Journey of a soul: Pope John XXIII

Two weeks ago, Cathy, my wife and I went to a car boot sale in our home city, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where we met the librarian of the Catholic Diocesan library, who was selling unwanted books from the library.  I bought a few. He invited us to come to the library and take books that the library no longer wanted. Yesterday we visited the library situated in the grounds of the Catholic Archdiocese of Port Elizabeth. We filled a whole box of about 40 books. Cathy found five P.G Wodehouse paperbacks. I got some Catholic books among which were the Vatican II Council reports, a Code of Canon Law, John Henry Newman’s “Apologia Pro Vita Sua” (Defence/Justification of His life), and Pope John XXIII’s diary “Journal of a Soul.”

During Vatican II, I attended an audience of about 200 people (mostly clergy) with Pope John.  At the time, I was travelling with a Dominican Retreat Master through Europe, where we stayed at different monasteries,  where he gave retreats. I can never forget Pope John’s big eyes flashing with joy. This afternoon I was reading his diary. Here is an excerpt from an entry when he was 20 years old  (Pope JohnXXIII. Journal of aSoul. London:GeoffreyChapman, 1965, p. 64).

“Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? I am nothing. Everything I possess, my being, life, understanding, will and memory – all were given me by God, so all belong to him. Twenty short years ago all that I see around me was already here; the same sun, moon and stars…..Everything was being done without me, nobody was thinking of me….because I did not exist. And you, O God….drew me forth from the nothingness, you gave me being, life, a soul, in fact all the faculties of my body and spirit…you created me.”

John then quotes 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

The main emphasis in 1 Corinthians is on salvation, and it is entirely of the Lord.

Pope John says later on (p. 69) “I am alas! The prodigal son who wasted your substance, your natural and supernatural gifts, and reduced myself to the most miserable state because I had fled from you…And you are the most loving Father who welcomed me with a great feast when, repenting of my transgressions, I came back to your house and found shelter under your roof.


The Father not only welcomes me back and forgives my transgressions; He also gives me the power to repent by raising me from spiritual death. But if He raises me from spiritual death, this can only mean that only after He regenerates me (after I am born again) will I be able to repent. This description of salvation is anathema to RC theology – and to popes who pronounce them.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”  (Ephesians 2:4-8).

I haven’t praised Pope John and then shot him down. I haven’t praised him. But I do love him.  

More from Pope John’s diary – on purgatory.


2 thoughts on “Journey of a soul: Pope John XXIII

  1. Since writing this post, I have read the following:

    Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) once spoke at the Venice town hall:
    “… I am happy to be here, even though there may be some present who do not call themselves Christians, but who can be acknowledged as such because of their good deeds.”

    Peter Hebblethwaite, John XXIII, The Pope of the Council, Doubleday, ed. Le Centurion, 1988, p. 271.

    Works without faith? Mother Teresa believed that faith was not important, works were – love. (see my post on Mother Teresa). The belief that belief in Jesus as saviour is not important, is terrible. Modern Catholicism says as long as you are sincere in your beliefs and they help you to be good and kind, that is what counts. See what happens when you have favourite bits of the scriptures such as:

    The Final Judgment

    Matthew 25
    31 “But when athe Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then bHe will sit on His glorious throne.
    32 “All the nations will be agathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, bas the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
    33 and He will put the sheep aon His right, and the goats bon the left.
    34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, ainherit the kingdom prepared for you bfrom the foundation of the world.
    35 ‘For aI was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; bI was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
    36 anaked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you bvisited Me; cI was in prison, and you came to Me.’
    37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?
    38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
    39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
    40 “aThe King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, bto the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
    41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘aDepart from Me, accursed ones, into the beternal fire which has been prepared for cthe devil and his angels;
    42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;
    43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’
    44 “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not 1take care of You?’
    45 “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
    46 “These will go away into aeternal punishment, but the righteous into beternal life.”

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