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John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father Hardcover – November 22, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; Standard edition (November 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670037486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739461570
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Peggy Noonan, a weekly columnist for the Wall Street Journal, does a splendid job of presenting an unforgettable spiritual father-figure in her life, the late Pope John Paul II. She also makes a case that everyone longs for such a person and that John Paul met the challenge of serving as pastor for the entire world. Coming from a humble and trying early life under both Nazi and Soviet aggression, Karol Wojtyla sought and met the God whom he presented so beautifully to all. His first pilgrimage to Poland as a new pope still resounds today through the history-making words "We want God!" John Paul showed us that living the heavenly life is not mere wishful thinking, but a reality enlivened through faith. Even his dying and funeral were sublime, and his legacy will only grow with time.

I especially liked Ms. Noonan's vignette of the pope with Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrayed Jesus in the Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ." Artistic himself and a former actor, John Paul uplifted Caviezel and his family and helped Jim to understand that the suffering he endured in the shooting of the film was worth it after all. As John Paul himself said of "The Passion," "It is as it was." Also, there is a vignette of the young Fr. Wojtyla with the Italian mystic Padre Pio (Forgione).

"John Paul the Great" can be read as a marvelous complement to George Weigel's standard reference "Witness to Hope," a source it draws from often. In addition, Ms. Noonan brings us up to date as she openly shares her insights on the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Neither candy-coating it nor dehumanizing the offenders, she instead zeroes in on the crux of the problem. "The actions of the abusers and their excusers reflect a profound immaturity.
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Format: Hardcover
If I could fashion myself as the perfect writer, I think I would like the imagination of Tolkien, the depth of C.S. Lewis, the vocabulary of William Buckley, and humor of Wodehouse, the edge of Ann Coulter, and the grace of Peggy Noonan. I have never read a word of hers that didn't shine a gentle, warm light on whatever it was to be lucky enough to have her writing about it. Her book, John Paul the Great, is no exception.

With her customary, grace, and respect she writes with love, affection, and candor about John Paul II and the faith he inspired in Catholics, in Christians, and most especially, in her. She made me smile with her story of coffee and the rosary. ("I don't have a cup of coffee in the morning -- I have a glass of coffee, because it's bigger.") And stand in stunned awe of Mother Teresa who experienced a perdio of spiritual darkness that began shortly after she left her convent to serve the poor until her death. She then deftly turned to admiration of John Paul II who accelerated Mother Teresa's canonization process because he knew that he spiritual heroism was greater, much greater, than any of us suspected. John Paul II knew that the canonization process would force into the public arena what Mother Teresa had kept so privately and that his flock would be instructed and inspired.

"Great men lift us up. They tell us by their presence that everything is possible, that as children of God we are part of God, and as part of God we can, with him, accomplish anything. Anything."

And great writers tell us about great men. Thank you Ms. Noonan. I enjoyed your telling and your willingness to share your own journey.
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Format: Hardcover
There is a moment in the Mass - just before you go up to receive `Communion'. . . when you say an ancient phrase (20 centuries old?)

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive You . . . but only `say the Word' - and I shall be healed."

As a former journalist (who once interviewed Mother Teresa in 1984 -- same year Peggy Noonan met Mother on a walkway outside the Reagan White House) I was struck by the fact that this tiny, but `tough-as-wire' woman - this saint! - could say those same words with genuine humility: The idea that, ` I'm not good enough' to be here . . . "but only say the word, and I shall be healed."


Almost 20 years later (in 2003) Peggy Noonan -- author of this unique biography -- was selected to speak at the Vatican, at the ceremony for the beatification of Mother Teresa - an event which coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of John Paul's papacy.

Feeling a little overwhelmed at the magnitude of the occasion (on the eve of a Papal Mass attended by half a million pilgrims) Peggy Noonan asked fellow-members of the American delegation to the ceremony for their thoughts. Then, following the open-air Mass in St. Peter's Square, Peggy Noonan, took the podium in "the audience hall at St. Peter's . . . and became the first woman ever to make a speech from the papal throne."

For two days leading up to the occasion, Noonan was unable "to think of ANYTHING about Mother Teresa that seemed good enough to say - (that was) original, or worthy of a saint."

So when her moment came before the microphones, she quoted fellow members of the American delegation:

"As I experienced today's Mass (in St. Peter's Square) I felt we were all loving TWO saints . . . Mother Teresa and John Paul II.
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