John Paul II Received Help From Miner in Discerning Vocation

After young Karol Wojtyla had to work at a quarry to keep from being deported to Germany, a co-worker there told him, ‘I think you would make a great priest.’

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II (photo: Wikipedia)

ROME — One of the closest collaborators of Blessed John Paul II, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, recounted in Rome a little-known story about the late Pope’s vocation to the priesthood.

Cardinal Re served as the Vatican's secretary of state and later as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.  

On Jan. 9 at the Conciliaziones Auditorium — during the presentation of the recital The Pope and the Poet, inspired by the life of Karol Wojtyla — he recalled an unpublished episode from the life of the late Holy Father.

The cardinal told reporters that, in 1939, young Karol Wojtyla had to quit college and work at a quarry to support himself and to keep from being deported to Germany.  

“There, he worked with a miner who set explosives in the mines, and, one day, the miner told him, ‘I think you would make a great priest.’”

“John Paul II told us that, until that moment, he had never thought of being a priest. He said: 'That man who I worked with already saw me as a priest,'” Cardinal Re said.

During his presentation, Cardinal Re spoke about the young Wojtyla as a philosopher, theologian and mystic, but especially about him as a poet and actor.  

“Poetry is an interesting element that had an impact later on his ministry as Pope: Many themes are reflected in this exercise of poetic art, and it helped him in his ability to reach people, to speak to the masses, to hold peoples’ attention,” he added.

Cardinal Re explained that what stands out in Wojtyla’s poetry is the defense of human rights, life and the dignity of man and woman, and solidarity within the universal human family.  

“His poems were always an exaltation of man and elevated the soul to God,” he added.  

On the possible canonization of Pope Johan Paul II, Cardinal Re said many miracles have been attributed to him and that the late Pontiff could soon be made a saint.

“Although it’s the doctor who decides if a miracle has occurred — which is the supreme requirement for canonizing a saint,” he said.

The recital The Pope and the Poet mixes music, dance, poetry and theater and is a response to the invitation by Pope Benedict XVI to bring the contents of the faith into today’s culture in the framework of the Year of Faith.

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