Sunday, April 27, 2014

Catholic Review: Journal of a Soul

Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII by Pope John XXIII, November 9, 1999 (originally published in 1964). 544 pages. Published by Image. Source: Blogging for Books.
No other pope of this century has aroused so much interest and universal affection throughout the world as has Pope John XXIII. Journal of a Soul is an inspiring reading experience that records this pope's thoughts and traces his spiritual development from adolescence to the seminary to a career as a priest, a European papal diplomat, Patriarch of Venice, and finally Pope John XXIII.

This Image Books edition features a biographical portrait of Pope John by his personal secretary, Monsignor Loris Capovilla. It also includes several of his most moving prayers, sixty brief thoughts and aphorisms, his "Rules for the Ascetic Life," many of his letters, even his last will and testament. Christians everywhere will welcome the reissue of "one of the most original, interesting, and inspiring revelations of intimate personal experiences ever written," which "ranks well with the classic spiritual autobiographies" (Critic).

Journal of a Soul, the first ever such work from a Roman pontiff, opens new windows onto the soul of the man himself.

First off, I would like to mention that going into Journal of a Soul, I knew pretty much nothing about Pope John XXIII. Partly because he died before my time and partly because I had always heard more about JPII growing up. That being said, when I presented with the chance to read his autobiography I jumped at the opportunity; and boy am I glad I did. Just in case you don't know, both John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized as saints today!!! Pretty cool in my opinion.

While Journal of a Soul is more about John XXIII's spiritual journey from the time he entered the seminary to when he was selected as the next pope, I enjoyed seeing how he struggled with things, early on, like wondering thoughts during prayers and trying to remain humble, seeing the way he captured his feelings about his short comings in those things just made him all the more likeable for me. Why, because it spoke to me,as I myself, have to rein in my mind to keep my thoughts on my prayers and not the bajillion things I need to be accomplishing.
      So, while I enjoyed seeing the humanness of John XXIII, what makes all that worth reading is that you can see him progressing along the way and learning to put his trust more fully in the Lord and to not work towards being praised and just being humble which is definitely refreshing when you think about our world today and how people, myself including, are always trying to be the best and at the top of whatever we do.

One of reasons I have found this to be such a remarkable account his spiritual life is when I think about just how much time he, and other religious nuns and priests,must spend in prayer. It's pretty incredible to think that they routinely do all these various prayers, and if you were in seminary like he was at the beginning of the book, still accomplish all your studies. Yeah, reading this just made me realize how I need to better prioritize my schedule and quit procrastinating. Enough about me though, I just really enjoyed seeing how he progressed in keeping up with all these things and have a greater appreciation for those who are called to serve God and their struggle, not unlike our own, to be holy.

There are many pints that I would love to discuss on Pope John XXIII's Journal of a Soul, as many to match the number of sticky tabs I used while reading, but I want to give y'all a chance to form your own thoughts on this incredible book about one of the most interesting Pope's in the Catholic Church. While this is definitely one hefty tomb, I cannot recommend it enough for the journey that it'll take you on.

So, in the end, what I enjoyed most about Journal of a Soul would have to be seeing John XXIII grow in spiritual faith and overcome himself one day at a time. It is, in my opinion, interesting to have this insight into
prayer, the influence of both family and friends, and trust in the Lord shaped him throughout his life. It was definitely different then what one usually finds when reading about something written by a Pope.

Really, the only drawback I found with this book is the size. It is quite big, especially when you've been reading it for a couple hours and your hand/arm begins to hurt. Also, while a very interesting read, this is definitely not one that you're going to be able to read in one sitting. Why, because there is so much within it that you, like I did, will need some time to let it just soak in to your brain.

Final Verdict: Journal of a Soul- While definitely not your usual book on a Pope, it is quite the interesting insight into what made John XXIII such a wonderful priest and then later on Pope.

Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII earns

This book was received in exchange for an honest review


  1. I read a biography of John XXIII years ago and I agree, reading about his struggles with studying (amon other things) was really inspiring. Maybe I should revisit him and read this book some time, as well, since it sounds interesting, encouraging and thought-provoking.

    1. Thank so much for stopping by!

      I was quite surprised by how much I learned and enjoyed reading Journal of a Soul. There was just so much within it that spoke to me that I cannot recommend it enough.


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