Son of an Officer – The Discipline of John Paul II

The leadership of a country often comes from the officers of its military. They tend to have a combination of leadership skills, reason, and patriotism. These virtues are combined into a sharp edge with discipline which makes them a formidable opponent in every battlefield- from war, to government. Discipline is a virtue that allows one to utilize ones own natural faculties and virtues to achieve ones goals without fear or passivity. It is a natural virtue utterly essential for success in ones life.

© IWM. Source: Photograph by Lt. Col. Zimnal M.

Polish Soldiers attacking German Soldiers during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. © IWM. Source: Photograph by Lt. Col. Zimnal M.

Before he was President, George Washington served as an officer in the Colonial Militia under the leadership of the British Crown. Painting by Charles Wilson Peale.

Before he was President, George Washington served as an officer in the Colonial Militia under the leadership of the British Crown.

In every future scenario where the national sovereignty of a country and its fate is threatened officers could always be found in the core of any leaders for independence or control of national sovereignty.

The fate of a nation is often decided by its geographical and geopolitical situation. For Poland in the 20th century the fate of their nation was decided by the German Military as they marched east over the skeletons of three million Poles and over 1800 priests. The goal of the German military was to enslave Poland and destroy their leadership from University Professors to the Priesthood. The Poles were not about to take this laying down.






Polish Soldiers during the Battle of Monte Cassino transport ammunition towards the front lines.  They are probably taking the most direct route which  appears quite steep.

Polish Soldiers during the Battle of Monte Cassino transport ammunition towards the front lines. They are probably taking the most direct route which appears quite steep.

The Poles fought on for freedom both in the British Air force as well as the allied infantry in Italy. They were some of the first to charge during the siege of the German held stronghold of Monte Cassino. There were also many Poles who stayed behind in Poland and continued the fight against the German military as guerrillas. Their character as men undoubtedly some of the finest in any of the allies of WW2. When the Russian Military marched west over Poland in military victory they deported tens of thousands of Poles east to the Gulags to work as slave labor. Many of these Poles died in these terrible conditions. The Russian Military then murdered every Polish officer they could find. Their deaths as man were inevitable, and if they had not left behind a legacy by the time they died then the only consequence of their lives would be in memorial of their deaths.

Danuta "Inka" Siedzikowna served as a medic in the Polish Home Army. She survived the German Occupation only be murdered by the Russian Occupation. Her last words were 'Niech Żyje Polska'.

Danuta “Inka” Siedzikowna served as a medic in the Polish Home Army. She survived the German Occupation only be murdered by the Russian Occupation. Her last words were ‘Niech Żyje Polska’.

This betrayal should not be surprising. The political expansion of the Soviet Union after WW2 relied on the pragmatic elimination of future independent leadership before they would assume those positions. These Polish officers in the future would probably would have been the foremost in the leadership of Poland for Polish independence. The Soviet Union intended that Poland remain an occupied vassal state. The Russian leadership wanted political control and that only Communist Party members would be promoted to leadership positions in the economic realm. This method of thinking dictated their actions which would include killing those who they knew would later have the strength to oppose them.

There was hope after World War II that Poland would have open elections and there were multiple parties to his effect. There was the Polish Communist Party and an opposition party. The Russian secret police began killing the leaders of the Polish Communist Party as well as terrorizing and killing the members of the opposition party. This was due to the political viewpoint of communism which required only the most sycophant and loyal members of the party in positions of political leadership and the elimination of all other potential political leaders even those of the same ideology.

However Russian secret police did not actively target the sons of Polish Officers. They did not believe that the son could equally carry on the discipline and virtues and idealism of their father. Their understanding of the world and of human nature was based on an atheistic and reductionist viewpoint of human history being a conflict primarily between economic and armed forces. They did not view the human family as a potential source of threat to themselves. One of these consequences was that the Soviet Union while apparently tolerant off families was quietly undermining them through forcing down wages in order to destroy the culture of stay at home mothers. These mothers then were sent to also work at low paying jobs while the Soviet Union controlled the raising of their children in state sponsored child care.

The Soviet Union also encouraged abortion in order to destroy children before they were born into families. The Soviet Union (as well as had Germany) had also encouraged promiscuity which would work to destroy the eventual commitment of men and women as fathers and mothers. The full consequences of these forces would not be fully felt for two or three more generations when the birth rates of both countries would precipitously fall.

