counter Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II - Free Download Books
Hot Best Seller

Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

Availability: Ready to download

“Fascinating...sheds light on the history of the twentieth century for everyone.”—New York Times Book Review The definitive biography of Pope John Paul II that explores how influential he was on the world stage and in some of the most historic events of the twentieth century that can still be felt today. Witness to Hope is the authoritative biography of one of the singular f “Fascinating...sheds light on the history of the twentieth century for everyone.”—New York Times Book Review The definitive biography of Pope John Paul II that explores how influential he was on the world stage and in some of the most historic events of the twentieth century that can still be felt today. Witness to Hope is the authoritative biography of one of the singular figures—some might argue the singular figure—of our time. With unprecedented cooperation from John Paul II and the people who knew and worked with him throughout his life, George Weigel offers a groundbreaking portrait of the Pope as a man, a thinker, and a leader whose religious convictions defined a new approach to world politics—and changed the course of history. As even his critics concede, John Paul II occupied a unique place on the world stage and put down intellectual markers that no one could ignore or avoid as humanity entered a new millennium fraught with possibility and danger. The Pope was a man of prodigious energy who played a crucial, yet insufficiently explored, role in some of the most momentous events of our time, including the collapse of European communism, the quest for peace in the Middle East, and the democratic transformation of Latin America. With an updated preface, this edition of Witness to Hope explains how this “man from a far country” did all of that, and much more—and what both his accomplishments and the unfinished business of his pontificate mean for the future of the Church and the world.


Compare

“Fascinating...sheds light on the history of the twentieth century for everyone.”—New York Times Book Review The definitive biography of Pope John Paul II that explores how influential he was on the world stage and in some of the most historic events of the twentieth century that can still be felt today. Witness to Hope is the authoritative biography of one of the singular f “Fascinating...sheds light on the history of the twentieth century for everyone.”—New York Times Book Review The definitive biography of Pope John Paul II that explores how influential he was on the world stage and in some of the most historic events of the twentieth century that can still be felt today. Witness to Hope is the authoritative biography of one of the singular figures—some might argue the singular figure—of our time. With unprecedented cooperation from John Paul II and the people who knew and worked with him throughout his life, George Weigel offers a groundbreaking portrait of the Pope as a man, a thinker, and a leader whose religious convictions defined a new approach to world politics—and changed the course of history. As even his critics concede, John Paul II occupied a unique place on the world stage and put down intellectual markers that no one could ignore or avoid as humanity entered a new millennium fraught with possibility and danger. The Pope was a man of prodigious energy who played a crucial, yet insufficiently explored, role in some of the most momentous events of our time, including the collapse of European communism, the quest for peace in the Middle East, and the democratic transformation of Latin America. With an updated preface, this edition of Witness to Hope explains how this “man from a far country” did all of that, and much more—and what both his accomplishments and the unfinished business of his pontificate mean for the future of the Church and the world.

30 review for Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Gerald

    Pope John Paul II's greatest legacy may be his reminding the world of what true humanism means. The world knows what false humanism can do, when the unbridled desire for what one wants is let loose. It did not lead to a utopia; it resulted in Auschwitz and the gulags. And he also taught that false humanism can also exist in democracies, when the presence of freedom can be misconstrued as just doing what one pleases and subjecting everything to the trap and hollowness of atheism and moral relativ Pope John Paul II's greatest legacy may be his reminding the world of what true humanism means. The world knows what false humanism can do, when the unbridled desire for what one wants is let loose. It did not lead to a utopia; it resulted in Auschwitz and the gulags. And he also taught that false humanism can also exist in democracies, when the presence of freedom can be misconstrued as just doing what one pleases and subjecting everything to the trap and hollowness of atheism and moral relativism. Pope John Paul II taught the world not to be afraid of Christ-centered humanism; to respect each other as a creature of God with a soul, with rights, and with dignity. A human person is not an object of utility, to be judged as being useful or not; a person is an individual subject with freedom. And Pope John Paul II reminds us that we are here on Earth to live for the truth and we should use our freedom for good. "Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought" - Pope John Paul II, in his homily in Baltimore, Maryland, 1995

  2. 4 out of 5

    Par Donahue

    This 900 page book is quite a read! I spent 6 months reading it a couple of years ago, and it was worth every minute I put into it! It combines European history since the end of WWI, church history, and the life of JPII. There are brief reviews of his many encyclicals, his writings from Vatican II, and many of his other written words. George Weigel is a phenomenal writer. If I hadn't known the story I would have thought it was a piece of fiction. If you have not read this book do yourself a favo This 900 page book is quite a read! I spent 6 months reading it a couple of years ago, and it was worth every minute I put into it! It combines European history since the end of WWI, church history, and the life of JPII. There are brief reviews of his many encyclicals, his writings from Vatican II, and many of his other written words. George Weigel is a phenomenal writer. If I hadn't known the story I would have thought it was a piece of fiction. If you have not read this book do yourself a favor and get started. It is not a "Catholic" book except in the way that catholic means universal. It will appeal to anyone interested in History and a good story! I guarantee you'll love it!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Doreen Petersen

