John Paul II and the 20th century
John Paul II was born on this day in 1920 and died in 2005. He was born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland.
John Paul II was a unique man. He was at the forefront of fighting the three great evils of the last 100 years.
First, young Karol fought Hitler's Germany and saw some of his Jewish friends captured and subsequently tortured by the Nazis. Dr. Andrew Swafford recalls the challenges of growing up in a land occupied by Hitler's Army:
In 1935, a Polish tailor named Jan Tyranowski heard a homily where the priest said, "It's not difficult to be a saint." For whatever reason, this line moved Tyranowski — and in God's providence, prepared him to contribute in a momentous way to the dramatic and tragic history of the twentieth century. George Weigel notes that by the outset of World War II, Tyranowski was "living a daily schedule of prayer and meditation more strict than that observed by many religious orders." Little did he know what (or who) was right around the corner — little did he know what God was preparing him for.
With priests being rounded up in Poland by the Nazis, the formation of the youth had to pass into different hands. Tyranowski created the "Living Rosary," groups of fifteen young men, each led by a more mature young man.
Each of the group leaders would be personally mentored by Tyranowski; one such leader was the young Karol Wojtyla, who met Tryanowski [sic] in 1940.
It was Tyranowski who introduced Wojtyla to the writings of St. John of the Cross — which eventually became the subject of Wojtyla's first doctoral dissertation.
By 1943, the Living Rosary involved some sixty young men — ten of whom eventually became priests! As Weigel recounts, "For the young Karol Wojtyla and his friends in the first Living Rosary groups, Tyranowski represented a unique lay combination of personal holiness and apostolic zeal, a kind of life 'that was completely unknown to us before.'"
Indeed, one man can make a difference — even in the midst of the Nazi occupation!
Second, as a priest, he fought communism. Often, he challenged the Polish communists and put his life in danger. He understood that communism is a secular philosophy that violates human dignity.
As a pope, he fought against the culture of death. He was a strong critic of abortion and moral relativism.
John Paul II was one of the great men of the last 100 years. This is why we still remember him many years after his death in 2005.