I have seen over the years a title of St. John Paul II’s poetry but never really looked for a copy. Over Spring Break, I came across a copy of his poetry and few other books at a Half-Price Books store in Houston. I cannot say enough about visiting and spending time in a brick and mortar book store. I do 99% of my searches and research about authors and books beginning at Amazon.com, and end up doing about 90% of my book purchases there as well, but it is that 10% that I relish in spending time in a bookstore, particularly stores that focus in used books. I always have my handy list available my God given noodle, but just in case I am stumped, I pull out my more immediate list I keep on Evernote or if I have gone through it and still have time to search further, I pull up my lists on Amazon.com.
Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), in 2003 had a formal presentation at the Vatican of then Pope John Paul II’s poetry in which relating how inspiration of verse came to the poet pope from his preaching the Lenten retreat for Pope Paul VI and the Curia in 1976:
In this connection several sentences came to mind that were written by Karol Wojtyla in 1976 when he preached the retreat for Paul VI and the Curia.
“He related the case of a physicist with whom he had carried on a long discussion, and at the end of it, had said to him: ‘from the point of view of my science and its method I’m an atheist …’ However, in a letter, the same man wrote: ‘Every time I find myself before the majesty of nature, of the mountains, I feel that HE exists'”.
Perusing the poetry collection over Spring Break as well as preparing for Holy Week, the poem “The Place Within” captivated my attention as to the Holy Father’s interior sight and his ability to draw a reader into the poet’s sight as well as be able to reflect on where that reader’s interior sight is pointing without the guide of these poetic words.
The Place Within
St. John Paul II
My place is in You, your place is in me. Yet it is the place of all
men. And I am not diminished by them in this place. I am more
alone—more than if there were no one else—I am alone with
myself. At the same time I am multiplied by them in the Cross
which stood on this place. This multiplying with now diminishment
remains a mystery: the Cross goes against the current. In it
numbers retreat before Man.
In you—how did the Cross come to be?
Now let us walk down the narrow steps as if down a tunnel
through a wall. Those who once walked down the slope stopped
at the place where now there is a slab. They anointed your body
and then laid it in a tomb. Through your body you had a place
on earth, the outward place of the body you exchanged for a
place within, saying: “Take, all of you, and eat of this.”
The tradition of that place within relates to all the outward
places on Earth to which I came on pilgrimage. You chose this
place centuries ago—the place in which You gave yourself and accept me.