In summary let us say that these philosophies falsely believed that fatherhood (and preparation for motherhood) was non-essential for the greater good of societies and their support and protection was irrelevant on a national scale. It was clear that the Soviet Union did not believe in fatherhood. This mistake would later partially lead to their undoing for the killers of Polish Officers would critically pass over the son of an officer who had inherited all of his father’s virtue and more. The fact was that John Paul II and his followers were men of peace. The fact was that they were not interested in conducting guerrilla operation in order to bring down the Soviet Union. This was quite possibly on a very small consolation to the leadership of Russia ensconced in the Kremlin watching their Empire fall.

Officer Karol Wojtyla Sr, his wife Emilia Kaczorowska, and their eldest son. Edmund. By the time Karol Wojtyla would enter college his mother and brother pictured in this photo were dead.

Officer Karol Wojtyla Sr, his wife Emilia Kaczorowska, and their eldest son. Edmund. By the time Karol Wojtyla would enter college both Emilia and Edmund had died.

The Father of John Paul II was Karol Wojtyla Sr. He had been an officer in a free Poland and worked in the supply department. He had lived life with a strict discipline in his personal life and also as a father. This discipline was balanced by his love of family as well as his faith. He would routinely attend Mass with his family on Sunday then during the rest of the week he would ensure that his sons would first complete their homework before playing. He would also often take turns with his wife reading aloud to his sons the more popular written works of Polish culture.

This combination of discipline as well as the appreciation of the power of culture strongly shaped the young Karol Wojtyla Junior who would later become Pope. The future Pope once admitted that he had sometimes been a careless altar boy as a child. This indicates that while his father at that time had been a strong presence in his life the discipline was not absolute and he was given more freedom as a child to play then he would enjoy as a teenage youth. However his family did practice both spiritual and cultural discipline.

His family prayed together as a family at home. He and his father would both pray while kneeling after the untimely death of his brother and his mother. This discipline in prayer would later serve the future John Paul II well. He would often rise up before dawn in order to pray several hours in the morning in adoration of God. This discipline as well as prayer would give him the spiritual and mental direction he would need. They were needed because the conditions of the Church during its years in Occupied Poland were often tumultuous and murky.

During the Communist Occupation of Central and Eastern Europe there were various methods of opposing them tried. The Church was smaller and more fervent in Czechoslovakia and they attempted an iron public resistance which was soon crushed. In Poland they attempted to maintain the public operation of the Church which required a truce with the communist authorities. The Priests of the Church had to tend to the spiritual needs of the congregation while also not antagonizing the occupation government.

However some Priests and Bishops were still targeted for their supposed opposition to the hostile occupation power and were imprisoned. John Paul II while both Priest and then later as Bishop was known for his public indirect and intellectual homilies which did not offend the government. He focused his leadership in the areas that were not monitored especially private gatherings of young adult excursions, marital preparation, and the long hours he would spend in the confessional. However in public he was a model of diplomacy.

He would continue this practice as Pope. He would not directly verbally confront the government, but instead drop a few words about solidarity or sovereignty into public addresses at the correct historical moments. In secret of course he would always offer encouragement as well as envelopes of cash which would make their way to Poland to assist with the material needs of Poles who had been deprived of work during the years of struggle for national independence.

However for John Paul II his discerning of the correct historical moment and what his action should be was often conducted in an murky and tumultuous environment. The Polish Bishop Glemp was unfairly criticized for his equivocation and use of diplomatic language in the 1980’s in regards to the Communist Occupation. However he was merely carrying on the custom from the 1950’s through the 1970’s of the Polish sacerdotal hierarchy always using a polite and diplomatic language with the communist political hierarchy as a necessary part of strategy. Much of the critical action taken for Polish independence was done on a regional and personal level and it appears the Polish Church hierarchy saw their role instead more as strategic in order to prevent an invasion by Russia or a mass murder of Solidarity leadership. In such a time when a man could not say what he thought, and what was necessary to be said was not precisely the same thing as it was a decade or even a year ago it was quite difficult to find the right words to say in public addresses.

This is why he had to often rely on any inspiration he received while in prayer. And this prayer was done by the strictest discipline of his schedule where he would rise early in order to spend hours in prayer. He would often be under such intellectual and emotional strain that those who knew him could hear him groan with the effort and focus he put into it. Through prayer his thoughts would be drawn more towards God and in that way the thoughts that would walk through his mind were more often godly thoughts then human thoughts.

This was important for it is always easy to manipulate a man with a strong but good conscience in choosing to publicly (and futilely) attempt to win a victory at a time when quieter methods are required. This could be seen in the student uprising in the early 1950’s when a large mass of Polish students of Jewish ethnicity criticized the communist occupational government to the later detriment of their professional careers. It is always very important to maintain discipline in whatever fate a man chooses.

