Q&A with George Weigel: A friendship with St. John Paul II, evangelization and today’s issues

June 11, 2024

Papal biographer George Weigel and St. John Paul II are pictured in a combination photo. Weigel is the 2024 Archdiocesan Prayer Breakfast speaker. (OSV News photo/ourtesy Napa Institute/Arturo Mari, L'Osservatore Romano)

HOUSTON — The speaker for the 2024 Archdiocesan Prayer Breakfast is George Weigel, who is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Catholic theologian, but most notably, St. John Paul II’s American biographer.

The event is set for Friday, June 21, at 7:30 a.m. at the Hilton Americas-Houston, located at 1600 Lamar St. in downtown Houston. This year’s theme is “The Good News in a Noisy World.”  

Weigel, awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland on May 13, is author of The New York Times bestselling biography of St. John Paul II, “Witness to Hope,” published in 1999 and its sequel, “The End and the Beginning.” 

Speaking with the Texas Catholic Herald, Weigel recalled his friendship with the beloved pope, who became a saint in on April 27, 2014, nine years after his death. 
What are some lessons you learned from your friendship with St. John Paul II?  

John Paul II’s life was a seamless garment in which soul, mind and emotions were thoroughly integrated. Everyone wants to live with an undivided heart; John Paul II showed us how to do that by living in intimate friendship with Jesus Christ. 
What part of St. John Paul II’s legacy do you feel still resonates today?  

There are so many parts of his legacy that are even more relevant and timely today than they were when he died. His “Theology of the Body” is the best answer ever offered to the damage done by the sexual revolution. His call to the new evangelization animates the living parts of the world Church. His teaching on poverty as exclusion informs many Catholic efforts to empower the poor to become fully participant in society. And his love of Christ and Mary will always “resonate” in Catholic hearts and souls.   
Looking to the upcoming presidential election, what advice do you have for Catholics on how they can approach some of the most important issues?  

Legal protection for innocent life in all stages and in all conditions must remain a priority for Catholics, but that has to be complemented by care for women in crisis pregnancies and for the gravely ill and dying. So, crisis pregnancy centers and the Catholic hospice movement are important instruments in rebuilding a culture of life in the United States. As to the two principal candidates for president, Catholics (and everyone else) should demand that they stop shrieking and start talking seriously about the many challenges facing Americans at home and abroad.  
In your writings, you have said the greatest hope for the Catholic Church is a Church where the Second Vatican Council is “rightfully understood and properly implemented.” What do you feel is needed for the Church to fully understand and embrace the teachings of the council?  

That would take most of a book to explain, so let me refer you to the last section of my book, “To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II.” But to get things down to one sentence: Vatican II was never intended to reinvent the Catholic Church in imitation of the world, but to re-energize the Church for evangelization and mission in order to convert the world. Grasp that, and you’re on the way to a true understanding of the council. 
What are you hoping attendees of the Prayer Breakfast for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will take away from your keynote address?   

A sense of great hope for the future based on the many great things the Holy Spirit is inspiring in the Church today. 

The Archdiocesan Prayer Breakfast provides an opportunity for local Catholics to gather in faith and fellowship. Hundreds are anticipated to attend this year’s event.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.archgh.org/prayerbreakfast. Tables and sponsorship opportunities are available.