    What can I possibly say about the subject matter of this book that hasn't been said many, many times over. Saint John Paul II is truly one of God's Blessed People. May sound strange but when he was elected Pope you just knew he was destined for greatness far beyond what any of us could hope for. I pray every day to him and my prayers never go unanswered. For anyone interested in the Catholic religion of John Paul II this is a must read. What can I possibly say about the subject matter of this book that hasn't been said many, many times over. Saint John Paul II is truly one of God's Blessed People. May sound strange but when he was elected Pope you just knew he was destined for greatness far beyond what any of us could hope for. I pray every day to him and my prayers never go unanswered. For anyone interested in the Catholic religion of John Paul II this is a must read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    This was fascinating both for the historical context (a lot of which I never knew or had forgotten) and for the inspirational content woven throughout. It was uplifting in a way I didn't expect. I was interested to see how many of John Paul II's controversial writing or actions are actually mirrored in some ways by Pope Francis ... resulting in many of the same sorts of critiques, from different sides of conservative/liberal thinking. The audio is only available in abridged version but that didn't This was fascinating both for the historical context (a lot of which I never knew or had forgotten) and for the inspirational content woven throughout. It was uplifting in a way I didn't expect. I was interested to see how many of John Paul II's controversial writing or actions are actually mirrored in some ways by Pope Francis ... resulting in many of the same sorts of critiques, from different sides of conservative/liberal thinking. The audio is only available in abridged version but that didn't hurt my experience as far as I can tell. I may reread it sometime in print to get the full version. Definitely recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    Witness to Hope is a monumental work by George Weigel, and is put - along with The Civil War: A Narrative - into a special category of books that I have read. They are books of serious matters and are books of serious weight as well. I dropped this book from 5 to 4 stars only because its length and subject matter required two reading efforts - separated by a few months - to complete. The narrative of Poland under the Nazis, of the suffering of many groups (Jews, Christians, priests, professionals Witness to Hope is a monumental work by George Weigel, and is put - along with The Civil War: A Narrative - into a special category of books that I have read. They are books of serious matters and are books of serious weight as well. I dropped this book from 5 to 4 stars only because its length and subject matter required two reading efforts - separated by a few months - to complete. The narrative of Poland under the Nazis, of the suffering of many groups (Jews, Christians, priests, professionals, etc.), and of John Paul's life during the war almost alone make this book worth reading. The descriptions of life in Cold War Poland, as well as the events leading up to and immediately following his election to the papacy are also excellent.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bryan

    Witness to Hope is a wonderful, detailed biography of Blessed John Paul II. Not only does it describe all of the work that he accomplished during his pontificate, it also gave an insight into the motivation behind so many of his actions. Some may consider this book overly kind to the Pope, but as someone who grew up during the JPII generation, I gained a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the Holy Father.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christian Geirsson

