Before I was twenty-one years old

I have to say that at that time, on May 18, 1920, at nine in the morning, I was not even born.  As I was told later on, I was born in the afternoon between five and six o’clock.  More or less, at the same time, in the afternoon, between five and six, but fifty-eight years later, I was elected Pope (…) I was born at the time, when the Bolsheviks marched on Warsaw.  Poland was at stake.  I was born at that time and at that time I was given the name which I use though my whole life. My name is Karol.  When I look back, I can see how my life path through my friends, through the parish, my family leads me to one place: to baptismal font in Wadowice’s parish church.  At that baptismal font, on May 20, 1920, I was accepted into the grace of Son of God and to the faith of my Redeemer, into the community of His Church.  My parents giving me this name wanted to entrust me to St. Charles Borromeo (…).

It all reminds me of my life:  the day of baptism and the day of my first Holy Communion, from which I still have my photographs.   These are historic moments in the life of each of us.  Each of us has a story.  Years later, when looking at these photographs, memories from that time become vivid, going back to the purity and joy which is experienced in the encounter with Jesus, who out of love became the Redeemer of a man.  Without any doubt, an unforgettable encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ is the first Holy Communion, the day that is remembered as one of the most beautiful in life.  I still have in my memory, that day when among my peers, I received for the first time the Eucharist at my parish church.

My childhood and teenager years were marked by loss of my close ones.  At first my Mother, who was not able to see my First Communion (…).  I live on this world thanks to her, who gave me this life.  I lost my Mother when I was nine-years-old and thus I do not remember her well.  After her death, and then after the death of my older brother, we: my Father and I were only two of us.  She wanted to have two sons: doctor and priest.  My brother was a doctor, and after all, I was a priest.  My sister, who was born a few years before me, I was not able to see as she died soon after birth.

My brother Edmund, died at the beginning of his professional life when he contracted illness as a young doctor.  He got acute case of scarlet fever, which then (1932) when antibiotics were not known, was a fatal infection.  These are the events which marked me for life.  So relatively quickly I became partial orphan and “an only child.”  My childhood and teenager years were tied primarily to my father, whose spiritual life after the loss of his wife and older son extremely deepened.   I was looking at his life from a close distance; I saw how he was demanding from himself, I saw him kneeling to his prayers.  That was the most important in these years, which mean so much during puberty of a young man.  Father who was able to demand from himself, in a sense, did not need to demand from his son.  Looking at him, I have learned that you need to demand from yourself and you need to pull your weight to your tasks.

My Father, whom I consider as an extraordinary man, died – almost suddenly – during the Second World War and the occupation, before I finished twenty-first year of my life.

John Paul II. Autobiography.

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Literackie Sp. Z o o., 2005