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John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father Paperback – October 31, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Noonan's warm remembrance of the man she calls her spiritual father is a refreshing addition to the growing collection of biographies of and memoirs about the late Pope John Paul II. What makes this volume so inviting is Noonan's chatty manner of writing about John Paul and the very personal way he affected her life. She is willing to be transparent here, especially in the chapters where she imparts elements of her faith story, explaining how she moved toward "serious Catholicism" and "deepened belief" during John Paul's reign and how she came to see him as her spiritual father. Although Noonan writes glowingly of her subject, she does not duck criticism of his lengthy pontificate. For one, she suggests he could have taken stronger action against the banal way the Catholic liturgy has come to be celebrated in the West. She particularly laments John Paul's inadequate response to the church's "great shame" of clergy sexual abuse, and seizes the opportunity to lambaste the church's cardinals and bishops as well. Noonan recaps what she told the American bishops at a meeting in September 2003, but sadly wonders whether they truly understood the magnitude of the problem. Noonan's and John Paul's fans will appreciate her take on the late pope and the delightful way in which she weaves his legacy into her own walk of faith.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Speechwriter and columnist Noonan is better at flashing insight and anecdote than at sustained argument and narrative. Her memoir of the late pontiff is, then, scrappy, though lyrical passages about John Paul's exceptionally didactic charisma and her own growth in faith predominate. Specifically motivating the book is the fact that, when elected in 1978, John Paul arrived to "speak" to Noonan with conversionary power precisely at the time she returned to church and began immersing herself in orthodoxy. Hence her keen appreciation of his mission to embody Christianity throughout the world, culminating in his unusually public dying, which reminded Christians and testified to non-Christians that the "highest" Christian must suffer, too--that, indeed, God so suffered in Christ, only to rise again as all Christians, whether confessing on Earth or not, shall rise. Noonan expands further on another aspect of John Paul's theology of the body that is often misrepresented in the West: his insistence that soul and body are absolutely inseparable, and to abuse the body through sexual incontinence, in particular, is to wound the soul. Surprisingly, or not, she then proceeds to score John Paul for insufficiently responding to the sexual scandals among the American priesthood. From that point to the end, many may feel Noonan focuses too much on her own doings, though she rallies for one good chapter on the beatification of Mother Teresa and another on John Paul's funeral. Uneven though it is, this is an absorbing personal tribute to a remarkable figure. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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He felt he'd under-appreciated JP II when he was alive and Noonan's book brought out for him what a great man he was. And he asked a rhetorical question - why weren't the Pope's writings more utilized by priests in homilies, etc? (Good question.)
So I went to amazon a couple of days later, and got a pristine hardcover copy from one of their second hand booksellers for less than three dollars, plus shipping. A bargain. I've never had anything but good results from the amazon second hand sellers.
John Paul the Great is a good read, It's not a great book, and it's not Peggy Noonan's best book, but it is plenty good. A fine introduction to John Paul.
(Personal note. I like Peggy Noonan. A lot. She's written some wonderful books. Her first book, Present at the Revolution is probably the best book about the Reagan Administration. Noonan was a speechwriter for Reagan, and wrote some of his most memorable speeches, including the one he gave after the Shuttle tragedy, and his speech at Normandy.)
And it is an introduction. It is not an in-depth study of the Pope's philosophy or theology. Noonan sketches out in broad strokes JP's thinking, and usually does a good job of it. I say usually because one of the shortcomings of the book is that a couple of times it comes across a bit as Peggy Noonan Teaching Catechism Class.
But that is more than made up for in the chapters covering things like the Pope's early life, his geopolitical impact, Noonan's discussion of the ongoing abuse crisis in the U.S. and what it's done to the Church, and her description of the ceremonies at Mother Teresa's beatification. Also - Noonan's telling of her meeting Cardinal Law (who she'd ripped to shreds in her WSJ newspaper column), not to mention the last chapter on John Paul's death and the election of Benedict 16 - all excellent stuff.
So a fine book and a quick read about one of the towering figures of the second half of the 20th century. I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are familiar with John Paul or just curious about what the big deal was when he died on April 2, 2005 - exactly a year and five months ago.
(Personal note #2. My wife Brigid also read it and found it absorbing.)
Although the book is also entitled "John Paul the Great," it is not entirely about him. Yes, she speaks a great deal about him. It offers us one of the early biographical works on the Pontiff, but she also speaks about the current affairs of the Church and what is going on within it, how they relate to him, etc. She is a true journalist in this aspect of her writing. She is Reporting! It is also partly autobiographical because she takes us through her own conversion and a host of experiences that were part of that time in her life. She recounts other personal experiences and how they relate to the pope, his leadership, and the teachings of the Catholic Church towards which she was certainly moving. One of the climaxes is her description of the Pope coming to New York and Saint Patrick's Cathedral and how she kind of unexpectedly found herself with the Cathedral to witness this first-hand.
It is a nice, pleasant, enjoyable read of someone who penned and then read what she penned for us. It leaves parts of her message stamped indelibly on our minds and in our imagination.
That is exactly what Peggy Noonan has done with John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father. She has made the life of John Paul the Great, jump off the pages, right into your heart.
Peggy Noonan is gifted at one-liners; her titles for each chapter, as well as all of her comments, need to be underlined in a brilliant color and cherished over and over as you read them again and again.
The first chapter, "I saw a Saint at Sunrise" is very heart-warming to any of us who have been to Rome but will be just as exciting to those who still yearn to make their first journey. The final chapter, "There is a Dead Saint in Rome" will take you to many thoughts of the week John Paul the Great left us.
The writing of the mini-miracle, sandwiched between the first and last chapter, of perfectly round circles of glass from an `explosion' of her coffee glass, filled with hot coffee, that reminded Peggy to pray the Rosary, will delight you. You will shake your head as you believe.
John Paul the Great was my Christmas gift to many grateful friends who feel the same way. Buy it - you will love it. Then, write a review!
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