Oct 132013

the end and the beginning. george weigel, saint john paul ii, pope john paul ii, book reviewI thought I was somewhat informed on the pontificate of Pope John Paul II but George Weigel showed me in this excellent book how little I knew about Pope John Paul II the Great.

The first part of the book tells an amazing story of the Church in Poland under the Nazis and then the Communist. I am embarrassed that I have ever placed my faith secondary to anything after hearing these stories of people willing—during my lifetime—to endure torture and even death rather than reject their faith in Christ. Is was struck at how the KGB had a whole group focused on bringing down Catholicism. I never considered that Vatican II or any Vatican office or European chancery would have Communist spies. Yes, this includes men who wore the Roman collar. It seems clear that God raised up  Karol Wojtyla in very difficult situations to prepare him to sit in Peter’s chair for 26 years.

In the second part of the book, Weigel takes us inside the Vatican between 1979 and 2005 to learn about the role Pope John Paul II played in the event of those years and some insight into what is required of the pope. While I was aware of the Great Jubilee celebrations, after reading this, I wish I could relive it following the agenda Pope John Paul II created for us.

The last part is a reflection of the legacy of Pope John Paul II. Weigel draws on his insight to look at pontificate as we set into the deeper water where Pope John Paul II directed this ship. Weigel’s insight of why Pope John Paul II did or did not address issues helps to understand the direction of Pope Benedict XVI and perhaps even some insight into why he abdicated. There is a section where Weigel lists the Bishops Pope John Paul II appointed different from the recommendations of the national bishop conferences. The list includes the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

I take away a greater respect for Pope John Paul II and a desire to understand his teachings.

Before starting the second part of the book, be sure you know the meaning of the word modernity as Weigel uses it often.

I would recommend the audiobook version for the first part in particular unless you are gifted in the pronunciation of Polish name. And on that, the narrator is excellent.