Inspiration and Mystery: A True Story
continued to work together for years. They founded research groups. They wrote books and organized conferences, always on the problems of the family.
Then Father Wojtyła became a university professor; later, he was nominated Bishop. The family of his friends increased. Wanda and Andrei had four children. Father Wojtyła went to visit them, playing with them and their children, who called him “Uncle.” There was a marvelous and profound friendship—that which existed between Father Karol and the young family of Andrei Poltawska—a friendship that enriched the heart.
And now, here was the awful news: Wanda was dying.
With this letter in front of him, Father Wojtyła showed the pain that he experienced when he lost his loved ones.
He began to pray for his friend. He asked the Lord to remove from that family an enormous tragedy. Wanda was only forty years old. Her children needed their Mommy.
Bishop Wojtyła prayed fervently, but the news that came from Poland was increasingly worse. The illness progressed rapidly. Dr. Poltawska had to be operated on but, given the gravity of the illness, the hopes that she could be saved were few.
Bishop Wojtyła intensified his prayers. He asked his friends and brother-priests to pray, as well as the Sisters he knew.
Then, unexpectedly, he recalled Padre Pio, whom he met immediately after the War. He went to find him in 1947. Father Wojtyła confessed to him and had carried away a great impression. It was said that on that occasion Padre Pio predicted that the young priest would become the Pope and that as the Pope he would undergo an attack on his life, but this has never been officially confirmed.
But it is a fact that Bishop Wojtyła had never forgotten Padre Pio. He believed in the holiness of that Friar and decided to turn to him.
“Father, I ask you”
Taking paper and pen with a sheet whose letterhead said “Curia metropolitana cracoviensis”, the Archdiocese of Kraków, he wrote in a hurried Latin a brief letter that was dated 17 November 1962.
The letter said: “Venerabilis Pater, rogo te orationem fundere pro quadam mater quattuor puellarum, Cracoviae in Polonia (durante ultimo bello per quinque annos in campo concentrationis in Germania, nunc in periculo gravissimo sanitatis et etiam vitae ratione canceris: ut Deus ei eiusque familiae misericordiam suam instante Beatissima Virgine ostendat. In Christo obligatissimus +Carolus Wojtyła.”
Here is the English translation. “Venerable Father, I ask you to pray for a certain mother of four girls, who lives in Kraków, Poland (during the last War she spent five years in a concentration camp in Germany) and now she finds herself in a very grave danger of health, even of life because of cancer. Pray so that the Lord, with the intervention of the Most Blessed Virgin, may show mercy to her and to her family. Most obligated in Christ, +Karol Wojtyła.”
The letter of Bishop Wojtyła to Padre Pio was clear and grave. The woman of whom he spoke was in grave danger of her life. The illness was that which in the 1960s was called “the disease of the century” and frightened everyone, insofar as there was no cure to overcome it. The family situation of the sick woman was dramatic: it was a question of a mother of four children. A woman who had already suffered much in her life because during the War, when she was only twenty years old, she was interned in a Nazi concentration camp and had passed five years in that place of death.
Bishop Wojtyła asked Padre Pio to pray intensely to God and the Virgin so that they would have pity on that woman and her family.
“To this one, one cannot say no”
The letter was given to Angelo Battisti who was well known in the Vatican because he worked in the Secretariat of State. Being the Administrator of the House for the Relief of Suffering in San Giovanni Rotondo, he was a friend of Padre Pio and was therefore one of the few persons who could always approach him, who could go at any hour during the day to his room.
“The letter was given to me by an Italian Cardinal,” Battisti reported. “This Cardinal told me it treated of an event of maximum importance and that, therefore, I had to leave immediately to put the letter directly into the hands of Padre Pio.
“I had never received assignments so urgent. I would go immediately to my house, get my car and depart immediately.
“Having arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo, I would go to the cell of Padre Pio. I gave the letter to him, saying that it treated of an urgent matter.
“‘Open and read it’, Padre said.
“He had the text folded on his heart and was praying—as always.
“I opened the envelope and read the letter to him. Father listened in silence without saying anything. ...
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