Author shares stories of Pope John Paul II, Reagan during Aquinas Academy lecture
Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan both loathed communism.
Both men nearly died, too — in 1981 assassination attempts — before their parallel missions and global influence helped to topple the communist governments of Poland, then East Germany and then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Was it divine providence that a Catholic bishop and Protestant president became the dynamic duo who ultimately squashed the Cold War?
“Both Reagan and John Paul II had a strong sense that God had spared them, miraculously, for a special purpose,” said Paul Kengor, author of “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism,” published by Regan/Harper Collins in 2006 and “God and Reagan, A Spiritual Life,” published in 2004 by the same company.
Kengor, a professor of political science at Grove City College, talked about the lives and accomplishments of Reagan and Pope John Paul II during a 90-minute, evening lecture on Oct. 22 at Aquinas Academy in Hampton.
“They believed that purpose was the defeat of atheistic Soviet communism,” Kengor said. “They hoped that they could work together to make that happen.”
About 180 people, ranging from high school students to retirees, attended Kengor's free lecture, “John Paul II and Ronald Reagan: Two Men Who Changed the World and My Life.”
“It was a great history lesson,” said Patti Deschamps of Richland, a former member of Pine-Richland School Board.
Molly Cole of Pine agreed.
“I think it was very educational, very informative,” Cole said. “It certainly piqued your interest in wanting to know more.”
People lined up after Kengor's talk to buy copies of “The Crusader” and “God and Reagan.” Kengor signed and sold about 50 volumes.
A graduate of Butler High School, Kengor has a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
A former agnostic, Kengor became a practicing Catholic after researching Reagan's relationship with the former Karol Józef Wojtyła — Pope John Paul II — who once labeled the Soviets more hostile than the Nazis.
“I don't know that I was ever an atheist. I was an agnostic for sure,” said Kengor, 46, a father of seven.
“I was raised Catholic, but I knew nothing about the Catholic Church,” said Kengor, who followed his wife in embracing Catholicism.
Both were worshipping at Tower Presbyterian Church in Grove City when the couple got a letter to register their oldest son for Holy Communion classes there.
Kengor said his wife pressured him to decide whether their son would learn that Holy Communion is a symbolic recreation of the body and blood of Jesus Christ — as Protestants believe — or learn that bread and wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion — as Catholics believe.
Kengor promised to give his wife a decision after a year of reading all he could on the Eucharist.
“I become convinced that the (Catholic) Church was right,” Kengor said.
Kengor shared his tale of personal conversion after speaking on the life situations that helped to shape Reagan's spirituality and Pope John Paul II's anti-Soviet convictions.
Kengor also cited three encyclicals by Pope John Paul II that fueled his own conversion: “Faith and Reason,” “The Gospel of Life” and “The Splendor of Truth — Regarding Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church's Moral Teaching.”
Kengor's latest book is the 2012 “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor,” from Mercury Radio Arts Publishing.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.