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God's Choice [Kindle Edition]

George Weigel
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

George Weigel's bestselling biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, set the standard by which all portraits of the modern papacy are now measured. With God's Choice, he gives us an extraordinary chronicle of the rise of Pope Benedict XVI as well as an unflinching view of the Catholic Church at the dawn of a new era.

When John Paul II lapsed into illness for the last time, people flocked from all over the world to pray outside his apartment. He had become a father figure to millions in a world bereft of strong paternal examples, and those millions now felt orphaned. After more than twenty-six years of John Paul II's guidance, the Catholic Church is entering a new age, with its bedrock traditions intact but with pressing questions to address in a rapidly changing world. Beginning with the story of John Paul's final months, God's Choice offers a remarkable inside account of the conclave that produced Benedict XVI as the next pope, drawing on George Weigel's unrivaled access to this complex event.

Weigel also incisively surveys the current state of the Church around the world: its thriving populations in Africa, Latin America, and parts of the post-communist world; its collapse in western Europe; its continued struggles in Asia; and the vibrancy of many aspects of Catholic life in the United States, even as the Church in America struggles to overcome its recent experience of scandal.

Reflecting on John Paul II's greatness, drawing on firsthand interviews to paint an intimate portrait of the new Pope, and boldly assessing the Church's current condition, God's Choice is an invaluable book for anyone seeking to understand the Catholic future and the larger human future the Church will help to shape.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 327 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0066213312
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (13 Oct. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FCKL3E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #679,401 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A blessing for the World of Today 7 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A clear account of a very hidden, humble, academic, spiritual man.
Wonderful account of his early life in a Europe that was very challenging and changing. All this deepened and strengthened Benedict's catholic faith.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT 22 Nov. 2005
By John M. Grondelski - Published on
"As the news [of John Paul's death] cascaded around the world, millions felt orphaned. In a world bereft of paternity and its unique combination of strength and mercy, John Paul II had become a father to countless men and women living in an almost infinite variety of human circumstances and cultures. That radiation of fatherhood . . . was rooted in the Pope's singular capacity to preach and embody the Christian Gospel . . . " (p. 25).

Millions of people will long be able to pinpoint where they were the moment, on April 2, 2005, when they learned that Pope John Paul II had returned to his Father. The masses that converged on Rome for his funeral were a "gathering of the family," as papal biographer George Weigel put it. But these were no ordinary papal obsequies; many Catholics experienced the unique and yawning personal loss felt when a father dies. "'You feel smaller when your father dies because he was strong and lifted you, carried you and taught you, and when he's gone, the room feels too big without him'" (p. 99).

God's Choice details the last days of Pope John Paul II and the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. The book is both retrospective and prospective, trying to sum up the achievements of the Pope Weigel unabashedly (and rightly) calls "the Great," while seeking to anticipate the challenges facing his successor. Weigel argues that John Paul II rejuvenated the Church, making holiness exciting and appealing, especially to the young. He recaptured the true meaning of Vatican II, taking it back from those who hijacked the Council's "spirit" in the name of various dead end agendas. Weigel does not deny that the Church has problems but, in hindsight, the Church is 2005 is far more vigorous that some might have thought back in 1978.

As a title, God's Choice discloses Weigel's perspective: one cannot understand the Church apart from the primacy of God's Will and man's subsequent response. Karol Wojtyla's fiat led an actor to the priesthood and the papacy. Joseph Ratzinger's fiat led a successful priest-professor from the classroom to be Archbishop, and then from Munich to a lightening rod position in Rome, where he remained despite personal wishes to retire. Ultimately, that fiat led him to the Chair of Peter. As Weigel poignantly puts it:

Forty-eight hours before the Conclave of 2005 was sealed,the possible futures of Joseph Ratzinger came into focus. By September, the 78-year old Ratzinger would be back home in Bavaria-living with his brother Georg, surrounded by his beloved books, embarked on a retirement of writing and lecturing . . . . Or he would be marking his fifth month as pope. There is not the slightest doubt which future he would have preferred. God . . . had . . . other ideas (p. 259).

Weigel reveals his hand in calling Benedict's papacy "adventures in dynamic orthodoxy." The new pope will have to engage the siren songs of post-modernity, showing how they inevitably lead to shipwreck. He will have to challenge the reigning orthodoxies of contemporary western European thought, much like his namesake from Nursia did a millennium and a half ago. He should try to unleash the potentials of Latin America, which Weigel sees as encumbered by its zero-sum attitudes of victimization. Benedict is likely to speed up "reform of the reform" of liturgy.

The author's easy-going style makes him a joy to read. He blends a variety of styles (journalistic, daily diary reporting on the conclave, analytical) successfully, keeping the reading flowing. As with any book rushed out three months after a historic event, some things may be lacking (e.g., only in September did the Holy See publish its chronology of John Paul's last hours). And while Weigel is optimistic about Benedict XVI carrying on John Paul's legacy, he does not really consider whether Ratzinger, the introverted septuagenarian can engage with the people as effectively as did extrovert Wojtyla, who had the advantage of starting his papacy twenty years younger. All that said, the author shows himself more than able to provide us with a readable and sound interpretation of this new pontificate. Highly recommended.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures in dynamic orthodoxy 1 Jan. 2006
By Andrew S. Rogers - Published on
I've read a number of books about the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, and they clearly have a common template: chronicle John Paul II's final illness; describe the state of the Church at the time of his death; review the history of conclaves and the changes introduced by John Paul; recount the events of the conclave itself; provide a capsule biography of Joseph Ratzinger; assess the future of the Church with particular emphasis on the challenges the new pontiff faces. George Weigel's book fits that template. But if the form is unremarkable, the content is worth paying attention to.

