Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Saint John Paul II (Pauline Books and Media)

Saint John Paul II! It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? With his canonization on April 27, 2014, books about Pope John Paul II have begun to be written again. The same holds true for Pope John XXIII, just not as many. Today, I will be reviewing two books from Pauline Books and Media by and about Pope John Paul II, one for adults and one for kids. So let's get started!

Be Not Afraid is another volume in the Classic Wisdom Collection. The foreword contains a very brief biography and introduction to Pope John Paul II before he was pope, as well as some of his essential writings while pope. The chapters of the book, like other books from the Classic Wisdom Collection, contains excerpts from the writings and talks of the specific figure, in this case Pope John Paul II. Some of the topics contained in this book have to do with Divine Mercy, message for Young People, the Eucharist, and the Gospel of Life. There is something for everyone in this book though, as there are twenty-four chapters.

I particularly enjoyed reading the section on the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. In his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which was given in 2002, Pope John Paul II gave the Catholic world five extra mysteries of the Rosary. He said, "Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus." He then elaborated on the significance of each of the five new mysteries. Re-reading these words brought me back to the very beginning of my Catholic life. I was just embarking on the RCIA program at the parish right up the street from where I lived. In a way, reading these words again felt like finding an old letter or email from a friend you haven't heard from in years. You read the words, and they now speak to you with a deeper and more beautiful meaning.

If you are looking for an easy and approachable method to reading Pope John Paul II, I highly recommend Be Not Afraid. Since Pope John Paul II was a philosopher, sometimes his words weren't easy to understand, but that is not true of this book. Hopefully, it will encourage you to pick up his other writings and read or re-read them. Another book in this Classic Wisdom Collection series I'm looking forward to reading is Secret to Happiness, which contains wisdom from Pope John XXIII. I haven't had the chance to read his words before, so that seems very exciting to me.

The Story Saint John Paul II: A Boy Who Became Pope is one of the several children's books that details the childhood or a certain aspect/incident in the childhood of Karol Wojtyla. Other such titles include Lolek: The Boy who Became Pope John Paul II and Karol: The Boy who Became Pope. With the VERY similar titles, it is going to be easy to get them mixed up. The one I am reviewing is written and illustrated by Fabiola Garza. I always appreciate the dual-role children's book authors taken on when they choose to illustrate their work as well. After all, who knows the picture in their head better than them?

The book starts off innocently enough. It tells of Karol's birth and how everyone called him Lolek. It shows he and his friend Jerzy playing sports and doing what young boys do. However, like Karol's life, it quickly turns into sadness when his mother dies. Before she dies, she challenges him to one day be able to answer who he loves the most. Several years pass, and his brother died as well, but before he did he had the same question for Karol. "Who do you love the most?" Karol continued to grow and went to school, until they were shut down due to World War II. His father would die in 1941.

This book isn't all about death and tragedy, though. We see moments of happiness and "normalcy" in Karol's life as well. The second half of the book focuses on Karol's journey through the priesthood to eventually becoming Pope John Paul II. This journey happened because Karol was finally able to answer who he loved the most - Jesus! I really enjoyed this book as it didn't try to paint a rosy picture of John Paul II's life. There were absolute tragedies and moments of extreme joy, and that's how life really is. The illustrations were also top-notch and looked very professional. In fact, they looked like Pixar or Disney animation, so if your kids are used to that animation style, they will love illustrations in this book. Even though my children weren't alive for John Paul II, they will know about him and his legacy, and this book will help ensure that. I highly recommend it.

These books were provided to me for free by Pauline Books and Media in exchange for an honest review. If you found the reviews helpful, click here and/or here and hit Yes!