Friday, October 21, 2011

JPII - The Path to the Papacy

As we mentioned yesterday, by the age of 20, Karol had suffered the death of his mother, brother, and father. He was now the only remaining member of his immediate family. I remember when I heard this the first time, I was stunned at this fact. I could not imagine losing a single member of my family by that age, much less every single one. I thought to myself, why would God allow such suffering and pain to happen to this young man who He had such great plans for? One word: detachment. Our Heavenly Father, in his infinite and unrelenting passionate love for Karol, stripped him of all earthly things he could possibly cling to so that Karol had no other choice but to cling to his Father in heaven who alone can satisfy his deepest desires. God was completely detaching him from everything to prepare him for sainthood.

Karol recognizes this initiative on God's part and responded quickly. Soon after his father's death, he spoke of the clarity and the inner conviction of his calling to the priesthood. At the age of 22, Karol entered the seminary in Krakow. He had an eventful four years there, including the 1945 German invasion of Krakow causing heavy damage to the seminary. After the Germans left, Karol and a friend volunteered for the delightful chore of cleaning up the frozen excrement from the lavatories (talk about consecrating the mundane...). Later on that year on All Saint's Day, Karol was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ.

Karol quickly set himself apart due to his love for academics and his natural intelligence. During the early years of his priesthood he earned both a doctorate in sacred theology and philosophy. Pope Pius XII saw the incredible amount of potential in young Wojtyla and in 1958 while Wojtyla was out on a kayaking trip, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow . At the age of just 38, Karol became the youngest bishop in Poland (6 years later he was appointed primary Archbishop of Krakow).

As bishop, Karol played an important role in the Second Vatican Council. He was a main contributor to both Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes. Both of these documents were influential to the Church after Vatican II and are still of great significance for us today. Being a big proponent of life and the dignity of every human life, he also was instrumental in the formulation of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae. In the midst of all of this theological writing, Karol was still known for his presence to the person in front of him and his incredible attentiveness and love he showed to each person that he met. He never lost his wonder and awe for the human person, which finds its meaning only in the person of Jesus Christ.

In 1967 he was promoted to the Sacred College of Cardinals, which would be his last promotion before his election to the Chair of St. Peter...

By Guest Blogger, Austin Ashcraft, FOCUS Missionary

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