I'm a fan of journalist and author John L. Allen, and so I readily admit to a tendency to compare other writers' books on the Vatican to the excellent works Allen has produced. "God's Choice" stands up to that comparison quite well. Weigel's book (and I admit to not [yet] having read any of the author's other works) is less journalistic than Allen's, with both more style in the writing and a more obvious and personal point of view. The title of this review comes from one of Weigel's subheads (on page 240), and while he applies it to the new pope, I'm happy to appropriate it to describe Weigel as well. He clearly comes from the conservative side of the American church, and is not at all hesitant about criticizing journalists like E.J. Dionne for their caricatured portraits of "God's Rottweiler" and what his election implies about the future of the Church.

Where I found Weigel's book particularly interesting was in his analysis of the challenges facing the new pope. While most of the template-books struck me as fairly superficial in this area, Weigel really gave it some thought. I predict it's this section readers may find most interesting. I was especially struck by Weigel's contention that -- in the Church as in American politics -- the intellectual and spiritual energy, as well as the new ideas, are now clearly coming from the "Right." The author's discussion of this, particularly in the context of what he sees as John Paul's mission of completing and reinvigorating the true spirit of Vatican II, was more than a little thought-provoking -- and not, I expect, uncontroversial to many portions of the American Church.

Because this book on the conclave was published later than Allen's and most of the others, Weigel also has the advantage of being able to employ them as resources and comment on their conclusions. Taken together, all of this makes "God's Choice" an exceptional addition to the newborn genre of books about Benedict XVI. I would still direct interested readers to John Allen's work, but am happy to add this title to my recommendations as well.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Scholar Looks at Two Popes and the Future of the Catholic Church 16 Feb. 2006
By Michael Dalton - Published on
God's Choice was not quite what I expected. It doesn't take a detailed look at Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope, until after the first 300 pages. Prior to that we get a narrative of the last days of Pope John Paul II, the world's reaction to his death and funeral Mass, and a detailed account of the conclave, the process of electing the new pope. Though it's partially instructive about Ratzinger and the Church, the first half serves as a fitting memorial to one of the most popular popes of all time.

Weigel writes as an admirer and as one who has a firm grasp of the subject matter. The detail and analysis are amazing. Anyone wanting to know the state of the Catholic Church and the current issues facing it will benefit from reading this book. Without delving too deeply into doctrinal issues, it shows that the new pope will stay the course set by John Paul.

The average person may find some of the detail and subject matter a bit tedious. It could have been more concise, but Catholics, academics, clergy and those who want to know as much as possible will not be disappointed. Weigel knows and understands the issues so well that he anticipates how the new pope will act. He even provides some wise counsel.

The book leaves the impression that Joseph Ratzinger was the best choice for the job. It's hard to imagine a better successor. He knows the Catholic Church and is able to represent and work with all the different members. He's not as charismatic as John Paul, but as the author points out, it was personal integrity and his ability to face challenge that drew people to the former pope. Pope Benedict has the same qualities.

The media characterization of Benedict as "God's Rottweiler" is unfair. Though conservative doctrinally, a humble servant is a more accurate depiction. Ratzinger had no desire to be pope. He would have been content to retreat to teaching and studying after the death of John Paul. Weigel portrays a man that is serious about reforming the church but does not seem himself as an absolute monarch. He knows that he too is subject "to Christ and his word."
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A message of hope 21 Nov. 2005
By Ramon Masllorens - Published on
With very little theological background, I can only comment this book from a simple roman catholic faithfull point of view. And it is with a deep feel of comfort that I finished the last page. The loss of JP The Great is seen under an old but scarcely mentioned light: the communion of saints. Introducing Benedict XVI as the Pope God chose and discovered as such by the electors Cardinals gave me enourmous pride to belong to the Catholic Church. The author led me through JP's funeral with talent and some very helpful insights, allowing me to discover new meanings to the loss of JP The Great and the election of Ratzinger as Benedict XVI. The chapters referring to the future of the Church and the tasks the new Pope must surely undertake are magnificent and sure to keep everyone thinking, and doubtless make catholics pray fervently for Benedicts XVI's intentions and health. I can not recommend it enough.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sequel to Winess to Hope 8 July 2006
By David Lesieur - Published on
George Weigel is the preeminent Catholic author in America today, and would be my vote for Vatican Press Secretary. However, I bought this book to gain deeper insight into Benedict XVI, and find it has much more to do with the end of John Paul II's life and his legacy. It isn't until halfway through the book when the conclave is covered. This book is in reality a sequel to Weigel's monumental biography of John Paul II - not that there's anything wrong with that. Well written, with Mr. Weigel's usual great attention to accurate detail, this book sets the table for an earnest biography of Benedict XVI. If he writes it, George will undoubtedly earn a full five stars.
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