Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way


Translated by Walter Ziemba

By Pope John Paul II

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An inspirational memoir from the recently canonized Pope Saint John Paul II.

Following the success of the international bestseller Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II provides the world with a glimpse into his past in Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way. Chronicling the years he spent as a bishop and later archbishop in Krakow, Poland through his election as the first Polish Pope in 1978, he recounts everything from communist efforts to suppress the church in Poland to his efforts to adopt a new and more open style of pastoral ministry. With recollections on his life as well as his thoughts on the issues facing the world now, Pope John Paul II offers words of wisdom in this book that will appeal to people of any faith looking to strengthen their spirituality.


Translated by Walter Ziecmba

Copyright © 2004 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano

Copyright © 2004 Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Milano.

All rights reserved.

Cover copyright © 2004 Tommaso Bonaventura/Contrasto

This Warner Books edition is published by arrangement with

Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., 20090 Segrate, Milan, Italy.

This book was previously published in the Polish language as Wstańcie, chodźmy!

The Warner Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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First eBook Edition: September 2004

ISBN: 978-0-446-51095-0

Book design by L&G McRee


Crossing the Threshold of Hope (with Vittorio Messori)

The Source of My Vocation

I set off in search of the source of my vocation. It is beating there . . . in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. I thank God that during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 I was able to pray—precisely there—in the Upper Room (Mark 14:15), where the Last Supper took place. I transport myself in thought to that memorable Thursday, when Christ, having loved his own to the end (cf. John 13:1), instituted the Apostles as priests of the New Covenant. I see Him bending down before each of us, successors of the Apostles, to wash our feet. I hear Him, as if He were speaking to me—to us—these words: "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another's feet. I have given you an example to follow, so that as I have done for you, you also should do" (John 13:12–16).

Together with Peter, Andrew, James, and John . . . let us continue to listen: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love! If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:9–14).

Is not the mysterium caritatis of our vocation contained in these sayings? These words of Christ, spoken at the hour for which he had come (cf. John 12:27), are at the root of every vocation in the Church. From them flows the life-giving sap that nourishes every vocation: those of the Apostles and their successors, but also every other vocation, because the Son wishes to be a friend to everyone: because He gave His life for all. Here we find what is most important, most valuable, and most sacred: the love of the Father and the love of Christ for us, His and our joy, and also our friendship and fidelity, which express themselves in the fulfillment of the commandments. These words also contain the goal and the meaning of our vocation: to "go and bear fruit that will last" (John 15:16).

The bond of love unites all things; substantially it unites the Divine Persons, but on a different level it also unites human beings and their different vocations. We have entrusted our life to Christ, who loved us first and, as the Good Shepherd, offered His life for us. The Apostles heard Christ's words and applied them to themselves as their personal vocation. So too we, their successors, shepherds of Christ's Church, cannot but feel impelled to be the first to respond to this love, faithfully fulfilling the commandments and offering our life every day for the friends of our Lord.

"The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). In the homily I preached in Saint Peter's Square on October 16, 2003, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of my pontificate, I said: "While Jesus was saying these words, the Apostles did not realize that he was referring to himself. Not even his beloved Apostle John knew it. He understood on Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, when he saw Jesus silently giving up his life for 'his sheep.' When the time came for John and the other Apostles to assume this same mission they then remembered his words. They realized that they would be able to fulfill their mission only because he had assured them that he himself would be working among them."2

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last" (John 15:16). Not you, but I!—says Christ. This is the foundation of the efficacy of a bishop's pastoral mission.

The Call

The year is 1958. I'm on a train traveling toward Olsztyn with my group of canoeists. We are beginning the vacation schedule that we have been following since 1953: part of the vacation we are to spend in the mountains, most often in the Bieszczady mountains, and part on the lakes in the Masuria region. Our destination is the Łyna River. That's why—it is July—we are on the train bound for Olsztyn. I say to the so-called admiral— as far as I can remember at that time it was Zdzisław

Heydel: "Zdzisław, I'm going to have to leave the canoe because I have been summoned by the Primate [since the death of Cardinal August Hlond in 1948, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was the Primate] and I must go to see him."

The admiral said: "That's fine, I'll see to it."

And so, when the time came, we left the group to go to the nearest railroad station, at Olsztynek.

Knowing that I would have to see the Primate during our time on the Łyna River, I had deliberately left my good cassock with friends in Warsaw. It wouldn't be right to visit the Primate wearing the old cassock I brought along on our canoe trips (on such trips I always brought a cassock and a complete set of vestments so that I could celebrate Mass).

