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.