St. John Paul II was one of the longest serving pontiffs in history.  His courage, wisdom and sacrifice brought the Church into the Third Millennium.  Over his many years of leadership, he wrote 14 encyclicals.  These circular letters covered various aspects of faith and gave us insight on how to live in these modern times.  This series is a chance to seek St. John Paul II’s intercession while also allowing him to teach us through the encyclicals.  Join us in prayer, reflection and study as he continues to guide us to Christ.


St. John Paul II wrote his first encyclical just five months after being elected.  In March of 1979, this first encyclical, “The Redeemer of Man” outlines the framework of his ministry as pope.  He already has the year 2000 in his sights and teaches us that the challenges of the modern world can be overcome when we look deeply within our humanity and the mystery of Christ our Redeemer.  Rooted in tradition, moving forward in mission, St. John Paul II calls us through the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and through the example of Mary forward bringing hope and joy to the world.


This second encyclical called RICH IN MERCY was written in Polish by St. John Paul II and was released on November 30,1980.  The encyclical is focused on God who is rich in mercy.  Not only are we called to receive mercy from the Father in heaven, through Christ, but we are to give mercy.  The heart of mercy is the restoration of human dignity to both the one who receives mercy and the one who gives it.  This is illustrated by the story of the Prodigal Son which shows this experience affect the father and the son in the story.  The Lord is indeed rich in mercy and through this conversion experience we too become disciples and messengers of forgiveness, peace and freedom!


This third encyclical entitled “Through Work” is in honour of the 90th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s 1981 encyclical Rerum Novarum.  It was issued in September 1981 but was due to be released on the anniversary of Rerum Novarum on May 15, 1981.  Unfortunately that had to be postponed due to the assassination attempt of St. John Paul II on May 13th.  St. John Paul II declares that work is more important than just an activity or a commodity but an essential part of human nature.  He writes that labour takes precedence over capital and people are more important than things.  There is no question that this is still an issue in our world today!!  St. John Paul II also states that Christian spirituality involves work and rest sharing in the activity of God.


This fourth session of the prayer series focuses on the encyclical SALVORUM APOSTOLI–about the brother saints–Cyril & Methodius, who evangelized the Slavic nations. Their ingenuity, perseverance and dedication are an example for us today to spread the Good News!  This encyclical was released in 1985 as St. John Paul II was honoring the eleventh centenary of the evangelizing ministry of these two holy brothers.  The Holy Father looks back at the ministry of St. Cyril and St. Methodius as a model for the new evangelization.  Their dedication and commitment allowed them to translate the Good News into the Slavic language and culture.  They listened and served with dedication and love.  They teach us not to dictate the faith as some rigid uniformity, but a faith that adapts and enriches cultures and societies!


This fifth encyclical of St. John Paul II is all about the Holy Spirit.  His eyes are fixed on the third Christian millennium and the only way the Church goes forward is through the power of the Holy Spirit.  St. John Paul II reminds us that the Spirit flows from the love of the Father and the Son, and is the first gift of the resurrection.  Through the Spirit we are united in the “new life” offered to us through Jesus, the Word made flesh.  The Holy Spirit is vital and central to our work as missionary disciples called to share the Good News.  How do we embrace the Spirit?  By seeking to turn away from sin and live a life of righteousness.  Watch and find out how this happens!!


In this sixth encyclical, St. John Paul II reflects on the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the model of the Church.  This entire document very beautifully shows how central Mary is in the role of salvation and thus has a special status and place for the pilgrim Church journeying to heaven.  The Holy Father reflects on Mary’s “YES” at the Annunciation, the joy of the Visitation, the challenge of the Presentation of the Lord and the amazing Wedding Feast of Cana.  Mary was the first and the longest of any to be with and walk with Christ.  Mary is the model and fulfillment of the Church.  We seek her guidance, wisdom and mediation to draw close to our Saviour.


In this seventh encyclical, St. John Paul II calls the Church and the world to the social concerns and challenges we all have a share in solving.  The Church has a responsibility to reach out and defend the poor and those who are on the fringes.  Our societies and economic systems need to respect the dignity of each human being.  There are so many concerns in the world that cause division and separation.  Those who have much need to share with those that don’t have anything.  We are a global community that needs to take care of each other.  This is the fullness of the Gospel alive in our world!!


