There is no doubting the continued popularity of the former Pope Saint John Paul II, who died in 2005. Even at his funeral supporters were chanting for his sainthood and when the official Canonization ceremony happened on April 27th this year, there were over 1 million at St. Peter's Square to celebrate it. He is now also known as St. John Paul The Great. I have actually had a long interest in his life, having featured it in detail in my first book Life Cycles.
I am going to explore the 'Years of Revolution' at 24/36/48/60/72/84, to see how events in these periods, were both related to each other and shaped and defined his career and life. He was born Karol Józef Wojtyła on May 18th, 1920. He grew up in the midst of WW 2 and indeed his first adult, age 24 'Year of Revolution' (May 1944 to May 1945), featured a prominent episode from his young life. He was swept up in the chaos of the German Army quitting the city of Krakow. He helped a 14 year old Jewish refugee girl, Edith Zierer, who had collapsed from exhaustion on a train platform. No one else helped, but he gave her hot tea and food and accompanied her on the train. Zierer credits him with saving her life, although she would not hear of her benefactor again until she read he had been elected Pope.
He showed no hesitation in this ad hoc humanitarian act, both to this girl and to many other Jews, and the theme of personal sacrifices would return again in later 'Years of Revolution'. At his central, mid-life, age 36 'Year of Revolution' (May 1956 to May 1957), after two years of Communist Government interference, he finally obtained his second Doctorate on Christian Ethics from the Catholic University of Lublin, and also assumed the Chair of Ethics at this university. He studiedpersonology, which in turn was derived from phenomenology, and which advocated an irreducible element in the human subject and its consciousness. There was a sanctity in man's inalienable rights. Later this was to be the basis of his pronouncements on social responsibilityand the "world view" of his papal mission.
It underpinned his crusade against regimes that restrict personal freedom, particularly with Communism in his Polish homeland. It gave him a mission to have dialogue with all other major religions, as expressions of freedom of worship, and it also gave him a basis for his morally conservative views on contraception, abortion and other matters. He was, if you will, a philosopher within the Catholic Church, meaning his ministry extended his outreach beyond the usual Church borders. He was himself, of course, the subject of restriction of personal liberty by Communist Russia. This was his second and interwoven theme in all his 'Years of Revolution'. He suffered for what he believed in.
Let's trace this now to his age 48 'Year of Revolution' (May 1968 to May 1969). This is the time of the controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae (literally "Of Human Life"). This was at the height of the free love and contraceptive pill era and it was not well received by many. Pope Paul VI named Archbishop Karol Wojtyła to the commission. However, the Communist authorities in Poland would not permit him to travel to Rome to take part in person.
Wojtyła had earlier defended the church's position from a philosophical standpoint in his 1960 bookLove and Responsibility. Wojtyła's position was strongly considered, and was reflected in the final draft of the encyclical, although much of his language and arguments were not incorporated. Weigel a prominent biographer, attributes much of the poor reception of the encyclical to the omission of many of Wojtyła's arguments. This is a good example of the philosopher 'bursting upon the scene' at 36 and then having the scene altered, with a new era at 48. Again he was sacrificed, through the curtailing of his movements by the Russians.
Do you notice how his formal appointments as Archbishop and then Pope do not align with these years? This is not unusual in 'Life Cycles' analysis. I would contend the true nature of Pope John Paul II was 'Philosophy and Sacrifice' in every 'Year of Revolution'. That is how he became "The Great". Don't believe me? Well keep reading.
His next 'Year of Revolution' at age 60 (May 1980 to May 1981) was dominated by his most serious assassination attempt when a Turkish gunman fired at him as he entered St. Peter's Square. Speculation on the reasons for this included the KGB, who would have resented his influence in Poland. It has been suggested that the gunman, who was an excellent marksmen could have killed the Pope, however his mission was only to scare him. This greatly altered his robust health and began an era of physical decline. Despite efforts to try two KGB agents beginning in 1982, they were acquitted. It is a stark example of sacrifice for his philosophy in this key 'Year of Revolution'.
What about in his age 72 'Year of Revolution' (May 1992 to May 1993). In this time his body suffered further. He had a tumour removed from his colon and the Vatican publicly acknowledged that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease. However, in spite of calls to retire, he went on touring the world and remained fully mentally alert. He visited a total of 129 countries and had meaningful dialogue with just about every other major religious faith; including even animism and particularly Islam, which caused quite a bit of controversy among Catholics. He truly had a "world-view".
Hisfinal age 84 'Year of Revolution' (May 2004 to May 2005), including his death in April 2005, again showed his determination todemonstrate his philosophy of the equality and religious freedom formankind, by hosting a "Papal Concert of Reconciliation", which brought together leaders of the Jewish andIslamic religions. Of course, he attracted much criticism for his philosophical approach. Traditionalists within the church saw him as promoting modernism, as well as appointing like-minded Bishops; while his stance against contraception, female clergy and gay rights, saw him unpopular with the very people, who may have otherwise embraced his modernist views.
To the end he was a product of the two major themes that ran throughout his life. For him, each adult 'Year of Revolution' ushered in a similar story :- one of sacrifice and the practical use of his philosophy. Not for him the simple attainment of formal office, but what he could do with it to benefit mankind as a whole.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Certainly a different profile to most others I do, but as always, I am demonstrating the universality of the 'Life Cycles' principles. Please also see my SECOND BLOG for something completely different as I feature one of Australia's leading fashion designers. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."