Last week Eunice blogged about St. Maximilian Kolbe and today I get to write about the man who canonized him: Blessed John Paul II! Disclaimer: there is going to be way more photos in this post than usual because I couldn’t possibly decide on just one.
Born Karol Wojtyla, he was a labourer, a poet, and an actor. After earning his doctorate in Moral Theology, Karol taught at Lublin University and was hugely popular with his students (no surprise there…) and later served as the chaplain at another university. While teaching, he developed a passion for journeying with people through their relationships—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and this was the root of what grew to become Theology of the Body.
He was also a great sportsman and loved to spend time outdoors. Father Wojtyla integrated all of his passions seamlessly and groups of students and young families often joined him on hikes, ski trips, and paddling excursions. It is said that he would stop to celebrate Holy Mass during kayak trips over the hull of an upturned kayak, lashing two paddles together as a cross, for small crowds of young men and women gathered in the woods. Oh my goodness!! Can you imagine how intimate, how powerful, those masses would have been?
Okay, have you ever been asked what moment in time you would travel back to if you had the power? As an avid kayaker and passionate Catholic, this is mine, hands down:
What I wouldn’t give to be one of those girls…casually hanging out at the foot of a portage with a future saint!!
And here are some more photos of the man himself because they’re too good not to share. It’s not as clear thanks to the way I cropped these images but the young boy getting an autograph in the bottom-right is absolutely beaming.
Finally, one beautiful story to share. It’s an excerpt from Stanislaw Dziwisz’s book A Life with Karol:
“Pope John Paul II made more than 100 clandestine trips to ski or hike in the Italian mountains and was rarely recognized by others on the slopes, his former secretary said….
The cardinal, who was Pope John Paul’s personal secretary for 38 years, wrote that the pope, an avid skier and hiker in his youth, often felt pent up inside the Vatican.
In the winter of 1981, the pope, his secretary and two of his Polish aides decided to make a “getaway” to the mountains from the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo.
They packed into a car owned by one of the priests, in order not to raise suspicions, and when they passed the Swiss Guard post one prelate opened wide a newspaper to hide the pontiff in the back seat.
Then they drove to the central Italian ski town of Ovindoli without an escort, winding through mountain towns and carefully respecting the speed limits.
Once they arrived, they chose a deserted slope and the pope was able to ski all day long. On the way back, the pope smiled and said, “We did it!” It was the first of many such escapes, the papal secretary said…”
Is it just me or is there something really fun (bad-ass?) about imagining the young pontiff sneaking through Vatican security to get some much-needed mountain air? Oh, and here’s another picture of him (tiny, grainy) portaging gear on a paddling trip…like a boss.
Blessed JPII, pray for us.