    A no more definitive biographical account could one ask for, "Witness to Hope" (or "Witness to Grope," as my sardonic brother said years ago) goes into extraordinary detail into the John Paul's theological, philosophical, personal, and ecclesiastical agendas, providing an almost completely chronological narrative of his 20 years in the papal office at the time of the writing. What this authoritative biography lacks compared to today's famously successful biographers (McCullough, Goodwin-Kerns, I A no more definitive biographical account could one ask for, "Witness to Hope" (or "Witness to Grope," as my sardonic brother said years ago) goes into extraordinary detail into the John Paul's theological, philosophical, personal, and ecclesiastical agendas, providing an almost completely chronological narrative of his 20 years in the papal office at the time of the writing. What this authoritative biography lacks compared to today's famously successful biographers (McCullough, Goodwin-Kerns, Isaacson, etc), I feel, is objectivity for the subject. This is a biography of reverence. Of course, the individual in question here is the Pope, the head of the Catholic church for a quarter of century and an enormous media figure in his day, but unfortunately, I felt George Weigel, its author, believed John Paul could and did do no wrong. When modern controversies existed at the time, Weigel identifies the controversies as the fault of "journalists" or "corrupt modern political organizations" such as the U.N., for misunderstanding the truths JPII was teaching through his administrative works and encyclicals. This subjective study should be understood as a literary work of a faithful Catholic journalist, but, in my estimate, this is not a particularly objective account of this man's life and pontifical body of work. I set out reading this book to gain a wider understanding of both Catholicism and 20th century Western history and culture, and for sure, John Paul II was at the center of so much change and upheaval. I will not remember all the historical details within this book of course, but I did appreciate learning about his intellectual and scholarly, and even dramatic background. It gives a deeper understanding of a religious leader when one learns that he considered becoming a playwright and dramatist before deciding to become a priest. He was a champion of the humanities, and celebrations of culture. Culture drives history, one of his main tenets states, and it is the Catholic culture that could flourish to save the world from the cynical advances of modern culture. It is important to realize the backdrop JPII came from: in his early adult years, seeking out Catholic mass and the sacraments through secret channels during World War II in Poland; being at the political and ecumenical forefront of Communism's initial breakdown through Polish Solidarity union workers; and in the thick of women's rights and pro-life debates occurring globally in the 1990s. It is the culture of Catholicism he hoped would grow and evangelize the world so it would advance into the 21h century protecting human rights and freedom of religion. The writing of this books stops in 2000, and I cannot but think how differently this definitive biography of the Pope would be if it were written after the terrorists attacks of 9/11 and the revelations of rampant sexual abuse by scores of Catholic priests. In this book he is described as the ultimate Pastor, looking over his flock and presiding over numerous pilgrimages to communities throughout the world. Revelations of widespread sexual abuse among priests and parishioners make it seem he perhaps wasn't as in touch with his global community, or the congregation of bishops, as he is described circa the year 2000. Or, perhaps more dishearteningly, he was aware of the abuse and chose not to act to stop it. We are living in the shadow of John Paul II's papacy. He was canonized a saint in 2014 amid protests of victims of sexual abuse. His legacy now is mixed, and complicated. Surely he was a major player on the world stage, and played a large role in expanding the communion of Catholic leaders as well as outreach of the laity, and making consistent efforts to mend broken relationships among other Christian communities to achieve ecclesiastic communion. But the presence of the controversy of sexual abuse looms large, and puts his achievements under a darker cloud than existed at the twilight of his reign. Reading this book did place me in awe at this man's demonstrated kindness, faith in Christ, and optimism of human nature. I appreciated the commentary of his numerous encyclicals. I will add that this made me reconsider my positions of Catholic teachings that I've grown cynical to over the years, and provided the opportunity to contemplate judgments I had settled on over the years about decisions based on human responsibility, faithfulness, and morality. Lastly I will add that this review of John Paul II's teachings, encyclicals, and doctrinal positions of his church adds to the ongoing definition of "modernity." Unfortunately for the Catholic Church, progressive and modern advances almost reflexively equate with immorality, and there appears a sense of skepticism and doubt of corruption when considering the advancing global culture of the 21st century. The cure to upcoming immorality and doubt about the future is faith in Jesus Christ (wasn't anyone in the Vatican listening to Radiohead in 1997? Our future with the robots and the computers is going to be OK ;-) ). As a millennial thinker, I have faith there is more optimism to be had with the current times and in modernity. We should embrace our traditions and learn from wisdom of scripture, but we have the opportunity to develop a humanism that embraces the possibilities of technology and science. Not the opportunity to develop the most awesomest iPhone ever, but the possibility to save lives with biomedicine, incorporate pragmatic family planning strategies, develop agriculture systems that not only increase efficiency in production but improve equal distribution to communities in need of nourishment, develop systems that will combat climate change, and create meaningful opportunities to speak with members of different faiths to find solutions to problems rather than reasons to exclude and ostracize. Modernity does not need to maintain that human life will become base an immoral, without regard to human sanctity; a positive embrace of changing modern times should look forward to the possibilities of what future scientists, philosophers, humanitarians, politicians, and preservers of culture could do to advance human morality and the opportunities of human nature. Pope Francis' Church seems like it could be taking this direction (and not just because Francis in on Instagram now). John Paul's thematic concern of preserving human rights and freedom of choice, perhaps, takes on a new definition in the 21st century; progress, one can hope, will involve a positive embrace of changing times, not an embrace of denial and ignorance, and simple retreat to dogma.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sr

    I read this book partly as an exploration of Roman Catholicism. As I studied, I found a liberal evangelical church leader who claims to be Bible believing said that I would find Pope John Paul to be a true saved believer in Jesus Christ, even though he is a Roman Catholic (and the highest ranking). It was an enjoyable read. He is a very charismatic leader. It is a great rags-to-riches story of an unlikely person climbing the ladder to the top. He clearly is not trusting in Jesus Christ's atonemen I read this book partly as an exploration of Roman Catholicism. As I studied, I found a liberal evangelical church leader who claims to be Bible believing said that I would find Pope John Paul to be a true saved believer in Jesus Christ, even though he is a Roman Catholic (and the highest ranking). It was an enjoyable read. He is a very charismatic leader. It is a great rags-to-riches story of an unlikely person climbing the ladder to the top. He clearly is not trusting in Jesus Christ's atonement as the sole basis for salvation; instead he is trusting in man-made traditions of works. It's quite obvious at several places, that he doesn't know the Bible. I'm not suggesting Roman Catholics cannot be saved. Many are. These are the ones who are trusting in Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation, and not in their own efforts. However most seem to be trusting in their own religious efforts. They depend on practices like idolatry, and vain repetition of prayers, which both completely contradict the Bible. These, as well as John Paul, are not saved according to Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian S

