The Stranger
The Stranger p2
Bloom page 2
Sayings and Proverbs
Nails on the Door
Adeste Fideles

Pope John Paul II
by Daysounds ©2005-2015

Karol (Polish translation of the Latin name Carolus--Charles in English) Jozef Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920 at Wadowice,a town near the Carpathian Mountains, with about 6,000 Catholics and 1,500 Jews, 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Krakow, in Poland. Country which had obtained the independence at the treaty of Versailles the previous year. He was the second son (the third child)of Karol Wojtyla (voy tih wah), a lieutenant in the Polish Army until his retirement (1927), who worked also as a tailor, and Emilia Kaczorowska Wojtyla, a devoted wife and mother from Lithuanian descent with a convent education background. Their home was located at 7 Koscielma Street. It was a second floor, three-room rented apartment, very close to St. Mary's Church. Both parents were strict Catholics, but did not share the anti-Semitic views of many Poles. As a matter of fact, one of Karol Jozef's best chilhood friends, which he kept for life, Jerzy Kluger, was a Jew.

Even before he was born, tragedy struck the family: his infant sister (Olga) died, bringing a great deal of suffering to his parents and brother, who never lost their faith in God. Next, as if to be tested further, his mother got kidney and heart problems, which led to her death in 1929--just a month before Karol Joseph's 9th birthday. She was 45. After receiving the news, Lolek (familiar name from Lolus, short for Karolus)said with sadness, "It was God's will." Instead of breaking the family apart, the loss brought them even closer to each other and to God. Then, and only three years later, his 26-year-old brother Edmund, a physician in the town of Bielsko, died of scarlet fever. Regardless of it all, Lolek remembered always waking up every morning seeing his father praying on his knees. They both formed a united prayer, playing, and learning team which lasted for years.

Karol Jozef got hit by a truck in 1944 while a college student. Apparently, it was a "hit and run." He was thrown onto the curb, against which he hit his head, and laid unconscious. At that, a German military officer was passing by in his car, when he saw the young man, stopped the car, took him to the nearest hospital, and made sure he was well-taken care of before he left. Karol was 5 foot, 10 inches, 180 pounds at that time, with an excellent health. God didn't want him to go yet. He recovered well, except for a small problem in one of his shoulders, which he carried all of his life. Some people say that it gave him a humble look when he walked.

As an adult he was beset by physical difficulties, including a broken thigh that led to femur-replacement surgery, the removal of a precancerous tumor from his colon, a fall (after tripping on the edge of his rob) which led to a dislocated shoulder, and an attempt on his life by a gunman whose two bullets wounded him on the abdomen, right arm and left hand. It is said that the "Parkinson's" disease he developped was a consequence of those wounds.

Karol Jozef played soccer and ping-pong as a child. He also helped at church as an altar boy. Once in a while, he attended the local synagogue with his Jewish friends, after obtaining permission from his parents/father.

He graduated from Marcin Wadowita High School in 1938. That very year (June 22, 1938), he and his father moved to Krakow where he enrolled at Jagiellonian University to study Polish literature, linguistics, and philosophy. There, he also received mandatory military training, even though he and the rest of the students were exempt from military service. He also enrolled in a school for drama.

The following year, 1939, the Germans took over Krakow and most of Poland. They shut down the university, the cathedral..., by the end of the year, they would close churches and persecute both Jewish and Catholics (even though Hitler officially, on paper, was Catholic himself). That year, Karol wrote his first play, David. And the following year, his second, Job. In 1941, he and some of his friends founded the Rhapsodie Theater, where the shows were related to religious, social injustice, and the struggle of the oppressed topics. He was also one of the actors. The underground "theater" was a traveling location, meeting in different appartments with an audience of 15-20 people.

Karol Jozef and his father were living in a one-room apartment behind a church, and the father devoted himself to his son and God. It is reported that he raised Lolek with a balanced mixture of love, discipline, and prayer. In February of 1941, when Karol was almost 21, Wojtyla's 61 year old father died. He would never forget waking up in the middle of the night and seeing his father on his knees, praying, their joking and playing together, his advice, his reading him books, his loving discipline, his love for him and God.

