tv History Bookshelf CSPAN September 27, 2015 8:01am-8:54am EDT
hosted this 50 minute event in 1999. mr. weigel: thank you for your attendance, your patience, your friendship. you have been wonderful in lining this event up. i want to thank bob armstrong. this is something of a homecoming. the man who wrote this book was the boy who sat in this room singing scales for many years. this was my home parish. it remains close to my heart and it is wonderful to be back here. it is a big book, as you can see. three weeks ago i had the pleasure of presenting it to the holy father at his summer residence.
after he expressed pleased shock at the size of the thing i said henry kissinger took 1100 pages to describe three years. surely you deserve 865 for 80 years. i thought what i might do tonight is pull out some of the themes from this book around the soul of john paul ii. it captures my intention 3.5 years ago when i began this project. while the pope had been written about an enormous amount, at
that time 18 years, much writing came at him from the outside as a great statesman, diplomat, historical figure who only incidentally happened to be a catholic christian, priest, bishop. that seems to get him backwards. you can only understand this man 's public action if you understand it as the public action of a radical christian disciple, someone for whom the church carries is not simply one option in a supermarket of spirituality cut the truth of the world. i thought it might be some interest to let me tease out this narrative and the goings-on that are told in this book.
seven aspects of the soul of john paul ii as i have come to understand him in the eight years of our conversation and this project. the first thing i would say is that it is a polish soul. in the sense of a soul formed by a very distinctive national history. as many of you know, between 1795 and 1918, 123 years, the polish state was erased from the map of europe. if you look up europe you will not find anything called poland on the map of europe. the polish nation survived the destruction of the polish state
by the powers of europe because the polish language, polish literature and polish catholicism kept alive polish nationality and polish identity in the absence of a polish state. from this experience, which was very real to him, he was born in 1920, poland was reborn in 1918. all of this history of national regeneration, national rebirth was part of what he grew up with and from that experience he learned something terribly important. culture is what drives history over the long term. not politics, not economics.
culture is the engine of history over time. at the heart of culture is cult, religion, what we honor, what we cherish. because poland had been reborn at a time of great modern anxiety over religious conviction he learned the truth of cultures incredible formative power in history had not been altered or canceled by secular modernity's contempt for religion. he determined there was no need for the church to be defensive, to be on the defensive. the gospel he learned is still the most potent proposal for understanding the human condition in the world today.
one other aspect of the polish soul i was underlined briefly. polish catholicism has a history that dates back to 966a.d is a national experience. it is high octane catholicism. what had gone along with that particular national experience of the church was a profound millennial long devotion to the church center of unity in rome. and polish solecism in particular experience of the church was a profound experience of the universal church and of the center of the church's community. they always go together in this polish soul.
i would say the pope's is a carmelite soul. in the darkest days of the not -- nazi occupation, at his parish in the neighborhood of -- john paul ii met a remarkable layman, a man in his late 40's, a tailored by trade, a man with a mystical intuition. this didn't seem to come from his family for his circumstances. it came from the finger of god laid upon his life. at the time when the german occupation had stripped the parish of its priest began forming young men into what he
called living rosary groups, men who maintained the parish's youth ministry when that was a clandestine underground for been -- forbidden activity under the occupation. he introduced classic carmelite mysticism and st. john of the cross. from that encounter with john of the cross during the occupation of poland, he learned that the truth of history, the truth of the human condition is found on the cross. the cross is the center of the human story, jesus abandoned, dying, self surrender to the will of the father, vindicated in the radical self emptying on easter sunday by the resurrection. that is the truth of the human condition.