So I set off, first in the canoe over the waves of the river, and then in a truck laden with sacks of flour, until I got to Olsztynek. The train for Warsaw left late at night. I had brought my sleeping bag with me, thinking that I might be able to catch a few winks in the station and ask someone to wake me when it was time to board the train. There was no need for that in any event, because I didn't sleep.

In Warsaw I arrived on Miodowa Street at the specified hour. There I discovered that three other priests had also been summoned: Father Wilhelm Pluta from Silesia, Father Michał Blecharczyk, pastor of Bochnia in the diocese of Tarnów, and Father Józef Drzazga from Lublin. At first I paid no attention to this coincidence. Only later did I realize that they had been summoned for the same reason as I.

As I entered the office of the Primate, he told me that the Holy Father had named me an auxiliary bishop to the archbishop of Kraków. In February of that same year (1958) Bishop Stanisław Rospond had died. He had been auxiliary bishop of Kraków for many years during the reign of the prince archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Adam Sapieha.

Upon hearing the words of the Primate informing me of the decision of the Holy See, I said, "Your Eminence, I am too young; I'm only thirty-eight."

But the Primate said, "That is a weakness which can soon be remedied. Please do not oppose the will of the Holy Father."

So I said, "I accept."

"Then let's have lunch," the Primate concluded. He invited all four of us to lunch. There I found out that Father Wilhelm Pluta had been named bishop of Gorzów Wielkopolski. At that time it was the largest Apostolic Administration in Poland. It encompassed Szczecin and Kołobrzeg, one of the oldest dioceses in Poland, which had been created in the year 1000 (at the same time, Gniezno became the metropolitan see of the province, which included not only Kołobrzeg, but

also Kraków and Wrocław). Father Józef Drzazga was named auxiliary bishop of Lublin (later he was transferred to Olsztyn), and Father Michał Blecharczyk was named auxiliary bishop in Tarnów.

At the conclusion of this audience, of such great importance for my life, I realized that I could not return immediately to my canoeing friends: first I had to go to

Kraków to inform Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, my Ordinary. While waiting for the night train to Kraków, I spent many hours in prayer at the chapel of the Ursuline Sisters in Warsaw on Wiślana Street.

Archbishop Baziak, the Latin rite metropolitan of Lviv, suffered the fate of all displaced persons: He was forced to leave Lviv. He settled in Lubaczów, that little corner of the archdiocese of Lviv that remained on the Polish side of the boundaries established at Yalta. Prince Adam Sapieha, archbishop of Kraków, asked a year before he died that Archbishop Baziak, having been forced to leave his own diocese, might become his coadjutor. This is how my own episcopate is chronologically linked with the person of this sorely tested Prelate.

The next day I went to see Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak at 3 Franciszkańska Street and handed him a letter from the Cardinal Primate. I remember it as if it were today. The Archbishop took me by the arm and led me into the waiting room where there were priests sitting, and he said: "Habemus papam"—"We have a Pope." In the light of subsequent events, one might say that these words were prophetic.

When I said to the Archbishop that I would like to return to Masuria to join my friends who were canoeing on the Łyna River, he answered: "I don't think that would be appropriate."

Somewhat troubled by this reply, I went to the Church of the Franciscans and prayed the Way of the Cross. I often went there for this purpose because the stations are original, modern, painted by Józef Mehoffer. Then I went back to Archbishop Baziak renewing my request. I said, "I appreciate your concern, Excellency, but I would still ask you to allow me to return to Masuria."

This time he answered: "Yes, yes, by all means. But I ask you, please," he added with a smile, "come back in time for the consecration."

So that very evening I again boarded the train for Olsztyn. I had with me Hemingway's book The Old Man and the Sea. I read it all night. Once I dozed off. I felt somewhat strange . . .

When I arrived at Olsztyn, my group was already there. They had canoed down the Łyna River. The admiral came for me to the station and said, "So, did Uncle become a bishop?"

To this I said yes. He said: "That is exactly what I imagined in my heart, and what I wished for you."

As a matter of fact, shortly beforehand, on the occasion of my tenth anniversary of ordination, he had wished me this. When I was named a bishop, I was hardly twelve years a priest.

I had slept little. When I reached my destination, I was tired. First, however, before going to rest, I went to church to celebrate Mass. The church was under the care of the university chaplain, Father Ignacy Tokarczuk, who was later named a bishop. After a short rest, I awoke and realized that the news had already spread, because Father Tokarczuk said to me: "Oh, the new bishop. Congratulations."

I smiled and went to join my canoeing friends. When I took the paddle, I again felt somewhat strange. The coincidence of dates struck me: The date of my nomination was July fourth, the anniversary date of the blessing of Wawel Cathedral. It is an anniversary that I have always cherished in my heart. I thought this coincidence must have some special meaning. I also thought maybe this was the last time I could go canoeing. Later though, I should mention, it turned out that there were many opportunities for me to go swimming and canoeing on the rivers and lakes of Masuria. As a matter of fact, I continued until the year 1978.

