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Sr. Marie Paul Curley's Canonization Countdown:
Day 2: My second “up close” encounter with Pope John Paul II is stretched over many years because, in many ways, it was his writings and homilies that deeply shaped my spiritual life and my approach to evangelization. Reading his words was how I spent the most time “with” our new saint, even though I watched him on TV fairly often and also saw him in person for the first time in New York in 1995. I tried to pick the top ten writings of our new saint…and it was amazingly difficult, as I had to leave out many favorites. These are not necessarily the greatest writings of John Paul; rather, they are his writings that had the greatest influence on my life.
10. Familiaris Consortio (1981). The Apostolic Exhortation, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World is the first document written by a Pope that I studied in depth. Although I am overdue to re-read this brilliant document, what I appreciated greatly at the time was:
- the breadth of its vision of the family as God’s plan for humanity
- the clarity of its depiction of the place of the family in society
- its urgent call to action to society to nurture and protect families
- its unmitigated defense of and encouragement for families
- its introduction to the principles of the theology of the body (although I wouldn’t clearly understand that until years later)
9. Theology of the Body These general audience talks that developed into The Theology of the Body were not yet known by that name. I read these general audience talks in part as they came out, and then all together when I helped to proofread the first collection of these audiences into three volumes. At the time, I was just beginning my theology studies and I knew that some of what he was saying was beyond me, but I was deeply moved by John Paul’s expression of “original unity,” the complementarity between men and women, the beauty of the vocation of marriage, and the meaning of the vocation of consecrated celibacy. And so much more….
8. Redemptionis Donum (1984) and Vita Consecrata (1996). Both of John Paul’s beautiful documents on religious life shaped my understanding of the gift of my vocation to religious life in the Church today. Redemptionis Donum developed the Pope’s spiritual commentary and application of Mark 10--the story of the rich young man whom Jesus invited to follow him more closely--which was one of my favorite passages of the Gospel ever since John Paul's homily about it on the Boston Common
7. Redemptoris Mater (1987) John Paul’s Marian theology and devotion urged me to give Mary a more prominent role in my prayer. The Mother of the Redeemer, along with another favorite of mine, his later apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary) honor Mary by portraying her as real and accessible to people today, yet without making light of her holiness and the reality that our Blessed Mother is the greatest human being who ever lived and a model for all humanity.
6. & 4. Redemptoris Missio (1990) and Ecclesia in America (1999) The profound and compelling encyclical The Mission of Christ the Redeemer restates the urgency of the Church’s mission and in many ways, contains the seeds of what John Paul would come to call “The New Evangelization.” As a Pauline communicator of Christ, I found both this encyclical and The Church in America giving me key priorities and direction to the Church's mission of reaching out to the world with the Gospel.
5. Tertio Millennio Adveniente (1994) is an amazingly short document that guided the entire Church spiritually to prepare for the new millennium.
3. Letter to Artists (1999) This simple letter, one of a number of letters written as part of the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000, is probably the writing of John Paul that I have spent the most time with, because it speaks to what is near and dear to my heart: that communicating the mystery of Christ means leading with beauty and truth. As John Paul knew personally so well, artists have a special relationship with beauty and a special responsibility to share their vision of beauty with others. In sharing the beauty that God has created, they open doorways for everyone—including unbelievers—to encounter God in unexpected ways.
2. Novo Millennio Ineunte (January 6, 2001) I was privileged to be at the Mass on January 6th when Pope John Paul II officially signed this apostolic letter. At the Beginning of the New Millennium set a direction for the Church and for me personally, specifically calling us to “set out into the deep” with Christ: in prayer, in the new evangelization, in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, and in every aspect of our lives of faith.
1. Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003) The encyclical On the Eucharist and Its Relationship to the Church was released just a couple of months before my first book on the Eucharist was published. I immediately dove into this encyclical to broaden and deepen my understanding and devotion to the Eucharist, and to assist me in the workshops that I started offering on Eucharistic spirituality. This continues to be an important source for my prayer.
What writings or quotes of John Paul II have shaped your life?