Happy feast day of St. John Paul II, his first feast day as a canonized saint!

Many know that St. John Paul II’s talents included acting and athletics, but did you know the Saint is also an accomplished poet? He loved to write about nature, humanity and God, and wrote poetry throughout his life – as a student, a quarry worker, a priest, bishop and Pope, beginning in 1939 and publishing under pseudonyms in Poland. It wasn’t until he became Pope that his poetry was published throughout the world.

We’ve included some excerpts of his poetry below, which were translated into English. Volumes of his poetry are available for purchase, including The Place Within and The Roman Triptych: Meditations.

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A headshot of Karol Wojtyla as a young actor. (via Flickr by MaureenKelly Nolan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

A headshot of Karol Wojtyla as a young actor. (via Flickr by MaureenKelly Nolan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

I. The Stream [From The Roman Triptych]

Ruah

The Spirit of God hovered above the waters.

1. Wonderment

The undulating wood slopes down
to the rhythm of mountain streams.
To me this rhythm is revealing You,
the Primordial Word.

How remarkable is Your silence

in everything, in all that on every side
unveils the created world around us …
all that, like the undulating wood,
runs down every slope …
all that is carried away by the stream’s
silvery cascade,
rhythmically falling from the mountain,
carried by its own current—carried where?

What are you saying to me, mountain stream?
Where, in which place, do we meet?
Do you meet me who is also passing—
just like you.

But is it like you?
(Allow me to pause here;
allow me to stop at a threshold,
the threshold of simple wonder).
The running stream cannot marvel,
and silently the woods slope down,
following the rhythm of the stream—
but man can marvel!
The threshold which the world crosses in him
is the threshold of wonderment.
(Once, this very wonder was called “Adam”).

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He was alone in his wonder,
among creatures incapable of wonder—
for them it is enough to exist and go their way.
Man went his way with them,
filled with wonder!
But being amazed, he always emerged
from the tide that carried him,
as if saying to everything around him:
“Stop—in me is your harbour”,
“in me is the place of meeting
with the Primordial Word”.
“Stop, this passing has meaning …
has meaning … has meaning”.

2. The source

The undulating wood slopes down
to the rhythm of mountain streams….
If you want to find the source,
you have to go up, against the current,
tear through, seek, don’t give up,
you know it must be somewhere here.
Where are you, source? Where are you, source?!

Silence….
Stream, stream in the wood,
tell me the secret of your beginning!

(Silence—why are you silent?
How carefully you have hidden the secret of your beginning).

Allow me to wet my lips
in spring water,
to feel its freshness,
reviving freshness.

 

Over This, Your White Grave [From The Place Within]

Over this, your white grave
the flowers of life in white–
so many years without you–
how many have passed out of sight?
Over this your white grave
covered for years, there is a stir
in the air, something uplifting
and, like death, beyond comprehension.
Over this your white grave
oh, mother, can such loving cease?
for all his filial adoration
a prayer:
Give her eternal peace–
[Krakow, spring 1939]

 

The Quarry

He wasn’t alone.
His muscles grew into the flesh of the crowd, energy their pulse,
As long as they held a hammer, as long as his feet felt the ground.
And a stone smashed his temples and cut through his heart’s chamber.
They took his body and walked in a silent line
Toil still lingered about him, a sense of wrong.
They wore gray blouses, boots ankle-deep in mud.
In this, they showed the end.
How violently his time halted: the pointers on the low voltage dials jerked, then dropped to zero again.
White stone now within him, eating into his being,taking over enough of him to turn him into stone.
Who will lift up that stone, unfurl his thoughts again under the cracked temples?
So plaster cracks on the wall.
They laid him down, his back on a sheet of gravel.
His wife came, worn out with worry; his son returned from school
Should his anger now flow into the anger of others?
It was maturing in him through his own truth and love
Should he be used by those who came after,deprived of substance, unique and deeply his own?
The stones on the move again; a wagon bruising the flowers.
Again the electric current cuts deep into the walls.
But the man has taken with him the world’s inner structure,where the greater the anger, the higher the explosion of love.

 

Girl Disappointed in Love

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits–
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love—
why don’t you see?
The human heart–what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.

On one of his many camping trips.

On one of his many camping trips.