Dignify and Deploy 8: Redeeming Love
“Before I was born the Lord called me…He made my mouth like a sharpened sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid me. He made me into a polished arrow and said: ‘You are My servant in whom I will display My splendor’” (Is. 49: 1-3).
John Wimber and Karol Wojtyla possessed a native intelligence that deepened throughout the hits and misses of childhood. Wojtyla differed from Wimber in his Catholic socialization. Karol saw life through the lens of the Church; that interplay between keen mind and heart and spirit developed as he did. An early love of Polish literature abetted his distinctly ‘Catholic’ take on the identity of his country and the Church’s role in defending the nation’s freedom.
Two fathers stand out as ‘magnets that gave a basic orientation to Karol’s moral compass’ (Witness to Hope…42). First, his own widower-father, the lieutenant, whose solid and consistent presence in Karol’s life inclined the son to fatherhood. His dad bore losses with dignity and modelled how a deep life of prayer married both devotion and manliness.
A little later, the renowned Archbishop of Krakow, Adam Stefan Sapieha, became a guiding light for Karol. Named the ‘unbroken prince’ of Poland, he led the nation in fiercely resisting the Nazis. Karol assumed that mantle later in championing Polish freedom against Soviet oppression. ‘Life with his own father and the unbroken prince gave Karol a profound experience of both familial and spiritual paternity’ (Witness to Hope…387).
Wimber grew up in Protestant America with a family neither against Christian faith nor mobilized for it. John participated in random church settings, including lending his fine voice to a Catholic choir, but the imprint of all or any of these experiences seems secondary. His mom prayed for him with the light she had. Mom Genevieve later became a strong Christian through son John’s guidance.
John’s wife Carol astutely points out the power of a mother’s loving vision of a son—its power, what it plants in the ground of a person’s being. Carol writes: “Knowing John all these years, I had wondered why he never seemed to lack confidence to try new things—to try and to fail and to try again until he got it right. There was a deep stability in him that always made him seem older than he was…it gave me a sense of security, feeling as if he was anchored, on some deep inner level, to a safe place…I’ve analyzed it and I think the most important ingredient was the genuine enjoyment and pleasure Genevieve took in John, from the moment of his birth to the day she died. Sometimes I would catch her watching John with a look of pure delight on her face. She thought anything he did or said was wonderful. A childhood of that kind of treatment must do good things for your self-confidence…
My theory is that he got from his mother, when he was still very young, all the acceptance, admiration, and praise he’d need for the rest of his life.” (The Way It Was, pp. 22, 23)
“Thank You God for the gifts You gave to summon our best. Eyes that always saw something good in us encouraged us to become that good. Thank you also for the fathers who modelled something of You Father, who set us free to fight for the freedom of others. 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.’”