therefore he learned, self giving, not self-assertion is the road to human flourishing and to salvation. that carmelite instinct was refined philosophically in the pope began his serious intellectual work. in that work, he proposes the law of the gift belts into the human condition from the beginning. that basic built-in dynamic of being a human being, self giving, not self-assertion is what is confirmed for christians by the life the resurrection of jesus christ. that centering of the spiritual life on the cross is what we can say fairly the pope has a
carmelite soul, which we see evermore poignantly embodied these days. we see him walking in the way of the cross day by day. that is another reflection of this deep carmelite spirituality that has formed him for 60 years. in the third instance i would say john paul the second has a marion soul. those who have read crossing the threshold of hope, the pope's book of 1994, or his vocational memoir will remember that he says during his childhood and
adolescence he had a conventional marian piety, and by 1938 he thought he should put that aside to concentrate more directly on christ. this odd little mystical tailor also introduced the writings of a french theologian whose book true devotion to mary showed him by the dim light that all true devotion to mary leads directly to her son, into the mystery of
the incarnation, made possible by mary, and into the life of the holy trinity itself. john paul ii has developed this idea of true devotion to mary and a profound way that i believe will have a dramatic effect on how the entire church thinks of itself in the 21st century. in december 1987 the pope gave his annual address to the senior members of the roman -- this happens every year. the pope gives a discourse. on this occasion in 1987 the pope gave a remarkable address in which he said that mary's
church, the church of disciples, those who say the church of all of us, perceives and makes possible is the thing that makes sense of peters church. this is the somewhat interesting idea to propose to members of the church bureaucracy who quite rightly think of themselves as being at the center of the catholic world and in some respect that is true. all christianity begins and ends in the image of mary. mary's double theot.
and mary at the foot of the cross, excepting the self-sacrifice of her son in confidence in god's purposes and history. that is where the church begins. that notion of the church formed in the image of mary ann church of disciples proceeding and making sense of the church, both of which are essential and integral to catholic faith is an interesting notion the holy father has injected into the catholic bloodstream that we will begin to see interesting echoes of in the years ahead. finally, in terms of the soul of john paul ii, the hyatt he has -- piety has led him to what i think can be called the spirituality of radical trust. the holy father's fiscal motto
through his time as archbishop into the papacy is a monfort phrase. in 1979, in the midst of that polish epic pilgrimage i believe changed the history of the modern world by creating the revolution of conscience, john paul said i am a man of great trust, i learned to be one here. i learned to be a man of great trust here in conversation with the mother of christ's image in that magnificent image of blood
-- icon of the black madonna. the pope has a dramatic soul. not simply in the sense that he was an actor, part of the cultural resistance against nazism. she came to the view that every human life is a drama. almost a greek view. think back to your days reading greek plays in high school or college. what was being suggested was that all life has dramatic texture. he came to believe that to be a truth of the human condition as well. all life is lived in the tension between the person i am the person i ought to be.
what the pope asks, this idea is the profound christian conviction that the drama of every individual human as well as the drama of the human condition as a whole has a divine script right, a divine script writer who enters the drama at a certain point in time and space, 2000 years ago, and redirects it towards its proper resolution. it is that conviction the drama in which he is caught up and we are all caught up as a divine author that would allow the pope to say on may 13, 1982 one year to the day since the assassination attempt on his life, he said in the designs of providence there are no near
coincidences. everything is happening for a reason. every life is caught up in this drama. everything is of interest because everything is part of the great drama of creation, the fall, promise, incarnation, sanctification, and the coming of the kingdom. this aspect of his soul is what makes pope john paul ii the most relentless listener i've ever encountered in my life. when you are with him he doesn't want to tell you what he thinks. he doesn't want to tell you what to think. he wants to know what you think. he wants to know what is going on.
that intense curiosity which is every bit as alive and him today at age 79 plus is because of this profound conviction that everyone he meets is an actor or actress in this great cost the drama of salvation. -- cosmic drama of salvation. in the fifth place i would say john paul ii has a lay soul. those of you who have read crossing the threshold, and gifted mystery, know there are more young men in seminaries today because of this man than because of any other single factor of the time.
