Friday, December 27, 2013

The Gift of Saint John Paul II (Word Among Us Press)

It's amazing to think that it's been less than ten years since Pope John Paul II died. Though I was just a recent convert at the time, he had a great impact on my life in the way that he lived his. It wouldn't be until years later that I discovered his writings. I am not bold enough to think that they made sense to me when reading them, but thankfully great men of the Church have helped spell them out. For example, Cardinal Wuerl shares his wisdom in his book The Gift of Saint John Paul II.

The Gift of Saint John Paul II is a 24 chapter tome, which covers key writings of Pope John Paul II. Among these key writings are fourteen encyclicals and ten apostolic exhortations. Unlike other books, which try to summarize and explain these types of writings, Cardinal Wuerl highlights key points and applies them to our everyday lives in the present. Before embarking on this task, Cardinal Wuerl provides an introduction which briefly talks about Pope John Paul II's papacy, explains the history of the papacy, and defines what an encyclical and apostolic exhortation are.

After this excellent introduction, Cardinal Wuerl takes us to the heart of this book with a chronological guide of John Paul II's papal writings. As expected, one of the longer chapters is on Evangelium Vitae or The Gospel of Life. This is one of the most important documents not only of his papacy, but in Church history. Despite what some people think, this encyclical did not teach anything new, but reaffirmed the Church's teachings on the human person. Such points reiterated deal with man being made in God's image, the value of all human life, and abortion as a mortal sin. Cardinal Wuerl also points out that both we as individuals and as the whole Church must speak out for life.

My favorite chapter covered was Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary). I picked this one because what Pope John Paul II did in this apostolic exhortation was monumental. The rosary had not changed in centuries, but in order to breathe new life into this prayer, he introduced a new set of mysteries called the Luminous Mysteries. These mysteries, based on the Scripture, filled in a "gap" that was missing between the Joyful Mysteries and Sorrowful Mysteries. Pope John Paul II also explained that the Rosary was a Christocentric prayer. As a convert the faith who always felt this prayer to be very Marian, this viewpoint was both enlightening and edifying.

With John Paul II's upcoming canonization, I believe The Gift of Saint John Paul II will be one of the must-read Catholic books of 2014. This great man not only had a big heart, full of love for God and His Church, but he also had a brilliant mind. Therefore, I encourage you to take your time and familiarize yourself with his works. Go to the John Paul II section of the Vatican's website. Read an encyclical or apostolic exhortation and keep your copy of this book by your side for commentary from one of our wonderful cardinals, Cardinal Wuerl.

This book was provided to me for free by Word Among Us Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, click the link and hit Yes!