The writings of Pope St. John Paul II are legendary, whether it be his encyclical Veritatis Splendor or his lectures on Theology of the Body. Now, 15 years after his passing, a new work by the great saint has recently been discovered and is available to readers in the latest article of Principles, a publication of Christendom College. The writings, which provide a reflection on how to articulate the Christian faith amidst a culture of unbelief, are just as relevant now as when they were first written, offering readers the rare opportunity to learn from Pope St. John Paul II through a new work.
This new text of Pope St. John Paul II comes from a recently discovered hand-written manuscript written by-then Archbishop Karol Wojtyla between 1965-66. In the text, the future Pope reflects on St. Paul’s sermon in Athens from Acts of the Apostles chapter 17, using it as a framework for his deeper look into how the truths of the Christian faith can still be shared within a secular culture.
“Nearly two thousand years have passed since the Athenian event,” writes Pope St. John Paul II. “From generation to generation, the Church proclaims to humanity Jesus Christ, who ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8). The message of the Church continuously reaches new people. Yet the total number of Christians does not exceed 30 percent of the current inhabitants of our planet earth. Thus, the inscription on the Athenian altar ‘To an unknown god’ is still valid, just as the words of Paul continue to be relevant today regarding the One whom humanity—for the most part—’worships as unknown.’”
Pope St. John Paul II goes further in his reflection on the words of St. Paul and how they apply to his own time, looking specifically at what it means “to be witnesses” and what it means to “give testimony.” For Christians, it means that they must unite themselves to Christ and “read in Christ the mystery of man.”
“Christ in his unique and unrepeatable humanity is a gift for all,” explains Pope St. John Paul II. “He is not only the ‘mirror’ in which the human being can see deified humanity but also a gift that deifies the humanity of those who welcome him. In this way, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, we become ‘sons in the Son.’”
Included with the new text of Pope St. John Paul II is a commentary by Dr. Scott Hahn, where he helps Principles readers illuminate even more from the reflections of the saint. He points out that while history looks at St. Paul’s sermon as a failure, Christians should see the event differently, as Pope St. John Paul II does.
“The more we look at chapter 17 of the Acts of the Apostles—especially in the company of a guide like the sainted Archbishop Wojtyła—the less it looks like a failure. It looks to me like a plan,” writes Hahn.
Christendom College is blessed to have a close connection to Pope St. John Paul II. The saint told the college’s founder, Dr. Warren H. Carroll, and college president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell that “Christendom is doing a great work for the Church” in 1992, while his chalice and paten also reside in the college’s Christ the King Chapel.