Successor of the Apostles

After the summer vacation I returned to Kraków to begin preparations for the consecration, which was set for September twenty-eighth, the feast of Saint Wenceslaus, patron of Wawel Cathedral. This dedication is evidence of the historical ties between Poland and Bohemia. Saint Wenceslaus was a Bohemian count who lost his life as a martyr at the hands of his own brother. The Czechs also venerate him as their patron.

An essential part of the preparation for my episcopal ordination was the retreat. I made it at Tyniec, an historic abbey I often visited. This time the stay was especially important for me. I was to become a bishop. I was already nominated. I still had some time before the consecration—more than two months. I had to make use of the time in the best way possible.

The retreat lasted six days—six days of meditation. Dear Lord, what an abundance of fruit! "Successor of the Apostles"—at that time I heard these very words from the lips of a physicist I knew. Obviously, believers attach great importance to the apostolic succession. I, a successor, thought with great humility of the Apostles of Christ and of this long, unbroken chain of bishops who, by the laying on of hands, passed on to their successors a share in the Apostolic Office. Now they were to bestow it upon me. I felt personally linked to each of them. Many of those who preceded the current generation of bishops in this chain of succession we know by name. In some cases their pastoral activities are also known and acclaimed. But even in the case of the bishops of antiquity, unknown today, their episcopal vocation and work continues—"that your fruit will last" (John 16:16). This happens partly through us, their successors. Precisely through their hands and by virtue of the efficacy of the sacrament, we are joined to Christ, who chose both them and us "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). Wonderful gift and mystery!

"Ecce sacerdos magnus qui in diebus suis placuit Deo.... Ideo iureiurando fecit illum Dominus crescere in plebem suam" . . . thus we sing in the liturgy. This one high priest of the new and eternal covenant is Jesus Christ Himself. He consummated the sacrifice of His priesthood by dying on the cross, offering His life for His sheepfold—all of mankind. It was He who instituted the sacrament of priesthood during the Last Supper on the day before He shed His blood in the sacrifice offered on the Cross. It was He who took bread into His hands and said these words: "This is my body which will be given up for you." It was He who later, taking into His hands the cup filled with wine, said these words: "This is my blood of the new and everlasting covenant which will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven." And at the end He added: "Do this in memory of me." He said this in the presence of the Apostles, in the presence of the Twelve, of whom Peter is the first. He said to them: "Do this in memory of me." In this way He made them priests in His own likeness, the one high Priest of the New Covenant.

As participants in the Last Supper, maybe the Apostles didn't fully understand what these words meant— words that would be fulfilled the next day when the body of Christ was sentenced to be crucified, and his blood was shed on the Cross. Perhaps at the time they understood only that they were to reenact the rite of the Supper with bread and wine. The Acts of the Apostles recall that the first Christians, after these paschal events, devoted themselves "to the breaking of the bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). By then, the meaning of the rite was already clear to all.

In the liturgy of the Church, Holy Thursday is the day we recall the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist. From the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the celebration of the Eucharist gradually spread to the whole known world. In the beginning, the Apostles presided at the Eucharist in Jerusalem. Later, as the Gospel spread, it was celebrated both by the Apostles and by those upon whom they had laid hands—in ever new places, beginning with Asia Minor. Finally, with Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Eucharist reached Rome, the capital of the contemporary world. Centuries later it reached the Vistula River.

I remember that during my retreat before my episcopal ordination I thanked God in a special way that the Gospel and the Eucharist had reached the Vistula River, and that they had also reached the abbey at Tyniec. This abbey, south of Kraków, whose beginnings date back to the eleventh century, was the proper place to prepare myself for my episcopal ordination in Wawel Cathedral. When I visited Kraków in 2002, before returning to Rome, I was able to visit Tyniec, even if only briefly. It was a special payment of a personal debt of gratitude. I owe so much to Tyniec. Perhaps not only I, but all of Poland.

September 28, 1958, was slowly approaching. Before the ceremony, as a newly named bishop, I visited Lubaczów for the celebration of the silver jubilee of Archbishop Baziak's episcopate. It was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which in Lviv was celebrated on September twenty-second. I was there with two bishops from Przemyśl: Bishop Franciszek Barda and Bishop Wojciech Tomaka—both old men, and I, a youthful thirty-eight-year-old. I felt embarrassed. That is where I had my first "trial run" for the episcopate. A week later the consecration took place at Wawel Cathedral.


On Sale
Sep 28, 2004
Page Count
240 pages