Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. The youngest of three children, young Karol was part of a loving and God-fearing family.
He knew much about suffering at an early age -- his mother died of kidney failure when he was in third grade and his brother died when he was twelve –but he also held a profound trust in God and the goodness of His will. Much of this came from the spiritual care of his father, who Blessed John Paul II referred to as a “man of constant prayer” (Gift and Mystery, 20).
Known to his friends as Lolek, Karol was a tall, chubby and vibrant youth, who was gifted with strong athletic skills, intellectual abilities and theatrical talents. His boyhood friend, Jerzy Kluger recalls their great love for swimming in or skating on the Skawa river, depending on the season. They also hiked and played soccer, with little Lolek often in the goalie position.
There are a number of stories from Blessed John Paul II’s early life and childhood that we will recount during the next month. This is all a part of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine’s preparation for the canonization, which is now under six months away. Keep following us here and on our Facebook page.