on the other hand, this priestly priest, this very priestly priest is the first hope in centuries who for many years intended to live his christian vocation as a layman, and who confesses in threshold and gifted mystery it was a wrestling match when he first felt the finger of god fallen his life, offering him the possibility of a priestly vocation. the pope's press spokesman for the past 17 years, a man who knows john paul ii very well, told me once when they were on vacation together in the dolomites, he said to the pope "holy father, you have a
priest's heart and a lay head." what did he say? joaquin said his eyebrows went up for a minute but he didn't disagree. if you had spoken to any of the popes of the past 200 years about their early experience of the priesthood, what was it like, the pope in question would likely have talked about his experience teaching seminary or his years studying at the holy see's academia. john paul ii talks about what he calls his environment, the circle of lay people with whom he formed intense friendships when he was there university chaplain. some of these men and women are
no longer alive. they open their lives in their memories to me, one of them gave me 4 letters which have never been printed. what does it mean to fall in love, she would tell of her experience of a romantic nature with a young man. they are wonderful letters. it is out of that rich experience, people getting educated, becoming professionals, creating families, raising children that john paul as a priest, bishop, cardinal archbishop had this incredible intuitive feel for what the people's lives for light from the inside.
people with whom he vacation every year. that led him to the second vatican council where he played a leading role, such a stress on what the council came to call the universal call to holiness. they all share in the triple mission of christ to be worshipers in truth, speakers of truth and to be servants of the truth. that is for everybody. it is that matrix that forms the plan that was implemented for introducing what was arguably the most extensive and successful local implementation
of vatican in the world. the pope has an apostolic soul. his soul has been formed by the sacrament of holy orders. also in the sense that he believes the universal call to holiness must be lived in service. the greatest service the church does for the world, he would say i believe, is to tell the world it's true story. one way to think about the problem of the human condition going back to add a many is the -- adam and eve is the world has forgotten its story. they must remind the world that the true story of humankind is the story whose chapter headings are creation, fall, promise, incarnation in telling the world
story, reminding the world of the true story the pope would go on to say the story is sometimes, many times best told not by argument, not by philosophical speculation, that by example. i think mother teresa looms very large in the pope's sense of the example. they were great friends. i asked the pope once to describe the friendship and he said quite simply we didn't need a lot of words. we didn't need a lot of words. there is this intuitive connection between this albanian nun who found herself in the gutters of calcutta and this
polish priest who found himself unexpectedly as the bishop of rome. we didn't need a lot of words. it was a wonderful, spiritual friendship that embodied for him the church that reminds the world of its true story by being a church in radical service. finally, i would say the seventh place pope has a deeply humanistic soul. it is a soul formed by what he regards as the crisis of the 20th century. if you ask yourself why has the 20th century than a century of two world wars, three totalitarian powers, oceans of blood, unprecedented human suffering on a global and mass scale, the pope would say all of that in some fashion goes back to defective ideas of the human person.
the humanistic project that began in the renaissance if you will went off the rails. because ideas have bad consequences and sometimes very bad ideas have very lethal consequences, one insight into this is gained in something i don't think any of these other fees mentioned at all, the letter that the young bishop sent to the commission that was preparing the agenda for the second vatican council. that commission had written all of the bishops of the world saying the pope has had this idea. we should have a general counsel. what do you think we should talk about and the response is -- responses would fill half of the
wall in terms of linear shelf space. it was an immense collection of proposals. a lot of them are simply internal church housekeeping. we want this kind of a change. we want bishops to be able to do this instead of that. some of them were quite amusing. they sent in a list of seven things he thought the council should discuss. six of them were internal housekeeping matters and the seventh was the council should pronounce in light of the doctrines of the incarnation of the redemption on the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. i was reading this in an in rome and burst out laughing. i would have thought the archbishop of washington would have wanted to know about the stability of intelligent life in
his own diocese before he worried about intelligent life on other planets. it is all this churning going on. a lot of ideas about what to talk about but mostly in the form of memoranda. then comes this letter from this boy bishop in poland. it is essay on the human condition making the point that all of the trouble with which the church has to contend, all of the humans the church has to heal, all the persecution the church has faced, all derives from the derailment of the great humanistic project in western history and therefore the great task of the council is to get the project back on the rails again, to restore humanism to its true trajectory which he
says in the essay points straight into the heart of the trinity. i think it is that humanistic soul that informs the pope's interest in everything, his sins that all of life is caught up in this cosmic drama of fall, promise, and so forth. everything is material for preaching and teaching. everything in our lives has been given to us by god as the material to work our way under grace through the great drama in which we find ourselves. seven aspects of the soul of john paul the second, -- at the root of all of that is a radical christian disciple, a prologue of this book has a very simple title.
