I’m very behind on reflecting upon the events of the past few weeks; partly my schedule and partly how overwhelming it all has been.
The Will of Pope John Paul II was released on April 7, 2005 by the Vatican. Unlike what we usually think of as a will, for the Pope, this was a document examining death and what this life really means.
It was written over time, starting after his election to the Chair of Peter. It is found below with my reflections mixed in.
The testament of 6.3.1979
(and successive additions)
“Totus Tuus ego sum”
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (cf. Mt 24, 42) – these words remind me of the last call, which will happen at the moment the Lord wishes. I desire to follow Him, and I desire that everything making up part of my earthly life should prepare me for this moment. I do not know when the moment will come, but like everything else, I place it too in the hands of the Mother of my Master: Totus Tuus. In the same maternal Hands I leave everything and everyone with whom my life and vocation have linked me. In these Hands I leave, above all, the Church, as well as my Nation and all humanity. I thank everyone. Of everyone I ask forgiveness. I also ask for prayer, that the Mercy of God may appear greater than my weakness and unworthiness.
In life, we are constantly trying to remind ourselves that we are only stewards of what God has given us. But in death, we completely leave all of which was “ours” on Earth. “My projects” at the UCC as well as “my accomplishments” at school are left completely. Will those after me take care of what work I have begun? Maybe, maybe not, but we must be willing and ready in life to give to others what we have started; afterall, in death, we will perfectly give to others what we had.
During the spiritual exercises I re-read the testament of the Holy Father Paul VI. That reading prompted me to write this testament.
I leave no property behind me of which it is necessary to dispose. As for the everyday objects that were of use to me, I ask they be distributed as seems appropriate. My personal notes are to be burned. I ask that this be attended to by Fr. Stanislaw [BK: now Archbishop], whom I thank for his collaboration and help, so prolonged over the years and so understanding. As for all other thanks, I leave them in my heart before God Himself, because it is difficult to express them.
As for the funeral, I repeat the same dispositions as were given by the Holy Father Paul VI. (Here is a note in the margin: burial in the bare earth, not in a sarcophagus, 13.3.92).
“apud Dominum misericordia et copiosa apud Eum redemptio”
John Paul pp. II
After my death I ask for Masses and prayers.
It really amazes me that he added just this line at one point. Such a simple request and not to mention for Pope John Paul the Great to ask for prayers and Masses, I find beautiful. Although, even before we knew he asked for them, I’m sure most of us raised our prayers for him.
Undated sheet of paper
I express my profound trust that, despite all my weakness, the Lord will grant me all the grace necessary to face according to His will any task, trial or suffering that He will ask of His servant, in the course of his life. I also trust that He will never allow me – through some attitude of mine: words, deeds or omissions – to betray my obligations in this holy Petrine See.
For a Pope that seemed so constantly determined on the goal of spreading the Gospel to the world, it’s comforting to know that he must have doubted himself. Although, how else would such a person come to the office of Pope besides know that it is only through the Lord is he able to do anything.
24.II – 1.III.1980
Also during these spiritual exercises, I have reflected on the truth of the Priesthood of Christ in the perspective of that Transit that for each of us is the moment of our own death. For us the Resurrection of Christ is an eloquent (added above: decisive) sign of departing from this world – to be born in the next, in the future world.
This is the second time the text has referred to something in the margins or written about the line of text. We’re all used to reading Papal messages that are so very formal and edited various times most likely. For me, being able to read this text in such a raw form has brought me much closer to both Pope John Paul II and all other “higher clergy” by reminding me that their thoughts are not the perfected words that I’m so used to hearing from them.
I have read, then, the copy of my testament from last year, also written during the spiritual exercises – I compared it with the testament of my great predecessor and Father, Paul VI, with that sublime witness to death of a Christian and a Pope – and I have renewed within me an awareness of the questions to which the copy of 6.III.1979 refers, prepared by me (in a somewhat provisional way).
Today I wish to add only this: that each of us must bear in mind the prospect of death. And must be ready to present himself before the Lord and Judge – Who is at the same time Redeemer and Father. I too continually take this into consideration, entrusting that decisive moment to the Mother of Christ and of the Church – to the Mother of my hope.
