“Karol Wojtyła/John Paul II has brought to the office of Peter the experience of student and worker, playwright and poet, philosopher, theologian, and professor in the exercise of his calling as priest and pope” (p. 145).
The second book that I have read in anticipation for the CPMAP Certification is At the Center of the Human Drama: The Philosophical Anthropology of Karol Wojtyła/Pope John Paul II by Kenneth L. Schmitz. I was really drawn to this book. It focused on both what St. John Paul II believed, how he developed his thinking, and how he shared it. I’ll spend this reflection discussing what spoke to my heart the most about this book – the process of his construction of beliefs.
With some of the first pages, I paused to write in my notes, “Love, love, love this book. It is basically a ‘Beauty of Becoming biography’ of St. John Paul II – a celebration of how God was at work in his life – through it all and about his unrepeatability and how that was cultivated over time.” The book provided a lot of insight into what mattered to St. John Paul II, the experiences that shaped his thinking, and the work that flowed from it. I loved that there was a sense of showing the story behind the ideas that were formed – how God used the context of his life to shape him, his thinking, and his convictions – how God led him to become who he was created to be.
When I read the line, “Although the central intuitions matured in their proper time, they seem already to have received a certain shape and impetus when in 1939 the young Karol Wojtyła set about his higher studies” (p. 1), I appreciated the juxtaposition of layers already being in place, alongside allowing space for maturity. It highlights the focus on process and patience. The introduction also focused on how “the dramatic energy of his later works and deeds” (p. 1) had seeds from earlier experiences and showed how different types of experiences contributed to the development of his thinking. I noted how it revealed a glimpse into how experiences and interests build upon other experiences and interests and then converge. That is part of the adventurous aspect of the process of becoming. We invest in different aspects of life without fully realizing in the moment how they will come together and form fundamental pieces of our unique contributions in the world. That gives all the more reason to trust and rely on God who does know the bigger picture.
As I was fascinated by the example of different layers that shaped St. Pope John Paul II, I pondered what is must be like for God who knows all the different pieces of the events, experiences, and interests that shape us and how it all contributes to His process of leading us, where He is leading us, and the fruit being produced in the process – knowing sometimes the fruit is visible and sometimes it is veiled, but it is always there for those who love Him.
All of this made me think about my role as a mom and “what matters” in parenting. In recent years I have been thinking about faith development but also about space for them to cultivate their interests, and now I can see a better glimpse into why that matters – how God weaves it all together and how those interests can be the very material that will shape our unique contributions in the world and draw us into relationship with Him as we have that on-going inner-dialogue of awe as we begin to see glimpses into the bigger picture of how it all comes together.
In recent years, there has been perhaps a sense of not bringing my full self to the “arena” at times or a sense that sometimes I would compartmentalize based on what seemed to fit individual contexts. There were parts of me and my experiences that I seemed to deem as more worthy or important, such as faith and family, but slowly over time it has been about seeing the beauty in showing it all – blending together in an interdisciplinary fashion. That will be where my unrepeatability will shine and add the richness and depth to how I was uniquely created – to the insights that only I will have based on the nuances of who I am.
There is evidence again and again through the life of St. John Paul II that this work of being formed can occur in our day to day lives and contexts, while also revealing that we do not need to cling to specific layers of life. At one point, Schmitz discussed how St. John Paul II was only an active professor for 4 years when he became an auxiliary bishop, and noted, “Had he remained a professor of ethics […] he undoubtedly would have developed and refined the analysis further in academic philosophical argument. He was called to another service, however, in which he has developed these same central insights, though in quite another style, and to the profit of a larger circle” (pp. 62-63). I loved this section and how it illuminated the time allowed to develop thinking in a discipline and positioned in a specific context and how when the context shifted, the thought was still developed but it had a different shape.
Once again, this encourages to trust in God’s providence and where he has me positioned, knowing that He is leading me and knows what and how He wants me to develop insight and to then share it. He will create the context to nurture what needs to be nurtured, to cultivate what needs to be cultivated and he will open the doors for the contexts in which it needs to be shared. Also, not every effort along the way needs to be successfully and widely received. That too is part of the journey – a willingness to continue the dialogue and exploration with God, while surrendering the outcomes. I am coming to view all of my life’s experiences more as opportunities for God to teach and foster foundations to be used at times that He sees fit, so my role is to try and keep trying but trust however efforts unfold, it is where it needs to be for any given point in time and context. It is all part of the process of becoming.
As I began this book at the end of the liturgical year and documented my thoughts, I noted that it might be my last key insight for my word for the liturgical year (play) – the delight in realizing that it all matters and that just as I see the value in creating space and context for my girls to cultivate their interests, God wants to provide the same for me. He wants me to delight, discover, and explore. He allows space for me to play and through it, to cultivate intimacy with Him. I invest in the joy of learning and intimacy with Him in the present moment and am learning to not worry so much exactly how that is all going to shape who I am and the work I am doing, but to just allow Him to show me over time. It strengthened my conviction that I don’t have to be so serious – there is space for play as an adult, and it not only matters but it allows me to become more fully myself, more fully who I was created to be.
Copyright 2022 Amanda Villagómez