Pope John Paul II was born 100 years ago today

John Paul II was born on this day in 1920 and died in 2005. He was born Karol Józef Wojty?a in Wadowice, Poland. Pope John Paul II was a unique man and he 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 Naxis. Dr. Andrew Swafford recalls the challenges of growing up in a land occupied by Hitler’s Army and how a tailor named Jan Tyranowski would influence the young man Karol:

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 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. He often challenged the Polish communists and put his life in danger understanding that communism was a secular philosophy that violated human dignity. 

And third, as a Pope, he fought against the culture of death and was a strong critic of abortion and moral relativism. 

John Paul II was one of the great men of of the last 100 years. This is why we still remember him many years after his death in 2005. 

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