Totally Yours: A Review of ‘Saint John Paul II: Be Not Afraid’

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” – John Paul II

Interest Level: Ages 8-12

Review and Comments:

Saint John Paul II: Be Not Afraid is a biography that allows a new generation of young children to understand what made Karol Wojtyla the man and Pope the world grew to love. It faithfully tells the story of his life through his sorrows, trials, talents, and the people who influenced him. The reader will begin to understand that every experience taught him a true love of life and prepared him for his ultimate mission.

Karol grew up during dreadful turmoil in his beloved country of Poland. During these very unstable years, Karol’s personal strength and hope came from his faith.  Of course his family was the first and most important influence in his life, and they set a firm foundation that taught him to love and trust God and at times “to place his sorrow in God’s hands.”  He experienced deep sorrow when he lost his mother at a young age and then later his dear brother, Mundek. His father’s example became lessons that taught him a love of God, country, and people of different religions and nationalities.

It is amazing to look at his life and see other people God put in his path who also influenced him.  He shared a great lifelong friendship with Jerzy, a Jewish boy who lived in the same area.  Later, he met a man who had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and the rosary. This relationship opened his heart even more.  His love and deep devotion to the Blessed Mother became evident when he chose the motto “Totus Tuus” meaning “entirely yours” when he became a bishop.  Even the kindness of the factory workers at the plant where he worked influenced Karol so much that he wrote an encyclical about the dignity of the human worker when he was pope. Cardinal Saphieha welcomed Karol to the underground seminary, ordained him, and became a spiritual leader. All of these people were beacons in a sense during a time when he lived in a culture of death.

From the beginning of his life as a priest, Fr. Karol had to face severe government restrictions and hardships, but he persevered and continued to teach, write books, and touch people’s lives, especially the youth. His epistle of the sacredness of life, the dignity and worth of every human being, became a cornerstone of his message to the world.  This became known as Theology of the Body.

Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope in 1978. Pope John Paul II “traveled as a missionary of peace and love in the name of Jesus. He was a teacher whose classroom was the whole world.”  He allowed God’s plan for him to unfold and followed it faithfully.  His last words were, “I want to go home now, to my heavenly Father.”

There is a beautiful prayer to St. John Paul II at the end of the book.  The prayer is very appropriate for young children who also live in a world in turmoil.  There is also a very informative glossary that will help the reader understand many Catholic terms.

This book was given to me by Pauline Books and Media in exchange for an honest review. I was very happy to read it because John Paul II has greatly influenced the lives of my children who grew up during his papacy. His mission to relay the Good News is alive in that generation. I strongly recommend this book because it is now time for the next generation of young children to know this great saint.

Possible Issues:

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion:

  • This book is part of a series entitled “Encounter the Saints” which is suited for the intermediate reader.  These books are also published by Pauline Books & Media.
  • Make a time line of Pope John Paul’s life using the following events.
    • Birth August 18, 1920; Mother’s Death, age 3; Began School, age 6; Confirmation 1938; Brother’s Death 1932; 1939 Germany Invades Poland; 1945 War Ends and Poland Occupied by Soviets; Ordained a Priest 1946; Became Bishop 1958; Became Archbishop 1964; Became Cardinal 1967; Elected Pope 1978; Assassination Attempt 1981; Died 2004; Canonized a Saint 2014
  • Locate and mark Wadowice and Krakow, Poland and all the locations of the trips John Paul II made on a world map.  Entitle it “John Paul II’s Journeys Outside of Italy”.  Use the information on this page to help you.

Catholic Resources:

  • Learn this passage from John 14:27:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
  • John Paul’s feast day is October 22.
  • This site includes: a biography, a few photographs, and a short video highlighting John Paul’s life.  
  • John Paul desired to be like St. John Vianney.  John Vianney’s feast day is August 4.  Learn more about him here.
  • John Paul II was fascinated by the lives and writings of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.
  • “The Theology of the Body consists of 129 general Wednesday audiences delivered by Pope John Paul II during the first five years of his pontificate. John Paul II digs deep into the meaning of being a human person based on Scripture. As a person with a body and soul, made in the image and likeness of God, we find the meaning of life through finding out what it means to image God and what our bodies have to do with it.”
  • John Paul II kept his brother’s stethoscope close to him even when he was pope because it was an important and significant reminder of his beloved brother.