Cardinal Re on Prayer of Blessed John Paul II

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
“Prayer gives a meaning to the whole of life, at every moment, in every circumstance.” – Blessed John Paul II, 1978
At the recent meeting of the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas, I was privileged to hear Cardinal Re give a talk on Prayer and Action in Blessed John Paul II. It is a very inspiring account of the dedication to prayer by John Paul II. I asked my friend and colleague Joe Trabbic, Ave Maria University, to translate it so that I could make it available to English speaking readers. I am grateful to him for doing so. Here is the beginning of his talk:
“In the larger than life figure of Blessed John Paul II, prayer is without a doubt the dominant dimension. His long life was an admirable synthesis of prayer and action, but prayer had the priority.

            From his youth Karol Wojtyla loved prayer, which was part of his existence; indeed, we can say that prayer was the true source of his dynamism and his untiring apostolic activity and it was the root of the effectiveness of his witness.

            Working closely with Pope John Paul II, there were many things that made an impression on me. His certainty was striking: he was a man of certainties. The profundity of his thought, his ability to speak to crowds, his facility with languages, his ready wit, appropriate to this moment or that situation, were striking… but what was most astounding was the intensity of his prayer, the manifestation of a deep and lived union with God.

            This profoundly human Pope, this extraordinarily vigorous intellectual, this leader who drew the youth to him, was first of all a man of prayer.

            It was striking how he abandoned himself to prayer: one saw a transport in him that was connatural and absorbed him as if he did not have problems and duties that called him to active life. His attitude in prayer was one of recollection and, at the same time, it was natural and relaxed: this was testimony of a communion with God that was intensely rooted in his soul; the expression of a prayer that was convinced, savored, lived. Seeing him pray when he was alone, one grasped how for him union with God was the breath of his soul and the secret of his dedication.

            It was moving how easily and readily he transitioned from human contact with people to the recollection of intimate conversation with God. He had a great capacity for concentration. When he was recollected in prayer, what was happening around him did not seem to touch him or concern him, so immersed was he in the encounter with God.

            During the day, the passage from one occupation to another was always marked by a brief prayer. When he wrote out, with his minute script, the Polish text of his speeches, his homilies, or magisterial documents, he customarily placed a small invocation at the head of the page, an ejaculation, continually lifting up his thought to God in this way.

            He prepared for the various meetings of the day or the week with prayer. Sometimes he spoke of this expressly. Receiving Gorbachev in 1989, for example, the Pope began the conversation confiding to his interlocutor that he had prepared for the meeting by praying to God for Gorbachev and the meeting.

            All of his important decisions were ripened in prayer. John Paul II prayed at length before every important decision for many days and, sometimes, for many weeks. The more important the decision, the longer he prayed.

            He never made decisions of a certain weight on the spur of the moment. To those of his interlocutors who asked something of him or proposed something, he answered that he wished to reflect on it before deciding. In fact, he wanted time to listen to other opinions (he always had many contacts), but most of all he intended to pray about the matter, obtaining light from above before deciding. I remember more than one case, during the years in which I was Undersecretary of State for General Affairs, in which it seemed to me that he was clearly in favor of a particular decision and which I would ask him whether we could proceed to communicate it and publish it. The answer was: ‘Let’s wait. I want to pray a little more about this before I decide definitively.’

            When he was studying a question and was unable to find an answer, the Pope would conclude: ‘We must pray more that the Lord come to our aid.’ John Paul II entrusted himself to prayer to find clarity about the road to follow.

            Two weeks after his election to the Chair of Peter, he went to the shrine of Mentorella (a shrine hidden among the mountains about 70 kilometers from Rome) and spoke of prayer and stated that, among other things, the first obligation of the Pope to the Church and to the world was to pray. ‘Prayer,’ he said, ‘is … the first task and almost the first announcement of the Pope, just as it is the first condition of his service in the Church and in the world,’ adding that prayer is the first condition of freedom of the spirit and places man in a relationship with the living God and thus ‘gives a meaning to the whole of life, at every moment, in every circumstance’ (Speech at the Mother of Grace at Mentorella, Italy, October 29, 1978)

More to follow.

Let us pray to Blessed John Paul II for the gift of prayer. For what greater blessing could we ask his intervention?

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1 Comment
  1. Thank u so much for posting articles on Blessed Pope John Paul 2, i sought his intercession and my prayers were answered. =) thanks again.

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