Karol was both an excellent student and an athlete who played soccer, hiked, mountain climbed, kayaked and swam, but his favorite sport was ski. God used those activities to divert his attention from the painful loss. He really enjoyed the outdoors--God's artistic, living masterpiece. In his later years he would go fishing and walking.

From 1940 to 1942, he worked in a rock quarry as assistant to the rock blaster; and then, from 1942 to 1944, as a labor hand at Solvay, a caustic soda chemical plant, in order to put bread on the table and avoid being deported to Germany. So work helped him too..., God, outdoor activities, work, and a good mentor, the tailor Jan Tyranowski, who became the most influential person in his life during those years. He guided him in many ways; among others, spending hours with him talking about God, and about life. Specially meaningful to Karol were his commentaries and meditations on the writings of the Spanish Carmelites Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross to whom Jan directed him. Karol Jozef had found his true path. It was not linguistics. It was not literature. It was not theater. It was a full-time ministry as a pastor.

In 1942, Karol Jozef secretly began studying to be a priest, following his father's dream for him, and his own wish. He was one out of only ten men chosen by Adam Stefan Sapieha's (archbishop of Krakow and a royal prince) to study in his underground seminary, which had as faculty just a few of the surviving professors from Jagiellonian University (most of the faculty were in concentration camps at that time).

It is interesting to note that he had met Sapieha during his visit to Lolek's high school. Lolek was a senior, and he was the one who gave the welcoming speech. The bishop was impressed, and suggested that he studied to become a priest. He said, "No" at that time. We never know who is going to help us in the future. Let's be our best at all times. If God wants something for us, even if we miss the train at one station, He would call us again at another station. Let us listen to Him, and receive what He has for us, instead of reject it again and again...we might miss it altogether. Karol Jozef didn't. One miss was enough.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University, until his priestly ordination. During those years, Wojtyla served as a leader and guide to university students at St. Florian's. The church was conveniently located next to the school. He studied theology for 4 years (1942-46).

He was ordained as a priest by cardinal Sapieha on November 1, 1946 in Krakow. Looking back at his life, he remarked, "Certainly, in God's plan nothing happens by chance."

During the next few years, he studied in Rome, at Pontifical Angelicum University. In 1947 he earned a licentiate in theology. That summer, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland. He finished his doctorate (in theology) in 1948 with a thesis on the topic of Faith in the Works of St. John of the Cross.

That very year, he returned to Poland, where he continued studying, and where he had his firt priestly assignments: Niegowie (an underdevelopped village without running water or electricity)for 7 months, and St. Florian's Church in Krakow for 2 years and a half as assistant pastor.

In 1951, he was told to take a 2-year leave from his priestly duties and go back to study to prepare for the qualifying exams to obtain a university position. It is thought this decision was taken to protect him from Soviet authorities. In 1953 he defended a thesis on Evaluation of the Possibility of Founding a Catholic Ethic on the Ethical System of Max Scheler at Lublin Catholic University.

In 1954, the university was closed again, this time by the Soviets. He, then, taught ethics at seminars which were open in Krakow, Katowice, and Czestochowa, and lectured at the Catholic University of Lublin as well.

With Gomulka as the new secretary of the Polish Communist Party, the Catholic Church was allowed to come up from underground. It was 1956. Wojtyla was named chairman of ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin.

In 1958, he was named the auxiliary bishop of Krakow by Pope Pius XII. The same year, he was named the acting bishop of Krakow by Archbishop Baziak when the incumbent died.

Karol Jozef was named archbishop of Krakow in 1964, and appointed as cardinal in 1967, both by Pope Paul VI.

When the revolutionary Vatican II Council began the deliberations in 1962, Wojtyla was one of its intellectual leaders.

In 1965, he wrote the "Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops," containing the famous words, "We forgive and ask forgiveness".

