How St. John Paul II Might Answer Cupich on Conscience
This post originally appears at Crisis Magazine. It has been shared with permission.
In September 1953, a group of 20-somethings and their young parish priest embarked on the first of what would be 26 annual kayaking trips into the wilderness near where they all lived and worked, taking time away from normal life to enjoy the water, the wilderness, and, most of all, a prayerful retreat with each other.
This group – Środowisko, as it was called – was the experiment of Karol Wojtyla, the Polish priest most of us know better as Pope St. John Paul II. Beginning out of his parish assignment as a student chaplain, John Paul built the group of young people slowly out of a common desire for community, growth, and free discussion (such opportunities were rare at the time in Communist-ruled Poland).
Two characteristics of the group that particularly stood out were the group’s interest in prayer — especially liturgical prayer — and John Paul’s emphasis on accompanying his friends as they navigated their young lives. The two desires collided in the sacrament of confession, where John Paul “didn’t impose,” one member recalled, “but he did demand” that decisions be made as wisely as possible.
John Paul’s emphasis on accompaniment as a pastoral practice, in order to enrich and form the consciences of his parishioners was because, as George Weigel wrote in his biography Witness to Hope, “this was the way a priest lived out his vocation to be an alter Christus, ‘another Christ.'”