the government may be shut down, that doesn't mean the fight for
religious freedom has come to a halt.
a recent review of several works by and about Blessed John Paul II,
something new jumped off the page. Here was a man who knew how to
deal with everyday infringement upon religious freedom, having spent
most of his life actively straining against the likes of Hitler,
Stalin and the Soviet machine.
new demands of the Obama Administration, such as the HHS Mandate,
have left many American Catholics unprepared, spiritually and
otherwise, to tackle the thorny issue. Rather than reinvent the
wheel, I have taken a few pages from John Paul's playbook.
are six points John Paul II used in word and example to rally the
faithful living behind the Iron Curtain.
Do Not Be Afraid
Paul started his pontificate urging the world: “Do Not Be Afraid.”
This phrase, a frequent line in Scripture, was a recurrent theme
throughout his 26 years as pope.
lived through the darkest of days under the Nazi's, the Polish pope
understood what it was to be afraid. His life, however, was marked by
a fearlessness because of his deep faith.
Learn the Enemies' Tactics and Adapt
communists, rather than making martyrs, employed other tactics to
control the masses, including intimidation, arrests, violence and
were also masters of media manipulation. During John Paul's first
visit to Poland, the cameramen were told to only take tight shots of
the pope to hide the swelling numbers from view. And any footage of
the crowd was only to include clergy, nuns, the elderly and
than throwing his hands up in frustration with the enemies' tactics,
John Paul was able to find new ways to communicate or to confound the
enemy by doing the unexpected. When he realized the archbishop's
residence was bugged, he would hold important meetings outside. When
followed on the way to a secret meeting, his driver would stealthily
drop him off at another waiting car without the being detected by
those on his tail.
the communists made every effort to keep people apart and drive a
wedge through the most intimate of relationships. To combat this,
Wojtyla encouraged married couples to renew their wedding vows, he
created opportunities to for young people to congregate together in
the countryside, and he never showed any outward sign other than
absolute accord with the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski.
Be Mindful of Who You Are and Who God Is
noticed early on that the communist oppressors manipulated people by
taking away their dignity, their self-respect, and their identity as
willed and loved by God. Every effort was made to strip the culture
of its Catholic identity.
as archbishop and pope, John Paul II made heroic efforts to proclaim
the truth of Christ. When the communists built the "model town"
of Nova Huta without a church, the Archbishop of Krakow spent 20
years in direct resistance to the state, coordinating countless
volunteers and laborers to build that church.
Keep a Sense of Humor
biographer tells the tale that when dealing with the Gestapo during
World War II, Wojtyla would periodically don a disguise as a German
soldier, complete with the German accent in perilous efforts to help
the Jews. Trying to sew discord among the soldiers, Wojtyla and his
friends also in disguise issued a directive to the German troops that
all cats in Krakow be registered. While it was carried out with
seriousness because of the deadly stakes, one can imagine the
laughter as Wojtyla and his friends came up with the scheme.
later after becoming pope, at the end of his first tense visit to
Poland, John Paul planted a kiss upon the cheek of Henryk Jablonski,
the president of the Polish Council of State, much to the communist
leader's embarrassment on international television.
vigilant was recurring theme of John Paul repeated on his trips to
Poland, especially to young people. The political "dance"
the Poles lead by Lech Walesa of the Solidarity movement and inspired
by the pontiff, suffered many setbacks and disappointments, among
them the imposition of martial law and the violent murder of Fr.
yet, as Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz recounts in his book, A Life
With Karol, part of the genius of Karol Wojtyla was that he never
gave into pessimism. “He would always say, 'Christ is in the
Church.' In other words, there would be calm after the storm. There
would a springtime after the winter.”
one seems obvious, but what is not so evident is the abundance of
peace, insight and interior freedom that prayer gave to John Paul. We
normally look to prayer to change the externals of our life, but the
Polish pope also knew the power of prayer to change the internal.
Like the sinking Peter who panicked when he saw a storm while walking
on water, Christ reached out to grab him instead of calming the