Born in the early seventies, I have worshiped my entire life in the post-Vatican-II Church, and have heard the story of the papacy which was to be a quiet transition, and in fact called the worldwide Church to council. So when given the chance to read more about Pope John XXIII I leapt at it, and am now very happy I did.
This biography by Patricia Treece is a wonderful balance of Pope John XXIII's (or Angelo Roncalli, as he was known for much of his life) public and private life. Personal stories from friends and entries from his journal are put in context against world events, as Angelo serves during WWI as a soldier and chaplain, and during WWII as apostolic delegate in Turkey and Greece. The chapters on his papacy discuss his ongoing work towards Christian unity, begun during his assignments in heavily Orthodox regions of the world, and his attempts at diplomacy with Soviet-bloc leader Khrushchev to improve the lot of priests behind the Iron Curtain. It was an enjoyable read; I came away feeling as if I not only knew the facts of this amazing life but some of what motivated, inspired, and drove his life journey in faith. Examples of his generous, cheerful spirit anchored in a simple, solid mission of charity and service to the Cross filled the pages. Treece is not presenting a perfect person – some of his faults are discussed – but rather how a commitment to strive for holiness guides him throughout his life's challenges.
While I did not come away from the book with a better understanding of why the council was called – his motives are not discussed – I did come away grateful for the opportunity to learn more about this extraordinary man, to read some of his writing, and to hear what those who knew and worked with him thought and felt about “The Good Pope”.
This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Meet John XXIII - Joyful Pope and Father to All .