The Sacred College of Cardinals chose Wojtyla as the next pope after the death of John Paul I in September of 1978 (officially in October 16). He was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Believing that his new responsibilities were going to be of continued service to God and human beings, he refused a large-scale coronation. On October 22,1978, he was installed as pope in a simple mass in Saint Peter's Square.

In 2003, John Paul II received a doctorate honoris causa in jurisprudence from La Sapienza University of Rome.

"This is not a pope who looks at the public opinion polls," commented Father Thomas Reese, editor of America magazine and author of the book Inside the Vatican, about the pope while he was still on Earth, "He says what he thinks is right and wrong from conviction. And that's why people admire him. He's a man of integrity and prayer, even if they don't agree with him."

He was so often in prayer that he was said to make his decisions "on his knees." According to Vatican officials, he spent the first 2 or 3 hours of the morning in prayer, everyday.

Time named him "Man of the Year" in 1994. He spoke eight languages, learning Spanish after he became the pope. He was fluent in Polish, Italian and Latin. He also spoke conversational English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and German.

He called the U.S. and Western countries "The culture of Death," and the Church, "The culture of Life." He said, "A nation which kills its own children [abortions] is a nation without a future...A civilization which rejects the defenseless would deserve to be called a barbarian civilization." In 1997, he lamented that modern standards were reminiscent of "the epoch of the Roman Empire's decadence." Only in the USA, an estimate of 50 million children have been killed through abortions since 1976.

Crossing the Threshold of Hope, was one of the books he wrote, which became a best-seller in many countries.

Pope John Paul was 84 years old when he departed to Heaven on Saturday, April 2nd, 2005.

John Paul II was the only pope featured in a comic book (by Marvel in 1983).

"He didn't like to see priests in the government." --Daniel Ortega (former President of Nicaragua). He believed priests shouldn't side with any government, but provide advice and guidance according to the Scriptures.

The man who shot the pope twice in the assassination attempt in 1981 was a Turk named Mehmet Ali Agca. It is still speculated whether or not he was hired by the Russian KGB.

Karol Jozef was pope for 26 years. That made him the third longest-serving in history, after St. Peter and Pope Pius IX. John Paul II was the 263rd pope.

He was the first Slavic pope in history. He had 737 meetings with heads of state. Pope John Paul II named 482 saints and created 232 cardinals.

Rev. Wojtyla was especially strong in calling on rich nations to share their wealth with the poor, and believed that both communism and capitalism had major shortcomings.

He oposed homosexualism and lesbianism, and called it sin. He spoke against those issues in multiple occasions, always targetting the sin, not the sinner. He was against hatred and violence towards anybody.

Addressing the horrendous behavior of some leaders of the church toward children, he said in a speech to cardinals, bishops and priests, "There is no room in the priesthood for those who abuse children."

Regarding Virgin Mary, John Paul II favored to call her the mother of Christ, over calling her the mother of God (John XXIII used to call her the mother of Jesus), even though in some of his writings and speeches he used the second term. Mary, indeed, was the mother of the human body of the Son of God. Had she been the mother of God, she would have been above God and a Goddess herself.

About praying to Virgin Mary, he acknowledged that after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ to Heaven, while the disciples where gathered together with the women and Virgin Mary in the Upper Room, all of them were unanimously praying, not to her, but with her.

John Paul II sometimes made reference to the Mother of Christ as the Mother of the Church. In a way she was--in the same way as Mary Gates (the loving mother of Bill Gates) could be considered the mother of Microsoft because she was the founder's mother. In another way, she wasn't: there is no instance in the New Testament in which the disciples or the church refer to Virgin Mary as "our mother"--she is called "the mother of my Lord," "the mother of Jesus," and "Mary"; and in our socio-cultural context, we wouldn't call someone the mother of an institution unless she founded or co-founded it. Jesus was the founder of the Church. While dying on the cross, he said, not to his mother and Peter (traditionally, the rock upon which the Church was founded), but to his mother and John, "Woman, behold your son;" then, looking at the disciple, "Behold your mother." Virgin Mary, without any other close family, would have become culturally dejected, ostracized by society without a man to protect her. Jesus was public and, therefore, legally, providing that protection for her before he departed.

