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Posted October 17, 2005

Book: Universal Father: A Life of John Paul II
Author: Garry O’Connor
Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, pp. 436

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Pope John Paul II is universally considered one of the great leaders of the twentieth century for his resolute resistance to Soviet Communism, for his steadfast opposition to war, and for opening up the papacy to ordinary people. He will go down in history not only as the third longest-serving pope, but possibly the most politically influential of all 305 popes and antipopes since St. Peter.

Born in Poland in 1920, Karol Wojtyla’s early life experiences were of intense love and intense loss: he was eight when his mother died, twelve when his older brother died of scarlet fever, and twenty when his severe but loving father died during the Nazi occupation. An athlete, a gifted poet, playwright and actor, by 1944, after a near fatal accident, Wojtyla was studying for the priesthood in secret. So began a lifelong quest to understand good and evil in the human heart.

Five years in the making, Universal Father is a vivid and scrupulously researched portrait of this extraordinary man. Beginning with Wojtyla’s trying childhood and his early years as a priest in rural Poland, and continuing on to his travels to Rome, and his subsequent papal reign, O’ Connor’s biography is unparalleled for the attention it also gives to the inner man — including a subtle analysis of the pope’s own poems, plays, and philosophical works.

An Excerpt from the Book:

In spite of worldwide visibility, in spite of superstar status and enormous celebrity, Karol Wojtyla’s life has remained one of complete surrender and selfless dedication. As John Paul II he survived his bullet to implement his unique vision that God has entrusted the world to mankind as ‘a gift’, of which beauty is an intrinsic part, and also as ‘a task’. With this vision he has raised awareness of what it means to be fully human. He might often have asked, as in that poem ‘Actor’, ‘Did not the others, crowding in, distort the man that I am?’ But ultimately he identified and lived his true self. He has remained subject and not object. As he wrote in another, earlier poem:

I am a giver. I touch forces that expand the mind; Sometimes the memory of a starless night Is all that remains.

Table of Contents:

Part 1
A Slave Troubadour in Troubled Times (1920-46)

Part 2
The Hidden Breath of the Spirit will Unify All (1946-78)

Part 3
The Pope of the Distracted Globe (1978-90)

Part 4
The Nearer We are to the Mountain, The Smaller We Are (1990-2005)