Pope John Paul II waves to young pilgrims during World Youth Day in Toronto July 25, 2002.

CNS PHOTO | ARTURO MARI

Pope John Paul II waves to young pilgrims during World Youth Day in Toronto July 25, 2002.

March 31, 2014
Review by LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

John Paul II - A Saint for Canada. Written by Father Tom Rosica. 93 pages. Novalis


This examination of St. John Paul II's life is seen through the eyes and presence of Father Thomas Rosica in this book.

Rosica states the intent of his treatise when he writes, "It is a spiritual reflection based on my own personal involvement with this amazing holy man and my experience at the heart of World Youth Day 2002 and since."

Yes. It is that.

But it is more.

Written with the title of John Paul II - A Saint for Canada, this accessible text weaves in the history and life of Pope John Paul with his love of the Church's youth, the impact of his three trips to Canada, plus Rosica's theological interpretations.

The 10 chapters conclude with an afterward of Rosica's reflection delivered to an AFL-CIO International Convention of the Communication Workers of America.

While indeed documenting the facts and figures of the beloved John Paul II, Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Media, expounds on the theological meaning and/or interpretation surrounding JPII's words or actions.

He also defined the spiritual impact this pope had on Canada.

"He brought the papacy home to us, shared his concerns - and listened to ours - and made us believe he had seen into our souls."

Rosica was a 19-year-old university student when the former actor from Poland became pope and recounts how French journalist André Frossard dubbed him a pope from Galilee. Rosica considers himself one of the John Paul II generation, a generation the pope described as "his joy to his crown."

The pope obviously loved Canada, visiting this country in 1984, 1987 and 2002.

A major portion of Rosica's book deals with the 2002 visit when the pope presided over a rapturous World Youth Day.

Rosica's responsibilities were huge during this event as he bore the titles and mandate of national director and CEO of the monumental event.

The book borrows much from this happening, capturing segments of the pope's talks and homilies. The main theme, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world" set the tone for the celebration.

IMPACT ON YOUTH

The impact of the liturgies and reconciliation on the young people are richly documented by Rosica. The influence of the religious experience on the youth was profound and Rosica tells of how, even 12 years later, he still receives letters and messages from the then-young people of how WYD was critical in their discernment process.

Fr. Thomas Rosica

Fr. Thomas Rosica

Humour and humanity are delightfully recounted when the author recounts how the then Jewish Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman called the pope "my priest" and the Stations of the Cross, the "Jesus parade."

SINGING ON STREETCARS

Just imagine Toronto's streetcars, usually dour, jam-packed places you never want to be, but need in order to get to work, being filled with WYD youth joyously singing the truth of God's word. Who knows how many lives of the fellow passengers were turned around?

The author brings his observations with the credibility of having personal interaction with the Church' spiritual leader during the pope's retreat to Strawberry Island during WYD and afterwards.

Writes Rosica, "In the six times I visited with the pope after World Youth Day 2002, he would ask me, with a glimmer in his eye and a little smile, about Strawberry Island. I was no longer a Basilian father but rather one of the 'Padri dell'Isola,' one of the 'Fathers of the Island.'"

PAPAL CHALLENGES

Rosica obviously admired the pope. He saw and recorded the impact of his words, actions, trips not only on audiences, but also on the youth and Canada as a country. Drawing from the various homilies the pope delivered at the different cities, he tells how John Paul II gave challenges to Canada.

They include reveries that even resound today, such as protecting human life, maintaining the dignity of the human person, revering our Marian piety.

Suffering, something today's society does everything to avoid, is examined and explained with clarity and insight by the pope and Rosica.

He tells of watching the pope from the Salt and Light control room a week before his death as he looked down on the Way of the Cross parade. When Pope John Paul embraced a crucifix, tears streamed down Rosica's face and those of all the control room staff.

HOLY MAN'S IMPACT

That is symbolic of what Rosica does with this book. He doesn't just fill in the facts and figures of John Paul II's life and 27 years as pope. He weaves the impact this holy man's life had on the penitents, the Church, and the world with passion and grace.

This is a work to be read slowly. It is one thing to read facts but then to take in the following interpretations takes time. This book has the sense of being a labour of love, one that would be appropriate for both the seminary and one's bedside table.