100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World
By Patrick Novecosky
Our Sunday Visitor, 2020
144 pages, $9.99 (Kindle; paperback will come out Oct. 22)
100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World by Patrick Novecosky is a timely tome, not least because it celebrates the holy legacy of the beloved pontiff.
From papal travels to defense of life, all his accomplishments are included, in descending order — in two-page excerpts — totaling 100, aptly, from “Religious Freedom” (No. 100) to “The New Evangelization” (No. 1).
Making one’s way through the text, one is reminded of all he accomplished with the aid of divine Providence.
For example, “1979 Visit to Poland” is No. 30, outlining the nine-day trip to his beloved homeland. “‘Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe,’ the pope said to thunderous applause in his homily on that first day,” recounts the excerpt, later including more of his prophetic words: “And I cry — I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II — I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost: Let your Spirit descend. Let your Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land!”
The author adds, “Throughout the pope’s homily, the crowd rhythmically chanted, ‘We want God! We want God!’”
A beautiful witness, indeed!
As the author recounts, “To Poles held captive for two generations, John Paul preached freedom of political self-determination, but he primarily preached the liberty to embrace Jesus Christ. The government’s best efforts to control the message, minimize the papal visit, and break the Polish people’s passion for their faith failed miserably.”
God used John Paul II to help defeat communism’s grip on Poland and elsewhere.
“Devotion to Mary” comes in at No. 10. Clearly John Paul loved Mary. He credited her intercession for saving his life. And after his mother died, Mary was his mother. His Marian reflections are profound and touching, as this book shares.
“The Blessed Mother ‘has been given to us as a model in our pilgrimage of faith,’ he said during his first visit to the United States. ‘From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary, we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary, we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God. For Mary is not only the Mother of God, she is Mother of the Church as well.’ The pope also believed that Mary played a role in saving his life during the 1981 assassination attempt (#84): ‘One hand pulled the trigger, and another guided the bullet.’ That bullet is now welded into the crown of the statue of Mary in Fatima.”
This book provides a pithy walk down memory lane of this great saint’s life and the Master of his life.
I think the introduction by historian and professor Paul Kengor, a frequent Register contributor, states the crux of his life well:
“More than anything, John Paul lived for his relationship with Jesus Christ. His prayer life fueled everything he said and did. If there’s one takeaway from this book, it’s his call to prayer. Prayer is rocket fuel for sanctity, which he lived beautifully. As he told a gathering of young people in New Orleans in 1987, ‘If you really wish to follow Christ, if you want your love for him to grow and last, then you must be faithful to prayer. It is the key to the vitality of your life in Christ. Without prayer, your faith and love will die. If you are constant in daily prayer and in the Sunday celebration of Mass, your love for Jesus will increase. And your heart will know deep joy and peace, such as the world could never give.’”
St. John Paul II himself lived the truth of these words — 15 years after his entry into heaven and a century after his birth, it is a beautiful tribute to his holiness.
Amy Smith is the Register’s associate editor.