LIFE WITH KAROL: My Forty-Year Friendship With the Man Who Became Pope, by
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, in Conversation With Gian Franco Svideroschi, translated
from the Italian by Adrian J. Walker. Doubleday. 260 pp. $22.95.
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication. From 1986 to 1992,
he worked at the international headquarters of the Order of Friars Minor and was
present for a couple of the public events described in this book.
FROM OCTOBER 8, 1966, until April 2, 2005, Father Stanislaw Dziwisz was the private
secretary of Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Kraków and later Pope John Paul II. No
one else knew the adult Wojtyla as well as Dziwisz did.
In this volume, Gian Franco Svideroschi, a veteran staff member of L’Osservatore
Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, serves as the narrator/interviewer.
His contributions are printed in italics.
Dziwisz met Wojtyla at the Kraków seminary in 1957, was ordained by him in 1963,
served as an assistant pastor for two years and was assigned to higher studies in
1966. Later, Dziwisz became Archbishop Wojtyla’s private secretary.
In 35 chapters (10 before the 1978 papal election and 25 chapters after it), Dziwisz
provides the “back story” to what can be found in the excellent biographies written
by George Weigel and Tad Szulc. Readers of the present volume probably need the overall
framework that a biography provides.
Wojtyla was one of the few Polish bishops permitted by their government to attend
Vatican II. After the student protests of 1968, “Wojtyla didn’t oppose the regime
head-on, but rather deflated it from the inside, by showing how it differed from
the reality of man, from the truth about man himself,”
writes the author.
Dziwisz details the pope’s first incognito skiing trip (to Ovindoli on January 2,
1981); the pope made about 100 private trips outside the Vatican. Less than two months
after being elected, he visited San Francesco Saverio Parish in Rome’s Garbatella
region; he had assisted there during his studies in Rome after World War II.
On the return flight from the pope’s 1984 pastoral visit to Thailand, a journalist
said to the pope, “You raised the political issue of the refugees.” The pope replied,
Dziwisz remembers, with something like ire in his voice: “It’s a human issue—human!
It’s not about politics. Reducing this to politics is all wrong. The basic human
issue is morality.”
Cardinal Dziwisz details that during the pope’s 1983 visit to Mehmet Ali Agca in
Rome’s Rebibbia prison, the would-be assassin asked John Paul II, “So why aren’t
you dead?” but never sought forgiveness.
Dziwisz describes the World Day of Prayer for Peace, celebrated in Assisi on October
27, 1986, as “a kind of watershed in the history of interreligious relations.” He
acknowledges that some of the Holy See’s staff members were not enthusiastic about
this day, but he offers no names.
After noting that John Paul II considered resigning, consulted several other people
and then chose not to, Dziwisz writes, “At the same time, John Paul II did work out
a procedure for resigning should he no longer be able to carry out his papal mission.” Many
readers may be interested in more detail about this point than the cardinal provides
or has been made public elsewhere.
Dziwisz is probably at his best in describing Pope John Paul II’s actions regarding
Poland and other countries behind the Iron Curtain.
The situation in Latin America is probably less understood. Many Church leaders
and theologians there could echo the politics/human-rights viewpoint quoted above—without
coming to the same conclusions that John Paul II did.
This volume has a single photo (the pope ordaining Dziwisz a bishop) but no index.
Dziwisz received a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology
of Kraków in 1981, became a titular bishop in 1998 and a titular archbishop in 2003,
was appointed archbishop of Kraków in 2005 and became a cardinal a year later. This
volume provides none of that information.
A Life With Karol offers a unique viewpoint and is an engaging read.
You can order A LIFE WITH KAROL: My Forty-Year Friendship With the Man Who
Became Pope from St. Francis Bookshop.
STUPID, UNJUST, AND CRIMINAL WAR: Iraq 2001-2007, by Andrew Greeley.
Orbis Books. 215 p. $19.
Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE M. VENTLINE, D.Min., a Catholic priest for three
decades and founding director of Cura Animarum (Care of the Soul), a special counseling
assignment for the Archdiocese of Detroit. A nationally certified personal trainer,
spiritual director, and wellness and nutrition consultant, Father Ventline has
authored seven books.
