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BOOK REVIEW: “100 WAYS JOHN PAUL II CHANGED THE WORLD The Top 10 Ways St. John Paul Changed Your World Forever

By October 18, 2020November 12th, 2022No Comments6 min read

St. John Paul the Great in the mountains. Photo by Levan Ramishvili via Wikimedia Commons.

Joseph Serwach

Patrick Novecosky compiled a beautiful new book called “100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World.’’ The top 10 ways are still changing the world today.
More than 100 years after the birth of St. John Paul the Great, 43 years after the first Polish pope was named, and more than 15 years after his death, his top 10 changes are still apparent, still offering:

10 gifts from St. John Paul to change your whole life forever:

10. Devotion to Mary.

Poland is a uniquely Marian nation, and the first Polish pope brought that devotion to the Universal Church. He lost his mother, a sister, and an older brother (a doctor who died fighting a pandemic).
By age 20, he would lose his father, completely orphaned at the dawn of World War II. But his devout father told him to “make Mary your mother now.’’ He did. When John Paul was shot in 1981, he began praying “Totus tuus,’’ over and over. The words mean “Totally yours.’’

9. Unpacking Vatican II

John Paul became one of the world’s youngest bishops at age 38, just in time to be an important young leader as the Church determined how it would relate to the modern world. He stood out in another way.
While most of the Church struggled to get Vatican II right, his diocese was one of the world’s only ones to embrace the core teachings and thrive and grow. Nearly every other diocese immediately triggered declines as people misunderstood this important council’s meaning that still reshapes the Church and the world. His papacy helped right the ship.

8. The Culture of Life

John Paul, a young man in Poland when invading German Nazis and Russian Communists began World War II, saw before most of us what was happening: the world was learning how to dehumanize whole groups of people.
From the Holocaust to death camps to dehumanizing babies in the womb to dehumanizing your political enemies, John Paul saw how the world was creating a Culture of Death, culminating the devil’s plan to divide. He called for a new “Culture of Life’’ recognizing that every person was a unique and repeatable part of God’s Plan.

7. World Youth Day

John Paul began World Youth Day, the biennial tradition, where literally millions of young people from around the world descend on one diocese to see and hear the pope. The experiences are life-changing for all involved.
The one World Youth in America came in 1993 when John Paul came to Denver. Novecosky writes:
“Denver became a beehive of Catholic activity in World Youth Day’s wake. New apostolates like the Augustine Institute and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) sprang up in the city, rising to the pope’s challenge by embracing the New Evangelization.’’

6. Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

The Pope of the Rosary prayed several Rosaries each day. He added the Luminous Mysteries to contemplate the one part of his life not addressed in the earlier ministries: the ministry of Jesus here on earth.
John Paul also focused on restoring the tradition of families praying the Rosary together, calling the Rosary “a prayer of and for the family. At one time, this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance.’’

5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church

If the Bible provides the Church’s story and laws, the Catholic Church’s Catechism is like the regulations, the more detailed guidelines for living life the Catholic Way.
The Roman Catechism, published in 1566, “held sway’’ for 400 years, inspiring nation-specific versions, like the Baltimore Catechism, which influenced American Catholics from 1895 until the late 1960s.
Vatican II changes left parishes operating without any universally agreed-upon rules from the late 1960s until 1992 when John Paul approved and promulgated the new universal 2,865-part Cathechism for the entire Church.
“It tells the ‘what,’ and the ‘why’ of Church teaching, and it sets the Catholic Church apart from other world religions,’’ Novecosky writes. “After all, what other major faith has published such a comprehensive volume of its beliefs and reasons behind them?’’

4. The Fall of Communism

A miracle? The four-decade-long Cold War seemed to go to the edge multiple times then ended without firing a shot, just a few years after St. John Paul consecrated Russia and the whole world.
St. John Paul and Ronald Reagan spent their adult lives standing up to, challenging, defeating, and transcending atheistic communism. Both recognized the battle was more spiritual than political, that communism’s denial and defiance of God was the system’s Achille’s Heal.
The first domino to fall against communism was during John Paul’s June 1979 return to Poland dubbed “Nine Days That Changed the World.’’ Those days, when millions came to see and chanted, “We want God’’ inspired Reagan, who revealed that day that his plan was “We win, they lose.’’
While communism remains in China and North Korea, John Paul showed how to topple regimes worldwide.

3. Theology of the Body

John Paul’s first book in 1958 was called “Love and Responsibility,’’ and it laid the groundwork for work he intended to write as a book, which ultimately became a series of weekly lessons called “Theology of the Body.’’
John Paul’s biographer called it “a theological time bomb’’ set to go off in this century or beyond, an entire philosophy, a new approach to love and sex, and being a man or woman, mother or father.
“Above all, John Paul viewed marital love through the lens of Christ’s love for His bride, the Church,’’ Novecosky writes.

2. Divine Mercy

John Paul gave us St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the first saint of the 21st century, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Divine Mercy Sunday. There are two ways to Heaven: Justice, doing everything right, or The Divine Mercy.
“Divine Mercy is God’s love poured out for mankind during the time before Jesus’ return or before our particular judgment at the foot of His throne immediately after our death, whichever comes first,’’ Novecosky writes. “It’s Jesus reaching out to each of us personally, calling us to repent now because He wants us to spend eternity with Him.’’
John Paul called Divine Mercy “a gift for our time’’ and the “bridge to the third millennium… I pass it on to all people so that they will learn to know even better the true face of God.’’

1. The New Evangelization

The Church exists to evangelize, John Paul was certain, and he evangelized every day of his life, bringing people closer to God. His final words included the Biblical passage summing up the mission Jesus gave His Church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,’’ Matthew 28:19.

In 1983, John Paul called for a “New Evangelization, new in its ardor, methods, and expression.’’

In 1988, he added, “the present-day phenomenon of secularism is truly serious, not simply as regards the individual, but in some ways, as regards whole communities…Growing numbers of people are abandoning religion in practice… I myself have recalled the phenomenon of de-Christianization that strikes longstanding Christian people, and which continually calls for re-evangelization.’’
The Church “has been distracted, often fixated on temporal matters rather than on the work entrusted to her by her founder, Jesus Christ,’’ Novecosky writes. John Paul refocused the Church on its core mission, saying evangelization was needed for:

Those who don’t know or haven’t heard the Gospel.
Existing vibrant Christian communities.
Those who “have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and His Gospel. In this case, what is needed is a ‘New Evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization.’’

“No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.’’

Joseph Serwach
Story + Identity = Mission. Author, Writer: Journalism, News. Communications, Leadership, Culture, Religion, Education, History. Inspiration: Catholic, Polish.