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How St. John Paul II nearly became a Carmelite friar


Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 10/21/21

As a seminarian, John Paul II asked permission to transfer to a Carmelite monastery, wanting to imitate St. John of the Cross.

St. John Paul II had a very interesting road to the diocesan priesthood. Not only did he begin his studies secretly during the Nazi Occupation of Poland, he also felt called to pursue a different path as a Carmelite friar.

Before he began studies to the priesthood, John Paul II was introduced to the writings of St. John of the Cross by friend and mentor, Jan Tyranowski. This opened-up a whole new world for John Paul II, who learned Spanish in order to read the writings of St. John of the Cross in the original language.

John Paul II immersed himself in the writings of the Carmelite saint, writing theological papers that examined the works of St. John of the Cross.

All of this culminated in 1945 when a good friend of his, Br. Leonard Kowalowka, was appointed Novice Master at a local Carmelite monastery. At the time, John Paul II was nearing the end of his studies to become a diocesan priest, and in order to make the transfer he needed the approval of his bishop.

Feeling called to the Carmelite life, John Paul II submitted a letter to Cardinal Sapieha, asking for his permission.

However, John Paul II’s hopes were dashed when Sapieha told him to “finish what he started.” Sapieha declined John Paul II’s request.

John Paul II would be ordained as a diocesan priest in 1946, later becoming a bishop, cardinal and pope.

What would have happened if John Paul II had become a Carmelite friar?

Nobody knows the answer to that question, but it reminds us that when one door is closed, another is opened. God had other plans for John Paul II that weren’t evident at the time. Thankfully he persevered in his studies, and even though he may have felt the disappointment of rejection, he later reaped the rewards of following God’s will.

Pope John Paul IISaints
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