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April 6, 2005

His Legacy

Commercial Media have spent a great bit of time discussing Pope John Paul II's legacy. I have been amused by the people I have seen reporting on who he is and what he has accomplished. I flipped on the TV in a spare moment the other day and there was Newt Gingrich reporting on the Pope's legacy.

Certainly, there is much to speak of:

Overcoming Communism
An approach to suffering and death
A dedication to culture of life
Ministry to Youth
use of the media
his writings of plays and poetry

In my opinion, without diminishing his importance in any of the above, the most important part of his legacy is overlooked.

Here is what will be, for me, the most important part of his legacy that will endure and will effect life and ministry for years to come.

1. The Theology of the Body, human love as part of the divine plan. The Audience addresses that he presented from 1979 to 1984. The Body as revealing the gift of Christ, the original meaning of human experience, the incomparable dignity of the human person, the person as gift in freedom of love.

All this may have been interpreted basically as of set of rules or part of his conservative agenda. He may be dismissed as someone who knows little about sex or marriage, but those who have taken up the task of listening to him, have discovered the freedom of the Gospel of Christ and how to apply it to their very selves. Human life, what responds to its essential dignity, authentic development: it is not about what we can do; It is about who we are!

His laboratory was the teaching of the church and the tools of philosophy, but his laboratory was also young people and conversation, camping trips filled with fun and prayer. This laboratory produced an new ethic of love and responsibility that is now celebrated the world over by those who have discovered its freedoms.

This is a man who knew love. He knew what it was, how it was supposed to be lived and shared, given and received. It was a learning born in a crucible of suffering of death and resurrection. He knew love, he knew love himself, Jesus Christ, He knew love personally, and he is still able to show us.

2. The remainder of his audience addresses, especially those on the Creed and on the psalms and Canticles of Morning and Evening prayer.

3. The Catechism of Catholic Church

4. The reform of Canon Law

5. His encyclicals. My favorite are Redemptoris Missio and Evangelium Vitae.

I have seen none of this discussed in the print or visual media. Certainly I have not had the time to sit in front of a Television set all day so I may have missed it.

So, what is the most imprtant and most significant aspect of his legacy? Let me know what you think of my list, and let me know what your favorote enclicals are.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at April 6, 2005 6:46 AM

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First: I did happen to see one segment on TV talking about John Paul' impressive body of literature. Former Oakland Bishop, John Cummins appeared on one of the local channels on Friday evening and listed our late pontiff's writings as one of his greatest legacies.

I'm not much of an expert on theology and don't have a wide familiarity with the encyclicals. I have read and studied a few and like very much Evangelium Vitae - for two reasons
1. It's emphasis on the Spirituality of the Precious Blood
(The blood of Christ) "speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel; indeed, it expresses and requires a more radical "justice" and above all it implores mercy"
2. It's focus on the role of Mary
"Standing by the cross of Jesus, Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself. She offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets hom to the end for our sake"

Posted by: Peggy Doherty at April 6, 2005 9:21 AM

I remember listening to Catholic radio before his death. They hit the nail on the head when they said he has done so many great things that his legacy will be very wide and very deep. There is no way to nail it down to a few things.

I haven't read many of his writings, but his encyclical on the Rosary really turned me around. I didn't pray the Rosary much before that encyclical, but after his explanations and emphasis on how "Christocentric" the Rosary is I was changed. Now, I pray it almost every day.

Posted by: Laura at April 6, 2005 10:07 AM

There are a few evangelists for TOB. The 10CD set of a weekend presentation by Christopher West on TOB is available from the Gift Foundation. It is well worth listening through. It is a good reminder how truly contercultural the teaching of the church about "resurection of the body" still remains. We are an incarnate people. We live as Soul and Body. They are both an incomparable gift from God. Those who talked of "setting Terri free of her body" have no clue how far from the teaching of the Catholic Church they are.

Posted by: John Huntley at April 6, 2005 7:53 PM

My favorite encyclical is "Pacem in Terris", promulgated by Blessed John XXIII. I also like Paul VI's "Octogesima Adveniens". But neither of those were what you had in mind ;^)The very first encyclical I ever read was "Evangelium Vitae" sometime in middle school; it changed my life. I was about to be Confirmed in the faith, and I had the privelege of finding my beliefs confirmed overwhelmingly in that most beautiful prose of His Holiness. I wrote a college essay on that document, so it's been formative, to say the least. It's what got me hooked into the world of ecclesiastical literature. I always enjoyed reading the Pope's annual Holy Thursday Letter to Priests. And I got to perform part of his play, "The Jeweler's Shop" in college. Anyway- just some memories. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: SWP at April 7, 2005 4:40 PM

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