It’s not often one goes rummaging through a long abandoned desk drawer and finds a treasure. When it does happen what is found is something truly special. Such is that case with the latest book I have read. Teachings for an Unbelieving World: Newly Discovered Reflections on Paul’s Sermon at the Areopagus was written by Archbishop Karol Wojtyla somewhere around 1965. The manuscript (hand-written) was recently discovered in a desk drawer in Poland. Ave Maria Press editor Jaymie Stuart Wolfe jumped at the chance to publish the English translation. We owe her a great debt for bringing this gem to print.
The book takes a deep dive look into Acts Chapter 17 and St. Paul’s sermon to the people of Athens. The irony of this book is two-fold. First, the sermon of Paul himself applies to much of what we are dealing with in our culture today. Second, the post Vatican II environment St. Pope John Paul II was writing to is just as applicable to us today as well.
In the book St. John Paul II provide thirteen meditations breaking down Act 17. Those meditations are as follows:
I. “An Unknown God”
II.“The One Who IS”
III. The Human Being and Truth
IV. The Human Being and Freedom
V. The Truth of the Resurrection
VI. The Mystery of the Incarnation
VII. The Mystery of the Redemption
VIII. Christ “Reveals Man to Himself”
IX. The Eucharist and the Church
X. “Receive the Holy Spirit”
XI. “You Will Be My Witness”
XII. Love: Redemptive and Spousal
XIII: The Fullness of Prayer
A few things jumped out at me. I was particularly interested in the chapter on the Unknown God and the idea of idols we put in our lives as replacements to God. It was an issue in Athens during Paul’s time just as it is now. Additionally the chapter on truth is very pertinent to the times we live in today. Also the chapter on the Eucharist was a very compelling read considering most of us have been without the Eucharist for weeks now.
Perhaps the best part of the book was the author. St. Pope John Paul II always had a way of connecting with his audience. Despite the writings being done some 50 years ago it still feels fresh and as you read it you can almost feel JPII next to you as if he delivering the message to you. This book is an exceptional read and almost seems like the preamble to his pontificate and the Wednesday General audiences we all grew to love.