school – there he discovered and slowly developed his acting passion. Karol was a patient student, a well-liked and friendly colleague. He liked sport, physical activity. Perhaps he also drew from his older brother Edmund, for whom he had great respect, as a model and encouragement. However, when Karol was 12 years old, his beloved brother suddenly died (as a young doctor he was infected by a deadly scarlet fever when taking care of the sick).


“When God opens a door, he opens a window”

The Wojtyłas – father and son, came to Krakow in 1938. They stayed at a relative’s place, in the basement of the house at Tyniecka 10 street. His Father took care of the house, and young Karol his studies.
Wojtyła studied Polish literature for only one year. In the meantime he took an active part in the meetings of the theatre school.

In September 1939 German armies invaded Poland. They did not spare Krakow. Karol together with other students was a witness of the arrest of 183 professors of his university (Jagiellonian University), who were taken to a concentration camp.
Together with acquaintances from theatre school he took up the fight through the “word”. Secretly in evenings they met and recited the works of Polish poets to the music of Chopin. To avoid deportation to forced labour camps in Germany, he enlisted as a volunteer for work in a quarry in Zakrzówek. After this he was transferred to the “Solvay” chemical plant in Borek Fałęcki.

At this time he was constantly learning and took part in the rehearsals of a few-person clandestine Rhapsodic Theatre, founded by an acquaintance from high school – in Wadowice – Mieczysław Kotlarczyk. The everyday life of Karol wasn’t made up only of work and theatrical meetings. He constantly also took care of his spirituality. He attends Mass at a nearby Church in Dębniki. Here he came to know Jan Tyranowski – a local ascetic and mystic, who led a rosary circle at the parish. He became his spiritual guide. Tyranowski acquainted Karol with the figure and spirituality of St. John of the Cross and deepened his devotion to Mary. After work at “Solvay” Karol often went to work at the nearby chapel at the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Łagiewniki. Here for the first time he came across the history of Sister Faustina Kowalska and heard about the cult of Divine Mercy, of which he would become a fervent preacher and spokesman.

In February 1941 all of a sudden his father, Karol senior, died. He was the last immediate member of his family. The change that followed the death of his father required a realization in the life of Karol. He decided to dedicate his life to the priesthood. Saying goodbye to theatre, twice he tried to enter the congregation of Discalced Carmelites. However, due to the ongoing war, this wasn’t possible. Making use of what was available (although always in secret and at the risk of deportation to a concentration camp), he entered Krakow’s seminary. Activities in the seminary at the time of occupation took place in secret and in an extramural form. Students – young clerics, and there wasn’t too many of them – risking their lives, met for activities in the curia, at Franciszkańska street. Karol studied philosophy and theology until August 1944, when after the outbreak of the uprising in Warsaw, the German occupants – fearing a similar scene in other cities of Poland – ordered a raid in Krakow whose goal was capturing all the young – potential rebels. By a miracle Karol escaped arrest. After this event Prince Stefan Sapieha – Archbishop of Krakow – gathered all the clerics in a safe place – they lived in rooms of the archdiocesan curia and there they finished seminary.

Karol Wojtyła received holy orders soon after the war, on November 1, 1946 in the chapel of the Archbishop’s Palace. The next day – on All Soul’s Day, in the crypt of St. Leonard in the Cathedral of Wawel – newly ordained Fr. Karol Wojtyła celebrated his first three Masses for his deceased parents and brother. About a dozen days later he was already in Rome, where he continued his theological studies (studying the mysticism of St. John of the Cross).

Father Doctor Uncle Karol (or Father Karol)

In 1948 he came back to Rome and began his pastoral work in the parish in Niegowici (a village in the Diocese of Krakow) and continued his studies in the Faculty of Theology of Jagiellonian University. Less than a year later, in Spring 1949 he was moved to Krakow to St. Florian’s parish. Here he organized university chaplaincy life, organized courses for engaged couples, led recollections, every week he celebrated an academic Mass. He went with students on kayaking trips, going to the mountains. The communist era didn’t favour the Church and faith – contacts with the clergy were seen as unwelcome by the authorities. To avoid suspicion, young people called Fr. Karol “uncle”. In the course of these trips, in the evenings discussions took place on various topics important for youth. They did not evade difficult issues connected with love, sexuality and corporeality – also with reference to marriage. The book “Love and Responsibility” that “Uncle” Karol wrote was a fruit of these discussions.

