Feast Day: October 22nd | Patron of Popes, Families, Youth, Laborers, Actors, Athletes, Human Life, Poland, the Elderly, and those with Parkinson’s
This week, St. Pope John Paul II on finding the Holy Father wanted him to become a bishop, from Rise, Let us be on Our Way:
The year is 1958. I’m on a train traveling toward Olsztyn with my group of canoeists. We are beginning the vacation schedule that we have been following since 1953: part of the vacation we are to spend in the mountains, most often in the Bieszczady mountains, and part on the lakes in the Masuria region. Our destination is the Łyna River. That’s why—it is July—we are on the train bound for Olsztyn. I say to our so-called admiral— as far as I can remember at that time it was Zdzisław Heydel: “Zdzisław, I’m going to have to leave the canoe because I have been summoned by the Primate [since the death of Cardinal August Hlond in 1948, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was the Primate] and I must go to see him.” The admiral said: “That’s fine, I’ll see to it.” And so, when the time came, we left the group to go to the nearest railroad station, at Olsztynek.
Knowing that I would have to see the Primate during our time on the Łyna River, I had deliberately left my good cassock with friends in Warsaw. It wouldn’t be right to visit the Primate wearing the old cassock I brought along on our canoe trips (on such trips I always brought a cassock and a complete set of vestments so that I could celebrate Mass). So I set off, first in the canoe over the waves of the river, and then in a truck laden with sacks of flour, until I got to Olsztynek. The train for Warsaw left late at night. I had brought my sleeping bag with me, thinking that I might be able to catch a few winks in the station and ask someone to wake me when it was time to board the train. There was no need for that in any event, because I didn’t sleep.
In Warsaw I arrived on Miodowa Street at the specified hour. … As I entered the office of the Primate, he told me that the Holy Father had named me an auxiliary bishop to the archbishop of Kraków. In February of that same year (1958) Bishop Stanisław Rospond had died. He had been auxiliary bishop of Kraków for many years during the reign of the prince archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Adam Sapieha. Upon hearing the words of the Primate informing me of the decision of the Holy See, I said, “Your Eminence, I am too young; I’m only thirty-eight.” But the Primate said, “That is a weakness which can soon be remedied. Please do not oppose the will of the Holy Father.” So I said, “I accept.” “Then let’s have lunch,” the Primate concluded. …
At the conclusion of this audience, of such great importance for my life, I realized that I could not return immediately to my canoeing friends: first I had to go to Kraków to inform Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, my Ordinary. While waiting for the night train to Kraków, I spent many hours in prayer at the chapel of the Ursuline Sisters in Warsaw on Wiślana Street. … The next day I went to see Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak at 3 Franciszkańska Street and handed him a letter from the Cardinal Primate. I remember it as if it were today. The Archbishop took me by the arm and led me into the waiting room where there were priests sitting, and he said: “Habemus papam”—“We have a Pope.” In the light of subsequent events, one might say that these words were prophetic. When I said to the Archbishop that I would like to return to Masuria to join my friends who were canoeing on the Łyna River, he answered: “I don’t think that would be appropriate.” Somewhat troubled by this reply, I went to the Church of the Franciscans and prayed the Way of the Cross. I often went there for this purpose because the stations are original, modern, painted by Józef Mehoffer. Then I went back to Archbishop Baziak renewing my request. I said, “I appreciate your concern, Excellency, but I would still ask you to allow me to return to Masuria.” This time he answered: “Yes, yes, by all means. But I ask you, please,” he added with a smile, “come back in time for the consecration.”
So that very evening I again boarded the train for Olsztyn. I had with me Hemingway’s book The Old Man and the Sea. I read it all night. Once I dozed off. I felt somewhat strange . . . When I arrived at Olsztyn, my group was already there. They had canoed down the Łyna River. The admiral came for me to the station and said, “So, did Uncle become a bishop?” To this I said yes. He said: “That is exactly what I imagined in my heart, and what I wished for you.” As a matter of fact, shortly beforehand, on the occasion of my tenth anniversary of ordination, he had wished me this. When I was named a bishop, I was hardly twelve years a priest.
I had slept little. When I reached my destination, I was tired. First, however, before going to rest, I went to church to celebrate Mass. The church was under the care of the university chaplain, Father Ignacy Tokarczuk, who was later named a bishop. After a short rest, I awoke and realized that the news had already spread, because Father Tokarczuk said to me: “Oh, the new bishop. Congratulations.” I smiled and went to join my canoeing friends. When I took the paddle, I again felt somewhat strange. The coincidence of dates struck me: The date of my nomination was July fourth, the anniversary date of the blessing of Wawel Cathedral. It is an anniversary that I have always cherished in my heart. I thought this coincidence must have some special meaning. I also thought maybe this was the last time I could go canoeing. Later though, I should mention, it turned out that there were many opportunities for me to go swimming and canoeing on the rivers and lakes of Masuria. As a matter of fact, I continued until the year 1978.
– Fr. Dominic Rankin has also found that some of the most beautiful moments of his priesthood have happened outside: spontaneous requests for confession, Masses in rugged “cathedrals” of trees and rocks and sunshine, conversations while hiking or running, sublime prayer next to streams or lakes.