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Catechesis with Saint John Paul II, Papa Woytyla

Truth, beauty and goodness given in the wisdom and teaching of beloved Papa Woytyla at the Wednesday General Audiences during the 26½ years of his pontificate.

St John Paul II gave series of catechesis on:
Human Love in the Divine Plan (129 audiences)
Catechesis (7 audiences)
God the Father and Creator (60 audiences)
Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour (97 audiences)
The Spirit, Giver of Life and Love (82 audiences)
The Church (137 audiences)
Mary, Mother of God (70 audiences)
The History of Salvation (119 audiences)
The Divine Office, Bible Readings

A smattering of these catecheses are included in this Totus2us podcast which you can subscribe to here on iTunes or here on the RSS feed. Plus you can download the free mp3 audio recordings individually by right clicking on the blue play buttons. Many thanks to Father Rob Galea (track To the ends of the Earth ℗ 2011 Robert Galea. Used with permission) and Connor Flanagan (track Sweet Maria on the catecheses about Mary) for the gift of their music.

The Cardinal Virtues - Prudence      

"Today we must speak about another virtue, as I learned from the notes of the late Pontiff that he had intended to speak not only about the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity, but also of the four so-called cardinal virtues. John Paul I wanted to speak about the "seven lamps" of Christian life, as Pope John XXIII called them.

.. Prudence is the key for the realisation of the fundamental task that each of us has received from God. This task is the perfection of man himself. God has given to each of us his humanity. We need to respond to this task by programming it consequently.

But the Christian has the right and the duty to look at the virtue of prudence also from another perspective. It is like the image and likeness of the Providence of God himself in the dimensions of concrete man. Because man — we know from the book of Genesis — has been created in the image and likeness of God. And God realises his plan in the history of creation and above all in the history of humanity. The purpose of this design is — as St Thomas teaches — the ultimate good of the universe. In the history of humanity, this same design becomes simply the design of salvation, the design that embraces us all. At the centre of its realization is Jesus Christ, in whom was expressed the eternal love and solicitude of God the Father himself, for the salvation of man. This is at the same time the full expression of divine Providence."
(25 Oct 1978)

Pope St Paul VI      

JPII: ".. The Pope, whom Christ called to Himself on the solemnity of the Transfiguration, continuously worked tirelessly for the transformation of man, of society, of systems, work which was to bear the fruits so much desired by men, by nations, by the whole of humanity: the fruits of justice and peace. By looking with assiduous attention, and sometimes perhaps with disquiet, and above all with continual Christian hope, at the multiform development of events in the contemporary world, he always worked in favour of that civilization that he called "civilization of love", in the spirit of Christ's greatest commandment.

The Church places herself at the service of this "civilization of love" through her mission, linked to the announcement and realisation of the Gospel. Particularly dear to Paul VI was evangelization in the contemporary world to which — at the request of the bishops gathered at the Synod in 1974 — he dedicated a magnificent exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, which is like a summary of thought and apostolic indications, springing from the conciliar magisterium and the continual experience of the Church.

"The commitment to announce the Gospel to the men and women of our time" he began, "men and women animated by hope but also often troubled by fear and anguish, is without doubt a service rendered not only to the Christian community, but also to the whole of humanity" (EN, 1)

And he explained: "To evangelise, for the Church, is to bring the Good News into all the layers of humanity and, through its influence, to transform from within, to render
new humanity itself: "Behold, I make all things new" (Ap 21, 5). But there is no new humanity, if there are not first new men and women, of the newness of baptism and of life according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is precisely this interior change and, if it had to be expressed in a sentence, it would be fairer to say that the Church evangelizes when, by virtue only of the divine power of the message that she proclaims, she seeks to convert the personal and also collective conscience of men and women, the activities in which they are committed, their own lives and environments" (EN, 18). A most noble and stimulating commitment!"

Pope Paul VI      

JPII: "The Pope of Vatican II! The Pope of this profound transformation which was nothing other than a revelation of the face of the Church, awaited by the man and by the world of today! Here too there is an analogy with the mystery of the Lord's Transfiguration. Indeed this same Christ whom the Apostles saw on Mount Tabor was none other than the one they had known each day, the one whose words they had heard and whose actions they had seen. On Mount Tabor he revealed himself to them as the same Lord, but "transfigured. In this Transfiguration was manifested and realized an image of their Master which in all preceding circumstances had been unknown to them, had been veiled before them.

