Posted March 3, 2005
Book: John Paul II: Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way
Author: John Paul II
Pauline Publications, Africa, pp.230
An Excerpt from the Introduction:
When “Gift and Mystery” was published — the book that recounted my memories and reflections on the early years of my priesthood — I received many messages, especially from young people, saying how much they like the book. I was given to understand that for many of them, this personal supplement to the Apostolic Exhortation “Pastoral Dabo Vobis” served as a valuable aid in helping them discern their own personal vocations. This made me very happy. May Christ continue to use those reflections so that many young people will hear His invitation: “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
On the occasion of the forty-fifth anniversary of my ordination as a bishop and the twenty-fifth anniversary of my election as the successor of Saint Peter, I was asked to write a sequel to those recollections, beginning with the year 1958 when I was named a bishop. I felt it was right to accept this suggestion as I had done for my earlier book. An added motive to collect and arrange these memories and reflections was the work that had taken place on a document about the episcopal ministry — the Apostolic Exhortation “Pastores Gregis.” In that document I presented a synthesis of the ideas that emerged from the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place the day after the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. As I listened to the presentations in the Synod Hall and later read the propositions that were presented to me, I recalled the years during which I served the Church in Krakow as well as many new situations I have experienced in Rome as the successor of Saint Peter.
I wanted to put these thoughts in writing, so as to share with others these signs of the love of Christ, who throughout the ages has been calling new successors of the Apostles so as to pour forth His grace, through earthenware vessels, into the hearts of others. The words of Saint Paul to the young bishop Timothy were constantly echoing in my mind: “He has redeemed us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of works, but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which was granted to us in Christ Jesus before this world existed.
I offer this book as a sign of love to my brother bishops and to all the People of God. May it help all who wish to learn about the greatness of the episcopal ministry, the difficulty associated with it, but also about the joy that daily accompanies its fulfillment. I invite all to offer with me a Te Deum of praise and thanksgiving. With our gaze fixed on Christ, strengthened by hope that does not disappoint, let us journey together along the paths of the new millennium: Rise, let us be on our way!.
An Excerpt from the Book:
Books and Study
The responsibilities that weigh on a bishop’s shoulders are many. I have discovered this for myself and I know how hard it is to find time for everything. Yet this experience has also taught me the great need a bishop has for recollection and study. He has to have a profound theological formation, constantly updated, and a wide-ranging interest in thought and culture. These are treasures that all thinking people share. For this reason I would like to say something about the importance of reading in my life as a bishop.
This has always been a dilemma for me: What am I to read? I have always tried to choose what was most essential. So much has been published and not everything is valuable and useful. It is important to know how to choose and to consult about what is worth reading.
From my earliest childhood I have loved books. It was my father who introduced me to reading. He would sit beside me and read to me, for example, Sienkiewicz and other Polish writers. After my mother died, the two of us remained alone. He continued to encourage me to explore good literature and he never stood in the way of my interest in the theater. But for the outbreak of war and the radical change that it brought, maybe the prospects opening up for me through academic study would have absorbed me completely. When I told Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk of my decision to become a priest, he said, “What are you doing? Do you want to waste your talent?” Only Cardinal Sapieha had no doubts.
As a university student I read many different authors. First I turned to literature, especially plays. I read Shakespeare, Moliere, the Polish poets Norwid, Wyspianski and, of course, Alesander Fredro. My greatest love, however, was acting, appearing on stage, and I often wondered which characters I would like to play. Kotlarczyk and I would amuse ourselves by assigning roles to each other and wondering who could best play a particular part. These are things of the past. Later someone said to me, “You have talent . . . you’d have been a great actor if you’d stayed in the theater.”
The Liturgy is also kind of acted mysterium, played on stage. I remember the deep emotion I felt when, as a fifteen-year-old boy, I was invited by Father Figlewicz to the Sacred Triduum at Wawel Cathedral, and I was present forthe Tenebrae services, brought forward to the Wednesday afternoon of Holy Week. It was a profound spiritual experience for me, and to this day I find the Triduum extremely moving.
Then came the time for philosophical and theological literature. As a clandestine seminarian, I was given the manual on metaphysics by Professor Kazimierz Wais of Lwow. Father Kazimierz Klosak said, “Study this! When you’ve learnt it, you’ll take the exam.” For a few months I immersed myself in the text. I took the exam and I passed. This was a turning point in my life — a whole new world opened up before me. I began to engage with theological books. Later, during my studies in Rome, I took a deep interest in the Summa Theologiae of Saint Thoms Aquinas.
So there were two stages to my intellectual journey: in the first I moved from literature to metaphysics, while the second led me from metaphysics to phenomenology. This was the grounding for my own scholarly work. The first stage coincided initially with the Nazi occupation, when I was working in the Solvay factory and secretly studying theology at the seminary. I remember that when I presented myself to the rector, Father Jan Piwowarczy, he said, “I will accept you, but not even your mother is to know that you are studying here.” That was the situation. But I was able to make progress all the same. Later on, Professor Father Ignacy Rozycki helped me greatly by taking me into his home and providing me with a base for my studies.
Much later, Father Rozycki suggested the topic for my habilitation thesis on Max Scheler’s book Der Formalismus in der Ethik und materiale Wertethik, which I translated into Polish as I was writing my thesis. This was another turning point. I defended the thesis in November 1953. My readers were Father Aleksander Usowicz, Stefan Zwiezawski, and theologian Father Wladyslaw Wicher. This was the last habilitation granted by the faculty of theology at the Jagiellonian University before its supression by the communist authorities. The faculty, as I mentioned earlier, was transferred to the Academy of Catholic Theology in Warsaw, but I was able to begin teaching at the Catholic University in Lublin in the fall of 1954, thanks to the assistance of Professor Zwiezawski; he became a good friend and has remained so to this day.
I was fond of Father Rozycki, whom I called Ignac, and he was equally fond of me. It was he who encouraged me to take the exam for my habilitation, and he acted as kind of supervisor. For some years we lived together and took our meals together. Our cook was Maria Gromek. I remember my room perfectly. It was in the residence of the Wawel Cathedral Chapter at 19 Kanonicza Street, and for six years it was my home. After that I moved to number twenty-one, and finally, through the good offices of the chancellor, Father Mikolaj Kuczkowski, I moved into the episcopal palace at 3 Franciszkanska Street.
In my reading and in my studies I always tried to achieve a harmony between faith, reason, and the heart. These are not separate areas, but are profoundly interconnected, each giving life to the other. This coming together of faith, reason, and the heart is strongly influenced by our sense of wonder at the miracle of a human person — at man’s likeness to the Triune God, at the immensely profound bond between love and truth, at the mystery of mutual self-giving and the life that it generates, at our reflections on the succession of human generations.
Table of Contents:
2. The Ministry of a Bishop
3. Intellectual and Pastoral Responsibilities
4. The Fatherhood of a Bishop
5. Episcopal Collegiality
6. God and Courage