the disciple. that sets up the entire narrative. this young man at the height of the oppression of his country became so seized by the truth of which st. paul spoke in first corinthians, the truth of the more excellent way, that the radically transformed his life, his perceptions of reality, and ultimately the history of the 21st century. thank you very much. [applause] >> george will be delighted to take questions if you have some.
let me ask you if i may because we have television crews here from c-span, if you would pause and allow the gentleman with the microphone to get in your general area so the question can be heard. we are privileged to be joined by cardinal keeler who we hoped would be here this evening. we were hoping that you might say a few words. cardinal keeler: thank you very much. i know the adjective "few." [laughter] i want to congratulate george on the book, on this moment. i was happy to be here most of the presentation. i was thrilled to hear in your
presentation as i found in those parts of the book i was able to read a warm, a sense of the holy father's wit, and intellectual penetration of the quality of leadership pope john paul ii has brought to our church. i would like perhaps to say one word of a special witness. when the holy father came to baltimore, after a very long day that had begun in new york where he said goodbye to every police officer in the greater new york area at the airport, flew down here, participated, let the celebration of the eucharist, with that splendid homily you summarized in the book, and had
lunch at our daily bread with people who suffer various kinds of crosses, and he could hear how the church was helping them. he remarked a very affluent country but many people with great challenges. he said i see the church is reaching out to help them in the name of jesus. he came to my house. he must have been very tired after those many hours. when we went by the chapel and i showed him where the chapel was he went in instantly and knealt down and prayed for five minutes, in which i felt that all the burdens and the graces of the world were swirling around this little room on charles street.
then he retired to rest. i came back to seeing, to meet him and go on to the next stage of the visit, and the chapel door was closed. i remarked on this to one of the guard to came from rome. we closed it because the holy father comes out and looks in and sees the blessed sacrament you're going to lose another five minutes out of your program. a couple of moments later pope john paul came out and said i think the chapel is here and he went in and he did kneel down. you will recall he stopped to pray and then again at the seminary. it wasn't part of the program that he made a visit there. his example of prayer, of drawing strength from the
presence of the lord is something that i see as his special gift to us during his visit here. thank you again. congratulations george. thank you chris. [applause] >> thank you. thank you for that wonderful message. if you have questions, please raise your hand and our friend, the shotgun here will come to you and allow you to answer questions so they can be picked up for rebroadcast.
right down here in the middle, perhaps. >> i would like to ask why in almost every picture there are children, what is the effect of children for the holy father? i can see his kind face but what did you observe? mr. weigel: he has remarkable instinct for what i would call paternity. his father was a most impressive man. there has been much foolishness in my judgment written about the effect of his mother's early death on his subsequent spiritual life. i believe his father was in fact the central formative force of his youth and his young manhood. from his father he learned
manliness and piety went together. he saw that exemplified in the archbishop who asked the pope described him to me was the uncrowned king of poland during the nazi occupation. this instinct for paternity is very deep. he loves kids. he likes kids a lot. they respond to him because i believe the pope is such a man of such transparent integrity, what you see is what you get all the way through. i think that explains his remarkable rapport with young people, with adolescents and young adults.
these 25,000 chanting kids, there was something of a rock star adulation and celebrity quality to that. but not now when he is a man so visibly walking the way of the cross. to see young people responding to him was astonishing. but they are responding to is integrity, the transparent integrity. and his challenge. this is a man who never lowers the bar of expectation and whether he is talking to young people. the bar is always kept high. that is his profound respect of people. everyone is capable to keep the bar high. you're going to fail. we are all going to fail. keep the bar high because that keeps us pointed in the right direction.
all of that has much to do with his traction for the young into the young. -- and to the young. >> the audience might get a kick. -- [inaudible] getting gray hair. mr. weigel: i should explain this is my dad, who has not a single gray hair on his head. this started coming in in the course of this project. one night over dinner the pope fixes me with that stare across the dinner table and says you are getting gray. i said yes. every one of them is because of you. [laughter] he cracked up in the secretaries cracked up.
