The book offers the reader an extended look at the formation of an influential Church leader through the journal that Pope John XXIII began to keep when he was studying for the priesthood. Both the consistency of his interests and convictions and the changes he underwent over the years are notable. The journal provides insights into his attitudes toward his own vocation as he reflects on the role models that earlier priests and nuns, many of whom were later canonized, provided him at different points in his life.
Each reader will find particular passages that match well with their personal spiritual views, so a response paper should focus on the issues that are most directly relevant to their own feelings.
Very few people will advance in the Church hierarchy, much less become Pope, so a reader might prefer to concentrate on the themes and incidents that remind one that the author asked many of the same questions as ordinary people. Does he provide answers that help provide guidance through the tough times in every life? Does he bring the reader's attention to significant figures to whom he turned in times of crisis?
Along with the deeply interior aspects of self-scrutiny concerned with spiritual well being, many readers will be moved by his reflections on real world issues that concerned him as a man, not only as a priest. His experiences during and after World War Two, for example, reveal challenges of his time in Turkey during the war and later in post-occupation France, when forced to confront the legacy of Nazism.