To-day we lament the present turmoil in the Church and we are scandalised by its source. God has a way of drawing good out of turmoil in the most dramatic ways. Such was the case in 1978.
His father was a retired military officer become civil servant a devout man - whose wife had died when their son Karol was not yet 10 yrs old. The gentlemanly father saw his son become the finest student in the town of Wadowice - an ancient town : the Parish had been established in 1325 . Not only that, but he was a keen athlete and an enthusiastic and talented actor.
Later Karol moves to Krakow with his pensioner Father and enrolls at the famed Jagiellonian University. But before long the Nazis had invaded Poland and occupied it. The ailing Wojtyla Snr. and Karol endeavoured to escape with streams of refugees to the East. But 120 miles from Krakow they learn that the Russian Red Army has invaded Poland too from the East and they are forced to turn back and endure Nazi occupation rather than the Russian Gulags. The University's Professorial staff are shipped off to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp , very many Bishops and Priests are also sent to Dachau Concentration Camp. The University's closure means that Karol has to seek work which brings him to the quarry of a large chemical plant, working in the freezing Winter.He helps create an" underground"Theatre company performing idealistic material . His Father dies and, after a period Karol seeks and gains admittance to the "underground"seminary to train for the Diocesan Priesthood.In time the Nazis are defeated and poor Poland is "liberated"by the Russian Red Army. Karol is ordained and his Bishop sends him to Rome for further study in theology.In time he returns to Krakow and works among the students of the city.A particular ministry for him is the hearing of Confessions for many thousands of hours.At 38 years of age he is appointed and consecrated Bishop and becomes Administrator of the Diocese of Krakow.He attends all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965 in which he is a very active participant. Totally mis-reading him , the Communist regime supports the idea of him succeeding to the See of Krakow, which is just what the Holy See desires. He implements in Krakow Diocese a most thorough and authentic reform consistent with the letter of the Council ( no false "spirit of the Council"for him) and at age 47 years, he is made a Cardinal. His life is very full and vigorously active - he travels extensively delivering scholarly papers, and continuing the reform of his Diocese and keeps fit skiing and kayaking with groups of Catholic young people.
But it is not only personal experience of turmoil that he came through.
Far from it.For in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which the Church had so joyfully entered upon at the direction of Pope John XXIII, had come discord, desertion, disruption and dereliction of responsibilities , liturgical abuse and false teaching in many places - to such an extent that in great distress, Pope Paul VI, in his homily on the 29th June, 1972, publicly bewailed the fact that " "from some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God." In various countries false theologies had taken hold, and some countries appeared to be on the brink of schism.
And the Faith of Europe continued to be menaced by the Communist forces of Soviet Russia.When on 6th August, 1978 Pope Paul VI died he was succeeded by the election on 25th AUGUST, 1978 of another Italian, Albino Luciani who, aware of these problems, took the unprecedented step of adopting the name John Paul I.But, just over one month later, during the night of 28-29 September, 1978 the Pope died.
Cardinal Wojtyla preached at a Memorial Mass in Rome for the late Pope on 8th October, 1978 on the theme that love for Christ is the first requirement for anyone called to be Pope. He and the other Cardinals entered the Conclave on 14th October, 1978 and on 16th October, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope and took the name John Paul Il .He was the first non-Italian in over 400 years to be elected Pope.The choice stunned the world and most of the Church.
Finally on 16th October, 1978, the Holy Spirit had His way and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was the man for the times. Clearly, without the premature death of Pope John Paul I, he would never have been elected. God does repeatedly show that His ways are not our ways!
The new Pope retained the modernistic Pastoral Staff of Pope Paul VI