I once had a teacher who knew exactly how to keep her students focused during the day. She promised us that if we were very good, she would read us a few pages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. She would only have to give the gentlest reminder that we would not have time for The Hobbit and there would be a swift end to our cavorting and carrying-on. As you can imagine, she had us eating out of her hand.
My love for a great story has continued, and I’ve found that the best stories are always those “based on a true story”. At Salt + Light we have a storytelling ritual, you could say, and Fr. Thomas Rosica is one of the best storytellers I know. Whenever Fr. Rosica returns to the office from a trip, he gathers everyone to celebrate Mass, and following that it’s time for our meeting around the conference table. After we have prayed and he has given us all a little token from his travels -usually a prayer card, a spiritual booklet, or some chocolates- he settles down to tell us about everything that happened. As I said, Fr. Tom Rosica is a masterful storyteller. By the time the meeting has concluded, we feel as if we have lived through it all – the highs and the lows: the lost luggage, the inevitable poor internet connection fiascos, the exceptional encounters, the developments, and the messages of encouragement.
My favourite stories, however, are the ones where he tells us of his encounters with Pope John Paul II. These stories are an incredible source of insight. Sure, there’s something to be learned from reading great encyclicals, but to know a person firsthand and to get a sense of who he was and why he did what he did – this can only be imparted through personal experience; anything else simply doesn’t have the same impact. Moreover, Fr. Rosica’s stories are always full of meaning. Significant dates in history have moods and feelings attached to them, and there’s always a deep sense of what these things mean for us and for the world. As a scripture scholar, Fr. Rosica’s biblical imagination imbues his commentary on events with a profound love of scriptural images and also a great sense of humour.
Not everyone has the opportunity to listen to these stories firsthand, but you will certainly feel as if you are sitting around the Salt + Light conference table when you pick up the new release John Paul II, A Saint for Canada. It’s a short book that can be read at a leisurely pace in a few hours. Filled with Fr. Rosica’s personal reflections on Pope John Paul II, John Paul II, A Saint for Canada is a delight that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the saint and what he means for us in Canada.
To get a taste of what you can expect, you’re invited to watch Catholic FOCUS featuring John Paul II.
Photo description: Father Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, is pictured reading in a kayak in this photo dated from 1955. Three years later, he was on the water with friends when he learned he had been called to Warsaw for the announcement that he was to be made a bishop. (CNS photo)