#WorthRevisit: Library Fun

Yesterday I was the Substitute Librarian, and substitute teaching is always an adventure, especially when you’ll be dealing with little kids.

After my stint in Morning Car Line I headed upstairs to discover that the librarian had filled the bookmark basket with an assortment of holy cards mixed with publishers’ postcards advertising children’s books. The overwhelming majority of the kids chose holy cards for their bookmarks, and there was much comparing of the pictures on those cards.

One first-grader displayed the Pope Benedict card he’d chosen and asked me to pronounce the name under the picture. Since these kids are only 6 or 7 and wouldn’t remember any pope besides Pope Francis, I explained that Pope Benedict was the pope before Pope Francis.

“I have a Pope Francis card!” another little boy bragged, waving a picture of Pope Benedict in the air.

“No, that’s Pope Benedict. Both of these pictures are Pope Benedict.”

“But this one is wearing red! He’s not the same one!”

Image sources: Fabio Pozzebom/ABr – Agência Brasil [1], CC BY 3.0 br, Link and [1]Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

It’s all about the random when you’re teaching. A few years ago, during Catholic Schools Week, I received a lovely packet of homemade cards thanking me for volunteering in the library.  Sentiments included:

“We are all very grateful for you donating your time for the school. You’re a very thoughtful person. As they say in Spanish, gracias!”

“It is a massive responsibility for you to go to the library every single Friday.”

“Every time you come on a Friday it makes me feel happy inside.”

“When you are supporting us we are supporting you.”

“I hope you are proud of yourself!”

“I am thankful because you could be doing something other than helping.”

“You are the greatest book stamper ever!”

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I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Papal Encyclicals Plus, from Ave Maria Press

Who’s supposed to read what the Pope writes? Priests and bishops? Catholic journalists? Secular journalists? Historians?

Yes, but that’s not all. The Pope’s encyclicals and other writings are meant for all the faithful. They are addressed to all of us–and if we really want to understand the Pope’s message, there’s nothing like going straight to the primary source. (That’s true of any message. Here’s the English major in me talking: the more intermediaries you have, the better the chance of misinterpretation.)

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I read a lot of things online (on websites or on my Kindle) but for me, nonfiction demands a hard copy I can mark up, underline, highlight, and hang Post-it tabs all over. I’m all about the idea of a “collected writings” of the Pope–and Ave Maria has put that together with a new book covering the first 3 years of Pope Francis’ papacy (the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia was published just after the third anniversary of the Pope’s election.) The title tells it all: The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls and Apostolic Exhortations of Pope Francis.

According to Ave Maria Press, the publisher of Volume 1, the book includes:

  • Lumen Fidei, June 29, 2013: The Light of Faith is an encyclical on the centrality of faith, the relationship between reason and faith, the Church’s role in the transmission of faith, and how faith results in redeeming the world.
  • Evangelii Gaudium, Nov. 24, 2013: The apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel has been called Pope Francis’s manifesto. It challenges all Christians to approach evangelization anew and overcome complacency in order to fulfill Christ’s great mission.
  • Misericordiae Vultus, April 11, 2015: In The Face of Mercy, the papal bull for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015, the pope urges Catholics, “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.”
  • Laudato Si’, May 24, 2015: Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home is the landmark encyclical in which Pope Francis issued a call to the entire Church—and the world—on climate change, human responsibility, the role of faith in how we live among God’s entire creation, and the future of the planet.
  • Amoris Laetitia, March 19, 2016: Love in the Family is an exhortation published after the Synods on the Family. In it, Pope Francis ranges in his quotations and examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King Jr. to the film Babette’s Feast.

I admit to having skimmed Laudato Si’ and Amoris Laetitia online when they came out, but I haven’t really put in the time to really read and learn from Pope Francis’ writings. My plan is to dive into Evangelii Gaudium, because I work in the field of Catholic media and evangelization. But you don’t need a job in such a field to read that apostolic exhortation: Pope Francis makes it clear right up front that he is inviting “all Christians, everywhere . . . to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (p. 57) which is “the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization” (p. 60). Yes, there are specific sections if that exhortation that are directed toward priests, rather than the lay faithful, but there is much to be learned.

If you’re taking part in the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge, this book provides all of Pope Francis’ major writings in one place and will help you check off that “papal encyclical” box. (Yes, I’m stretching it a bit by reading an exhortation instead of an encyclical, but to be fair, it’s 3 times the length.)

So who should read the Pope’s encyclicals and other writings? If you’re Catholic, YOU should!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Be a Missionary: There’s an App for That!

Learn about a brand-new way to help the Church’s missions in far-off places, and TWO prizes you can win! I’ve got some swag to give away, and if you sign up soon, you can win a trip for two to Rome!

MISSIO, a unique new Catholic crowdfunding platform designed to make a difference for the poor and forgotten around the world, is now live at MISSIO.org and on the MISSIO app. MISSIO’s revolutionary concept uses technology to directly connect people with a mission project they’re passionate about.

Originally launched by Pope Francis, MISSIO was created by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, the Pope’s official mission arm, which has been engaged in building up the Church and serving the poor for 200 years.

“Pope Francis has urged Catholics around the world to maintain a close and personal connection with the poor, just as Christ did,” said Oblate Father Andrew Small, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. “MISSIO helps you do just that.”

“MISSIO makes the Mission Church visible on your mobile phone or computer screen,” Father Andrew continued. “In a world where everything is so accessible – from deliveries to the sports scores – why shouldn’t your faith, your Church be that visible? MISSIO provides that space, one that is safe, trusted, transparent, reliable – and effective.”

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Missio has a social-media presence as well as an app for iOS and Android. You can use Facebook Messenger to participate in a chat with Pope Francis! On Twitter, follow @1missionfamily.

