In Beatification of Pope John Paul II, Cool Catholics, Jesus League

The Student who became a Professor; the Pastor who became a Bishop

By Deacon Keith Fournier (

Fr. Karol Wojtyla first entered into graduate studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. His intelligence was one of the many gifts, both natural and spiritual, which he offered to the Lord. While a student, he roomed with Fr. Starowieyski, another Polish priest at the Pontifical Belgian College, with whom he became friends. In 1947, he received his STL (License) which, in the European University system, is an absolute requirement to teach. That summer the two traveled to France, Belgium and Holland. In the area of Charleroi he carried out his pastoral activities with the Polish workers. Then, under the oversight of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, he began his studies toward a Doctorate.

The influence of Jan Tryanowski was still bearing fruit in the life and thought of Fr. Karol Wojtyla. He sought approval for a dissertation topic “The Problem of Faith in the Works of St. John of the Cross.” He wrote the dissertation and successfully defended it. He later earned a master’s degree in theology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow’s well as a doctorate in sacred theology in the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian Universiity. He was called to Krakow to be an assistant pastor at St. Florian’s in Krakow and serve as a chaplain to university students and health workers.

In 1951 Archbishop Baziak who had replaced Cardinal Sapieha gave Fr Karol a sabbatical in order to enable him to qualify as a University Professor. For two years he worked on this further academic position successfully completed his examinations. He also had to write and defend another thesis in order to qualify for a university professorship. This he diligently pursued for the next two years.

His philosophical interests lay in the area of phenomenology and he focused on a philosopher named Max Scheler. He began to see the limitations of the approach. As a result, the seeds were planted in Fr Karol the scholar, student and professor to begin what would later become his own contribution to the field of philosophical ethics and the renewal of Catholic Moral theology. He began his teaching experiences by offering a class on social ethics to fourth year theology students in the seminary.

As time passed, Jagellonian University merged its theology program with the archdiocesan seminary. In effect, the entire faculty of the theology school was eliminated. So Fr. Karol Wojtyla accepted what was originally a non-tenured professorship at the Catholic University of Lublin. In 1956 he was appointed to a Chair in Ethics and the next year he was approved as a full lecturer. For the next twenty years he taught and developed his thought in the field of Ethics and moral Theology.

In 1958 Fr Karol Wojtyla was called to another assignment in his continuing response to the vocation the Lord had given him. He was ordained to the fullness of Holy Orders and received his first Episcopal assignment as an auxiliary Bishop to assist Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak of Krakow. His enormous gifts of both teaching and pastoral care continued to be offered to the Church of Poland. Bishop Karol Wojtyla taught at University and provided pastoral care to students.

Though he had already published many articles in areas of both philosophical and theological interest in his academic studies and early University research and teaching, it was during this period of time that he wrote his first major book entitled “Love and Responsibility.” In it, the seeds of his rich understanding of the nature of the human person, created in the Image of God and called to love, began to form and be articulated. In addition his practical pastoral experience drew even more fully into consideration of the nature of human love in the Divine Plan.

Bishop, Cardinal, Contributor to the Second Vatican Council and significant Church Leader

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On October 5, 1962 Bishop Karol Wojtyla joined Bishops from around the world as the Second Vatican Council was convened in Rome. He attended every one of the sessions, contributing significantly and being deeply formed as well as changed by the experience. During this time of the Council, his life as a Bishop of the Church underwent a significant development. Archbishop Baziak of Krakow died and after the first session of the Council, Bishop Wojtyla was again called to say “yes” to the invitation of the Lord speaking through His Church.

Pope John XXIII appointed Bishop Wojtyla to become Bishop of Krakow. At the time of the appointment, his beloved Poland was under the oppression of another inhuman ideology, atheistic communism. As a result, he was not officially appointed until 1964 by Pope Paul VI and was formally installed on March 8, 1964. This son of Poland who had studied for his ordination in an underground seminary during the infamous oppression of the Nazi’s was to live and lead through another era marked by an ideology which failed to recognize God and, as a result, failed to defend the dignity of human persons created in His Image. He would later be elevated to the office Cardinal by the same Pope Paul VI on May 29, 1967.

During the three years of the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Karol Wojtyla played a significant role at the Council. He actively participated in the debates and assisted in the drafting of the decrees which were produced by the Council Fathers. Of particular note, the future Pope was a participant on the commission which drafted the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. The theological anthropology which emerged from that profound document would become one of the foundations of his extraordinary teaching magisterium when he assumed the chair of Peter many years later. He is known to have also contributed to the seminal Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, and the Decree on the Instruments of Social Communications, Inter Mirifica.

After this historic Council, Bishop Karol Wojtyla returned to Poland to implement the teaching of the Council Fathers. He wrote one of the most significant books concerning the teaching of the Council entitled “Sources of Renewal” in 1972. It is the only book written by a Bishop who participated in the Council. In it one finds the seeds and themes which would later come to full flourishing as he wrote his encyclicals, apostolic letters and exhortations after being elected to the Chair of Peter.

Among the many effects of the Second Vatican Council were structural reforms. Two of the institutions affected were the Synods of Bishops and the Conferences of Bishops. By then Karol Wojtyla had been named a Cardinal. He was elected to Vice-presidency of the Polish Bishops Conference. His courage was evident in the strong leadership he provided to the Church of Poland as she faced persecution under Communist Rule. Throughout the 1970’s Karol Cardinal Wojtyla made significant contributions to the Bishops assemblies, serving in numerous leadership capacities. This Cardinal of Poland emerged as a courageous defender of the faith and an excellent theologian, helping to implement the reforms begun by the Second Vatican Council.

His papers and presentations continued to enrich the universal Church. The themes which would characterize his Papal magisterium sunk their roots deep and were watered by the wisdom he gained in providing pastoral care to the people of God in his beloved Poland. He was a light of truth throughout those turbulent years as he traveled to Rome for meetings. On August 11 -12, 1978, he traveled to Rome to attend the funeral of Pope Paul VI and the events which followed would mark another call from the Lord; one which would both surprise and change the whole world.


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