    Finally made it through this one, have to admit with a bit of skimming. Early on in this JPII biography George Weigel laments the fact that the media so often portrays the goings on in John Paul II’s world from a purely political viewpoint, when in reality, while certainly having a political role, the pope was primarily motivated by the spiritual aspect of his office. Nevertheless, this biography reads as a chronology of the political forays of the now late pope. Never ending accounts of the pop Finally made it through this one, have to admit with a bit of skimming. Early on in this JPII biography George Weigel laments the fact that the media so often portrays the goings on in John Paul II’s world from a purely political viewpoint, when in reality, while certainly having a political role, the pope was primarily motivated by the spiritual aspect of his office. Nevertheless, this biography reads as a chronology of the political forays of the now late pope. Never ending accounts of the pope’s clashes with Eastern European communist governments, Central American governments, conflicts with the political left in Europe and America, inter-church politics, intra-church politics, the specific politics of the Curia (Vatican bureaucracy), etc., etc. Although Weigel often makes it clear that John Paul II gave priority in his life to prayer and ministry, this biography provides little insight into that part of the pope’s life. Perhaps necessarily so, as those things are not easily known, while the worldly acts of a pope are readily accessible.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Witness to hope is a well-researched and comprehensive biography of John Paul II. It does a learned job in providing backgrounds to the political and social climates covered in Karol Wojtyla's past. This gives a feel for the tension and precarious balances present in a World War II-era Eastern Europe (Poland) and Cold War-era Western Europe (Rome). This also allows for a context and understanding of those times and what living in those eras would have felt like. At times, however, the book reads Witness to hope is a well-researched and comprehensive biography of John Paul II. It does a learned job in providing backgrounds to the political and social climates covered in Karol Wojtyla's past. This gives a feel for the tension and precarious balances present in a World War II-era Eastern Europe (Poland) and Cold War-era Western Europe (Rome). This also allows for a context and understanding of those times and what living in those eras would have felt like. At times, however, the book reads like an uninterrupted list of superlatives for the Pontiff. The answers to JPII's critics and detractors are back loaded at the end of the book. On the whole, the book then becomes balanced, but it may have been better served humanizing John Paul II throughout the book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alex Walker

    Pope John Paul II was a true inspiration to myself before I read this book. After I read it I realised how truly a great man he was. His life story, if fiction, would be too far fetched to actually believe. From his simple upbringing in Poland he encountered the horrors of Nazi occupation and then the further horrors of a Communist regime and then to come through the end of all that and rise through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to become Pope and be one of the most witnessed human beings Pope John Paul II was a true inspiration to myself before I read this book. After I read it I realised how truly a great man he was. His life story, if fiction, would be too far fetched to actually believe. From his simple upbringing in Poland he encountered the horrors of Nazi occupation and then the further horrors of a Communist regime and then to come through the end of all that and rise through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to become Pope and be one of the most witnessed human beings in history. Pope John Paul II was a truly remarkable human being who was led through his life by God himself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pete Iseppi

    It took me quite a while to get through this book, but it was well worth the effort. What an amazing man Pope JPII was. Even if you're not a Catholic or even a Christian, you have to admire the effort that this man put into living and spreading his faith. The miles traveled, the numerous writings, surviving the Nazi occupation of Poland during WWII and then the Communist Government thereafter. Pope JPII raised the bar for future Popes. He was truly a giant of the 20th century, and his impact wil It took me quite a while to get through this book, but it was well worth the effort. What an amazing man Pope JPII was. Even if you're not a Catholic or even a Christian, you have to admire the effort that this man put into living and spreading his faith. The miles traveled, the numerous writings, surviving the Nazi occupation of Poland during WWII and then the Communist Government thereafter. Pope JPII raised the bar for future Popes. He was truly a giant of the 20th century, and his impact will be felt for years to come.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Cann

    Not for the faint of heart or the impatient! I gained a deeper insight into the life of a true leader of the Church. In particular, I enjoyed reading how JPIi set an example for Christian discipleship, used his influence for a greater good, and stood firm to uphold the teaching of Jesus Christ. Finally, this book gave me a new appreciation of papal encyclicals and their importance as learning resources for the faithful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Fr. Ryan Humphries

    Weigel's tome is a must read for everyone. He loses a star because of the long and tedious hundred pages or so where Weigel recounts every conversation and letter that went into ending communism. Eck! Undoubtedly, it was important in understanding the pope, but Weigel obviously loves this stuff. 95 pages could be edited out and readers would - i think - be appreciative. Otherwise, it's an amazing work that ought to be on every bookshelf. Weigel's tome is a must read for everyone. He loses a star because of the long and tedious hundred pages or so where Weigel recounts every conversation and letter that went into ending communism. Eck! Undoubtedly, it was important in understanding the pope, but Weigel obviously loves this stuff. 95 pages could be edited out and readers would - i think - be appreciative. Otherwise, it's an amazing work that ought to be on every bookshelf.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pedro

    If you want to understand the challenges St. John Paul II had to face during his years as the successor of St Peter you must read this book. From the priest chastised on the tarmac at Managua's Sandino International Airport to the encounter with Mehmet Ali Agca, from the intervention in the Jesuits to the meeting with Mother Theresa, this book shows us how hard is the mission of the Pope and how hard was to John Paul II to be a Pope in those turbulent years. If you want to understand the challenges St. John Paul II had to face during his years as the successor of St Peter you must read this book. From the priest chastised on the tarmac at Managua's Sandino International Airport to the encounter with Mehmet Ali Agca, from the intervention in the Jesuits to the meeting with Mother Theresa, this book shows us how hard is the mission of the Pope and how hard was to John Paul II to be a Pope in those turbulent years.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian Ballard

