Why he is a saint: Wojtyla the Man (Chap. 1)

Why he is a saint: Wojtyla the Man (Chap. 1)
By L. S. Andrews (Painting at Franciscan University)

Msgr Oder begins his account, , with a chapter on the man. He emphasizes Wojtyla’s capacity for friendship. “he was a genuine and deeply human individual, and his life was filled with joy, enthusiasm, and generosity.” (11) He lost his mother and brother at an early age; he heard his father exclaim over the coffin of his older brother, “Thy will be done.” he was no stranger to suffering. But it made him more human and open to others. He had great talent as an actor and he aspired to become an actor. But he was also drawn deeply to spiritual life and service — ‘two demanding paths would confront him with a difficult choice.” (20) He heard the call of Jesus Christ to enter the priesthood. 

It took an act of great courage; the Nazi occupation banned much of the Catholic practice; he made a pilgrimage to Jasna Gora, even though it was forbidden. The Nazi occupiers took over the seminary building fror their use. The seminarians studied in secret. They studied hard and prepared themselves for priesthood. One fellow seminarian recalled “above all his kindness, his benevolence, and his sense of comradeship. He conversed easily, did his best to understand . . . He spoke sparingly and listended more than he talked.” (26)

He was devoted to prayer; adoration of the Eucharist; Marian devotions. He would spend large amounts of time as a parish priest before the sacrament sometimes on the frigid floor with his arms outstretched. He loved working with the young people in his parish. HE would teach them, hike with them, sing with them, stage mystery plays at Church.

He was intellectually very gifted; despite the oppression of his homeland and the press of Church duties he completed dissertations on John of the Cross and another on Max Scheler, indicating the breadth of his interests. He raised the academic standards of the diocesan seminaries. He was “a man of deep and vast cultural learning.”

He defended his people against the many injustices of the communist regime.

He participated actively in Vatican II. Father Congar said “Wojtyla made a very strong impression. He personality is imposing. It radiates a magnetism, an attraction, a certain prophetic force, very calm but indisputable.” (45)

He was a man who sought to establish solidarity among people; from his early friendships with Jews in Krakow, to his efforts to reconcile Poles and Germans, he was keen to “overcome the wounds of the past, to encourage reconciliation among peoples, and to look to the future with a new spirit.” (50)

He considered dialogue fundamental. The atmosphere around Wojtyla was always “cordial, serene, fraternal” (51) In a later chapter MSgr Oder says a hallmark of his life was “openness to dialogue with everyone, a willingness to take into consideration all sincere criticism and every precious contribution from others, always joined with the firm determination to annouce and defend the truth: the whole truth, the unabridged truth, even when it is inconvenient and provokes opposition.” (146)

He was always devoted to the poor, frequently giving the coat off his back to those in need. He supported women who needed assistance during pregnancy; he was a staunch defender of life and zealous minister to the sick.

He was courageous and calm under the pressures of communist oppression; his enemies reported that during official questioning he would be relaxed, confident, smiling, with “great freedom in his thinking. He was in no hurry to give answers, which were clear and logical.” (63)

He was a great patriot who loved his country deeply, knowledgeable of its history, literature and traditions..

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