Would you like to win some Missio swag? Just visit the Missio website or download the app, then leave a comment telling me what Missio project most interests you. You’ll be in the running to win a Missio coffee mug and T-shirt!

Giveaway open through 11:59 PM Eastern, February 1. Winner will be chosen by random drawing and notified by email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize. If prize is unclaimed, alternate winner will be chosen.

Some content from this post was provided by Missio.org. All rights reserved. Images used with permission.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: What Pope Francis Really Said

Every time Pope Francis writes an encyclical or makes an off-the-cuff remark on an airplane, the media (both Catholic and secular) jump all over it with various interpretations.

That’s a problem, states Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said (Servant, 2016). Depending on your news source (or who you follow on Twitter and Facebook) you’ll get wildly different versions of the same wrong story. Add in our lack of critical-reading skills and our willingness to accept “fake news” at face value and you wind up with a great deal of confusion about the Pope’s teachings and motivations.

He is celebrated by some for saying things he never said and rejected by others for doing things they don’t really understand (ix).

That airplane photo on the cover isn’t just a convenient file photo. It’s a symbol of the world’s eagerness to take one sentence out of an entire speech and make a huge (and often hugely inaccurate) news story out of it. The problem is not that Pope Francis holds news conferences on airplanes. The problem lies in what people do with the statements he makes.

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I can’t remember so much attention being paid to things previous popes said and wrote. It’s good, because the world (including the Catholic world) is watching and learning, but it’s challenging, because it’s so easy to take things out of context. I eagerly read Hoopes’ book because I find myself having to say, “That’s not what he said” way too many times when the subject of Pope Francis comes up!

Tom Hoopes traces Pope Francis’ papacy chronologically, from a speech then-Cardinal Bergoglio made in the conclave to the World Meeting of Families in the fall of 2015. Beginning with the retelling of the Gospel story in which Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and is vilified by the leaders of the synagogue for doing so, Hoopes mentions that Jesus refuses to be “stage-managed by what officialdom is asking him to do and instead [turns] his attention to those who are looking to have a real encounter with him.” (2) Pope Francis operates in much the same way.

Hoopes assures readers who have painted the Pope as “too liberal” of Pope Francis’ unswerving commitment to the dignity of marriage and the right to life, while reminding those who believe he’s “too conservative” that Pope Francis decries the violence that begets more violence and often leads to war. Hoopes also mentions that Pope Francis is not saying anything new. He paraphrases the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoes Popes John Paul II and Benedict, and frequently references Scripture.

In a fast-paced world with a second-by-second news cycle that reduces entire speeches to 140-character tidbits, Catholics need to read What Pope Francis Really Said to catch up on the truth behind what Pope Francis has said in the past so that they can be prepared to defend, and live out, what the Pope says in the future.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book from the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

21st-Century Conclave

Yesterday’s “white smoke rising” moment really brought home just how connected the world is. The Papal Chimney Watch was in full swing in the early afternoon, and I was in the car listening to commentary on satellite radio’s The Catholic Channel. My husband was with me, commenting that he felt sorry for the radio personalities, who had to just keep talking until they had certain information.

We got home just as the announcers stated that the marching band was entering St. Peter’s Square. I refused to get out of the car until I’d started up the satellite-radio app on my iPhone. I didn’t want to miss a moment.
I was frustrated to discover that there was a 5-minute delay between the radio broadcast and the online version, but I set my phone next to me on the desk and listened as I headed to YouTube on my computer for the Vatican TV live feed. I started Twitter on the iPad.
I didn’t even bother with the regular TV. For the last conclave, that’s all I had. But this was amazing–using various media to receive information in real time (or as close as an online app for satellite radio could get.)
Then I watched the clock. It was getting close to 3, dismissal time for Little Brother’s school. I was sure that they’d be watching in class, and didn’t want him to miss “the Big Reveal” while he was on the school bus.
Pope Francis reached the balcony at about 3:15. We barely had time to digest the news and try to find out a little more about him when Little Brother exploded through the front door, yelling, “We have a new pope, and his name is Francis!”
“How did you know? They didn’t announce his name until after you were on the bus!”
“Somebody on the bus has an iPhone and we were all watching it on the 3G.”
This is probably the best use of an iPhone on a school bus EVER.

Heartbreaking, Heartwarming

In case you missed it, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation yesterday, stating that he no longer has the strength of mind and body to carry out the duties of his office.

This had to be an extremely difficult decision for the Pope. My feeling is that he did not want to leave the Church “unshepherded” in any way due to his own physical decline. It was heartbreaking to watch Pope John Paul II as his illness swallowed him up. This will give Pope Benedict the opportunity (if asked) to serve as a mentor to his successor, and it gives a wonderful example to the world of how to bear with great dignity, and even generosity, the indignities that come with the aging process.

It is telling, I think, that he has announced his decision to spend the rest of his life dedicated to prayer. In a fast-paced world, that is an excellent reminder to the Church of the importance of prayer, something which it is all too easy to neglect when things get busy–or we just get lazy.

I am saddened that it had to happen, but I believe that Pope Benedict made his decision with the good of the Church foremost in his heart.

As to the insinuations I have heard that he is running away from the sexual-abuse scandals, it’s hard to believe that this would be the case. He’s not the type of person to run away from a challenge or to walk away when the going gets tough. There is a difference between that kind of escapism and the simple acceptance of the fact that his physical condition will no longer permit him to carry out the duties of the office.

And to those who think that this is an opportunity to in some way “modernize” the Church, I will just say that my prayer is that the next Pope will be faithful.

I pray for Benedict XVI and for his successor, and for the Church.

image credit:  Kelly Wahlquist