    An incredible overview of the life, ministry, and impact of Pope John Paul II. The detail and thoroughness Weigel brings to this work is remarkable. However, the author’s own unabashed favorable view of Pope John Paul II at times colors the telling of history. A more critical look at certain challenges during Pope John Paul II’s papacy would have been interesting. Still, if you’re interested in Pope John Paul II this is the definitive biography and a great read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    I read this as a protestant intrigued by the cultural impact that this man was making in the world at large. It called me to carefully examine my assumptions about Catholocism as a whole. What an inspirational human being. I you have read the pope's writings you may agree that Mr. Weigel I feel made his subject's mind and heart more accessible than John Paul could have done himself. I read this as a protestant intrigued by the cultural impact that this man was making in the world at large. It called me to carefully examine my assumptions about Catholocism as a whole. What an inspirational human being. I you have read the pope's writings you may agree that Mr. Weigel I feel made his subject's mind and heart more accessible than John Paul could have done himself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    No better history lesson on the 20th century than to study the remarkable life of JPII. The best thing about this book is Weigel gives an introductory summary of all of JP's writings... brilliant writings we will be unpacking for centuries! No better history lesson on the 20th century than to study the remarkable life of JPII. The best thing about this book is Weigel gives an introductory summary of all of JP's writings... brilliant writings we will be unpacking for centuries!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ry

    St. John Paul II gave George Weigel unprecedented ‘access’ into his life. Weigel included so much detail. Though the amount of details was overwhelming, the result, at the end, was that I felt like I had just ‘walked with’ John Paul through his life. It was precisely how Karol met God in the smallest details of his life that allowed his whole person to be taken up by the Spirit and be directed by God in all the ways he was. After reading the book, I am again awestruck by just how profoundly infl St. John Paul II gave George Weigel unprecedented ‘access’ into his life. Weigel included so much detail. Though the amount of details was overwhelming, the result, at the end, was that I felt like I had just ‘walked with’ John Paul through his life. It was precisely how Karol met God in the smallest details of his life that allowed his whole person to be taken up by the Spirit and be directed by God in all the ways he was. After reading the book, I am again awestruck by just how profoundly influential the life and heart of this man were for the Church. With Christ the Redeemer of man at the center of John Paul’s spirituality, he pointed the light to reveal the depths of the dignity of the human person in the midst of an entire lifetime overshadowed by the darkness, loneliness, and anti-human modern agenda in all its forms. In my walk with the pope over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize just how much the Church’s current teaching regarding anthropology owes to this man. The truths he articulated have always been true, but mostly hidden; truths that, until now, I’ve come to realize haven’t been so deeply known and understand until very recent times. Grateful for the time spent in this work. Thank you George Weigel. St.John Paul II, pray for us.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Arthur

    NOTE this is a review of an ABRIDGED audiobook that was roughly 10 hours long. The actual book is over 1,000 pages. So I have no idea how much has been cut, but I presume a substantial amount. This focused on the first 20 years of his papacy and his life beforehand. I felt this biography was fair, leaning in favor of the pontiff, but giving voice to criticisms as well. Any objective person will say that Pope was an instrumental figure of the 20th century. Accomplishing more through peaceful diplo NOTE this is a review of an ABRIDGED audiobook that was roughly 10 hours long. The actual book is over 1,000 pages. So I have no idea how much has been cut, but I presume a substantial amount. This focused on the first 20 years of his papacy and his life beforehand. I felt this biography was fair, leaning in favor of the pontiff, but giving voice to criticisms as well. Any objective person will say that Pope was an instrumental figure of the 20th century. Accomplishing more through peaceful diplomacy than arguably any other person that century. He was a transformational figure for for church and is beloved by Polish Catholics for good reason. This biography certainly does him justice. The author doesn't merely mention events, but also gives the needed context to properly understand them.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Justine B.

    Well worth the months it took me to read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Very good. It got a little boring at the very end as the author was wrapping up the narrative and trying I guess to speculate about JP2s legacy. But otherwise very compelling.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anniepeaches

