The following reflections on the holiness of Saint John Paul II were made by Andrzej Koprowski S.J.,Vatican Radio’s Director of Programs, after the announcement of the Pope’s beatification.
Beatification: Sign of the depth of faith and invitation to a fully Christian life
The proclamation of a Saint or of a Blessed by the Church is the fruit of putting together various aspects regarding a specific person. First, it is an act which says something important in the life of the Church herself. It is linked to a “cult”, i.e. to the memory of the person, to his full acknowledgment of him in the awareness of the ecclesial community, of the country, of the Universal Church in various countries, continents and cultures. Another aspect is the awareness that the “presentation on the altars” will be an important sign of the depth of the faith, of the diffusion of faith in the path of life of that person, and that this sign will become an invitation, a stimulus for us all towards a Christian life ever more profound and full. Finally, the sine qua non condition is the holiness of the person’s life, verified during the precise and formal canonical proceedings. All this provides the material for the decision of the Successor of Peter, of the Pope in view of the proclamation of a Blessed or of a Saint, of the cult in the context of the ecclesial community and of its liturgy.
John Paul II’s pontificate was an eloquent and clear sign, not only for Catholics, but also for world public opinion, for people of all color and creed. The world’s reaction to his lifestyle, to the development of his apostolic mission, to the way he bore his suffering, to the decision to continue his Petrine mission to the end as willed by Divine Providence, and finally, the reaction to his death, the popularity of the acclamation “Saint right now!” which someone made on the day of his funeral, all this has its solid foundation in the experience of having met with the person who was the Pope. The faithful have felt, have experienced that he is “God’s man”, who really sees the concrete steps and the mechanisms of contemporary world “in God”, in God’s perspective, with the eyes of a mystic who looks up to God only. He was clearly a man of prayer: so much so that it is from the dynamism of his personal union with God, from the permanent listening to what God wants to say in a concrete situation, that the whole of “Pope John Paul II’s activity” flowed. Those who were closest to him have been able to see that, prior to his meetings with his guests, with Heads of State, with Church high officials or ordinary citizens, John Paul II would recollect himself in prayer according to the intentions of the guests and of the meeting that was to come. . . .
“Totus Tuus”, trust in Mary Mother of God
The life of John Paul II was totally devoted to the service of the Lord, by the intercession of the Mother. His motto was “Totus Tuus”, whether for the good of the Church or for that of man who is the way for the Church (Redemptor Hominis, no. 14). This is the “raison d’être” of the international Apostolic Voyages, the daily meetings with people, with those in charge of ecclesial communities, with cardinals and bishops, with the Heads of other Churches and Christian communities, the Heads of other religions, and with the laity. This is equally true of the written documents of the Pope, the diplomatic relations of the Holy See with the States and International Organizations. The deep conviction of the value of Vatican II – not only on the necessity but also about the possibility, by the Church, to bring the Gospel of Christ and build on it the experience of the Church as a vibrant and energizing inspiration of the vision and mechanisms of the modern world – this has always been the Pope’s conviction. . . .
The simplicity of John Paul II’s prayer
When we recall what John Paul II has accomplished, the “big events” are mixed with the remembrance of simple moments of prayer, which have been a source of surprise even to his collaborators. I’ll mention only two, coming from two different periods of his life. In the seventies, I was students’ chaplain at the Catholic University in Lublin. At the beginning of the academic year, the then Cardinal of Cracow came to take part in the Eucharist at the university church, in the official inauguration of the big Hall, and for lunch. After that, the Cardinal was ready to return to Cracow. The Rector of the University, Fr. Krapiec, accompanied him to the car, but stopped to chat with another guest, so much so that they were late to arrive at the car. But lo! The Cardinal had “disappeared”! The ten seconds they waited seemed like ten centuries. The Rector, accustomed to having everything under control, did not know where the Cardinal could have gone to. He asked me: “Where is Wojtyla? The Cardinal has disappeared! Where is he?” With a slight mocking smile, I took some time before answering him, just to tease him a bit. Then I told him: “He has probably gone to the church.” There we went, and sure enough, we found the Cardinal, kneeling in prayer in front of the Way of the Cross.
The other recollection was in 1999, during his seventh Apostolic Voyage in Poland. It lasted for 13 days, with 22 stops in the program, from the North to the South of the country. A program well beyond the physical capabilities of the Pope. One of those days, there was to be – according to the program – the blessing of the Sanctuary of Lichen, the Eucharist in Bydgoszcz, then a meeting with the university people, the liturgy of the Sacred Heart, in link with the beatification of Fr. Frelichowski in another city, in Torun, then back to Lichen for the overnight stay. A more than busy day! Thus, after dinner, the papal suite went to bed immediately. But the Pope just locked himself in the chapel for a long, a very long moment of prayer. There remained only three of us: Bishop Chrapek, in charge of the visit planning for the episcopate; myself, as “assistant”, and the famous Camillo Cibin, head of the Vatican security. At last the Pope came out of the chapel to go to his bedroom. Cibin said to me: “Father Andrea, bring me a chair. But one that is hard, made of wood, not a sofa, two cups of coffee, strong coffee, and an apple.” All this was to help him wait all night at the door of the Pope’s bedroom, which was not totally closed, to ascertain if the Pope – not only tired but also advanced in years – was breathing normally or if he had any need of assistance. The personal holiness of the Pope was something over and above the esteem he enjoyed among his closest collaborators, and that was quite significant. . . .
An essential aspect of the new Blessed: “God is the foundation of all our efforts”
This is again an essential aspect, if one wishes to understand more deeply the personality of the Church’s new Blessed, Karol Wojtyla – John Paul II. The foundation of all the efforts of our life is in God. We are covered by divine love, by the results of Redemption and Salvation. But we must help people to become deeply rooted in God himself; we must do everything possible to create personal and social attitudes rooted in the reality of God. This requires patience, time and the ability to see everything through the eyes of God.