In this eighth encyclical, St. John Paul II reiterates and seeks to re-ignite the Church’s continued call of missionary work that includes reaching out to those who have not heard of Christ or the Gospel, to areas that had deep Christian roots but have faded and need re-evangelization, and finally, to those areas where the faith is established and growing–the need for pastoral care.  Mission work is at the heart of the Gospel and the Church is an instrument of grace, love and witness that Christ is Risen.  We need to remind ourselves constantly that each of us is called to live and share the Good News bringing others close to Christ.


In this ninth encyclical, St. John Paul II honours, reaffirms and extends the teachings of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical RERUM NOVARUM.  He offers us new insights and reflects on the fall of the “iron curtain” reminding all of us that if we are going to be faithful disciples of Christ, we need to look back, look around and look forward.  It is important to learn from the past applying the truths of the Gospel in our own situation while always looking forward with hope and trust.  St. John Paul II calls us to seek out the common good and no economic, political or social system is perfect yet when rooted in the Gospel can help people become the fullness of who God has made them to be.


In this tenth encyclical, St. John Paul II looks to re-establish and reaffirm the moral teachings of the Catholic Church in our world today.  Moral questions require examination and true freedom comes when we open our lives to the SPLENDOR OF TRUTH.  The world is filled with relativism and subjectivity focusing on the individual rather than seeking to understand and appreciate the absolute truths of our lives.  Our conscience, formed and supported by faith, allows us to choose the good and avoid evil.  True freedom is not being able to do anything we want—true freedom is becoming fully human by embracing the life which God has given us or His glory.


In this eleventh encyclical, St. John Paul II reminds us of the GOSPEL OF LIFE.  The heart of the mission of the redeemer is to bring joy, strength, protection and healing to humanity.  Our gift of life is not our own, it is given to us by God to bring light, joy and hope to the world.  As we know, there are so many different threats to life in our world today.  Abortion, euthanasia, poverty and socio-political structures that erode the value of life.  The Church is a voice of truth and reason defending those who do not have a voice and to stand in solidarity with those oppressed professing the truth about our lives—we belong to God and to live most fully is to follow and live in that truth.  Fr. John shares some of the fundamentals of this encyclical as a beginning for those who would go more in depth and read the encyclical for themselves.


In this twelfth encyclical, St. John Paul II teaches us the need for Christian unity.  This desire that we may be all one is rooted in the Gospel of John when Jesus prays at the Last Supper that all his disciples be one—together—united.  The divisions, doctrinal differences/disagreements and long-standing separations need to be resolved through prayer, conversion of heart, dialogue and action together.  This call for ecumenism is rich in the gospels and the Second Vatican Council.  St. John Paul II shows us that it is at the heart of the Church’s mission of salvation that all the Christian churches be united.  This work is fundamental to the mission of Christ and thus the mission of the Church.  Despite the challenges and differences, once we get to know one another more, we discover that we have much more in common than what separates us.  May we all be one!!


In this thirteenth encyclical, St. John Paul II teaches us about the need for faith and reason to discover truth—which is God.  In our times today, there seems to be an understanding that faith and reason are opposed to one another—that they cannot even co-exist.  St. John Paul II, reminds us that both faith and reason are like wings that help us ascend to the truth.  They are both necessary for us to discover more about ourselves and God.  The pope reflects on the gift of philosophy and the work of St. Thomas Aquinas who was able to show us that we can discover God through our thoughts, questions and intellectual exercises.


In this fourteenth and final encyclical of St. John Paul II, he reminds us of the importance, sacredness and power of the Eucharist for the Church and all of us.  The Church and each of us as disciples of the Lord draw grace, power and strength from the Eucharist—from Jesus, who is with us always!!  The celebration of the Eucharist is at the heart of our worship and action.  We not only receive Holy Communion but we are called to be Christ in our world today.  This is why going to church and gathering around the altar as a community of faith is of prime importance.  Within this reality there is a dignity in celebration and devotion to the Eucharist that transforms our hearts.