    To allege that this book is well-written would be an understatement. Each sentence and paragraph is packed with information, but it flaunts an easy flow and does not read like a textbook. I learned so much about JPII, the Church, and world politics over the past three months of experiencing this book. I cannot recommend this book more; I will definitely read it again.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Although not a Catholic, I found this biography of Karol Wojtyla to be an enlightening account of the life of Pope John Paul II and the remarkable and miraculous influence he had on the world during his early life and papacy. A few favorite gems include (by summary or by quote): • To a modernity dominated by the pleasure principle and by personal willfulness, JP II has insisted that suffering can be redemptive, and that obligation is at the core of Biblical religion. (Pt. 1) • In an intellectual en Although not a Catholic, I found this biography of Karol Wojtyla to be an enlightening account of the life of Pope John Paul II and the remarkable and miraculous influence he had on the world during his early life and papacy. A few favorite gems include (by summary or by quote): • To a modernity dominated by the pleasure principle and by personal willfulness, JP II has insisted that suffering can be redemptive, and that obligation is at the core of Biblical religion. (Pt. 1) • In an intellectual environment in which the capacity to know anything with certainty is denied, JP II taught that universal truths exist, that we can know them, and in knowing them, certain moral duties are laid upon us. (Pt. 1) • At a time when the personality is deemed infinitely plastic and in which human nature (if its reality is admitted at all) is viewed as a cultural construct, JP II defended the idea of a universal human nature and has insisted on the givenness of the human condition. (Pt. 1) • In a culture where happiness is identified with talent and its assertion, JP II taught that happiness is found in the obedient submission of talent and will to transcendent truth and love. (Pt. 1) • Against the temptation to regard utility as the sole criterion for measuring anyone’s worth, JP II insisted that every human being possesses an inherent and inalienable dignity and value. (Pt. 1) • At a historical moment that celebrates the pursuit of self-interest, JP II taught that we worship God and strive for holiness, not because these things are good for us but because these are things that are to be done. (Pt. 1) • In a world that takes history to be the product of impersonal, economic, and political forces, JP II defended the priority of culture and the world-transforming power of the human spirit. (Pt. 1) • JP II’s life was forged in the great political and intellectual conflicts of the 20th century and his rootedness to truth allowed him to be able to sincerely proclaim, “Be not afraid.” The foundation of that rootedness is his conviction that Jesus Christ is the answer to the question that is every human life. In one word, JP II was a disciple. (Pt. 1) • JP II was arguably the most well-informed man in the world; was a notably successful statesman (without extensive preparation for it); and was mostly an auto-didact, especially through his life experience. He was not a demagogue and was known for the intensity of his love. (Pt. 1) • It was during the long, dark night of occupation that JP II experimented with cultural activism, or the defense of national cultural identity, as a means of political resistance and liberation. (Pt. 2) • WWII was a six-year period of unspeakable cruelty broken by acts of unimaginable heroism. (Pt. 2) • By the end of WWII, 1/3 of Poland’s clergy had been murdered outright, or had died in concentration camps, and in many cases, it was the most enlightened, assertive priests who perished. (Pt. 2) • JP II believed that God can only be known in Himself when all of our human attempts to reach Him are abandoned in complete self-surrender, which is an act of complete love. And JP II came to believe this during the occupation in WWII. The idea of the imitation of Christ through the complete handing-over of every worldly security to the merciful will of God, would, over time, become the defining characteristic of JP II’s own discipleship. (Pt. 3) • During the occupation, Communists understood that men and women secure in the love of their families were a danger. Thus housing, work schedules, and school hours were all organized by the State to separate parents from their children as frequently as possible. Additionally, a law was passed that made abortion permissible. JP II and his fellow priests at St. Florian’s did all they could to use the ordinary structures of parish life to combat this assault, including a marriage preparation program, secret meetings, and education. (Pt. 4) • JP II had a gift for listening, no matter the subject. This openness and capacity for listening were completed by his deep respect for the freedom of others. (Pt. 4) • JP II’s writings included the declaration that “human dignity involves a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. And knowing the truth involves an obligation to live according to that truth. The obligation to seek the truth cannot be fulfilled unless men and women enjoy both psychological freedom and immunity from external coercion, for it is by a free personal assent that men must adhere to the truth they have discovered.” Thus, JP II worked to ground religious freedom as securely as possible during the Polish occupation. (Pt. 5) • JP II prepared to teach the Polish people when he first visited as Pope to “Allow Christ to find you. Be afraid only of thoughtlessness and pusillanimity.” (Pt. 8) • Surrounded by workers at a Polish steel mill, JP II insisted that “Christ will never approve that man be considered, or that man consider himself, merely as a means of production, or that he be appreciated, esteemed, and valued in accordance with that principle.” He continued that Christ and Christians oppose any form of degradation of mankind. (Pt. 8) • To the Polish Solidarity social and political revolution, none of it was possible or imaginable without the “moral revolution” of JP II’s nine-day visit in Poland in June 1979. (Pt. 8) • Alexander Solzhenitsyn argued in 1970 that the “Communist culture of the lie and Communist violence were closely linked such that when the lie was dispersed, the violence w[ould] come crashing down.” (Pt. 8) • JP II continued to turn to religious freedom as essential to the cause of peace. As Vatican II had taught and as JP II affirmed in his 1979 UN Address, denying anyone the freedom to search for the truth and to adhere to it dehumanized that person, for the search for truth was at the essence of our humanity. Religious people, agnostics, and even atheists should be able to agree on this as a matter of common humanistic conviction. No one could reasonably suggest that religious freedom was a sectarian matter. (Pt. 8) • JP II diagnosed that in modern times the core of the struggle was far deeper than the conflicts between East and West or capitalism and socialism or rich and poor; rather, it was a crisis in the soul of humanity and was moral and spiritual. (Pt. 8) • “The irresistible thirst for freedom had brought down walls and opened doors.” JP II on the cause of the rapid revolution of 1989 in east central Europe. Note also that the point of departure for the revolution of 1989 was often a church. (Pt. 9) • JP II taught clearly and forcefully and unsparingly that democracies that denied the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death are tyrant states that poison the culture of rights and betray the long historical process that once led to discovering of the idea of human rights. (Pt. 10) • JP II did not stand out on the world stage of the 1990s because he was so striking, but because his leadership and the public’s response was a matter of substance. He continued to insist on the centrality of moral questions to human flourishing and willingly defended unpopular positions under attack. This gave his leadership an integrity and even nobility that was sorely lacking among the politicians of the day. (Pt. 10) • JP II believed that democracy was the political project best in keeping with human nature while at the same time underscoring its demands. That included an education that stressed freedom for responsibility and a civil society capable of sustaining the rule of law. (Pt. 10) • JP II also believed that the word of truth spoken clearly and forcefully enough was the most effective tool against the tyranny of totalitarianism. “By inspiring the revolution of conscience that inspired the nonviolent revolution of 1989 against Marxism/Leninism, JP II helped restore the political freedom of his Slavic brethren behind the iron curtain.” He also demonstrated the history is dominated by culture, and at the heart of culture is ‘cult,’ or religion. Thus “Christian conviction can be the agent of human liberation.” (Pt. 11) • “If culture is the engine of history, then free economies and democratic political communities must be built upon the foundation of a vibrant, public moral culture, capable of disciplining and directing the tremendous human energy set loose by freedom.” Freedom is always a fragile commodity, and its most secure foundation according to JP II is a recognition of the dignity of the human person as the bearer of rights endowed by God. (Pt. 11) • “By insisting on religious freedom as the source and safeguard of all human rights, JP II exemplified an alternative to sectarian violence and state-enforced secularism in situations where the deepest convictions of human beings are in conflict, not conversation.” (Pt. 11) • The barbarism that threatened civilization during JP II’s leadership was a set of ideas whose consequences include “barbarous politics, defective humanisms that in the name of humanity and its destiny, create new tyrannies and compound human suffering.” When fragments of truth are “absolutized” by “barbarians,” the world suffering begins “to take upon it the aspect of the demonic, such as in in Auschwitz and the Gulag Archipelago.” That is what happens when utility becomes the sole measure of human life. JP II preached against this his entire life and demonstrated that faith can transform the world. (Pt. 12) • JP II’s fearlessness was a quality not based on stoicism or autonomy from others; rather, it was a Christian fearlessness based on faith in Christ, who “set us all free from fear.” (Pt. 12)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Witness to Hope is the authorized biography of John Paul II (Karol Woytyla) written by a former theology professor and prolific writer on Church issues. It is a stunning work that benefits from several important factors: -1- the author was allowed to interview John Paul II personally on six occasions -2- he had access to individuals inside John Paul's inner circle at the Vatican on an "as needed basis" -3- Jean Paul's former teaching colleagues at the Catholic University of Lublin and his friends Witness to Hope is the authorized biography of John Paul II (Karol Woytyla) written by a former theology professor and prolific writer on Church issues. It is a stunning work that benefits from several important factors: -1- the author was allowed to interview John Paul II personally on six occasions -2- he had access to individuals inside John Paul's inner circle at the Vatican on an "as needed basis" -3- Jean Paul's former teaching colleagues at the Catholic University of Lublin and his friends from his years in Poland cooperated with him fully -4- the author as a professionally trained theologian was able to unravel the various doctrinal debates that John Paul II was engaged in throughout his career and make them understandable to a lay reader -5- he clearly took the time needed to gather all the information from the multiple sources available to him and to assimilate it properly In terms of depth of research and breadth of coverage it is unlikely that this book will ever be superseded. I found it a great pleasure to read for the following reasons: -1- I am practicing Catholic with family in Poland who shares the author's obvious admiration for his subject -2- the author went to great pains to study the theology developed by Jean Paul II and his colleagues at the Catholic University of Lublin in the 1950s and then explain how it made a vital contribution to Vatican II -3- his coverage of Jean Paul II's involvement with the Solidarity movement provides great and unique insight into how the Communist regime ended -4- the author is blunt and direct in expressing Jean Paul II's dissatisfaction with certain political events that occurred in Poland in the post-Communist era -5- the author comprehensively reviews the criticisms of Jean Paul II's theology and encyclicals originating with American liberal theologians explaining both sides of the debate -6- it presents a very complete history of Jean Paul's trips -7- it presents a very complete history of the Vatican's administrative decisions and practices under John Paul II Remember this work is essentially the English Language of biography that Jean Paul II would have like to write for himself. Wiegl is quite candid in admitting that he had recruited to write the book for his known sympathies to the theological views and leadership style of Jean Paul II. It is honest in that he never denies that Jean Paul II's were often contested not only outside but inside the church, however, he feels that his role is present the view and the rationale of John Paul II on the contentious issues. There are also mistakes that are recognized but here one feels that it is John Paul's II wish that they be acknowledged as such. This book is an extraordinary work of scholarship on the life and career of Karol Wojtyla. It has a strong partisan bias that is openly admitted to in the Introduction. I strongly recommend it to any Catholics willing to make the considerable effort required to work through it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richard Grebenc

