On May 18, the day of the 103rd anniversary of John Paul II’s birth and the 3rd anniversary of the establishment of the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture, a performance of Karol Wojtyla’s Brother of Our God, directed by Jaroslaw Kilian and performed by students of the “JP2 Studies” program, took place at the Church of St. Dominic and St. Sixtus at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. This is the second interpretation of the works of Karol Wojtyla by Angelicum students from different parts of the world, who read the Pole’s work under the supervision of Prof. Kilian – a year ago, the play Job premiered in the same formula.
The drama “Our God’s Brother” was written by the young curate Karol Wojtyla in the second half of the 1940s, shortly after his return from studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. The work focuses on the figure of the Polish painter and monk, St. Brother Albert, or Adam Chmielowski, who abandoned his artistic career to devote himself to serving the poor. In his book The Gift and the Mystery, Wojtyla already as Pope wrote: “For me, his figure was of decisive importance, because during the period of my own departure from art, from literature and from the theater, I found in him in particular a spiritual support and a model for the radical choice of the path of vocation.”
The play’s leitmotif – the choice of vocation and the quest for harmony with oneself – is the story of both Brother Albert and Karol Wojtyla, who eventually gave up his writing and theatrical aspirations to focus on pastoral ministry. It is also the story of the struggle between different visions of the world and of man – especially the image of human bonds and the concept of justice. Both eras in which the two Poles lived were marked by the tension between the individualistic vision of man’s responsibility for his fate and the revolutionary idea of class struggle. Brother Albert, followed by his curate Karol Wojtyla, saw yet another path: that of communal, fraternal solidarity.
The solemn event, hosted in the baroque interior of the Church of Saints Dominic and Sixtus, began with a short speech by Fr. Cezary Binkiewicz OP – director of the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture – and Jaroslaw Kilian, director of the play. – In his play, Karol Wojtyla addresses yet again the current problem of revolution, Marxism and the righteous anger of the wronged masses. He discovers that Brother Albert’s path flowing from inner freedom was a better solution than the frenzy of the revolution, which led to massive destruction,” Prof. Kilian said to the large audience.
The last to speak before the start of the play was Zofia Kulisewicz, cellist of the Czestochowa Philharmonic and the Polish Royal Opera, who spoke to the audience about the compositions they will be able to hear as musical illustrations of the play. Among them were works by Krzysztof Penderecki (Ciaccona – In Memoriam Giovanni Paolo II), Karol Szymanowski (La Fontaine d’Arethuse), Frederic Chopin (Trio in G minor, Op. 8) and Witold Lutoslawski (Bucolics). Interestingly, Alexander Tansman’s piece entitled Lullaby had its world premiere during the performance. After the announcement of the musical repertoire, the ceremonial premiere of Karol Wojtyla’s Brother of Our God, performed by Angelicum students, began.
This performance is part of a broader project whose organizers – the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture, Political Theology and the St. Nicholas Foundation – want to build a bridge between the world of art and religious faith anew. This is how the initiator and program director of the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture, Dariusz Karlowicz, comments on the idea: John Paul II had no doubt that the Church needs art. He was an artist himself and understood artists perfectly. His dramas are a perfect example of how living faith, theology and philosophy can meet in art. It is high time that the spirit of the “Letter to Artists” returned to the Church again.
The realization of the performance was co-financed by funds from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage from the Fund for the Promotion of Culture
See a video from the 2022 performance of Karol Wojtyła’s “Job”: