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Inspiration and Mystery: A True Story


by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
©Catholic Online 2005

Recently I found the following story entitled “Pregň per il Papa” (“I Prayed For The Pope”), which I have translated from the original Italian and edited only slightly. From what I have been able to discover, this account first appeared on; the author is unknown.

In 1962, Karol Wojtyła was an Auxiliary Bishop in Kraków. On October 11, 1962, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council began and Bishop Wojtyła reached the Italian Capitol together with the other twenty-four Polish Bishops and the Primate of Poland, Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński in order to participate in that extraordinary event of the Church.

In Rome, Bishop Wojtyła stayed at the Polish College, which is found on the Aventine Hill, in a very beautiful place, filled with sun and trees. From there one can enjoy a view of the entire city.

He was happy to be able to return to the “Eternal City” where many years before he had studied Theology. He had to remain in Rome until the middle of December because, besides his commitments to the Second Vatican Council, he had many projects in motion.

He participated with joy at the Holy Mass, celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica, that marked the opening of the Council. Every morning he attended the Assembly of Bishops at the Council with enthusiasm.

But between the many joys and satisfactions, one evening upon reentering the Polish College he found a letter that communicated sad news: Dr. Wanda Poltawska, the wife of his friend Andrei Poltawska, was sick. She was recovering in the hospital and the clinical examinations had revealed the presence of a tumor.

A Great Friend

Bishop Wojtyła knew that woman well. She was one of his best collaborators.

Wanda Poltawska came from a very observant Catholic Polish family. From the time of her youth, she took part in the Catholic movements in Kraków. She was a promotrix of the Catholic youth group for girls in Poland.

For this reason, during the War, after the Invasion of Poland by the German troops, she was arrested and interned in the Nazi concentration camp where she remained five years, amidst suffering and incredible hardships, always supported by a great faith and with resignation.

Returning to her homeland, she continued her university studies and her activities in the Catholic youth groups.

After that which she had undergone and suffered, she became an example for her contemporaries. And it was in those years that she met Father Karol Wojtyła.

Father Karol was a young priest. Shortly after his Priestly Ordination he was named Vicar of the Church of Saint Florian, in the center of the city. His principal assignment was to students and groups of Catholic youth.

Father Wojtyła had already obtained his Doctorates in Theology and Philosophy. He held conferences that were well attended by Catholic youth. Around him he gathered crowded groups of university students, thirsty for humanitarian and religious ideals. All remained spellbound by the teachings of Father Karol and by his behavior.

These youth felt the need to remain for increasingly longer periods with him to discuss, to talk. Then Father Wojtyła had thought about having getaways to the mountains. Up there, far from the noise of the city, in contact with nature, he spoke better of God and of the problems of life.

Among those who went on the trips, those who returned several times a year and remained for more than a week, there were always Wanda Poltawska and her husband Andrei.

Andrei and Wanda were medical doctors, having specialized in psychiatry. They were very interested in the themes that Father Wojtyła treated, above all those inherent problems experienced by married couples. Often Andrei and Wanda stopped by to discuss with him, bringing to the conversation their unique contribution as doctors. Father Wojtyła intuited the profound faith that animated these two young people and he became their friend.

His family of adoption

Father Karol was alone in the world. His mother Emilia died when he was only nine years old; his older brother, Edward, a medical doctor, was dead soon after he finished medical school, and his father died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1942, when Karol was only twenty-one. A serious of terrible family tragedies had profoundly marked his sensitive soul.

Not having any of his family any more on earth, Father Wojtyła at times felt very much the weight of loneliness. But since his friendship began with Wanda and Andrei, that interior suffering almost disappeared. Andrei and Wanda had become like a brother and sister to him, and their family became his family of adoption.

They ...

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1 - 5 of 5 Comments

  1. J. Friday
    6 months ago

    Bravissimo, Monsignore! Thank you for this superb and inspirational article about two of the great saints of the Twentieth Century!

  2. Anda Cristina
    3 years ago

    Wow... Thank you so much for posting this... I love you Padre Pio and Father John Paul !!! I love you both very much....

  3. Bernard Kelly (Eire)
    6 years ago

    "To this one, one cannot say no" - immediately brought to mind Mary's request to the servants at Cana "Do as He says."

    St. Padre Pio was/is truly great as also John Paul the Great and both were visionary mystics with The Most Blessed Virgin as their first port of call in prayer to her Divine Son. Please God, he too will be beatified and canonised. Pray for the Pope and the Church, and judge not lest we be judged ourselves.
    The first words of John Paul's papacy, and oft repeated were "Do not be afraid" and on one occasion he added "God always wins in the end"

    We still have great memories of seeing JP11 here in Eire in 1979 when over a million of us (about one third of the population at the time) joined with him in Mass in the one field.
    God bless to all

    6 years ago

    I was graced several years ago to visit Fr. Pio,s place of residence. Our tour Father took us to his cell. Father opened the gate and invited us into the cell. I was very moved and exited. I never could understand why I was so blessed. This artical has moved me as that day in Fr. Pio,s cell. Thank you

  5. Louis T Luca Jr
    6 years ago

    This factual story is welcome news at this time when many catholics are profaning God's church as well as His Holy Mother's honor. Think Notre Dame. America is going though its 'dark night of the soul' and the only solution is prayer, continual prayer. It's natural that the atheists and the sinners would try to destroy God's church, but to see supposed catholics do it is beyond belief I firnly believe that God
    in His infinite Wisdom is allowing America to go its own way. Whom God loves, He chastises. These ew apostates in this country think they can change Jesus' church to suit themselves, but they are in for an awakening. Bishops don't make their final judgement, He does. Before it's too late, these sinners better get down on their knees and fast.

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