Recently I had an unusual amount of uninterrupted time on my hands in which I decided to attack my extremely long “books-to-read” list.  I don’t know about you, but I love buying books. I love thinking that because I bought the book, I will read it.  However, I have come to the realization that I am more of a collector of books who casually reads instead of an avid reader who buys the next book once the last page is turned.

Nonetheless, “Saint John Paul the Great – His Five Loves” by Jason Evert was high on my list and it did not disappoint.  Jason Evert, outside of maybe George Weigel and the few who helped with the canonization of JP2, has forgotten more about the life of JP2 than most of us will ever know.  He spent countless hours mining through a mountain of papal resources uncovering the gems of JP2’s mind numbing writings and now presents the Church a chest overflowing with treasures of the saint’s life. Jason has spoken about the Catholic faith to more than 1 million people on 6 continents. He has used St. John Paul 2’s Theology of the Body as the foundation of his and his wife’s apostolate chastityproject.com.

“Saint John Paul the Great – His Five Loves” is broken up into two parts. The first half is a short but packed biography of John Paul’s life.  The author understood before the audience could fully grasp and appreciate John Paul’s 5 loves, they had to be given the back story which starts with JP2’s upbringing and family life. After all, one could not understand his love for life without knowing how deeply he had been affected by the culture of death. This laid the ground work to why and how his 5 loves paved the way he lived his holy life.

1st half:

As with most people, Karol Wojtyla faced adversity and tragedy throughout his life . As with most saints, Karol Wojtyla used the adversities and tragedies throughout his life to build a relationship God that we all desire.  By the age of 20 he had lost his mother, father, sister, and brother finding consolation only in prayer. Likewise he faced Nazi invasions, massacres, hard labor, poverty, and rejection before becoming the well-known and loved Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. Through all these adversities and tragedies, the author points out the concern JP2 had for those around him and the sacrificing others did on his behalf giving him strength to persevere. There’s no doubt, after reading the first half of the book, 5 things about Mr. Karol Wojtyla (Later to become Pope Saint John Paul II). 1. His complete trust in the Lord with all his being. 2. His love for prayer. 3. His self-denying love for others. 4. His tireless work ethic. 5. Whether in work or relaxation, not a minute was wasted.

2nd half:

The second part reveals the heart of St. John Paul II.  It examines what the author believes to be the five greatest loves of the Holy Father: young people, human love, the Blessed Sacrament, the Virgin Mary, and the Cross. Each love is dissected and illustrated with miraculous stories including: one of the largest gatherings in human history – 1995 World Youth Day; the introduction to the 130 Wednesday audience addresses from 1979-1984, later to be known as The Theology of the Body; his Eucharistic Amazement. Quoting from the book, “Witnesses report that he spent hours at a time – and sometimes the entire night – prostrate on the marble floor before the tabernacle, with his arms outstretched in the shape of the cross. One witness remarked that this union with our Lord in the Eucharist allowed him ‘not merely to speak to Christ, but actually to converse with him.'”; After an unsuccessful assassination attempt, JP2 desired to express his thanks to the Virgin Mary for protecting his life. He took one of the bullets that struck him and gave it to the bishop of Fatima, who placed it among the gems in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima; His suffering during his last public appearance and realizing it would be his last said, “Maybe it would be better that I die if I cannot fulfill my mission. May Your will be done. Totus tuus.”

With stories about JP2 never been told before, this captivating easy-to-read book is a perfect blend of fun and knowledge.  It was a perfect book for me – as I fall into the category of knowing some about JP2 and studying his Theology of the Body but not a scholar or expert on his holy life.

A great Christmas present to a friend, family member, RCIA member, your spiritual director, or your parish priest! Order your copy today here!

 

“Everyone knows John Paul II: his face, his characteristic way of moving and speaking; his immersion in prayer and his spontaneous cheerfulness. Many of his words have become indelibly engraved in our memories, starting with the passionate cry with which he introduced himself to the people at the beginning of his pontificate: ‘Open wide the doors to Christ, and be not afraid of him!’ Or this saying: ‘No one can live a trial life; no one can love experimentally.’ An entire pontificate is condensed in words like these. It is as though he would like to open the doors for Christ everywhere and wishes to open up to people the gate that leads to true life, to true love.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

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