In a moving personal testimony during the presentation of his book on the philosophical thought of John Paul II, “Metaphysics of the Human Person,” Polish priest Father Tadeusz Sticzen stated the current Pontiff has been called by God to fulfill his own prophecy.
A student of philosophy of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla and his successor as Professor of Ethics at the Catholic University of Dublin, Fr. Sticzen recounted that during the spiritual exercises the future John Paul II preached to the Roman Curia and to Pope Paul VI in Lent of 1976, the Polish Cardinal focused on the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, pointing out that the Lord’s request to “watch and pray” was not fully heeded. “The three chosen disciples were unable to fulfill this simple request of Jesus.”
“This was why the Cardinal of Krakow fervently exhorted the Pope (Paul VI) to attempt what appeared to be the impossible: take up the story where it left off, that is, assume the opportunity lost by man 2000 years ago to console God, to translate into reality the yet unanswered invitation to ‘watch’,” said Father Sticzen at the Vatican’s Press Office.
Fr. Sticzen recalled that when he received the phone call on October 16 from Stanislaw Kaminisk, at that time Dean of the School of Philosophy at the University of Lublin, informing him that “Karol Wojtyla is Pope,” “I was scared and I cried, and I am not embarrassed about those tears, as I realized the face of Paul VI had become the face of John Paul II.”
Fr. Sticzen also recounted how after the assassination attempt of May 13, 1981, ironically the day John Paul II was to announce the creation of both the Pontifical Commission for the Family and the Institute for Life and The Family, “As I drove to the clinic to see him I thought, ‘How will he return to St. Peter’s Square?’ It was a concern that even his personal secretary, Don Stanislaw Dziwisz, shared with me.”
“Nevertheless,” he continued,” “the Pope did go to St. Peter’s Square again, without the slightest bit of fear.” Fr. Sticzen also recalled what the Yugoslavian philosopher Milovan Djilas wrote at that time in the German daily “Die Welt:” “The Pope appeared (after the assassination attempt) as if he had been waiting for that crucial moment from the beginning, as if to say, ‘If bullets hit my body, they will bring victory and not defeat.’”
Fr. Sticzen concluded his moving reflection by mentioning that in the midst of his present suffering and old age, the Pope is doing “nothing more than fulfilling his own prophecy.” “I think John Paul is aware that he is sustained by the One who chose him, because he has brought the Lord to the entire world, and the Lord brings him to whole world. This is the key which allows us to touch with our hands the mystery of this pontificate, the mystery of the successor of St. Stanislaw of Crakow, who wished that the Pope recover that lost opportunity to console Christ, who was abandoned by his closest friends at the beginning of his Passion,” he said.
After an intense moment of silence, and unable to hide his emotion, Fr. Sticzen finished his statements saying, “For us too, therefore, the prayer of Gethsemane continues.”