Lolek – The Young Wojtyla as a Man of the Beatitudes

Lolek is a play about the early life of Pope John Paul II. It is a powerful one man, two act play that captures the intensity of the life and times of Karol Wojtyla. The play was written, directed and performed by Jeremy Stanbary of Epiphany Studio Productions.

It is a very well done production. Stanbary takes up the persona of Lolek with great enthusiasm and believability, accent and all. It was as if we were looking into a portal of time to Poland and the life of Wojtyla.

The personality of Karol Wojtyla shines through; a strong, endearing man who suffered much as a young man and who responded to the call of the priesthood. The play begins with his birth in 1920, Lolek being the diminutive form of Karol, and it ends with his ordination soon after World War II.

Many things stand out. Overall, the play reveals a man who learned to live the Sermon on the Mount early in his life and his holiness grew throughout.

From his parents he learned a deep and sincere piety. His mother taught him about the Mother of God. His father prayed the rosary with the family and would pray his nightly prayer on his knees. The lived humbly in a time of distress. Blessed are the poor in spirit. He was very talented and gifted, but he showed a kindness and humility to his classmates and friends. Blessed are the meek.

Wojtyla endured great suffering as a youth. He was tried by fire. His mother died when he was 8; his beloved older brother, newly graduated as a medical doctor, died of scarlet fever when Karol was twelve; his father died during World War II. By age 21 Karol was alone in this world, an orphan, with no siblings. In the play, the recollection of the death of his brother, Edmund, was very well done. He recounted how his older brother, 14 years his senior, showed him such kindness and love, and was then snatched from life at age 26. I felt wracked with such sadness that I wanted to fall down on my knees and weep with him. From his tremendous grief, Karol did not learn bitterness but love and a deeper devotion to God and the Blessed Mother. Blessed are those who mourn. He also saw his country trampled upon by Nazis and Communists; friends and fellow citizens were beaten, arrested and killed; cultural centers were destroyed. Great evil was visited upon the land. And yet a  great hope and love of justice burned in the heart of Karol Wojtyla. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice.

Wojtyla saw up close the cultures of death and the harbingers of the modern degradation of life on a systematic scale. Only conversion to God and the descent of the Holy Spirit will redeem us and make life human and bearable. Humans must bear the burden of charity and love for their fellow man. Blessed are the merciful.

He had great potential as an actor and a man of letters. He was beloved by his peers. He listened for the word of God. He sought the will of the Father. He responded to the call to priesthood.  Blessed are the pure of heart.

In 1946 he completed his studies and on November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints he was ordained to the Priesthood. His priestly ordination was performed by Adam Cardinal Sapieha in his private chapel. The next day he celebrated his first Mass in the crypt of St. Leonard, located in Wawel Castle, Kraków, the royal residence of Poland.

The play ends with the newly ordained Wojtyla on his knees in priestly garb. Well, the Lord did not fail to honor his generosity and sacrifice. He suffered much more. His love for God and man increased. He stepped onto the largest stage of all. “All the world’s a stage.” And he used that stage to preach the Gospel of Christ and to be a sign of reconciliation. Blessed are the peacemakers. He was loved world-wide. But, of course, there were some who thought him “the retrograde pope, the silencing pope, the pope who has ignored the revolutionary changes” (from a PBS documentary). “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake.”

Almost 60 years later he was laid to rest in the Vatican, John Paul II the great.

Thank you to Epiphany Studio Productions and to Adore Ministries for bringing this play to Houston in memory of John Paul II.

“Sancto subito!” or “Sainthood Now!” 

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