THIS SIX-YEAR HISTORY and commentary of the war in Iraq from 2001 to 2007 comes
from the prolific pen of priest-author-sociologist Andrew Greeley. He is a research
associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago
and a professor of sociology at the University of Arizona. He is also a popular novelist.
In a dismal culture enveloped in terror and fear, Greeley reminds readers of the
battle for the world’s resources, while raising concerns about morality and the just-war
theory criteria he contends are unmet in the case of the Iraq war.
By way of an ethical and political examination of conscience, Greeley stretches
the reader’s understanding of this war and pushes for an end to all war.
Standing with the late Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI, Greeley has
opposed the war from its inception. Here he details his objections to it with the
same stubbornness of the popes. Like them, Greeley argues in his Introduction that
the war in Iraq falls far short of the Catholic criteria for a just war: 1) The cause
must be just; 2) All peaceful solutions must have been exhausted; 3) The means used
must be proportionate; 4) The bad effects of the war must not exceed the good; and
5) There should be a reasonable hope of victory.
By his own admission, the author says he is “not an ideological pacifist,”
confessing that he “supported the Afghan war” and laments “only that the Administration
became too involved in Iraq to finish it.
“The American people would have resisted the Iraq war if it were not for the climate
of anger and fear generated by the attack on the World Trade Center,” Greeley contends.
American officials were in favor of an attack on Iraq long before the terrorist attack
that ignited their support to invade Iraq without sufficient proof of weapons of
In this timely tome, Greeley wonders about his right as a Catholic priest to criticize
the president. He further questions his place particularly after the pedophile mess,
yet reminds clergy of their right and responsibility—let alone obligation—to condemn
a war if they think it unjust and immoral.
Pained by the escalating loss of young soldiers and innocent bystanders, Greeley
“Why?” and “What for?” My own unhealed wound of the war in Vietnam and the demise
of my oldest brother there 40 years ago last February, along with so many other Vietnamese
and Americans killed back then, prompts me still to ask of that war, “Why?”
Urging his brother priests to speak out against the war in Iraq, Greeley concludes
that if “we remain silent, the very stones will cry out.”
May other voices join the side of the Prince of Peace.
You can order A STUPID, UNJUST, AND CRIMINAL WAR: Iraq 2001-2007 from St.
DARE TO SAY: An Adventure in Journaling, text by Kenneth Trainor,
welcome by William Burke. ACTA Publications. 224 pp. $14.95.
Reviewed by BARBARA BECKWITH, book review editor of this publication.
INTIMIDATED BY A BLANK PAGE when you go to start journaling? Many spiritual directors
advise keeping a journal of your thoughts so that you can see your dilemmas, patterns
and God’s contributions to the conversation. Kenneth Trainor provides inspirational
prompts and striking lines from Scripture to prime the pump. The bulk of the book
is composed of empty lines for you to fill from your life and heart.
Trainor is a journalist who lives in Oak Park, Illinois. In the dedication, this
layman cites a Trappist monk from New Melleray Abbey, Iowa, where he goes on retreat.
He says Father Jim O’Connor “taught me most of what I know about the contemplative
In the “Welcome,” Father William Burke, in residence at St. Julie’s Catholic Church
in Tinley Park, Illinois, refers to Trainor’s book as “an adventure called meditation
with a pen.” Trainor is his parishioner.
Trainor provides chapter headings like “Original Sin-tax,” “Wonder,” “Proverbs,”
“Death Sentences” and
“Life Sentences.” Meditation starters include gems like, “Wisdom is the ultimate
one-liner, the punch line without the laughter,”
“Speak your fears. Call their bluff,” “It’s time to let the Earth go fallow” and “I
have studied the stars too long to fear the night.”
This is not a book to work through logically, but to skip around in, depending on
your mood and what’s going on in your life on that day. I’m not fond of self-destructive
books that can only be used by one person, so I started writing responses to some
of these prompts in my own notebook. (That way I can recycle this book to someone
But the book proved valuable in unblocking something that the God within was trying
to tell me. And it helps deal with the big questions in life, like happiness, calling
and destiny, life and death.