Fr. Wojtyła was capable of finding a common language not only with young people, but also with scientists, doctors, professors. At the same time, under a pseudonym, he wrote poetry and published articles in the press. He was a lecturer at the Catholic University of Lublin. There he taught subjects related to ethics. In 1958, at age 38, he received a nomination as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Krakow.

Totus Tuus

On September 28, 1958 in the Cathedral of Wawel he was ordained as bishop. That day Bishop Karol Wojtyła entrusted his entire ministry and himself to the Mother of God, making the words “Totus Tuus” (All Yours) his bishop’s motto, and then his papal motto as well. As a bishop, besides standard bishop’s responsibilities (such as parish visits, administering the sacraments of confirmation and holy orders) he especially cared for youth ministry. He also initiated the general organization of premarital courses.

In 1962 Bp Karol Wojtyła left for Rome to under the leadership of Pope John XXIII participate in the Second Vatican Council. Here he especially dealt with the topic of pastoral ministry in the contemporary world. During the council, on June 3, 1963, John XXIII died. His successor was Pope Paul VI, who nominated Bp Karol Wojtyła as Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow.

His ceremonial induction took place on Marcy 8, 1964. Three years later the pope appointed him as cardinal. Despite the titles and advances, Bp Karol did not distance himself from people, staying just as caring of a pastor as he had been up to then. He was a person with a very strong sense of responsibility for the mission God gave him. He constantly drew strength for carrying the Church in the difficult and unfavourable for the Church communist era in Poland from the Eucharist and persistent personal prayer. A fruit of his prayed and persistent attitude of opposition to the contemporary communist authorities was among other things building a church in the site of the newly created city-worker’s neighbourhood – Nowa Huta. This city had to be a place without religion, a place without God. With the efforts of the Bishop of Krakow – Wojtyła, he founded there the “Arc of the Lord” church, which became a symbol of the victory of God over the then-atheistic authority of Polish People’s Republic.

He focused most attention however on youth, whom he not without reason treated as the “salt of the earth and the light of the world”. He supported every form of youth ministry (among others the newly founded Salt-Light Movement – popularly known as oasis, and Apostolic Groups). Caring for young people was for Cardinal Wojtyła a fundamental issue, he knew that they had an enormous influence on the future of the Church, the Homeland and the world. He liked music, liked song and had a unique sense of humor, with which he earned the admiration of more than one young heart. This didn’t change, even when he became pope.

Habemus Papam (or “If I make a mistake, please correct me!”)

On October 16, 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was chosen as the successor of St. Peter. He took the name John Paul II… and Mary as a confidant and guardian of his subsequent mission for the Church.
He was the first non-Italian pope for hundreds of years. The first Polish Pope. The first pilgrim-pope. The first who “went around the Earth 40 times”, to meet with every person thirsty for Love, respect and peace. The first pope without a papal gestatorial chair – the first with a papamobile. The first pope who used the internet. The first pope of many “premiere” meetings and events. A pope-visionary. A young soul, also thanks to youth. Caring for us young people, he founded systematic meetings with young people from the whole world. World Youth Day took place for the first time in Rome in 1985. This festival of youth is already being celebrated for the 14th time! This time in the city of his youth – in Krakow, in which his spirit is still present. In the place of the cult of Divine Mercy, of which he was able to get a taste in his youth and which – reading the “Diary” of Faustina as the Head of the Church – he helped spread throughout the world.

“Santo Subito!”

Karol Wojtyła did not change his style or way of being a pastor in the Church. At the foundation of his life – unchangeable since his childhood – was prayer, his personal contact with God. He also entrusted young people from the whole world to God, being already at the end of his strength, on his deathbed. He remembered the youth. And he is still likely ready to intercede for us to Him.

John Paul II died on April 2 2005 at 9:37pm, at the vigil of the feast of Divine Mercy. The process of beatification began a month after his burial. After six years he became a blessed – on May 1, 2011 on the Feast of Divine Mercy, beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Three years later he was canonized by Pope Francis – on April 27, 2014, also on the Sunday of Divine Mercy.

St. John Paul II is the patron of families and World Youth Day.

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