Today, in 1920, Karol Józef Wojtyla was born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska in the Polish town of Wadowice. If Blessed John Paul II was still with us today, he would 92 years old. As many of my readers know, I have a real love for our former Pope and try to write on him often for the New Evangelization was indispensable in the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II. Through this blog, it’s my mission to assist the Church in reaching those individuals that were never evangelized or were evangelized incorrectly. There are a lot of lapse Catholics out there that just don’t understand the faith properly. Let’s win them back with the teachings of Blessed John Paul II who had a great devotion to Jesus and His Mother, Mary.
The words and wisdom of Blessed John Paul II have only begun to penetrate the hearts and minds of the Catholic Church. It is my personal opinion that the teachings of Blessed John Paul II will continue to have a major impact on the Church in the decades and centuries ahead. When I have given talks in the past so many people say they have a difficult time understanding him. I think many people struggle with the Magisterial documents, the documents he wrote as the head of the Magisterium (the official teaching office of the Church), because he writes as a philosopher, where Pope Benedict XVI writes as a theologian. It’s my mission to help you understand this great Pope and his teachings.
Below are small excerpts from two of his Magisterial teachings with a short commentary. These two documents are in the top five of my favorites from Blessed John Paul II.
1. Encyclical Letter – Fides Et Ratio (On the Relationship between Faith and Reason)
“On her part, the Church cannot but set great value upon reason’s drive to attain goals which render people’s lives ever more worthy. She sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths about human life. At the same time, the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith and for communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it.” Paragraph #5
The Holy Father is saying that with the help of philosophy, the theological teachings of faith come alive and bring us to a fuller understanding. In the ancient world, faith and reason ran parallel to one other. During the medieval world, faith and reason were synthesized (this is known as the Medieval Synthesis). Although the Medieval Synthesis occurred before Sts. Albert and Thomas Aquinas, these two theological giants took the reason of Aristotle and essentially baptized him and his teachings. Through reason, we now come to understand our faith better. Philosophy helps us to understand the Natural Law (the law written on our hearts), but with the assistance of philosophy our understanding of the faith comes alive to know Jesus Christ and the Gospel. As Catholics, we don’t check our reason at the door. We use our intellect to help us know Jesus Christ and the Gospel message.
2. Apostolic Exhortation – Catechesi Tradendae (Catechesis In Our Time)
“All in all, it can be taken here that catechesis is an education of children, young people, and adults in the faith, which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.” Paragraph #18
The Holy Father is saying that the teaching of the faith (catechesis – “to sound down”) is fundamental to all believers – from children to adults. Just because you have received the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation) does not mean that you are no longer responsible to know and grow in your faith. This has been a problem in the Church in recent time. Many people think it’s over after Confirmation, BUT it’s only the beginning.
When he says that Christian doctrine should be “organic and systematic”, he means that catechesis needs to have a logical progression to it and that the teachings develop from one another. All the teachings of the faith consist of the same truth. You can’t follow one teaching and ignore another. They all come from the same source of Truth, Jesus Christ.
Catechesis requires us to use our reason (see Fides et Ratio) to understand the faith. The doctrines of Christianity grew organically over the centuries as an acorn grows into an oak tree. The Church is not a static organization nor it is a “club”, but it’s a living organism that continues to grow. (See the book – The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam).