Book Review: Journal of a Soul * The Autobiography of Pope St. John XXIII
If someone handed me a 400+ page book, my first reaction, honestly would be instant overwhelmed. While I love to read, my attention deficit makes staying engaged to longer texts difficult at times. The Autobiography of Pope Saint John XXIII, perfectly titled Journal of a Soul, never once lost my attention nor stirred feelings of panic at the sheer volume of the, well, volume. To tell the truth, I was actually disappointed when I reached the end that there were not 400 more pages!
Pope Saint John XXIII is one of my all-time favorite Popes, and oddly enough I fell in love with him watching a bio-pic staring Ed Asner as this beloved pope. Ironically, my original intention for watching the movie was simply to make fun of Lou Grant portraying a Pope! The made for TV movie, Pope John XXIII, was surprisingly really good and launched in me a desire to know more and read more about the sweet stoutly pope, who simply longed to be a small country Priest.
As an avid journal keeper, I found the journal form of this book endearing, fascinating, and engaging. While many people write autobiographies, it is clear these journals were meant for an audience of one (at least initially), and are brutally honest assessments of his spiritual well-being and desire (despite many weaknesses) to serve God more perfectly every day. The book begins when a young Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli enters the Seminary in 1895 in Bergam, Italy, and ends roughly one year before his death in 1962. Sorry, I don't want to give away the ending, but... he dies.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Journey of a Soul. [Note: Quite honestly it was super difficult to just pick a few to highlight, I am so moved by his holy and humble heart, I could just quote the whole book!]
I have found good reason to blush and feel humble. I have found that all my actions are far from perfect; I have not mediated satisfactorily, I have not heard Holy Mass in the way I should, because I have allowed myself to be distracted as soon as I got up...I have not paid my visit to the Blessed Sacrament with all the fervour I used to feel; I have made my general self-examination with very little, if any profit; I have let my thoughts wander, especially during Vespers; I have given way to the languor that the hot weather brings... "I thought I could have been a saint by this time, and instead I am still miserable as before."
Pope Saint John XXIII
" Think of what the good Jesus did and suffered fur us. He endured great poverty, he worked form morning to night, was slandered, persecuted and ill-treated in every way and crucified by the very people whom he loved so much.
We must learn from him not to complain, not to get angry, and not go lose our tempers with anyone, and not to nurse in our hearts any dislike for those we believe have injured us, but to have compassion for one another, because we all have our faults, some of one kind, some of another, and we must love everyone. You understand what i mean? Everyone, even those who injure, or have injured us; we must forgive, and pray for those too.
Perhaps in God's eyes hey are better than we are."
In fact, now I am poor again. blessed be the Lord. I think that, by his grace, I did the right things. Again I trust in his generosity for the future. Give and it shall be given unto you. [*said after distributing a great deal of money given to him for his own personal use.]
If reading Pope Saint John XXIII journals was enough of a treat - Journal of a Soul also includes:
A Spiritual Testament
Apostolic Letter on The Holy Rosary (big yippee when I saw that!)
Some Prayers (spoken or written during his priesthood)
I probably do not need to say this - given how I gushed on and on throughout the entire review - BUT... In case you like clarity. Loved it, HIGHLY recommend it, will be reading and re-reading this one for a long time to come!
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher with the hope I'd blog about it & I did.