John XXIII and, after him, Paul VI received from the Holy Spirit the charism of transformation, thanks to which the figure of the Church, such as everyone knew it, was manifested at once the same and diverse. This "diversity" does not mean detachment from its own essence, but rather, more profound penetration into its very essence. It is the revelation of the figure of the Church, which was concealed in the preceding one. It was necessary that through the "signs of the times", recognized by the Council, this figure became manifest and visible, that it became principle of life and action in the times in which we live and in those that will come.

The Pope, who left us last year on the solemnity of the Lord's Transfiguration, received from the Holy Spirit the charism of his time. If indeed the transformation of the Church must serve her renewal, the one who undertakes it must possess a particularly strong awareness of the identity of the Church. Paul VI manifested the expression of such an awareness above all in his first encyclical Ecclesiam Suam and then continually: by proclaiming the "Creed of the People of God" and by issuing a series of norms concerning the deliberations of Vatican II, by inaugurating the activity of the Synod of Bishops, by taking pioneering steps in the direction of the unity of Christians, by reforming the Roman Curia, by internationalizing the College of Cardinals, and so on.

In all this the same awareness of the Church
was always revealed, which confirms more profoundly her own identity in her capacity for renewal, for going to meet the transformations that spring both from her vitality and from the authenticity of her Tradition."


JPII: ... When Christ, responding to the disciples' request "Teach us to pray" pronounces the words of his prayer, he teaches not only the words, but teaches that in our colloquy with the Father there must be total sincerity and full openness. Prayer must embrace everything that is part of our life. It cannot be something supplementary or marginal. Everything must find in it its own voice. Even everything that aggravates us; that we are ashamed of; that by its nature separates us from God. Precisely this above all. It is prayer that always, first and essentially, demolishes the barrier between us and God, which sin and evil can have put up.

Through prayer all the world must find its right reference: that is, its reference to God: my interior world and also the objective world, the one in which we live, and thus as we know it. If we convert to God, everything in us is turned towards him. Prayer is the expression of such a turning towards God; and it is, at the same time, our continual conversion: our life. Holy Scripture says: "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return on high without having irrigated the earth, without having made it fruitful and sprout so as to give seed to the sower and bread to the eater thus shall it be of the word that comes from my mouth: it shall not return to me without effect, without having performed that which I desire and without having accomplished that for which I sent it" (Is 55, 10-11).

Prayer is the way of the Verb who embraces everything. The way of the eternal Verb who traverses the depth of so many hearts; who leads back to the Father all that which in Him has its origin.

Prayer is the sacrifice of our lips (cf Heb 13, 15). It is, as St Ignatius of Antioch writes, "Living water that murmurs within us and says: come to the Father."

The Assumption of Mary in the tradition of the Church       

JPII: "4. Looking at the mystery of the Virgin's Assumption it is possible to understand the plan of divine Providence relative to humanity: after Christ, the Verb Incarnate, Mary is the human creature who realises first the eschatological ideal, anticipating the fullness of happiness, promised to the elect through the resurrection of bodies.

In the Assumption of the Virgin we can also see the divine will to promote woman.

By analogy to that which happened at the origin of the human race and of the history of salvation, in God’s project the eschatological ideal was to be revealed not in an individual, but in a couple. Thus in heavenly glory, beside Christ risen, there is a woman raised up, Mary: the new Adam and the new Eve, the first-fruits of the general resurrection of the bodies of all humanity.

The eschatological condition of Christ and that of Mary certainly should not be placed on the same level. Mary, the new Eve, received from Christ, the new Adam, the fullness of grace and of heavenly glory, having been raised up through the Holy Spirit by the sovereign power of the Son.

5. Although succinct, these notes allow us to shine light on the fact that the Assumption of Mary reveals the nobility and dignity of the human body.

Faced with the profanation and debasement to which modern society frequently subjects, in particular, the female body, the mystery of the Assumption proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body, called by the Lord to become an instrument of holiness and to participate in his glory.

Mary entered into glory because she welcomed the Son of God in her virginal womb and in her heart. By looking at her, the Christian learns to discover the value of his own body and to guard it as a temple of God, while waiting for the resurrection.

The Assumption, a privilege granted to the Mother of God, thus constitutes an immense value for the life and destiny of humanity."

The Assumption of Mary, a truth of faith      

JPII: "So it was that in May 1946 with the encyclical Deiparae Virginis Mariae Pius XII initiated a broad consultation, questioning the Bishops and, through them, the clergy and the people of God, about the possibility and opportunity of defining the bodily assumption of Mary as a dogma of faith. The feedback was widely positive: only six responses out of 1181 showed any reservations about the revealed character of this truth.