    Five stars are not enough for this tome (no doubt the longest book I have ever read clocking in at 864 pages not counting end notes which I read if they were substantial). This is the definitive work on John Paul's life through 1998 (I can't wait to read volume two!). I started this on his feast day last year although it has been on my bookshelf since it was published in 1999. I figured I was long overdue in reading about this amazing man. An amazing work of scholarship, not only do we learn abou Five stars are not enough for this tome (no doubt the longest book I have ever read clocking in at 864 pages not counting end notes which I read if they were substantial). This is the definitive work on John Paul's life through 1998 (I can't wait to read volume two!). I started this on his feast day last year although it has been on my bookshelf since it was published in 1999. I figured I was long overdue in reading about this amazing man. An amazing work of scholarship, not only do we learn about the details of JP's life journey, but we get context regarding world events and any pertinent parties involved in whatever aspect of the pope's life or work he is exploring. Weigel also does a wonderful job of summarizing and contextualizing the writing of John Paul throughout his life. His interviews with so many figures close to the pope or familiar with the pope add much to the richness of this volume. This is the must read bio of Pope St. John Paul II. My appreciation for his life and work has grown by leaps and bounds after working through this. It was unintentional, but providential I think, that I finished this on the date of the last apparition at Fatima, an event to which the late pope had a great devotion.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Bond

