Friar Jack Muses About Pope John Paul II

Perhaps no man has so greatly influenced recent history as Pope John Paul II. I want to share with you some insights that I wrote recently for my new book "A Retreat With Pope John Paul II: Be Not Afraid."

In the summer of 1958, Father Karol Wojtyla had to interrupt his vacation at the Mazurian Lakes, in Poland, where he had been taking some retreat days with a group of young people. He received a message instructing him to go to Warsaw and appear at the residence of the archbishop, who was then Cardinal Stefan Wyszinski, primate of Poland. When Father Karol arrived, Cardinal Wyszinski presented the 38-year-old priest with a letter from Pope Pius XII appointing him auxiliary bishop of Cracow.

Father Karol calmly assured the cardinal of his willingness to accept the appointment and left. He went directly to the convent of the Grey Ursuline Sisters and asked to spend some time in the chapel. He walked to the front of the chapel and fell to his knees in the first pew.

Two or three hours went by. Father Karol knelt there silently, head in his hands. One of the nuns asked if he would like to eat. He declined. A few more hours passed. Father Karol continued to pray in silence. He went without food the entire evening and spent eight continuous hours in prayer.

We do not know the specific contents of Father Karol's prayer during those eight hours or what went on between God and the bishop-elect in the secret center of his heart. But the dramatic incident speaks volumes about the importance, for Karol Wojtyla, of taking time to listen to God in prayer. It conveyed the intensity of his faith and his keen awareness that it is God's power and love—and not primarily his own—that must guide his life and ministry.

This reverent act of stepping aside from the activity of the day to commune with God and contemplate the purpose of his life is a trademark of Pope John Paul II. It is a practice worthy of imitation.

Most of us are aware—at least through the media—of the pope's busy schedule, especially hectic during his pilgrimages to destinations around the world. Still, he maintains his custom of snatching moments of private time to quiet his heart and tap the life of the Spirit within.
At the end of this issue I'll share with you a special prayer that I wrote in the spirit of John Paul II. But first I want you to know about some other projects we've been working on at St. Anthony Messenger Press.

An element of my "A Retreat With..." book about Pope John Paul II is a series of prayers that I wrote. I'd like to share one with you, and hope that you can take this prayer into your heart:

Loving God, you are always present to us even during our busy activities. As Saint Paul says, "God is not far from any one of us. For 'In him we live and move and have our being'...." We ask you, gracious God, to help us to become more aware of the gift of your presence. Keep us from getting so caught up in our activities—or in our rush to accomplish things—that we lose sight of the immensity of your love and care for us. Help us to learn from the example of Jesus and your servant John Paul II how important it is to set aside times of silence so that we can really listen to your guiding voice—and let the wonder of your presence and love sink in. Amen.


You can order A Retreat With Pope John Paul II, by Jack Wintz, O.F.M., at St. Francis Bookshop.


Peace and all good!

—Friar Jack Wintz, O.F.M.

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