This point strongly supports the teaching that Jesus was Mary's only child and, hence, her permanent virginity. Even if Virgin Mary had had no other sons, just daughters, they would have been married, and she would have been made a part of their families automatically upon Jesus' departure. At that time, according to reputable scholars, when talking about cousins, the terms "brothers" and "sisters" were also used. Since Jesus had not made a public agreement with his cousins and his mother, they were not legally responsible for Virgin Mary. Jesus wanted John to take care of his mother and viceversa.

Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of our Lord's human body, who also nurtured and raised him up as a human being, our beloved sister, whose example of love, faith, and obedience is worth to be imitated by all.

"Among us, with raised hands, is praying the Virgin, Mother of Christ and of the Church. Together with her, let us implore and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, light of truth, strength of authentic peace." --Pope John Paul II's Homily on Eve of Pentecost, "Ecclesial Movements, a 'Providential Answer'," Vatican City, May 30, 2004.

Karol Jozef prayed for, encouraged, and worked for the unity of all Christians, so that they would model Christ's love through their lives, actions.

His address to the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowsips, Rome, 7 December 1991 (and by extension, to all Cristians):

"The Holy Spirit is at work in groups such as yours, drawing you to prayer and filling you with joy in adoring and praising the Lord. As I wrote for the whole Church in my Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem: 'Recent years have been seeing a growth in the number of people who, in ever more widespread movements and groups, are giving first place to prayer and seeking in prayer a renewal of their spiritual life.' In the same Spirit who sends you forth to bear witness, how can anyone who has tasted the goodness of Christ remain silent and inactive? How can one lock away the good that has been so fully received?"

In 1995, Joseph Ratzinger decreed that the Pope's oposition to the priesthood and leadership of women in the church was not just an opinion, but a dogma, infallible. Shortly afterwards, John Paul II confirmed it. There are several clear passages in the Bible in which this statement is based (I Corinthians and I Timothy, among others). If we take the Bible as God's Word, supracultural, infallible, then, the statement is infallible. "You disagree? And do you think that the knowledge of God's will begins and ends with you, Corinthians? Well, you are mistaken! You who claim to have the gift of prophecy or any other special ability from the Holy Spirit should be the first to realize that what I am saying is a commandment from the Lord himself." --I Corinthians 14: 36 & 37, from The Living Bible (a paraphrased version of the Holy Scriptures)

John Paul II didn't put women aside. He fully supported other ministries for them within the body of Christ, based also in the Bible (his favorite book).

The pope openly opposed the USA invasion of Iraq, claiming there was no evidence to prove it had weapons of mass destruction (position also openly held by former USA President Jimmy Carter, who in a USA Today pre-war article was quoted as calling it an unjust war). Claim which was proven accurate during a war that has cost more than one thousand American lives and tens of thousands Iraqi fatalities, besides the maimed, until today (4/05). As times goes by, the number of people killed, dismembered, and with mental disabilities is increasing in both sides, even though the war is "officially" over. The long absences from home are also producing situations of adultery, and the consequent destruction of families, specially on the American side. He also said that in war everybody is a loser. It would have been worth it to listen to him.

During the eighties, Lech Walesa (with a few exceptions), General Wojciech Jaruzelski (the communist chief) in Poland, and Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia listened to him. As a consequence, we see a free Poland and a free, united Germany.

In 1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the first non-Communist Prime Minister of Poland. In January, 1990, the name of the country was changed back to "Rzeczpospolita Polska" or "The Republic of Poland."

"John Paul II was indispensable to the peaceful end of the Cold War." --Mikhail Gorbachev (both the end of the Cold War between Russia and the USA and the Berlin Wall fall took place in 1989)

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called the pope's death "a great loss for all humanity." Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader credits him for his successful attempts to bring peace to the Middle East.