Citing this data, the Bull Munificentissimus Deus affirms: "The universal consensus of the Church's ordinary Magisterium provides a certain and solid argument to prove that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven ... is a truth revealed by God, and should thus be firmly and faithfully believed by all the children of the Church" (AAS 42 [1950], 757).

The definition of the dogma, in the wake of the universal faith of the people of God, definitively excludes every doubt and postulates the express adherence of all Christians.

After having underlined the Church’s actual faith in the Assumption, the Bull recalls the scriptural basis for this truth.

The New Testament, while not explictly affirming the Assumption of Mary, offers a foundation because it strongly emphasizes the perfect union of the Holy Virgin with the destiny of Jesus. This union, which is manifested from the prodigious conception of the Saviour, with the participation of the Mother in the mission of the Son and, above all, in her association with his redemptive sacrifice, cannot fail to demand a continuation after death. Perfectly united to the life and salvific work of Jesus, Mary shares in his heavenly destiny in soul and body.

4. The aforementioned Bull Munificentissimus Deus, by making reference to the participation of the woman of the Proto-gospel in the struggle against the serpent and by recognizing in Mary the New Eve, presents the Assumption as the consequence of Mary’s union with Christ’s redeeming work. In this regard it affirms: "Consequently, just as the glorious Resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the ultimate trophy of this victory, thus it was necessary that the combat undergone by the Holy Virgin, united to her Son, should end with the glorification of her virginal body" (AAS 42 [1950], 768).

The Assumption is therefore the culmination of the struggle which engaged the generous love of Mary in the redemption of humanity and is the fruit of her unique participation in the victory of the Cross."

Pope Saint John XXIII      

JPII: "Pope John was a great gift of God to the Church. Not only because – and this would have been enough to make his memory imperishable - he linked his name to the greatest and most transforming event of our century: the convening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, intuited by him, as he had to confess, as through a mysterious and irresistible inspiration of the Holy Spirit; not only because it celebrated the Roman Synod, and wanted to start the revision of the Code of Canon Law. He was a great gift of God because he made the Church feel alive to the man of today. He was, like the Baptist, a Precursor. He indicated the ways of renewal in the great wake of Tradition, as I fully developed in my speeches in Sotto il Monte and Bergamo. He wanted "to be the voice" (Jn 1, 23) so as to prepare for Christ a new advent in the Church and in the world. In his Easter message of 1962 he had wished to say: "It is still Peter, in his most recent, humble successor who, surrounded by an immense crown of bishops, with trepidation but confidence, addresses the multitude. His word comes up from the end of twenty centuries, and it is not his: it is that of Jesus Christ, Verb of the Father and redeemer of all the peoples, and it is still he who shows to humanity the best ways that lead to coexistence in truth and justice".

This voice shook the world. By his simplicity and directness, by his humility and discretion, by his courage and his strength. By means of this voice the Word of Christ was clearly heard: in his call to truth, to justice, to love and to freedom, by which relations between men and between peoples were inspired, according to the lines of the great encyclical Pacem in Terris: it was heard in his underlining of both the values of the person, a unique and unrepeatable nucleus in whom the glory of the Face of God creator and redeemer is directly reflected, and also those of the family, the fundamental social nucleus for the life of society and of the Church, to whom her own children are offered as a sign of hope and of promise, especially in priestly and religious vocations; it was heard in his reproposal to men of the ways of prayer and of holiness. "There came a man, sent from God, and his name was John"."

The Rosary is a privileged occasion      
to pray with the Mother of God

JPII: "At the end of October I desire, together with you brothers and sisters, to take a look at the simplicity and, at the same time, the depth of this prayer, to which the most holy Mother in a particular way invites us, spurs us and encourages us. Reciting the Rosary, we penetrate the mysteries of the life of Jesus, which are contemporaneously the mysteries of his Mother. This is felt very clearly in the joyful mysteries, beginning with the annunciation, through the visitation and the birth in the night in Bethlehem, and then through the presentation of the Lord, ending with the finding in the Temple, when Jesus was twelve years old. Although it may seem that the sorrowful mysteries do not directly show us the Mother of Jesus - with the exception of the last two: the way of the cross and the crucifixion - how can we nevertheless think that the Mother was spiritually absent, when her Son suffered in such a terrible way in Gethsemane, at the scourging and the crowning with thorns? And the glorious mysteries are also mysteries of Christ, in which we find the spiritual presence of Mary - first among them all the mystery of the Resurrection. Speaking of the ascension, Holy Scripture does not mention the presence of Mary - but how could she not be present, if immediately after we read that she was in the Upper Room with the apostles themselves, those who had just before hailed Christ as he ascended to heaven? Together with them Mary prepares for the coming of the Holy Spirit and participates at Pentecost in his descent. The last two glorious mysteries orientate our thoughts directly towards the Mother of God, when we contemplate her assumption and coronation in heavenly glory.

