This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Legacy of Pope John Paul II. The Catholic Company is the best resource for gifts for every Sacrament celebration, such as First Communion gifts and Baptism gifts, as well as a great selection of limited-time Year of Faith gifts and resources.


The Legacy of Pope John Paul II:  The central teaching of his 14 encyclical letters

The Legacy of Pope John Paul II: The central teaching of his 14 encyclical letters

Pope Benedict has declared 2013 the Year of Faith, when we are asked to deepen our faith, to evangelize through our words and, more importantly, through our actions to spread the Good News to all. But how best to do this when we’re not theologians or have not had the schooling/education that others have? How can we preach our Faith if we’re not too sure about what our faith means?

Throughout the centuries, the popes have written encyclicals, teaching letters to help the faithful understand the Faith. None was better (or more prolific) than John Paul II. He wrote 14 encyclicals from 1979 through 2003, each a lesson that encapsulates what we believe:

  1. Redemptor Hominis (“The Redeemer of Man”)
  2. Dives in Misericordia (“Rich in Mercy”)
  3. Laborem Exercens (“On Human Work”)
  4. Slavorum Apostoli (“On Sts. Cyril and Methodius”)
  5. Dominum et Vivificantem (“Lord and Giver of Life”)
  6. Redemptoris Mater (“Mother of the Redeemer”)
  7. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concerns”)
  8. Redemptoris Missio (“The Mission of the Redeemer”)
  9. Centesimus Annus (“On the Centenary of Rerum Novarum“)
  10. Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”)
  11. Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”)
  12. Ut Unum Sint (“That They May Be One”)
  13. Fides et Ratio (“Faith and Reason”)
  14. Ecclesia de Eucharistia (“The Eucharistic Church”)
  15. Now each of these encyclicals are wonderful to read in the words penned by the great Pontiff. But, at least for this non-theologian, the language can get a bit deep and hard to understand.

    Step in Franciscan University Theology Chair, Dr. Alan Schreck and his book, The Legacy of Pope John Paul II. In this volume, he explains each of JPII’s encyclicals in language that is easy to understand. Which makes sense since Dr. Schreck has been explaining theology to college students at Franciscan University since 1978! He makes these encyclicals accessible … explains the recurring themes … pulls in examples of things done during the JPtheGreat years that epitomize the encyclical’s teaching.

    But there’s more.

    At the end of each chapter (that is, after the explanation of the encyclical), Schreck includes study questions to help the reader (or group of readers) glean every bit of information from his words, ensuring that the reader takes away what is important. The questions are provocative and help the reader focus her own thoughts and how best to apply the encyclical’s teaching in her own life. After the study questions, there are suggested “further reading” citations to delve even deeper into these amazing encyclicals.

    I highly recommend this book for all adult Catholics to understand the great teachings of this amazing pope who led the Church through the turbulent end of the 20th century and into the millennium. Thank you, Dr. Schreck, for helping this non-theologian understand these teachings. With this book, I now have a valuable asset for understanding more about my Faith.

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