Thursday, July 10, 2014
Reviewed by JEAN M. HEIMANN, M. A. Theology, author of Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, freelance writer, retired psychologist, and oblate with the Community of St. John.
Those of us who cherished Pope John Paul II knew that he was a great man, whom we not only admired, but loved. We knew that he was a saint and would one day be declared so officially by the Catholic Church. His successor wisely waived the five year waiting period for opening the cause for canonization, and just nine years after his death, on the feast of Divine Mercy in April 27, 2014, he was canonized.
In Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, author Jason Evert tells us just who this great man was and why we loved him so much, by presenting both his biography (which covers nearly the first half of the book) and the five great loves of his life and his pontificate (which are contained in the second half of the book). Evert writes in a clear, comprehensible manner and I found this book easy to read. However, I did not read this book quickly, as I wanted to savor the stories about this dear man and great saint. This book was engaging and very hard to put down.
While the first part of this book was very interesting and brought back fond memories, I already knew much of Pope John Paul II’s life story; however, the chapters that detailed his loves (young people, human love, the Blessed Sacrament, the Virgin Mary, and the Cross) presented new information that strongly reaffirmed my belief that he was truly an exceptional man and brilliant leader of the Church. I was captivated by the many anecdotes and personal remembrances revealed by cardinals, bishops, and others whom Evert interviewed for the book.
Here are some highlights of the book that will be new to many of us:
• We know that the Holy Father loved youth and was forever a youth himself (He has been referred to as “the eternal teenager.”), but do we know precisely why young people were so attracted to him?
• We are aware of Pope John Paul II’s beautiful theology of the body that was first revealed in his bestselling book Love and Responsibility (1960), but do we know just how he thought and felt about women?
• We know that he was a man of incessant prayer, but do we know what those closest to him witnessed and felt as they watched him in prayer? Do we know who he prayed for daily and what the results were?
• We know that he had a deep love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, but do we know why was he drawn so close to her, what promises he made to her, and what the consequences were?
• We know that John Paul II was a holy man who suffered greatly and offered up his sufferings for the good of the Church but what were the consequences for the Church and for others who were suffering?
• There are amazing stories of healings and miracles that took place while Pope John Paul II was still alive that were not disclosed to the public that are revealed in this book.
Unveiling untold stories, using spirited scripture passages, inspiring quotes, enlightening excerpts from John Paul II’s writings and powerful personal anecdotes, Evert effectively conveys the story of St. John Paul the Great’s life. Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves is a captivating book you will want to read and re-re-read and one that you will treasure for years to come. It is appropriate for teens as well as adults. I highly recommend it.
~ © Jean M. Heimann July 2014