The Rosary is a prayer regarding Mary united to Christ in his salvific mission. It is at the same time a prayer to Mary, our best mediator before the Son. And finally a prayer that in a special way we recite with Mary, just as the apostles prayed together with her in the Upper Room, preparing themselves to receive the Holy Spirit.
" (28.10.1981)

Forgiveness is a grace      
and a mystery of the human heart

JPII: "Christ has taught us to forgive. Forgiveness is also indispensable for God for Him to put questions in the human conscience, to which He awaits a response in all interior truth.

At this time, when so many innocent men perish at the hands of other men, a special need appears to impose itself to approach each one of those who kill, to approach with forgiveness in the heart together with the same question that God, Creator and Lord of human life, put to the first man who had made an attempt upon the life of his brother and had taken - had taken that which belongs only to the Creator and Lord of life.

Christ taught us to forgive. He taught Peter to forgive "as many as seventy times seven" (Mt 18, 22). God himself forgives when man answers the question put to his conscience and his heart with the whole inner truth of conversion.

Leaving to God Himself the judgment and the sentence in their definitive dimension, we do not cease to ask: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."

The event in May: a great divine test  

JPII: "All this should be kept in mind by those who come to Rome, to the "apostolic memories", those who return in the footsteps of St Peter and St Paul. I too am a pilgrim here. I am a foreigner, who through the will of the Church had to remain here and assume succession in the Roman See following after so many great Popes, Bishops of Rome. And I too feel deeply my human weakness - and thus with trust I repeat the words of the apostle: "virtus in infirmitate perficitur", "power is manifested in weakness" (2 Cor 12, 9 ). And thus with great gratitude to the Holy Spirit I think of this weakness, that He has allowed me to experience on the day of 13th May, believing and humbly trusting that it was able to serve for the strengthening of the Church and also for that of my human person.

This is the dimension of the divine test, that is not easy for man to unveil. It is not easy to talk about it with human words. However there is need to talk about it. This great grace needs to be confessed with deepest humility before God and the Church, for it became my portion in that period, in which the whole People of God was preparing for a particular celebration of Pentecost, dedicated this year to the remembrance of the First Council of Constantinople after 1600 years - and even the Council of Ephesus - after 1550 years.

In Ephesus then for the benefit of the whole Church echoed anew the truth about Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who through the work of the Holy Spirit was made true man, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born of her for the salvation of the world. Mary is thus true Mother of God (Theotokos).

When then together with you, dear brothers and sisters, I ponder upon the grace received together with the threat to my life and the suffering, I turn in a particular way to Her: to the one whom we call also "Mother of divine Grace". And I ask that this grace "be not in vain in me" (cf 1 Cor 15, 10), just as with every grace that man receives: everywhere at any time. I ask that with every grace that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit pours out with abundance, this strength may be born that grows in our weakness. I ask that the testimony of Truth and Love may also grow and expand, to which the Lord has called us."

The Assassination Attempt, 13 May 1981      
Like Peter, I have experienced the efficacy of the prayers of the Church

JPII: "It is thus. I have become even more indebted to everyone. I am indebted to those who directly contributed to saving my life and have helped me return to good health: to the professors and doctors, the nursing sisters and lay staff at the Gemelli Hospital. I am at the same time indebted to those who have surrounded me with this extended wave of prayer all around the world. I am indebted.

And once again I became indebted to the Most Holy Virgin and to all the Patron Saints. Could I forget that the event in St Peter's Square took place on the day and at the hour on which more than sixty years earlier the first apparition of the Mother of Christ to the poor peasant children is remembered at Fatima in Portugal? Because, in everything that happened to me on that day, I felt her extraordinary maternal protection and care, which has proved stronger than the deadly bullet.

Today is the memorial of the Mother of the Holy Rosary. The whole month of October is the month of the Rosary. Now, at a distance of almost five months, with the gift of meeting you anew, dear brothers and sisters, in the Wednesday audience, I desire that these first words I address to you are words of gratitude, of love and of even deeper trust. Just as the Holy Rosary is and remains always a prayer of gratitude, of love and of trusting request: the prayer of the Mother of the Church.

And I encourage and invite you all, once again, to recite this prayer, especially during this month of the Rosary."