    My rating is by no means at all correlated with my opinion of the man, Pope John Paul II (JP2) it was just far from the most satisfying biography. For several reasons: - a bit of a biased perspective -- did not appreciate the entire last hour (listened to the audiobook) being reserved for countering detractors --- did not feel the author did a good job at all at counteracting and rather he just stuck to what JP2 did and didnt do/say/write. ----started to also feel that the author was giving too much My rating is by no means at all correlated with my opinion of the man, Pope John Paul II (JP2) it was just far from the most satisfying biography. For several reasons: - a bit of a biased perspective -- did not appreciate the entire last hour (listened to the audiobook) being reserved for countering detractors --- did not feel the author did a good job at all at counteracting and rather he just stuck to what JP2 did and didnt do/say/write. ----started to also feel that the author was giving too much undo credit to JP2, especially at the end when contending what JP2's legacy will be, and that he will one day by JP, the great. But the opinion remains the same when the author conjectures about the impact JP2 had on other historical figures, like Fidel Castro, with zero evidence about such opinions. There's no need to go there. The story about what really happened is more than enough to go on. -as an audiobook, it was abridged --the bit of historical context was well-done and deserved more play

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

    An eye-opening biography of the life of Pope John Paul II -- it is a tapestry of the life of Pope John Paul II that weaves the 'threads of his life on the cloth of the world stage'. It progresses from his childhood and youth in totalitarian and Nazi controlled Poland, to his rise through the ranks of the Church through his role in resolving many world conflicts, including his historical involvement in the 'demise of Communism'. Weigel weaves his story with JP II's encyclicals and other writings An eye-opening biography of the life of Pope John Paul II -- it is a tapestry of the life of Pope John Paul II that weaves the 'threads of his life on the cloth of the world stage'. It progresses from his childhood and youth in totalitarian and Nazi controlled Poland, to his rise through the ranks of the Church through his role in resolving many world conflicts, including his historical involvement in the 'demise of Communism'. Weigel weaves his story with JP II's encyclicals and other writings to portray the character and mission of JP II papacy -- his belief in the truth of God and Jesus Christ (providence) as guiding the world and providing us hope, even in spite of all of the horrors of the 20th century. He also portrays the deep intellect of JP II as well as his basic, intuitive understanding of the human person. This is an important look at his life and influence on the 20th century, not only for Catholics and Christians but on the world as a whole.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Krueger

    I first read Weigel's biography of St. John Paul II as a freshman in college. Young, naive, wet behind the ears, I understood very little of the political and philosophical implications of the life of this remarkable man. Still, the book made an impression on me and John Paul II became one of my personal heroes. Almost 10 years later, with seminary and four years of priesthood under my belt, returning to this book has been a profound spiritual experience. Beyond heroic, JPII was a man convinced I first read Weigel's biography of St. John Paul II as a freshman in college. Young, naive, wet behind the ears, I understood very little of the political and philosophical implications of the life of this remarkable man. Still, the book made an impression on me and John Paul II became one of my personal heroes. Almost 10 years later, with seminary and four years of priesthood under my belt, returning to this book has been a profound spiritual experience. Beyond heroic, JPII was a man convinced of God's Providential hand guiding human history. A second read has allowed me to delve into all the complexities of the 20th century and, through the lens of this modern saint, has shown me the fingerprints of a God that has brought good from evil, hope from suffering, and joy from the Cross. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matt Mitchell

    What a man. What a life. Reading this 12 years after JP II's death, I was struck not only by the lessons of history that he embodied and absorbed through his experiences but by his amazing amount of understanding for how this world works. He truly saw things as they are. I expected this book to be most interesting for what happened in his life and pontificate prior to the fall of communism. What ended up striking me more were his observations for where society would go if it continued to fail in r What a man. What a life. Reading this 12 years after JP II's death, I was struck not only by the lessons of history that he embodied and absorbed through his experiences but by his amazing amount of understanding for how this world works. He truly saw things as they are. I expected this book to be most interesting for what happened in his life and pontificate prior to the fall of communism. What ended up striking me more were his observations for where society would go if it continued to fail in recognizing truth as something which absolutely exists. It makes me think the groundwork for the current state of American affairs was laid not by the last 8 years, but by the last 28. JPII also recognized that there is a path back to collective recognition of the truth. I won't spoil it in words. I'll spoil it by how I live my life. As he did.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...