SAINT JOHN PAUL II
Krakow and Małopolska (Lesser Poland) are where Karol Wojtyła – Pope John Paul II was born and from where he headed to Rome to take part in the conclave. These are the places he looked back on not only in his memories but also during his pilgrimages to his homeland: "Here is were I was born. Here in Krakow I spent most of my life. And also here I was blessed with God's calling to become his humble servant. Here also in Wawel Cathedral I was consecrated a bishop" – he recalled.
Pope John Paul II came from Lesser Poland. This is where he grew up, received his education, and served as a priest and later as a bishop until he was elected Pope on 16 October 1978. Wadowice, Niegowić, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Zakopane – these are the places where he grew up, becoming a man, an artist and finally an exceptional clergyman.
Karol Wojtyła was born in Wadowice on 18 May 1920. He attended junior high school there before he moved with his father to Kraków in 1938, where he started studying Polish philology at Jagiellonian University. In 1942 he joined the clandestine Seminary of the Archdiocese of Krakow, and he was ordained a priest on 1 November 1946. Then he headed for Rome where he continued his studies until 1948. That same year, after his return to Poland, he was sent to a small parish in Niegowić, not far from Kraków. Then he started hiking in the mountains and canoeing with young people from St. Florian Parish in Krakow. Father Karol Wojtyła's personality, his ability to speak with the young, and his sermons appealed to many. Some of his followers created a group of people who not only took part in the liturgy (at 6 in the morning!) but who also celebrated "name days" and went on trips together, always accompanied by Karol Wojtyła, who they called Uncle. First, they just went out of the city, but over time these short trips turned into excursions to the Bieszczady Mountains and canoeing expeditions in Masuria. It was something that had never been done before. "We need to be capable of talking about everything, about books, films, work, scientific studies and jazz-bands in the right way" – said Father Wojtyła.
In subsequent years he continued his theological studies. In 1958 he became a bishop. Soon after that he actively participated in the preparation of the Second Vatican Council and in the Council itself. After the death of Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak in 1963, he became the Archbishop of Krakow, and four years later he was appointed a cardinal by Pope Paul VI. He quickly became an authority figure of the Church known not only in Poland, as well as a philosopher, a thinker and a theologian.
Karol Wojtyła, as Archbishop of Krakow, appreciated the important role of the youth movement called "Light and Life" which was founded by Father Franciszek Blachnicki in 1969. The religious formation given to young people during summer camps which were called "oasis" drew the attention of communist authorities, and the members of the community started being persecuted. Many bishops did not express their support for the organization in order to protect the Church.Cardinal Wojtyła gave the organization his official approval which enabled its dynamic development. While Wojtyła was a cardinal he also developed the student ministry in Krakow by meeting students, organizing retreats for them, and often surprising everyone with his presence in confessionals. He also unofficially supported the priesthood financially. The money he donated was spent on funding summer camps or it was given to students in need.
After the death of John Paul I in September 1978, on 16 September 1978 the newly elected pope was the first one in 456 years who was not Italian but Polish. The papacy of John Paul II was unique.
On the day of the inauguration of his Papacy, in his first speech delivered from the window of the Apostolic Palace, just before Angelus, John Paul II addressed the young with the earnest words: "You are the future of this world. You are the hope of the Church. You are my hope!" Meeting young people was of utmost importance for the Pope. He established World Youth Day.
John Paul II visited his homeland nine times: in 1979, 1983, 1991, 1995, 1997, and 1999. His last visit took place in August 2002. Every time he was in Poland, he met with Polish youth, for example in front of the famous Papal Window in Krakow at 3 Franciszkańska Street.
Helena Kowalska - an ordinary girl with a typical Polish surname. But can you actually call another person “ordinary”? Or maybe we just use that word to classify others? Helena, not really trying to prove anything to anyone, showed the world how great potential is hidden in “ordinary” people. It depends on them whether they will use it or not.
A very cheerful strawberry blonde of medium height, with freckles on her face. When she was 16, she left her family village to work in the city as a housemaid. She asked her parents to allow her to join a convent, but she met with their refusal every time. Only after an incredible event during a lavish party, when she saw Jesus, did she decide to follow her heart with determination.
Faustina - that was the name given to her by the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy, which she joined when she was 20 years old. She probably didn’t even know that the name means “fortunate” (Lat. faustus). That’s how she was remembered by the sisters: joyful, smiling, as if she was trying to share her happiness with everyone. Who would have thought that you could be smiling and be so happy while suffering?! And yet...Jesus, through painful spiritual experiences, was preparing her for a great mission that she was to undertake at a very young age. First, she had to get to know God’s merciful love, learn to trust Him, even in difficult situations, and to shape her life in the spirit of mercy towards others. Having learned this, she could convincingly proclaim Divine Mercy. To fulfill her mission, Sister Faustina received other gifts: she was able to see Jesus and talk to Him, to participate in the events of His life, and to take a peek beyond the mortal world - to see the reality of heaven, but also the reality of hell.
This is just the beginning of a long list of special abilities. Entrusting her with this incredible mission, Jesus said: “Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world” (Diary 1588). He gave her the task of proclaiming the truth about His Divine Mercy to the world: through her own life, her prayer, words and actions. The words of Jesus that she noted in her diary were to become the light and consolation for many future generations who will discover God’s face as the face of a loving Father. The painting with the inscription “Jesus, I trust in You” is the visual sign of this message. Jesus gave this amazing mission of proclaiming Divine Mercy to the religious sister who worked in the kitchen, in the garden, at the convent gate...She knew that this task surpassed her infinitely. Fortunately, she also knew that the One who asked her to follow this path would always be close, He would never leave her alone, and He loved her very much. She trusted that He would lead her, and the impossible would become possible at the time and in the way that He considered best. Once she heard Him say: “I seek and desire souls like yours, but they are few. Your great trust in Me forces Me to continuously grant you graces. You have great and incomprehensible rights over My Heart, for you are a daughter of complete trust.” (Diary 718).
At the young age of 33 in Krakow, Sister Faustina died a happy death. She was a fortunate soul indeed.
Saint Faustina is the one the world acknowledged as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, the author of a bestseller titled simply “Diary,” which has been translated into over 30 languages. To become the most popular Polish writer she only needed to acquire a basic knowledge of reading and writing, and, what is most difficult, to completely trust God. This mission was continued by Pope John Paul II. On the 30th of April 2000, he not only included her among the saints but also fulfilled Jesus’ wish by establishing Divine Mercy Sunday for the whole Church. He said at that time: “I have a truly great joy today, showing the whole Church what a gift of God the life and testimony of Sister Faustina Kowalska is for our times. [...] Through this canonization today, I want to transmit the message of Mercy to the new millennium. I give it to all the people, so that they can learn to get to know the real face of God and the real face of man even better.”