The times in which we live are unutterably difficult and disturbed. The path of the Church has also become difficult and tense, a characteristic trial of these times – both for the Faithful and for Pastors. In some Countries (as, for example, in those about which I read during the spiritual exercises), the Church is undergoing a period of such persecution as to be in no way lesser than that of early centuries, indeed it surpasses them in its degree of cruelty and hatred. “Sanguis martyrum – semen christianorum.”. And apart from this – many people die innocently even in this Country in which we are living.
Once again, I wish to entrust myself totally to the Lord’s grace. He Himself will decide when and how I must end my earthly life and pastoral ministry. In life and in death, Totus Tuus in Mary Immaculate. Accepting that death, even now, I hope that Christ will give me the grace for the final passage, in other words (my) Easter. I also hope that He makes (that death) useful for this more important cause that I seek to serve: the salvation of men and women, the safeguarding of the human family and, in that, of all nations and all peoples (among them, I particularly address my earthly Homeland), and useful for the people with whom He particularly entrusted me, for the question of the Church, for the glory of God Himself.
I do not wish to add anything to what I wrote a year ago – only to express this readiness and, at the same time, this trust, to which the current spiritual exercises have again disposed me.
John Paul II
Totus Tuus ego sum
In the course of this year’s spiritual exercises I have read (a number of times) the text of the testament of 6.III.1979. Although I still consider it provisional (not definitive), I leave it in the form in which it exists. I change nothing (for now), and neither do I add anything, as concerns the dispositions contained therein.
The attempt upon my life on 13.V.1981 in some way confirmed the accuracy of the words written during the period of the spiritual exercises of 1980 (24.II – 1.III).
All the more deeply I now feel that I am totally in the Hands of God – and I remain continually at the disposal of my Lord, entrusting myself to Him in His Immaculate Mother (Totus Tuus)
John Paul pp.II
In connection with the last sentence in my testament of 6.III.1979 (“concerning the site / that is, the site of the funeral / let the College of Cardinals and Compatriots decide”) – I will make it clear that I have in mind: the metropolitan of Krakow or the General Council of the Episcopate of Poland – In the meantime I ask the College of Cardinals to satisfy, as far as possible, any demands of the above-mentioned.
1.III.1985 (during the spiritual exercises)
Again – as regards the expression “College of Cardinals and Compatriots”: the “College of Cardinals” has no obligation to consult “Compatriots” on this subject, however it can do so, if for some reason it feels it is right to do so.
Spiritual exercise of the Jubilee Year 2000 (12-18.III)
(for my testament)
1. When, on October 16, 1978 the conclave of cardinals chose John Paul II, the primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski told me: “The duty of the new Pope will be to introduce the Church into the Third Millennium.” I don’t know if I am repeating this sentence exactly, but at least this was the sense of what I heard at the time. This was said by the Man who entered history as the primate of the Millennium. A great primate. I was a witness to his mission, to his total entrustment. To his battles. To his victory. “Victory, when it comes, will be a victory through Mary” – The primate of the Millennium used to repeat these words of his predecessor, Cardinal August Hlond.
In this way I was prepared in some manner for the duty that presented itself to me on October 16, 1978. As I write these words, the Jubilee Year 2000 is already a reality. The night of December 24, 1999 the symbolic Door of the Great Jubilee in the Basilica of St. Peter’s was opened, then that of St. John Lateran, then St. Mary Major – on New Year’s, and on January 19 the Door of the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls. This last event, given its ecumenical character, has remained impressed in my memory in a special way.
2. As the Jubilee Year progressed, day by day the 20th century closes behind us and the 21st century opens. According to the plans of Divine Providence I was allowed to live in the difficult century that is retreating into the past, and now, in the year in which my life reaches 80 years (‘octogesima adveniens’), it is time to ask oneself if it is not the time to repeat with the biblical Simeone ‘nunc dimittis’.
