Saint John Paul II was Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church from October 1978 to April 2005. His Roman title was Pontifex Maximus. He was canonized a Saint by Pope Francis in April 2014.
As Bishop Karol Wojtyla he gave the spiritual exercises found in the Way to Christ in 1962—the week before Easter week—to university students at Saint Anne’s, in the historic university district of Krakow. They were well received by these young Catholics, acted on by many and contributed to transforming the country in the decades that followed. Buy the Kindle version on Amazon: The Way to Christ: Spiritual Exercises
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Born Karol Josef Wojtyla in 1920 to humble means in the small town of Wazowicz Poland, near Krakow—he was a devout youth, active in sports and the Theater. By the time he was 21 he lost his mother (age 9), elder brother, an M.D. (at age 13) and father (at age 20) and suffered the military occupation of his city and annexation of his homeland by Nazi and Soviet military invaders. During the occupation he worked as a laborer at a rock quarry and became an actor and playwright—a poet and philosopher, co-founding the underground Rhapsodic Theater in Krakow. But he earned his doctorate of divinity in Rome for his thesis on The Question of Faith according to St. John of the Cross, a widely followed Catholic mystic. After he became a Priest in Poland he ran catholic spiritual retreats for young people and artists in conjunction with camping and canoeing trips to the mountains and lakes (pictured above). He published Love and Responsibility in 1960, a book about Christian sexuality and discerning the sacrament of marriage. His developing human theology and philosophy culminated with Man and Woman he Created them: a Theology of the Body (2006).
His efforts as Pope are credited with the liberation of Poland in the 1980’s through his support of the Solidarity movement (documented in Man of the Century, Jonathan Kwitny–1997). The most widely travelled Pope in history, he was canonized a Saint at St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City, April 2014 by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis’ family emigrated from Italy to Argentina in 1929. He was born and grew up in Buenos Aires and became a Priest after teaching Chemistry, working in a lab and practicing bookkeeping. He taught literature and psychology and holds degrees in philosophy and theology. Jorge Bergoglio was appointed Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II. He was created Cardinal in 2001. He wrote several books on christian meditation and reflections on living the christian life. The first member of the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—to be elected Pope, he has inspired millions with his living demonstrations of the Christian life. He’s known for his straight forward, down to earth teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Magisterium of the Church. He is providing a bright light to youth on the way to World Youth Day Krakow 2016 and guiding the Church and the world’s Bishops to the Synod on the Family 2013–2015.
Hi, I’m Joe Dettelis, co-author and eBook editor of The Way to Christ – Spiritual Exercises. I am a practicing Catholic evangelist from Buffalo, New York, living at Lady Lake, Florida.
I received the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation, holy communion and confirmation at St. Williams R.C. Church—now Saint John XXIII—at Winchester, a neighborhood of West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo. During the great move of the Holy Spirit in America in the mid-nineteen seventies, about a month before my sixteenth birthday, I had the spiritual regeneration or born again experience. Although that experience transformed my Soul it did not inform my intellect with the doctrinal truth I needed to live an informed and full Christian life. That truth should empower the seeker to actually practice, experience and help create the transcendent culture available in authentic Christianity. And so experience the human and spiritual growth that results. Thus, manifesting the kingdom of God on earth as intended—in one’s own life and community.
What I discovered much later and under the most bizarre and trying chain of events is the presence of that full Christian truth, and the means to attain it. This was found in the most unlikely place—my very own Roman Catholic Christian Church—from Vatican City and the Holy See. The Popes of our church had written it all down but we were never told the full truth here in America concerning work and career, discerning marriage, christian philosophy and the sciences. Our Christian education in the American Catholic Church stopped at confirmation, at age fourteen, leaving us with a childs education in Christian principles as if there was nothing more. If you wanted more you had to find it on your own. And there was little or no Christian guidance at universities or schools of higher education. The god of atheistic materialism was allowed to hold sway there. The American Bishops had communicated no systematic plan of action for us public school Catholics becoming adults. The very Catholics that would become the inheritors and creators of the culture.
But an empowering alternative elixir was developing in the catholic church. An alternative to the dogma of materialistic modern times. An alternative Christian culture the Christians and all people of good will create together standing against and transcending the dogma of materialism the secularists have been constructing and deconstructing to increase their own political power over everyone else. What about a scientific, theistic dialog on Creation and the meaning of human life? These powerful, transformative christian doctrines were found in the Church documents generated from and following the twenty-first ecumenical Council of Christian history—Vatican II. You will find them in this book. A set of Spiritual Retreats spoken by Saint John Paul II, written down and distributed by the University Students in Krakow he spoke them to before that universal christian council, and the world-wide Bishops conferences that followed, ever took place.
Saint John Paul II, The Way to Christ—Spiritual Exercises
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