I saw the DVD of “Karol: the man who became Pope” last night. I had seen it once before, but it was still just as powerful.
For the uninitiated, the DVD is of a two-part TV movie about Karol Wojtyla, the late John Paul II before he became Pope. It recounts his days in Poland as a young playwright and actor during the Nazi occupation (part 1), and as a clergyman during the Russian occupation (part 2).
Many of Karol’s Jewish and Polish friends are killed by the Nazis, and Karol himself survives several perilous encounters. One of my favourite dialogues in the movie happens when Karol finds refuge in the house of a devout tailor which goes something like the following:
Tailor: “We will win the war with love.”
Karol: “How can you say that when there are Nazis marching outside?”
Tailor: “Evil is temporary; it devours itself.”
Karol: “You mean, evil will eventually disappear but if love doesn’t win out, Nazis will just come back in another form?”
The tailor, acknowledging Karol’s insight, then goes on to hand him the writings of St. John of the Cross, which inspires him to enroll as a clandestine seminarian, thereby risking his life.
Faced with the two extreme and inhumane ideologies of Nazism to the Right and Communism to the Left, the young professor of Ethics, Fr. Karol Wojtyla, teaches his students to value and promote the intrinsic dignity of human life, and to respond to injustices with peaceful expression of both sorrow and defiance.
I think Karol’s insight is profound, in that it applies to every level of our lives. When a person, community or nation is provoked, there is a choice to either curse the darkness or to light a candle; to pay back evil with evil or to resist and break the cycle with love. There’s an important lesson still to be learned here, I think. I would recommend this movie to absolutely everyone (your local video rental store would probably have it)!