There’s alot more to him than meets the eye… His late teens to his twenties were the hardest, during the occupation of Poland by Germany. He somehow survived an accident by a lorry. By then, he was orphaned and lost his only brother, a doctor who died of some disease as he was working in hospital. Wojtyla* carried his brother’s stethoscope even when he moved to the Vatican. He was passionate about theatre and wrote many poems and plays. A deeply philosophical person, he published many books on morality, sexuality in the church and also books on the emancipation of woman. It is said that the 20th century would have been different without him and indeed when you read this account, one begins to realise the role he played in transforming the political landscape of Poland, the Soviet Union. He particularly thought that Gorbachev was a Godsend and had several meetings with him.
*Pronunciation of Wojtyla (audio link). voy-TIH-wah
The book Universal Father was pro-Pope, but an excellent read in terms of fluidity and context. Context interms of what defined the man – i.e. his history, love for Poland, theatre, his relationship with others, luck, his father, the absence of his mother, his time spent in a chemical factory during the occupation. This context was a good background to Wojtyla’s ascent to Papacy and how it influenced his stewardship of the church. He professed that he was a conservor as opposed to reformer in the Vatican and also in Krakow where he was Archbishop and later Cardinal.
So it makes for good reading and was engrossing. And like most good intimate books, once you pick it up, its hard to put it down…. It was a calming balm and it was nice to finally read about the man. I remember attending the mass that he held in the National Stadium when I was in Secondary school (Sec 2?). I went with my mum and it was raining but we just sat at the Kallang stadium, drenched in the persistent drizzle. It was there that I got reacquainted with my best friend Jee-hin.. We were friends since kindergarten, were in the same class for 6 yrs in primary school and then split apart when we went to separate secondary schools. So the Pope reunited us in some indirect way. Then we started the convention…
There was a quote in there that I liked a lot that autobiographer Garry Conner included and its from St Francis – “Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.”
Well, I am seriously quite behind my 20 books goal by the end of the year… hmmph, perhaps can buy or borrow thinner books… Next in line is something from Educationalist Howard Gardner who came up with “Mutiple Intelligences”. But this is his new prescriptive book.. more on that when I am done….
Books read (starting Nov 2007)
1. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid – Bill Bryson
2. The Monk who sold his Ferrari – Robin Sharma
3. Universal Father, A Life of Pope John Paul II – Garry O’connor