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5.0 out of 5 stars Pope John Paul is the real article: a true man of God, January 24, 2012
This review is from: The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (Paperback)
After reading George Weigel's complement to, and completion of, his biography of Blessed Pope John Paul II, I must conclude the following: Pope John Paul II - Karol Wojty³a - was the "real article," a true man of God, a mystic, and also masculine, virile and a saint. I will explain later why I use those adjectives.

Reading this book made me realize that "transitional figures," men and women who stand on axial turning points of history, fascinate me. Jesus Christ aside, He who is the "axis of history" is one but that goes without saying. Before him, I'm fascinated by the Prophet Jeremiah, who stood at the end of the old Israelite religion and the threshold of Judaism. He knew what came before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans and could see, but dimly, what would come afterwards. Similarly, in the first five centuries of the Christian Era, St. Augustine of Hippo beheld the end of classical antiquity and the beginning of a new era, then dawning, which St. Augustine was to help shape. During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln stood at the threshold of a civilizational shift marked by advances in technology, science, industry and even politics leading to a "second foundation" of the United States of America. Like Moses long before him, he led the people through a wilderness of war and misfortune and stood at the threshold of a promised land which he did not enter.

Pope John Paul II was such a transitional figure, leader, and man. He is a saint that does not conform to the general notion of "holiness". From our childhood we're led to believe that holiness is either a thing of the past, for people somehow "better" than us in our humanity, or something for the elderly, or women, or for sissy wimps. John Paul II demonstrated for all to see that holiness is the ordinary business of being Christian. To be holy is to reach the fullness of one's manhood, or womanhood, as God has planned from the beginning. Holiness is not for sissies and wimps, but for every man and woman who dares to answer the call of God with a perfect "Yes, I will serve". Serviam!

Another aspect of George Weigel's work is how much the process of canonization has changed throughout the centuries. At the funeral mass of Blessed John Paul, cries of Santo Súbito! were heard among the crowd of participants. Centuries ago, canonization by general acclamation was an accepted method to induct a person into the canon or "list" of saints. However, since the dawn of modernity and in reaction to the tendency of human beings to turn saints into legends and mythical figures, the process has taken a judicial form, where every strength and weakness of the candidate is examined with rigor, and evidence for or against the candidate's virtue is brought forward for testing, examination, and discernment. Historiography has replaced hagiography and criticism, credulity, and with that comes the duty to sift through the candidate's life to ascertain his heroic virtues.

George Weigel did this job brilliantly. In the third part of this book, Metanoia, the author engages in a critical appraisal of the Blessed Pope, arguing how he lived the Christian virtues in a heroic degree, and on how the late Pope discharged his duties to govern and sanctified the Church of Christ. Weigel discusses the merits of every major criticism leveled against the late Pope, and unveils the real shortcomings of John Paul's papacy. In doing so, I learned that judging the heroic virtues of someone's life does not consist of chalking popularity votes cast by so-called "traditionalists" or "liberals" in the Church, but to the right thing, as God gave the candidate the light to see it, in every situation. Historiography proves that the candidate had weaknesses and may have made mistakes in judgment, but its impartial application also helps to rule out malice on the part of the candidate and may even highlight the candidate's heroic virtues during difficult moments and situations.

Pope John Paul the Second, the Great, is already enrolled in the lists of saints of the Church in Rome and Cracow: that's what being declared a "Blessed" means. After reading George Weigel's The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II--The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy, I am convinced that he will be canonized, his added to the rolls of saints of the Universal Church, and that eventually "St." John Paul the Great will be presented as an example of holiness and transformation in Christ for all the faithful to emulate.
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