His discipline in studying as a young teenage man led to him apparently being offered a scholarship at University in Krakow where he would later survive the German occupation. His discipline in working in a quarry during the German Occupation would allow him to give sustenance to himself and his father as long as humanly possible. His discipline in both working and studying for the Priesthood during the German Occupation would enable him to enter the priesthood just as the German Occupation would change into the Russian Occupation.

The simply dressed Fr. Karol at his first assignment at the rural parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Niegowic . Photo Credit - Archiwum Parafii w Niegowici,

The simply dressed Fr. Karol at his first assignment at the rural parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Niegowic . Photo Credit – Archiwum Parafii w Niegowici,

His discipline as a Priest would lead him to live a sparse life wearing clean, old, patched clothing and giving away as much material possessions to the poor as he could. His few pleasures in life apparently included reading, skiing, and hiking through the beautiful Polish countryside sometimes up to eight hours at a time. It was his discipline that had helped him achieve and maintain a high level of physical vigor in the countryside and this vigor was absolutely necessary for later in his life when he was Pope.

His discipline as a Bishop would lead to his successful administration of the Diocese. His discipline gave him the intellectual strength he needed. These strengths helped him keep up the levels of correspondence and homilies necessary for the good of the Church during the Russian Occupation. Later as Pope his discipline would give him the intellectual strength he needed in order to manage the creation of so many voluminous encyclicals.

John Paul II was dedicated to using modern technology such as aircrafts for evangelization.  He is pictured here with Cardinal Camillo Ruini. Photo Credit:CNS / L 'Osservatore Romano / Arturo Mari

John Paul II with Cardinal Camillo Ruini. John Paul II was dedicated to using modern technology for evangelization. Photo Credit:CNS / L ‘Osservatore Romano / Arturo Mari

The Pope did this while also planning and implementing numerous evangelical missions throughout the globe. His personal life was conducted with discipline.

He would rise around 5:30 A.M. in the morning. After bathing he would work on his writings and correspondence at his work table until after 6 A.M. This was followed by private prayer in his chapel. He would first pray by laying down entirely then kneeling on his prie-dieu. He would read prayer requests, and write down notes as needed. This was followed by his private Mass at 7:30 A.M. He would take breakfast at 8:15AM and then receive his colleagues around 9 A.M. in his the office. After this he would take in a selection of national and international newspapers and read the main headlines as well as quickly taking in the articles that he was interested in. He then retired to his private office until around 11 A.M. for working on his correspondence and encyclicals. He would then receive official visitors after 11 A.M. Lunch would commence around 1:30PM to 2PM but this was more flexible as he would always staying a meeting as long as he felt was necessary and did not like to be hurried to the next appointment on his schedule. He would then follow up with a prayer after the meal and then a siesta after lunch in his rooms.

Afterwards in his afternoon he would take a walk on his terrace for exercise and meditation. Then in the evening around 6:30 P.M. he would have further meetings with his colleagues. There may be additional guests after a light dinner to meet with and these meetings would run until around 8PM whereupon he would return to his personal apartments. His entry back into his private life would commence with prayer in his private chapel and then he would watch television in his study. He liked watching the Italian television and polish television and science programs. He did not dedicate as much time to the watching of cinema. He was more of a fan of reading of books. Before it was midnight he would pray in his study or bedroom. Then he would read on his bed and fall asleep praying the rosary. This was the disciplined schedule which he utilized and as a consequence had a successful papacy.

His physical vigor gave him the strength to set a pace during these evangelical missions were fast enough to tire the many other less disciplined men who attempted to keep up with him.

Bishop Karol Wojtyla at Vatican Council II.

Bishop Karol Wojtyla at Vatican Council II.

His intellectual discipline also made him one of the quiet leaders of the Vatican II. One of the integral virtues of John Paul II throughout his life was his discipline. He gained this first as a son from his father. For John Paul II it was through a genuinely holy experience of sonship given from his father that he became the man he would be. Discipline was one of the many virtues he would rely on throughout his life and while it is not the only virtue he practiced it was also like many others, integral to his success both as a Man, a Priest, and a Pope.

Dear Reader, in what areas of life dear could the virtue of discipline help you? How did your father help you or not help you in acquiring the discipline needed for success? If you are a father, how has your example shaped your children? If you are neither a father nor a son what is your perspective on the importance of fatherhood in human society especially when compared to the authority of the leaders of the government, military, or economy?



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