Wadowice: The Birthplace of a Beloved Pope
A few years back, I had the opportunity to visit St. Pope John Paul II’s family home in Wadowice, Poland. As a part of a youth delegate for the 2016 World Youth Day, we were assigned to a very kind and generous foster family living in Wadowice. One of the first places the family urged us to visit was the family home museum of Pope John Paul II in the town’s plaza. It was only a few minutes walk away from our foster house.
In the quaint and peaceful center of Wadowice lies the home of the late Pope which was then turned into a museum. It was jam-packed and crowded when I went as there were other pilgrims who were also very interested to visit the home of the popular Pope. The museum was designed in such a way that the visitor will get to experience the life of the Pope from his humble beginnings as a child up to his death.
The gallery by the entrance is filled with mementos from his birth and childhood. As I go deeper into the house, I see how his story unfolds from his education, his journey on becoming a religious, and ultimately his works and the places he has visited as the head of the Catholic Church. The last stop at the museum houses all the letters Pope John Paul II received in his lifetime pasted on the walls creating a spacious white-walled room giving that serenity and peacefulness from a sense of nothingness.
Time Flees, Eternity Dwells
One of the things in the house that made such an impact on me was the words written by the young Karol Wojtyla. “Time flees, Eternity dwells”. This was written on a table by the window of the house overlooking a sundial clock. This was on the Minor Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary which was beside the Wojtyla family home. Accordingly, Karol would study on the table and often space out looking at the clock. I initially thought that the quote was beautiful and I decided to memorize it for sharing later on. What I didn’t realize was that the very same quote will have such an impact on me. By the end of the tour, I would be left in tears as I walk through the exit.
I was walking through the galleries and reading various write-ups on the wall when I got separated from my group. I could no longer see them and I found myself walking through the different rooms and chambers alone. It was at this point when I saw a picture of the sundial I earlier saw in the museum. Underneath, it reads, “Time flees, Eternity dwells”. Not far behind was a corridor with red walls leading to a room. Ominously, the sound of a heart slowly beating surrounded the halls. In the middle of the room was a book placed on an altar. Accordingly, it was the book which was placed on the coffin of the late Pope when he was buried. It dawned on me that the tour, representing the life of the late Pope, was about to end. As I was alone, my emotions became uncontrolled and I found tears running down my face. I was shivering. Maybe because I felt the holiness of the man or maybe because I was just so touched and inspired by his life that I couldn’t help but let out some tears. In any case, I found myself exiting the house while wiping my tear-stained face.
I reunited with my friends outside the museum. We decided to stroll around the plaza and eventually ended up staying in a friendly home café. I have heard somewhere that the specialty around the place was the so-called Papal Cream Cake (Kremówka Papieska) and so we decided to order that with our coffee. It is a light cake with sweet and rich cream. According to the locals, the name came to be because it was the favorite snack of the Pope. As a child, Karol would always eat the cake after school which leads to the name Pope’s Cake. I enjoyed the cake, although I wouldn’t say that it is also one of my favorites. I found the cake too bland for my taste.
Overall, visiting the family home of St. John Paul II and strolling through the charming and quiet town of Wadowice left me awed and inspired. I love the sense of peace and serenity in the neighborhood. If given the chance, I would definitely come back. Again. And back again.