In the seminary, we would get each other laughing sometimes by saying the phrase “human person” in a booming Polish accent. Oomun pear-sewn.
The second half of the 20th century saw the heroic career of a certain Polish prelate: first in the drafting of Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, then in the innumerable encyclicals, letters, homilies, speeches, and books of Pope John Paul II.
This Polish saint must have used the phrase “oomun pear-sewn” half a million times. Reading it all, in vast reams, night after night, semester after semester—we needed some light moments sometimes.
The human person. The only material being capable of contemplation.
There is a time to be born and a time to die…There is a time to weep and a time to laugh…A time to keep, a time to cast away, a time to rend, a time to sew, a time to be silent, a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3)
These are the words of a unique creature, a creature with a transcendent dignity. These words are the fruits of the uniquely human personal action: contemplation.
We made fun. But, upon reflection, I am left thinking that: Perhaps the pre-eminent gift of the Second Vatican Council is the re-affirmation of the perennial Christian teaching that human action only makes sense when it serves human contemplation. The ultimate reason for our existence: to take delight in God and in His works, and to praise Him.
The disposition of practical affairs is subordinate to the personal realm, and not contrariwise, as the Lord indicated when He said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Gaudium et Spes 26)
So taught Vatican II. So taught the Polish Pope. “The personal realm,” the unfathomable depth of the oomun pear-sewn, the reason why everything exists.