My only complaint is the cover, which features a Waterman fountain pen. That illustration
could make it look as if a person needs expensive equipment to get going. Someone
with a Bic pen can produce just as profound thoughts as anyone writing with a Waterman.
The publisher recommends this as a gift book for “graduates of any stripe.”
It can spark a spiritual quest to know yourself and to get closer to God through
You can order WE DARE TO SAY: An Adventure in Journaling from St.
OF FAITH: Why Religion Matters—and How to Talk About It, by Krista
Tippett. Viking Press. 240 pp. $23.95.
Reviewed by MARK M. WILKINS, a teacher at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati,
SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, a national poll indicated that belief in God was a key factor
voters would use in assessing candidates for president in the election of 2008.
The important question for thoughtful readers would be whether it is candidates’
faith experience, their doctrinal stands or their religious practices that are being
Krista Tippett, host of public radio’s Speaking of Faith series, starts her
book of the same name with a reflection on faith, spirituality and religion. Her
text is geared toward a more constructive path of conversation about religion, politics
and culture than many hear on talk radio.
While acknowledging that religious zeal has brought about division and distrust,
the author believes that the spiritual energy of our time can counter any religious
excesses of any denomination or tradition.
While most of the thinking of the 1960s and 1970s was promoting secularization and
the diminishing role of religious practices, we have discovered that other disciplines
don’t raise the ultimate questions of morality and that a privatized religion is
a failing religion.
Listeners often ask her how she frames the questions she asks her guests and how
she has been affected by her listening. Her response is to build upon the idea that
all of us who are believers are “walking-around theologians,” to borrow a phrase.
We build upon the stuff of our lives, as well as the foundations of the traditions
that we choose to follow, in our quest for greater understanding of who we are and
who God has created us to be.
By exploring the intellectual and spiritual content of our time, Tippett says in
Chapter 3, we get the opportunity to reframe the truths spoken by our religious traditions.
The answers we get are as much shaped by the way we frame the question as they are
by the resources and texts we use to articulate a response.
Narrative theology is the heart of the fourth chapter as the author starts with
the first-person approach to religious speech. This essentially humanizes doctrine
and bars abstractions about how God touches our lives. She makes the point that the
nature of God is revealed not only in doctrine, dogma, ritual and tradition but also
in our lives which we use to construct our own sense of meaning and purpose. People
know that someone can disagree with another’s opinions or doctrines, but not with
their lived experience.
The final two chapters offer thoughts on virtue and mystery, and delve into the
spiritual ideas and practices that address our deepest cultural and personal confusions.
Her reflections are offered in contrast to the sometimes harsh words that are ofttimes
used to state correct positions that promote certainty rather than reverence and
The author was born the night that John Kennedy was elected president. Politics
seemed to be his primary arena, rather than religion. Tippett too was charged by
the possibilities of political solutions to world conflict. She spent her 20s as
a journalist and as a diplomat in Berlin.
When her questions started being more about life’s meaning, she returned to America
and enrolled in divinity school. In the 1990s, she recognized that in-depth religious
discourse was generally absent from journalism. She wanted to offer more than sound
bites which fit neatly on placards and bumper stickers.
Speaking of Faith was begun on American Public Media to add depth and interfaith
perspective to the discussion of religious ideas. She came up with the idea while
consulting for the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John’s Abbey
and University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The radio program began as an occasional
feature in 2000, then became a national weekly program in 2003.
Reading this book has gotten me to be a more regular listener to her program on
Sunday evenings. The book has also exposed me to a wider array of teachers, authors,
writers and activists to help me understand for myself and to explain to my friends
and students what it is I believe and why I believe it.
My one nit-picking complaint is that a list of the works written by the people to
whom she refers would have helped me. The book left me wanting more. I guess I’ll
keep tuning in.
You can order SPEAKING OF FAITH: Why Religion Matters—and How to Talk About
It from St. Francis Bookshop.