Dignify and Deploy 13: St. John Paul ll—Naturally Supernatural
How can one be at once powerfully anointed and yet accessible, a person of the people? The mystic or cleric can be all too distant, while popular leaders risk compromise by pandering to what people want, not what they need.
John Wimber coined the term ‘naturally supernatural’ to describe Christians who connect lovingly and effectively with everyday people while operating in Kingdom authority among them. Sounds like Jesus to me. And Karol Wojtyla.
Pope St. John Paul II has been described as the ‘least clerical of all popes.’ He had a glint in his eye, something fun and clever behind the caring gaze. Maybe the actor conjuring a bon mot? He also possessed a strong athletic bearing based on years of sportsmanship. He became the father we wanted.
His accessible persona was no doubt forged in the Nazi targeting of clergy. Lay people arose to do their part, to take their places in the absence of traditional leadership. Layman Jan Tyronowski gathered Karol and other young men in small groups to grow together in contemplative prayer, a zeal for the Church, and personal holiness. They taught others to do so; vetted leaders then multiplied groups. Profoundly mystical in the Carmelite vein, this approach was also relational and inclusive--‘Alpha’ meets ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.
When Karol Wojtyla returned to Krakow from Rome, now a young priest, Poland had shifted from Nazi to Soviet occupation. Communism imposed a fake notion of community that was anti-god and anti-human; Wojtyla countered with a young adult community called Srodowisko (roughly ‘milieu’ or ‘culture’) aimed at fostering Christian life together, a network of friendships of which he was both catalyst and grateful recipient.
Wojtyla loved this community, a non-territorial parish of sorts that was a lifeline to him. Bonds deepened through summer kayaking expeditions and skiing in the winter. His goal in such immersive community was to help his young friends ‘look at all things in the spirit of the Gospel.’
A member of this community and its leader, Wojtyla modelled an evident prayerfulness that set him apart. ‘Today young priests try to be like the kids. We were trying to be like him,’ noted one Srodowisko member.
“Jesus, help us to embody Wojtyla’s blend of humanity and holiness. May we embody Jesus for those who know us but not Him. Help us also to meet people on the ground of our common human loves and concerns; help us to become more ‘naturally supernatural’ to all persons and reveal the richness of loving God and His creation.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others to do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”