it was that kind of conversation. this gentleman in the middle had a question. >> i'm a teacher. it has been my desire to help implement everything of what you have said of the holy father and his desire to reach young people. there are some fine universities in this country which are able to implement the holy fathers way of looking at salvation, how it can be brought about. one of them is the university of dallas. anyway, would you have some advice for us how to spread this heroic, absolutely heroic sanctity so that our schools --
all the universities but the catholic schools, to imitate the holy father. mr. weigel: the obvious answer is that every student should be given a copy of this book. [laughter] there is a great debate going on about the catholic identity today. i believe the holy father has changed the terms of that debate in a fundamental way. between 1968 and 1990 when he issued his apostolic constitution on catholic universities, the argument was how do we disentangle these institutions, these colleges and universities on the church. from 1990 it has been a completely different argument. the argument is how do we recover, intensify, deepen, strengthen the catholic identity
of catholic institutions. in the sense they have won the argument by changing the terms of the argument. i think the other thing i would say to that is to go to the holy father's most recent treaty on faith and reason. voltaire must be spinning in his grave at the thought of the catholic church and the bishop of rome, the great defenders of the capacity of human reason at the end of the 20th century. he must be spinning. for 200 years the high culture of the west has viewed the church as the enemy of the intellectual. in fact it is the church that is now the great defender of the human capacity to know the truth of things, however frack went
fragmentarily, but we can know them to be true. i spent a lot of time on college campuses and i'm astounded at the gap of understanding. in most college and universities in this country today, including too many catholic colleges and universities, the general intellectual atmosphere is there may be your truth and my truth but there is no such thing as the truth. that is a real problem. it is a problem for democracy and for america. unless we recognize something as the truth, how will we settle the argument between your truth and my truth without a lot of elbow throwing and muscling? i believe in defending the
capacity of human reason to know the moral truth of things. the catholic university is making immense contributions to rebuilding the coulters of the american house of freedom. that is what we are doing by reconnecting freedom and truth, faith and reason. it is the most exciting thing on offer today. it is the most exciting thing on offer in the academic world today. perhaps just one more here? >> since we are all in need of continuing grace, i was wondering if in your researching the pope's life and his personality, did you come across anything that was still exemplifying the need for continuing grace, and not a total example of absolute truth?
mr. weigel: the cloak, like all of us, is it working project, a work in progress. what his imminent said a moment ago, that this is a man not only of regular prayer but of constant prayer, intense prayer, is a reflection of his since of a need for constant conversation with the lord. the holy father believes as all orthodox catholics do the doctrine develops. doctrine develops in continuity with what has gone before. the way human bodies develop from childhood to adolescence. it is the same body as it is developing and changing and its integrity comes from the identity and sameness. so, there is all sorts of things that we can no more clearly, express more, but i talked about
the millennium. there is fevered speculation about millennial things. i asked how he was going to handle that. he says he has been the single world leader most focused on the turn into the third millennium. he says simply to a friend, a friend who posed this question and reported it to me now that i think about it, he said everything necessary for self -- salvation has been accomplished. that was taken care of at calvary and easter. there is so much more to be done for humanity. that is what the churches for in -- church is for in this time
between easter and the coming of the kingdom. it is to be the servant of humanity. and i suggested a moment ago, reminding humanity of its true story and in serving those who are carrying many crosses in their lives. that is part of an evolution of the church's mission. that takes place in the holy father not out of the sense of self confidence, but in a sense of profound confidence in the grace of christ and work in the church. he is a man who as i have known him has systematically emptied himself of ego so that he can be a more open vehicle, a working of the holy spirit. it is astonishing to watch.
a very beautiful thing, to bring. -- a very beautiful thing, to bano. it is astonishing to watch. that is part of the ground on which he has become the dominant figure of that time. thank you all very much for coming. [applause] [no audio] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015]
from martha washington two michelle obama. to michelle obama. >> today, i'm a reporter for nbc. is this marion barry's place? that is a seat over there. i called him up and said mr. 55or, i just been to club don't you realize people watch what you do when you go and you sit there all the time and watch naked dancing girls? he said, it's nice, isn't it? sherwood on the political corruption in d.c., maryland and virginia. >> 44 attorneys general from around the country signed a letter that they agreed with governor mcdonnell. what he did with politics, not bribery.