He apologized officially to Jewish leaders for the Catholic Church's centuries old enmity against Jews. In addition, he strongly condemned racism and ethnocentrism in all spheres and contexts, stating that we all are physical brothers and sisters, descendants of Adam and Eve, and quoting Christ's words, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Four days after Mehmet seriously wounded the pope, and while the latter was still in critical condition and severe pain, he stated that he forgave the person who had tried to kill him. In 1983, Karol Jozef went to visit Mehmet into his prison cell in Rome. What specific words were said nowbody knows, but there were smiles on both sides and a pleasant conversation. The victim had truly forgiven his assailant, and expressed it to him in unmistakable terms.

"Karol Jozef Wojtyla was a man who believed in practical reconciliation between people and God, and between people. He not only prayed for it, he lived it, he was an agent of reconciliation" --from another article by Daysounds

In 2004, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush. It's the highest civilian honor in the United States.

''My father died last year. For me, it feels the same,'' said Elisabetta Pomacalca, a 25-year-old Peruvian who lives in Rome.

"The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd. The world has lost a champion of human freedom... A good and faithful servant of God has been called Home.''
-- President Bush

"He was the top moral leader of the century. He was the moral conscience of the West."
--Billy Graham

John Paul II favorite prayers:

To God the Creator

God, you are our Creator.
You are good
and your mercy is infinite.
God, you have given to us men
an inner law
that we must live by
to do your will and accomplish your task.
To follow your paths
and know peace in our soul.
To you we offer obedience.
Guide us in all the initiatives
that we undertake on earth.
Free us of evil tendencies,
which turn our hearts away from your will.
Do not allow us
to invoke your name
to justify human strife.
O God, you are the one and only.
You we adore.
Do not let us distance ourselves from you.
God, judge of all men,
help us to be among the chosen
on the last day.
God, author of justice and peace,
grant us true joy,
and genuine love,
and enduring brotherhood
among peoples.
Fill us with your eternal gifts.

To the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, we appear before you as sinners, but gathered together in your name. Come among us, stay with us, enter into our hearts, teach us what to do and what direction to take. Show us what to choose so that, with your help, we may please you in all things. Be our counselor and the author of our purposes; you who with God the Father and his Son bear the name of glorious; you who love justice, do not let us become its destroyers. May our ignorance not lead us astray, success not deceive us, may our own interest or that of others not fail us. Bind us closely to you with the gift of your grace so that in you we may be one and never distant from the truth. And since we are gathered together in your name, may justice guided by love govern us in all things, so that we may do nothing against your will in the present, and by our good acts earn eternal reward for the future.

"If we were to have all the knowledge, all the material possesions, or all the power of the world and no love, it wouldn't profit us anything." --The Bible

Karol Jozef Wojtyla, a good faithful servant of God, has given all of us a good example to follow. Let's go for it, and look for peace and reconciliation with all our fellow human-beings without delays, starting now.

John Paul II's advice to all human beings during his first public address in Saint Peter's Square after becoming pontiff in October 1978:


Research for this article was based on: The Holy Bible; Life magazine's article "Pope John Paul II 'Life' a Tribute" by Robert Sullivan and the editors of Life magazine, 4/2005; Biography of John Paul II, The Holy See Press Office, Vatican City, 4/2005; Newsweek magazine's John Paul II's commemorative issue "The Pope in Private" and "Beloved and Brave" articles by George Weigel and Ken L. Woodward, 4/11/2005; The Denver Post newspaper's "Blessed Journey" and Exalted in Memory" articles by Eric Gorsky and Chuck Plunkett, 4/3/05 ; "The Pope's Favorite Prayers", published by aol.com, 4/2/05; Zenit.org article "The Vatican City" 5/30/04; Daysounds' Archives, 2000-2005; and Hearts Ablaze! newsletter of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, volume 3, Num. 1, Jan-March, 2005

copyright 2005-15 Daysounds
(Short quotes are allowed indicating copyright information)
For Christian living, please, visit: daysounds.org
Daysounds: USA Federal Government Service Mark Registered December 24, 2002
send mail

Updated October 18, 2015