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Archive for March, 2018

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From preliminary reviews, I expected this book (by George Weigel, a writer whose works and articles are must reading for me) to be a series of vignettes which highlighted stories the author witnessed (or heard about from others) during his eyewitness times with Pope John Paul II.  I also expected there to be lessons, if you will, in the hope that resulted from these stories as well as insights into John Paul’s character — what he valued, what “made him tick.”

This book, however, did not meet these expectations.  That does not mean I didn’t enjoy the book, but if you are desiring a book that does what the first paragraph above outlines, this book is not for you.

What Mr. Weigel does do is offer, really, his own “mini-autobiography” as it relates to how he came to know Pope John Paul II and how he ended up writing his biographies of the Pope (“Witness to Hope” and “The End and the Beginning”).  In this sense, he offers “autobiographical sketches” which show a fascinating and well-lived life.

The author assumes his readership is very familiar with Catholicism, Catholic history and the Catholic church which can make some of the reading something of a slog for Protestants such as myself.  However, ultimately, I gained a deeper understanding of the Catholic Church’s roots, its formation in the likeness of a nation, its bureaucratic shortcomings and, most enlightening, the contents of some historically important papal encyclicals.

Of the greatest importance, however, the book offers a penetrating look into what many Catholic Church leaders thought of the pope and the inner workings of the church itself, particularly since Vatican II.  It offers insights into John Paul’s thoughts on the relation of the gospel and religion to culture (it is foundational and without it culture decays and devolves) and the importance of objective truth (it is a necessary condition and understanding it/living by it essential to liberty), as well as what he viewed as challenges to be faced in the 21st century and how Christianity should prepare and offer answers.  We also see a John Paul who continually sought God, whose relationship to God formed the core of his being and informed his purpose and peace in this life and resulted in a historically impacting pontificate.

The engaged and perceptive reader will find insights, truths and wisdom on the importance and potential impact of the gospel in history — both epochally (with the fall of Communism being the prime example) and in individual lives.  And in finding these truths and their impacts, one finds indeed, a rich store of Lessons in Hope.

 

 

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I recently finished reading “Out of the Ashes” by Anthony Esolen. Wow, what a fascinating, challenging and convicting read! I encourage any and all to read the book — but beware, it is not for the faint of heart nor those easily offended. Dr. Esolen is a man of learning and conviction, and his tone and some of his thoughts on culture and divine truth will put off some. He also tends to interrupt a line of thought for another line and it is up to the reader to determine how the thoughts are related to the immediate subject he is on at the time. Having said that, the author is largely accurate in his broad cultural analysis (if not always in the remedy, particularly regarding generalities on manhood and womanhood). The book has much to offer, and boldly and accurately state, regarding truth, beauty, education, God and man, how we rationalize evil and ugliness, and the need for ordinary people to be willing to resume the humanity that has often been lost (and how to do it). The last two chapters are classic and timeless! While the book is meant for more than the church, the universal church would do well to adapt what is discussed into how to recover its true mission and how to engage and influence by being distinct and thus true light.

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