On May 13, 1981, the day of the attack on the Pope during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Divine Providence saved me in a miraculous way from death. The One Who is the Only Lord of life and death Himself prolonged my life, in a certain way He gave it to me again. From that moment it belonged to Him even more. I hope He will help me to recognize up to what point I must continue this service to which I was called on October 16, 1978. I ask him to call me back when He Himself wishes. ‘In life and in death we belong to the Lord … we are the Lord’s. (cf. Rm 14,8). I also hope that, as long as I am called to fulfil the Petrine service in the Church, the Mercy of God will give me the necessary strength for this service.
I suppose being shot at would make someone really look at life and death again.
3. As I do every year during spiritual exercises I read my testament from 6-III-1979. I continue to maintain the dispositions contained in this text. What then, and even during successive spiritual exercises, has been added constitutes a reflection of the difficult and tense general situation which marked the Eighties. From autumn of the year 1989 this situation changed. The last decade of the century was free of the previous tensions; that does not mean that it did not bring with it new problems and difficulties. In a special way may Divine Providence be praised for this, that the period of the so-called ‘cold war’ ended without violent nuclear conflict, the danger of which weighed on the world in the preceding period.
4. Being on the threshold of the third millennium “in medio Ecclesiae” I wish once again to express gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of Vatican Council II, to which, together with the entire Church – and above all the entire episcopacy – I feel indebted. I am convinced that for a long time to come the new generations will draw upon the riches that this Council of the 20th century gave us. As a bishop who participated in this conciliar event from the first to the last day, I wish to entrust this great patrimony to all those who are and who will be called in the future to realize it. For my part I thank the eternal Pastor Who allowed me to serve this very great cause during the course of all the years of my pontificate.
“In medio Ecclesiae”…. from the first years of my service as a bishop – precisely thanks to the Council – I was able to experience the fraternal communion of the Episcopacy. As a priest of the archdiocese of Krakow I experienced the fraternal communion among priests – and the Council opened a new dimension to this experience.
5. How many people should I list! Probably the Lord God has called to Himself the majority of them – as to those who are still on this side, may the words of this testament recall them, everyone and everywhere, wherever they are.
During the more than 20 years that I am fulfilling the Petrine service “in medio Ecclesiae” I have experienced the benevolence and even more the fecund collaboration of so many cardinals, archbishops and bishops, so many priests, so many consecrated persons – brothers and sisters – and, lastly, so very, very many lay persons, within the Curia, in the vicariate of the diocese of Rome, as well as outside these milieux.
How can I not embrace with grateful memory all the bishops of the world whom I have met in “ad limina Apostolorum” visits! How can I not recall so many non-Catholic Christian brothers! And the rabbi of Rome and so many representatives of non-Christian religions! And how many representatives of the world of culture, science, politics, and of the means of social communication!
6. As the end of my life approaches I return with my memory to the beginning, to my parents, to my brother, to the sister (I never knew because she died before my birth), to the parish in Wadowice, where I was baptized, to that city I love, to my peers, friends from elementary school, high school and the university, up to the time of the occupation when I was a worker, and then in the parish of Niegowic, then St. Florian’s in Krakow, to the pastoral ministry of academics, to the milieu of….to all milieux….to Krakow and to Rome….to the people who were entrusted to me in a special way by the Lord.
To all I want to say just one thing: “May God reward you.”
“In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.
Such an examination is quite profound for me personally, for that reason I included the entire text here instead of simply linking to it. Our late Holy Father looks at death as we all should- as such as beautiful thing. It is us coming home to our Easter. I do find it funny how often he referred to his original writing (of 1979) and mentioned how it is not definitive, yet does not really amend it.
A friend of mine whom I have not been nearly close enough to over the past years recently lost her five-month-old child. Without the ability to look at death in this Christian context, I have no idea how I would be able to accept his young death.
The Catholic context of death is such a peaceful one that I can’t help but be happy for those who have gone before us. While it is still a mournful time for us, those left behind, for we no longer enjoy the physical company of our loved one and since we still await the glory of the new world, it is such a joy to know those we love exist now in eternal glory.