facebook-icon

 

Become a CLA Member

join iconBecome a member of CLA. Download, fill out and mail the PDF form on the Membership page or fill out our online form

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz
A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope
(Doubleday)

260 pages

Biography / Theology

 


Download a PDF                                              back to Guides

 

 


 

Reading Level: Young Adult / Parent /  Adult

 


 

Comments: Although library bookshelves are filled with volumes about our larger-than-life former pope, Cardinal Dziwisz’s intimate perspective of Pope John Paul II makes this a uniquely important book. The book is formatted as an extended interview with narrator Gian Franco Svidercoschi. As the narrator sets historical contexts, the Cardinal responds with his recollections of situations as they unfolded. By describing the issues that were most important to Karol Wojtyla as archbishop and later as pope, the author brings attention to the remarkable degree of continuity of his mentor’s life. Although this book is not a comprehensive biography, its windows into the thoughts and emotions of the beloved pope make it both interesting and inspiring. Through this book Cardinal Dziwisz and Pope John Paul II teach us that in any life situation a core of simplicity, compassion and holiness is possible.

 


 

Author Biography: Born in 1939 in Poland, Stanislaw Dziwisz was ordained to the priesthood in 1963 by Krakow’s Auxiliary Bishop, Karol Wojtyla. In 1966 Fr. Dziwisz became his personal secretary after Wojtyla was elevated to archbishop. The daily work together grew into a close personal friendship, often described as a father-son relationship, continuing for 12 years in Poland and 27 years in Rome. Dziwisz was ordained Bishop in 1998 and became a joint head of the Prefecture of the Papal Household. He was recognized as one of the pope’s most trusted aids and became, in his own right, an important voice of the Vatican. He was elevated to archbishop in 2003. As Pope John Paul II neared his death in 2005, it was Dziwisz who administered the sacrament of the Annointing of the Sick to his dear friend. Later in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI named Dziwisz Archbishop of Krakow. In 2006 he was also appointed to the College of Cardinals and named to the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Social Communication.

 


 

Plot Summary: Although library bookshelves are filled with volumes about our larger-than-life former pope, Cardinal Dziwisz’s intimate perspective of Pope John Paul II makes this a uniquely important book. The book is formatted as an extended interview with narrator Gian Franco Svidercoschi. As the narrator sets historical contexts, the Cardinal responds with his recollections of situations as they unfolded. By describing the issues that were most important to Karol Wojtyla as archbishop and later as pope, the author brings attention to the remarkable degree of continuity of his mentor’s life. Although this book is not a comprehensive biography, its windows into the thoughts and emotions of the beloved pope make it both interesting and inspiring. Through this book Cardinal Dziwisz and Pope John Paul II teach us that in any life situation a core of simplicity, compassion and holiness is possible. A Life with Karol is organized in two principal parts: the Polish years and the papal years. In the Polish years, Dziwisz recalls how his relationship with the man who would become pope unfolded on a day-by-day basis. The author highlights the issues that were important to his friend and mentor in the early years and describes how he focused his creative pastoral energies on them. By describing Archbishop Wojtyla’s dedication to the spirit of Vatican II, zest for opening doors through travel, attention to youth as the future of the Church, caritas for people of other faith traditions and involvement against oppressive political regimes, he reveals how these threads were so easily woven brightly into the tapestry of John Paul II’s papacy. In the second part, along with tracing the historical outline of the papacy, Cardinal Dziwisz reveals much about the day-to-day life of the pope at the Vatican. His insights about the simplicity of the pope’s life behind the pomp and circumstance are striking: small stark quarters, simple meals, resistance to ownership of material things, and devotion to long periods of private prayer. The Cardinal’s love of his friend is reflected most poignantly in his emotional accounts of the attempted assassination in 1981 and the pope’s passing in 2005. Although most situations described in the book were of considerable gravity, there was a light side, too, revealing the pope’s love of nature and sense of humor.

 


 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Consider John Paul II’s personal involvement in the Vatican II Council. How did his participation in the council influence his papacy?

2. How did his emphasis on human dignity place him at the center of the political stage in Poland and beyond?

3. John Paul II political ideologies were shaped by the national realities of his day. Recall these realities and trace how they played out culminating in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

4. Consider the Pope’s affinity for travel. How did this contribute to his effectiveness in promoting freedom? In encouraging and shaping youth? In building bridges with people of other faiths?

5. In the account of election to the papacy, what does the author reveal about the new pope and about himself?

6. What were some of the groundbreaking gestures that the pope made with regard to Christian unity? With regard to the unity of all of God’s children?

7. As a new pope, John Paul II was periodically whisked away incognito to local ski slopes by his friends. What does the account of these adventures tell us about the pope and his friends?

8. Discuss the daily life of the pope. Describe some of the aspects of his outward kingly life and inward life of a monk. What does this teach about holiness?

9. The pope was deeply concerned by secularist movements, for example, abortion. How did this fit with his overall belief system? What did he do to address this and other related issues?

10. Consider the life of Cardinal Dziwisz. In what ways did he empower his good friend by serving him and the Church?

11. What aspects of John Paul II, as revealed by Cardinal Dziwisz, most impressed you?

 


 

Prepared By: Craig George

Date: April 2008

nceaorlandotopright